32 Candles

Contacted through the usual channels, agents are assembled in a conference room. They are informed that over the past month three “high profile consultants” for the group have been found dead. Given their work history and involvement in “our work” the board has issued orders to have a team conduct an independent investigation to sniff out the possibility of espionage. The latest, Werner Zieglar, was pronounced dead of cyanide poisoning in his own home four days ago. Strings have been pulled to place his wife under arrest for the time being for observation and her own protection but the agents are to pay a visit to Ziegler’s home and search for any evidence of foul play.

The Truth

By chance, while attending a space conference at the LA convention center, these “high profile consultants” crossed paths with a street magician in Hollywood under the stage name Charles the Magnificent. Unbeknownst to everyone Charles is a master of his craft with about 300 years of experience under his belt since solving alchemy sometime in the 18th century. Accumulating nigh unlimited wealth and experiencing everything humanly possible, Charles has settled on a favorite pastime of perfecting his craft in the performing arts. He is skilled at sleight of hand but his true medium is murder. Charles’ street show is a means of scouting his next masterpiece. Once a sufficient undesirable is found, Charles will speak to his victim, claiming he will predict their age of death along with causation. It’s played campy as he draws from his “Deck of death” placing a card face down in the victim’s palm. The victim turns the card over and finds an age down to seconds above a cheesy limerick about their death. Charles bows, takes a photo with a polaroid camera to give to the victim, tips his hat, and sends them on their way. Charles pulls out his day planner, and marks his results on the calendar to realize this premonition over his weekend from Friday to Monday. Charles flies out to his victims and “plays with his food” before seeing through his prediction, right on schedule. Unfortunately for the consultants, they were all booked in over the last month.

Ziegler’s residence

A luxury apartment in Houston Texas serves as Zieger’s residence. Entry will require Craft: Lockpick or a STR check for a forced entry. Agents can also flash personal badges or persuade at the administrative office on the ground floor for a spare key.

On the surface everything inside is neat and clean. The Zieglar’s are very neat and orderly and everything seems to be in its right place. That is, until the agents take a closer look:

  • There is absolutely no food in the apartment, the fridge is spotless with only sealed water bottles on the bottom shelf, the dry stock is empty. Forensics reveals that these spots along with the entire rest of the apartment have been cleaned and sanitized with a discerning professionalism.
  • The calendar on the wall next to the fridge is well used with work schedules and conferences marked off. One date stands out though, 4 days ago is marked as “Termination: 16:28:42”. No other event is scheduled with that specificity.
  • A comp sci 20 or roll will access the home computer revealing a receipt for a hotel stay through the week for a Rachel Ziegler and lots of frantic searches for water fasting techniques
  • Several prescription heart medications in the medicine cabinet. Forensics or Medicine reveals tampering in the pill capsule medication with Chemistry testing revealing the contents as cyanide. There is a tiny Ace of Spades card in the bottom of the bottle.
  • Next to the computer are several letters sent in envelopes with no return address or postmark. They are typed and read “Six Days”, “Three Days” and “TOMORROW”.
  • On a runner table in the living room sits a shadow box featuring a polaroid of Ziegler holding a card with a group of four other men in suits next to a man dressed in an ornate maroon robe and hat. An agent with anthropology or history notices this is an heirloom costume from 17th century France. Printed on the bottom of the photo is

The card sits next to the polaroid and reads:

32 years, 23 days, 4 hours, 2 minutes, 11 seconds

Pull up a chair and eat your fill,

You'll never find the cyanide pill

Tracking down Charles

Investigating Charles raises only more questions. He has an angelfire website (charleslesocier.angelfire.com) full of wizard gifs,.jpg photos of him on the street performing, and (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRKoQHRKKis) blasting at max volume. At the bottom is a performance schedule for appearances on Hollywood Blvd every Tuesday and Thursday from 5pm-9pm. Cross referencing the polaroid and maps, an agent with navigate can narrow his location to one block outside a tacky tourist trap shop called $1.99 TSHIRTS.

This can also be found if agents with Accounting or Bureaucracy look through LA records for performer booking in the “Hollywood Entertainment Zone” to find where Charles is scheduled.

Agents that do not have this location must search on foot and face harassment from costumed characters and buskers drawn in by the lost tourist look the agents exude.

Approaching Charles, agents will see him charismatically perform a few card tricks next to a mini amp blasting cheesy lute music. If the agents continue to observe, pick an agent at random to be a volunteer for the death premonition. Roll on the riddle table and give them an age 5 years and two months in the future.

Agents have two chances to catch Charles before he leaves town on Friday to realize another masterpiece in Toledo, Ohio. Two years ago he marked a young woman named Sandra Drakulich for chewing gum and needs to have her choke to death on Saturday at 8:13:57 AM.

Agents will need to stake out Charles and follow him back to his residence to confront him alone. While performing Charles is either on the street or at home waiting to be on the street again. Charles does not eat, sleep, or defecate. (Realizing this is 1/1d4 SAN)

Charles’ “Spire”

Charles squats in a condemned gift shop south of Hollywood. The sprawled in building is triangular shaped with the front shaped like a castle spire. It was a lilac purple when it was freshly painted but is now blackened and peeling. Inside the main area is dark and moldy with water damaged ceilings and rows and rows of shelves still lined up. Glass bottles hang from the drop ceiling by the doors and windows alerting Charles to intruders and tripwires run across the endcaps of the main aisles.

Charles resides in the stockroom obsessively pouring over his day planner and scheming, agents can hear him giggling and muttering to himself on approach. Searching this room agents find millions of dollars in gold, old bills, and artwork stashed around the area. Hundreds of old day planners are piled in a locker and go back 150 years.

In the janitor’s closet is a wide menagerie of jars containing strange liquids and organic materials lined up along the wall. On a folding chair in the middle is a dried gourd filled with a putrid green liquid. Consuming the liquid successfully requires a CONx5 roll but will grant an agent a sort of immortality. The agent will be impervious to disease but can still be killed or go insane (where the real problems begin).

Charles will fight intruders to the death in his domain. Searching his body after death, agents find the only thing on him is his worn day planner, a deck of regular cards, and his deck of death. Flipping through the day planner agents find a decade of scheduled deaths mapped out in detail down to the second all over the world. Each entry features a comment box with a petty remark on the victim e.g. “sneezed, bad nails, smiles wrong”. Following up on past dates revealed all were fulfilled (SAN 1/1d4). Further cross referencing with the stored planners reveals he has been doing this for over a century (SAN 1/1d8).

Dealing with Charles before he kills in Toledo gives agents 1d6 SAN.

Riddle table:

1D6 Premonition
1 Your ultimate end will come to call, when you crack your head in a slip and fall
2 It's tough not being able to talk, when a peanut sends you into anaphylactic shock
3 Thanks to infrastructure now outdated, you find yourself decapitated
4 On the throne you wear the crown, the place where you will eventually drown
5 Speak with intent and don’t misquote, you never know who will slit your throat
6 Watch your step even where you live, a brown recluse does not forgive

Word Count: 1479


Charles the Magnificent

Penciling you in now
STR 18 CON 18 DEX 18 INT 18 POW 18 CHA 18
HP 18 WP 18
Skills: Alertness 70%, Athletics 60% Craft: Sleight of Hand 80%, Dodge 60%, Firearms 70%,      First Aid 60%, Melee Weapons 75%, Persuade 80%, Unarmed Combat 80%
Attacks: Blinding dust 60%, gives a -40% penalty for 1d4 turns
Mossberg 70% 2d8 damage
Combat dagger 75% 1d6, 3 armor piercing


32 Candles was written by Tuesday 8:00 for the 2023 Shotgun Scenario contest.
Source: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1j3of1Hc2Iq519CNn_-owy5L4QJLGc7GiWDgPwwtkCdw/edit?usp%3Dsharing&sa=D&source=editors&ust=1704177025630673&usg=AOvVaw2jx6NG-Kby2L_IfdYIoahf

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