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Unfathomable! Session 1

Adola the friendly barmaid is being dragged away by guards, accused of murdering a laborer named Two Bushels!

The Party:

  • Brother Ded, a stoner monk.
  • Mort, a research-minded fighter and fugitive from Imperial justice.
  • Greta, a baby-eating hag-turned-Citizen Lich.
  • Ulther, a ranger and artifact smuggler.
  • Zinee, a wooly neanderthal druid/cosmetologist.
  • Toljin, a magical boy raised by pirates.
  • Doloth, a barbarian shaman-turned-unwilling-Citizen Lich.

A few PCs try to argue with the guards that Adola is obviously not the culprit. The aggravated guards explain that they don't care—they aren't police or Imperial Investigators. Their main concern is fending off monster attacks. If the PCs think someone other than the person covered in blood and holding the murder weapon did it, that's fine. They have until morning to make an alternate case before expedient justice comes for Adola.


The PCs notice that other residents have starting picking over the victim's body, and decide to get in there and see what they can find. In what would prove to be a night of terrible rolls for everyone involved, this Investigation check was the one natural 20. They discovered:

  • Two Bushels was dressed in filthy layers of fur and wool
  • He had a small bag tied to his belt (which the player snatched)
  • Under his clothes, in a secret scabbard, he had a high quality beetle chitin dagger
  • While his outer clothes and face and hands were dirty, his under clothes and body were very clean and even smelled of the fragrant oils of the bath house
Zinee, bothering the livestock

They talked to some witnesses, and learned that a woman named Shantora Lax started the fight when someone in the crowd had gotten handsy. But she didn't think it was Two Bushels that she pushed off.

Returning to the beer hall, they opened up the bag and found clues that Two Bushels had been recording someone's movements over the course of the past ten days, and that he had a chit for a time share on a cot in a boarding tent out in Tent Town.

Most of the party went to investigate in Tent Town, but two party members split off to visit the Wizard's Dormitory because they deciphered that as one of the locations recorded in Two Bushel's notebook. They talked their way past the guards (one of the PCs has an ongoing business relationship with one of the wizards), and entered the Dormitory. They were immediately accosted to three flying eyeballs and a screaming wizard who screeched "Catch them! Immediately! It is of the unutterable importance!"

They capture the flying eyeballs for the wizard Gokorius, who is a dick about it. He takes one of the eyes, extracts its ocular fluid and insists one of the PCs drink it. Greta the Citizen Lich does, and lives the memories of the flying eyeball: navigating the caverns of the Underworld, the beauty of the fungal forests, the company of its worm brethren, finding its way to the horrifying surface world, being caught in a burlap sack, and plunked down in a wicker basket on a wizard's worktable until it was able to escape. The memories end with the sudden awareness of a powerful presence: a grave human-like face perched atop a perfect, imperishable worm-body—she is looking into the eyes of Shaggath-Ka, the Worm Sultan, and Shaggath-Ka is looking back at her.

Gokorius insists Greta tell him what she saw, and when she dissembles, he begins hypnotically interrogating her. The other PC, Zinee the Wooly Neanderthal Cosmetologist, uses this opportunity to sneak up the stairs and find her wizard contact, Yithreela. Yithreela, and 19-year old prodigy, breaks up Gokorius' interrogation, and invites both PCs up to her suite.

The Tent Town party has found Two Bushel's foot locker and discovered that he is an Imperial Investigator, who has been tracking various parties in the area for years. They piece together that his most recent subject of study is none other than Yithreela.

They rush to meet up with the party members at the Wizard's Dormitory, but are delayed by two wooly neanderthals who have questions about life as a human:

  • how does it feel to wear clothes made by strangers?
  • why do humans eat cabbage?
  • what is toilet roll?
  • how do you worship your invisible gods?
  • what makes humans inhumane?
  • if you saw a runaway yak-cart rolling down the street, about to collide with 5 wooly neanderthals, and you could divert it so that it would kill 1 human bystander, would you?

The other PCs report to Yithreela that someone might be casing the Wizard's Dormitory. She says she knows she is being watched—she hires a lot of adventurer-types for her research expeditions into the Uplands, and they had previously informed her. She isn't surprised that someone would be investigating her. It could be a rival at the Academy of the Invisible, one of the local sorcerers, or Governor Krofax. The Imperial Forces are always paranoid about magic, and, of course, even this far from Mur, one is never out of reach of the machinations of the Noble Houses. The PCs report that the man tracking her has been murdered, and she says, "Well, of course I didn't mean for that to happen..." just as a guard comes up to tell her that the rest of the PCs are out front, inquiring after her guests.

The party reunites back at the beer hall, and hashes out what they know and what their theories are. The evening wraps up with them concluding that they need to rescue Adola from the stockade tonight and keep an appointment Two Bushels had with a contact at the Bath House early in the morning.


I organized this murder mystery according to Justin Alexander's 5-Node Mysteries (which you can read about on his blog or in his new book, So You Want To Be A Gamemaster). It's a structure that I like a lot, but I sometimes find hard to implement. I think I'm getting better at it. The secret seems to be keeping it simple. 

An aspect of this that was amply illustrated during this session is: when running a mystery for PCs, you do not need to add so much as a whiff of obfuscation. Make a blatantly obvious trail of breadcrumbs. The PCs will generate plenty of red herrings and complicated tangents for you. My instinct in setting up a mystery-based adventure is to craft the twists and turns of the mystery, but I've learned to ignore that and focus my energy on keeping the PCs vaguely on track.

 Previous Posts

New Campaign Time!

Unfathomable! Session 0


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