I facilitated a game of A Weekend in the Country (Second Edition) by Lari Assmuth for a group of friends with little TTRPG experience outside of Dungeons & Dragons. This game uses the victim and suspects from the rulebook, and we set the action in the 1920s. Note: We used the tumbling tower threat mechanic from the rules for the first time. It involves removing 1d6 blocks prior to each clue, which represents the time spent searching. For each murder subsequent caused by the falling tower, we randomly drew which of the remaining suspects had been killed and randomly rolled the location in which the body was found.
Lord Adler, retired colonel of the Imperial Yeomanry Cavalry.
Lady Adler (Q♥), Lord Adler’s young wife. A child of merchant wealth rather than the aristocracy.
Lady Blakeley (Q♠), amateur artist and friend of Lady Adler. Her sickly older husband is not visiting the estate.
Lord Entwhistle (K♦), a young lord here with his mother, the widow Lady Entwhistle. His late father served with Lord Adler but was dishonorably discharged following a court-martial.
Mr. Cooper (J♣), Lord Adler’s ambitious valet.
A Weekend in the Country is designed to have a single detective investigate the Adler murder, with all players controlling that one detective. All players contributed to this description, which we built up turn by turn.
Though from a wealthy Australian family of Collingwood, Melbourne, Madame Magpie now operates as a private detective in England. A guilty conscience caused her to leave Australia after her best friend was falsely convicted for a death she herself bore responsibility for. Disguised as a man, she fought in World War I and remains permanently shaken by the events at Gallipoli. She was Lord Adler’s aide-de-camp, and he was a great support to her, helping her conceal her secrets and keeping her off the front line. Madame Magpie has seen a lot of the worst of humanity. She self-medicates with alcohol and is not always diplomatic. Some might say this thin woman has a chip on her shoulder. Dressed in a conservative houndstooth blazer with slacks and a fedora, she still carries a weapon from her soldier days: a trench knife that she keeps sheathed in one of her high boots.
1. Attic/2 blocks/8♦: Madame Magpie looks through boxes in the attic and finds a letter from a debtor squirreled away under a slat. It’s addressed to one of the Adlers, but she can’t tell which one.
2. Study/3 blocks/4♥: While Madame Magpie is looking in Lord Adler’s desk in his study, Lady Adler approaches and tries to seduce her. Magpie takes offense and pushes her away. This incident makes Magpie suspicious that Lady Adler has things to hide here.
3. Servants’ Quarters/4 blocks. Tower crash. Lady Blakeley is found dead in the study. 9♣: The butler confides in Madame Magpie that when he was bringing drinks to the study one evening recently, he heard an argument and a slap. Only the Adlers were in the room at the time.
4. Kitchen/3 blocks/3♦: A delivery person reports that when they were here last night with a package they saw someone in the garden.
5. Bedroom/4 blocks/2♣: Finally Madame Magpie works up the fortitude to investigate the spot where Lord Adler was found. One of his brace of pistols is missing from their place of honor on the wall.
6. Study/2 blocks/K♣: As Madame Magpie approaches the study to investigate Lady Blakeley’s murder more, she comes across the scene of Lady Adler accusing the valet Cooper of killing Lord Adler. He vehemently denies it and, losing his temper, slaps her.
7. Study/2 blocks/9♠: Madame Magpie finds on the floor a pendant that had been a gift from her to Lord Adler. It formerly had been in the top right drawer of his desk. That it is on the floor now suggests someone was rifling through that desk.
8. Bedroom/2 blocks/10♦: Madame Magpie finds a letter from Lord Entwhistle to Lord Adler about a sizeable sum of money that Entwhistle owes as a result of a card game where the betting got out of hand.
9. Attic/3 blocks/8♣: Still in search of the murder weapon, Madame Magpie returns to the attic. In an old steamer trunk, she finds a trench knife with blood on the tip. It was used to stab, not slice.
10. Kitchen/1 block. The tower is getting shaky. Madame Magpie has been taking drinks from her flask this whole time, but now she throws it away. She has to focus on finding her friend’s killer before it is too late. 7♦: Crumpled in the trash, Madame Magpie finds the draft of a note by Lord Adler. She can’t tell who it is addressed to, but it was trying to arrange a dead drop to pay someone off.
11. Kitchen/2 blocks. Tower crash. Lady Adler is found dead in the kitchen. 6♠: A vase was cracked over Lady Adler’s head.
At this point, we have a 10-high straight. We are many cards away from anything stronger than that. There are only two suspects left, Lord Entwhistle and Mr. Cooper. If either one of them dies, then the other will get away with all the murders. We decide not to press our luck and make our accusation now.
With a 10-high straight that includes a club, we present our case against Mr. Cooper. Lord Adler was having trouble paying off his debtors (7♦) because Mr. Cooper was embezzling from the Adler estate. Lord Adler was calling in Lord Entwhistle’s gambling debts (10♦) in the hopes of using that to pay his own debts. Lady Blakeley was the one who had rifled through Lord Adler’s desk (9♠). Mr. Cooper had come across her doing that, and worried that she had found evidence against him, he killed her with a knife he then hid in the attic (8♣). He also murdered Lady Adler for getting too close to the truth (6♠).
Mr. Cooper’s defense is merely a pair of threes (3♣, 3♥). He tries to accuse Lord Entwhistle of having an affair with Lady Adler. He claims Entwhistle has a short temper, but Madame Magpie has already seen Mr. Cooper demonstrate a short fuse with Lady Adler. This argument holds no water. Mr. Cooper is arrested for all three murders.
For this session, I had 6 players including myself, and the game took about an hour and a half. The players were as invested in building up Madame Magpie’s backstory as they were in investigating the murders. This is the first time we really felt a personal connection between the detective and the victim, so that was a pleasant surprise. It just shows how different this game can be on each playthrough.
This is also the first time we had access to a tumbling tower to use the threat mechanic included in the rulebook. Wow, it really did increase the tension! There were times when we discussed whether to accuse or press for more clues based on how shaky the tower was looking. And having more murders for the first time ever was tense, too.