Video Summary at the bottom
The players hear a small explosion that gently shakes the paving stones beneath their feet. The townsfolk momentarily stop what they’re doing and turn to watch a single plume of smoke rise into the air a block away. When nothing else happens, they shrug the strange event off and continue about their day.
If the players choose to walk toward the source of the smoke, they discover a man in a trench coat profusely apologizing to an elderly woman.
“I’m terribly sorry, Ms. Brambletoe,” he says, “I promise to get this cleaned up immediately.”
He turns to face the side of a building where there’s a large, unsightly scorch mark.
He slowly exhales, inhales, and outstretches his right arm in the direction of the blackened wall.
“Go, water jet!”
From his palm erupts a long butterfly net, the ring of which is shaped like a river otter’s head.
“No, no, no,” he yells, snapping off the net. “I said water jet, not otter net!”
This time, his left arm rises automatically. His hand retracts and, from the opening of his sleeve, a few ceramic bowls tumble out, crashing into pieces on the ground. “No, no, not potter set…” He groans.
“Enough, Inspector Wattson,” shrieks Ms. Brambletoe, “I don’t know what’s gotten into you lately, but if you can’t take care of my property, I want you out! You’ve got 7 days to vacate the office and not an hour more!”
In an angry huff, the old woman storms off, pushing past the players. Wattson leans against the side of the building and slides down to the ground, looking discouraged and exhausted.
The players can approach him at this point and ask what’s going on.
“What’s going on,” he says, taking off his trilby hat and twisting it in his gloved hands, “is that I can’t seem to do anything right anymore. I was the most successful detective this city had ever seen, but then I just started malfunctioning and, now, I do more harm than good. The last time the city guard asked me to tag along in an investigation, I tried collecting fingerprints. I said ‘dust‘, but instead, a propeller popped out of my arm and sent a gust of wind, scattering crime scene evidence everywhere.”
If the players offer to help him get to the bottom of his malfunctions, the detective will invite them into his office. The sign beside the door reads “Inspector Wattson: Private Eye and Artificer for Hire” with the image of a wide-eyed beholder, wearing a matching trilby hat, engraved beneath the text.
The Game is Afoot
The office has seen better days. There’s a corkboard against the wall with sketches of intimidating-looking criminal types connected to various letters/personal memos via a network of colored yarn. Wattson’s desk is strewn with papers and folders as well as empty coffee mugs and bottles of ale.
A workbench sits in the corner with various tools expected of an artificer whose body is 70% machinery.
On a table to the side, there is a mini-shrine to his successes, including a brass trophy that reads “[City Name’s] Best Private Investigator.” It sits beside two framed items: a newspaper clip discussing how Wattson took down a major crime boss and a sketch drawn of an award ceremony.
If the players choose to look at the award ceremony sketch, they observe the following (feel free to have them roll for investigation or perception):
- An excited Inspector Wattson cradling his trophy (the same one sitting on the table)
- A couple city officials standing behind him, smiling and applauding, beneath a “congratulations” banner
- Three other strange figures, standing opposite Wattson, giving forced smiles and slipping a medallion around the detective’s neck.
If the party inquires about this event, Wattson will explain that the city awarded him for his contributions to the community in eliminating so much crime, and that a few of his friends from the Guild of Detectives awarded him a medallion to express their gratitude.
If the players ask to see the medallion, Wattson will loosen his tie, unbutton the top of his shirt, and pull out a silver disk hanging from a metal chain.
Investigating this object, or just testing it themselves through more creative trial-and-error, the party learns that the metal used in this medallion seems to be magnetized in such a way that it disrupts anything mechanical, causing it to malfunction.
“What!? But I would have never guessed,” Wattson says, looking more heartbroken than shocked, “Those were my friends who gave me that medallion…I thought they were happy for me.”
He starts sniffling, rubbing his eyes with his hand, and says, “Go, hanky…”
Immediately, a mechanical arm slips up from out of the back collar of his jacket, holding a wooden paddle, and gives him a clear, hard “spank” on his behind.
“Oh!” he shouts, snapping out of his unhappy reverie. “Well, that’s not what I intended, but I suppose it worked. Focused now, he plucks the medallion off of his neck, breaking the chain (if the party hasn’t done so already) and casts it aside. “I need to confront Irene, the head of the Guild. Will you come with me? I could really use the emotional backup.”
If the party agrees to accompany the detective, Wattson leads the players down the street and towards one of his “friend’s” place of business. The sign outside this establishment reads: “Irene Adder: Psychic Detective for Hire.”
“We are all part of the same guild,” Wattson comments, “but we each have are own strategies to solve crimes.”
When the players enter the shop, they find it completely unoccupied. Shelves are lined with bizarre objects, like bottles of strange serums, skulls, and assorted candles. Incense burns on a circular table in the center of the room, upon which some tarot cards are scattered. A small paper sign on the desk reads “Responding to a house call; be back in an hour.”
The party can use this time to browse around and see what they can find, including more chunks of the suspicious magnetic metal as well as a small voodoo doll shaped like Wattson with needles stuck inside of it. After a time, the players and the detective start to feel very drowsy. Then, one by one, they succumb to the soothing aroma of the burning incense and collapse, unconscious.
The Plot Thickens
When the party awakens, they find themselves still lying on the carpeted floor of Irene Adder’s office, but Wattson is nowhere to be found. The incense has since completely burned away, and the air now feels safe to breathe. Investigating the room again, the party might now notice that a corner of the center rug is lifted. Sliding the center table to the side and rolling up the rug reveals a trap door in the bottom of the shop.
If the party chooses to open the trapdoor, they will see a metal ladder disappearing down into darkness. Entering this area leads the players fairly deep into the earth until the ladder stops in the middle of what appears to be an abandoned mine shaft. The walls themselves are still filled with some shining silver ore; a high enough perception roll, or a side-by-side comparison with the medallion (if a player has it), reveals that these caverns are filled with the same raw material that was used to cause Inspector Wattson’s disruptions.
Walking further, the shaft eventually opens up into a larger room where Wattson sits, tied with rope to a chair. If the players approach Wattson with the aim of releasing him, three figures will step out from the distant darkness.
“Jussst turn back around, ssstrangers,” a female Yuan-Ti says as she slithers into view. Flanking her are two other characters: an older gentleman dressed in survivalist gear with his pet ethereal bloodhound and a more lavishly-dressed gentleman who is busy smoothing out his makeup in a small mirror compact.
“Maybe I should introduce everyone,” Wattson says from his chair, his tone confident and unfazed by the imminent danger. “That is the psychic detective, Guild of Detectives president, and my former friend, Irene Adder. The two beside her are also members of our circle: Maltisse Falcon, the manhunter, and Maury R. T., the master of disguise.”
Maury R.T. gives a laugh. “Don’t talk to us about friends and circles, Wattson, dear boy,” he says, snapping his compact closed and pointing an accusatory finger. “Do friends run each others’ businesses into the ground?”
Irene gives a hiss in agreement. “You’re too good, Wattssson. You’re sssolving all the crimes and leaving none for usss. We were hoping to just sssabotage your professional life, but now you had to make things much more…messssssy…”
At this point, roll initiative. Wattson will insist that he doesn’t want anyone killed; simply disable them/KO them and bring them to justice.
Irene Adder is the main opponent of this battle, but her accomplices will be tough in their own right.
- Maury R.T. – A changeling who can use “Disguise Self” as a bonus action. He largely behaves like a rogue, choosing to fight with a knife and resorting to being sneaky when possible. He is obsessed with appearances, and getting his outfit dirty will momentarily stun him.
- Maltisse Falcone – A tracker and manhunter, he fights with a machete and can also shoot blow darts that inflict poison. The bloodhound fighting by his side, Bruce, is made of ethereal magic that dissolves when Maltisse is rendered incapacitated. Until he has been downed, Maltisse can use his bonus action to whistle and command Bruce to make a bite attack against a player.
As some fun side-content, Wattson can join the fight (if the party unties him from his chair), despite him being at a disadvantage with all the magnetic ore around him.
When it’s Wattson’s turn, he will say, “Go ___!” The players can shout out ideas for him. Whichever player shouts out a suggestion can roll a d4. If they roll a 4, then Wattson’s command word works perfectly; if the players rolls a 3 or lower, then think of some clever rhyming alternatives that can be equally fun and ridiculous.
For example: A player says, “Hit them with fire!” and then rolls a D4. Wattson yells “Go Fire!” and…
- D4: It works! A flamethrower sticks out of his trench coat sleeve and deals a spray of 2d8 fire damage.
- D3: Instead of “fire”, a “tire” shoots out from Wattson’s chest and rolls in a straight line across the field, bouncing along. Everyone in its path rolls a DC 10 Dex save or takes 1d4 bludgeoning damage.
- D2: Instead of “fire,” Wattson is now holding a “lyre” and can do a single vicious mockery cantrip (or some other music-related bard spell) before the strings break and it’s rendered useless)
- D1: Instead of “fire”, Wattson’s mechanisms register “higher”, launching a grappling hook arm that pulls the inspector high above the battlefield.
You get the idea.
Once the other detectives are taken care of and properly bound, Inspector Wattson thanks the party and promises that his lying “friends” will face the justice that they deserve at the hands of the local authorities.
As a reward for helping him uncover the mystery of his malfunction and saving his profession, he gives the players an object called The Red Herring.
The item can be activated once per long rest. When activated, the object begins to glow with a faint, mesmerizing ruby-red light. The first creature (outside of player characters) to lay eyes on the fish carving will see it as just the thing they’ve been wanting/searching for, completely mesmerizing them and absorbing their attention for 1 minute. After the 1 minute, they will blink and see that they are simply holding a fish.