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Help planning a masqueade ball murder mystery adventure

Content of the article: "Help planning a masqueade ball murder mystery adventure"

Yikes, that's a mouthful of a title 😂Also, if you're in the Golden Ducks campaign or have attended the Arnault Adventuring Academy (you know who you are; Romero, Flax, Fae and Micha) stop reading this post right now! There be spoilers ahead… Also, I'm kinda new here and this post technically isn't a question, so I hope it's okay to post here, just let me know if not and where it would be more appropriate to post.

So anyway, I've been having quite a lot of trouble planning my next DnD quest/adventure and I could really use some help. My group put our old campaign on hiatus a few months ago and I started a brand new campaign with a relatively simple premise: the PCs are students at an adventuring school, where instead of attending classes, they're given missions and quests to prove and improve their abilities and amass experience. I instigated a system in which the players could pick what quests/missions they wanted to go on off of a notice board, providing them with a list of vague quest outlines, separated by type and difficulty (for example; Kill a group of bandits or a specific monster, investigate an ancient ruin or infiltrate and spy on a group of rebels, that sort of thing). The idea being to give the players some power over what sort of adventures they went on, letting them decide if, for example, they wanted to go on a combat focused adventure or one more focused on exploration or roleplay, etc. This has been working really well thus far, the players love it I hadn't struggled to come up with a good, fun and compelling adventure for any of the prompts that the players chose, that is until now.

The quest that the players selected is to find and catch an assassin who has been murdering nobles at masquerade parties by infiltrating one such event (my players have hilariously named the quest Assassination Ballroom). I thought that this would be a fun idea for an adventure and would provide good break from the more combat heavy quests the party had been taking up until now, giving them the opportunity to do some roleplay, investigation and intrigue and I was sure that I'd have no problem planning such an adventure. However… I've completely drawn a blank. I've written entire campaigns before, with multiple world spanning, intersecting and insanely complex storylines woven together, but I've got absolutely nothing for this, no plans, no ideas, not even any inspiration 😅I'm at a complete loss and I don't know what to do. I've got no idea where this sudden writer's block has come from, but I'm running out of time and I need some help. To make matters worse, my players have gotten really hyped for this adventure and have really high expectations and I really want to try and meet them and make this fun!

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So, here's what I've got so far (this is just what the party currently knows about the mission)

  1. The ball that the party is going is one of the biggest of the year, with guests (most of whom are nobles, incredibly wealthy merchants or people of great influence) coming from all over the world. The aesthetic theme for the ball is the feywild.
  2. The assassin that they are after has left no significant evidence or clues as to their identity and there is no clear pattern to their killings, none of the victims are directly related and the means of killing has been different each time, one was poisoned, another was found stabbed, one was thrown from a window and one was asphyxiated in one of the bedrooms. The only thing of note is that the assassin seems to be making his way up the noble chain, targeting progressively more important/influential people each time, starting with a servant and most recently killing a minor noble.
  3. The only connection between the victims that has been found is that each disappeared from the party at some point and was later found dead (save for the victim who was poisoned, who disappeared then returned, only to die in plain view of several witnesses as the poison had a delayed effect).
  4. The masquerade ball that the party are going to be attending is being hosted by a Duke who is known for two things, throwing amazing parties and events and being a war profiteer whose attempting to instigate a war with a neighbouring kingdom and is implied to have some sort of ulterior motive for throwing the ball. (This obviously doesn't have to be connected with the assassin's plot and could just be a red herring)
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That's everything the party knows at this point as we ended the last session with them meeting with and briefly discussing the mission with their contact, a Gold Dragonborn named Imris Vakaar and started planning their cover story/strategy for when they infiltrate the ball, all of which was completely improved on the spot. I haven't really been able to come up with anything else, no NPCS, no plot, not even a resolution to the mystery, nothing. Thus why I really need your help 😅I just need any ideas or suggestions you have, whether big or small and I should be able to start piecing something together. Be it just a fun, wacky NPC idea or an entire complicated plot, I'll take literally anything you have, go crazy! Also, the lore and worldbuilding of my setting really doesn't matter all that much, since I'm kinda just building it as I go. The setting is high fantasy, but other than that it's pretty open and there's plenty of room for creativity and weirdness, so pretty much anything goes. But if you have any questions feel free to ask!

Sorry for the long, wordy post and thank you in advance! 😊

Source: reddit.com

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