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Fill In The Gap

Cheating Death

by Matt Turnbull
Feb 21,2005



Welcome to Fill in The Gap, a column devoted to individual, "one-off" scenarios, that any GM can run for his/her group.

Ever wondered if you could cheat death? I haven't either. Nonetheless, cheating death is the premise of today's scenario!

If you need to know more about the FITG(Fill in The Gap) system/column, please check out the first (and second) of these monthly columns. Without further ado, I bring you today's scenario:

Cheating Death

As always, if you're going to play in this scenario (run by your favorite GM) then please read no further, for fear of spoilage.

Cheating Death is a scenario for 5 players.

The Premise

In Cheating Death, the characters are five people, each of which is involved in a tangled web of murders. To add insult to injury, they're all dead. That's right, all the characters are dead, and everyone's playing a dead character.

Allow me to explain. The point of this scenario, is that Death is offering a second chance to the character who can figure out the total scope of the murders. This will take understanding, patience, perception, guile, and cleverness. The game begins with Death informing all 5 of the characters that they are dead, and that he has transferred them to a purgatorial holding cell. Each one was killed by someone else in this room and each one of them killed one other individual also in this room.

Death continues to explain to the characters that there are apparently only four more spots left in hell (where they were all headed) before it's all full up. Too bad for one of them! He also states that none of them have the whole idea put together as to how or why the murders happened, each only has their part figured out. Death offers that they are allowed to discuss the murders indefinitely in the holding cell together, but the first one to figure out who killed whom wins a shot to go back, and live.

Death puts out some ground rules. They're all to stay in the cell. Inside the cell there's a large button that summons him. Whoever presses the button summons Death, and must list who killed whom. They're allowed to mention why, but it is unnecessary. If someone gets it wrong, they're packed off to Hell immediately. At that point, Death will tell everyone how many the now hellbound victim got correct, however, he will not tell them which ones the individual got correct.

The only things you need to know before running this scenario, are 1: Who murdered whom? 2: Why did they do it? & 3: Just who are these people? There are no stats and no system for this one, it's totally diceless. As far as competitions to get to the button, let the player who shouted first get to it. Roll a random die to resolve ties.

Let's introduce the characters before we go through the murder. Be sure to keep each individual's identity and knowledge secret to each of the players, except where appropriate. For example, don't let Phylis's player know Elizabeth is 'The Reptile', although it's good to tell the individual playing Jim who is playing his wife, his secretary, and his wife's friend Michael, without revealing the intricacies of those characters.

The Characters

Jim Denison

Jim is a 50 year old corporate lawyer. He's quite wealthy, and somewhat mean. He's married to Phylis Denison, and they have no children. They both turned 50 years old this year. Jim is also having an affair with his secretary, Elizabeth Riley. Jim also knows Michael as a friend of his wife's from her volunteer work. Jim has always resented his wife for never bearing him children. Jim is in good shape for his age, and still has all of his (now silver) hair.

Phylis Denison

Phylis is Jim Denison's wife. Also 50, She was born into a life of luxury, and continued that trend with her husband (whom she never loved.) She is unable to have children, and has always known about Jim's resentment towards her. She hates Jim, and in fact contracted a hitman named "The Reptile" through illicit contacts, to kill Jim. Phylis is also having an affair, with Michael whom she met through her volunteer work. Phylis, due to constant surgery, looks like a beautiful woman closer to 35 than 50. Her hair is always dyed a dark brown, and is the length of her lower back (though she usually wears it up).

Michael Richards

Michael is 30 years old, and madly in love with Phylis. He despises Jim for the various indignities and abuse he's put Phylis through. (Michael believe this to be the case, Phylis has exaggerated the emotional anguish she's suffered a great deal.) Michael met Phylis through their mutual volunteer work, and was strained and silent both the times he met Jim. Michael has bright red hair, and green eyes. Michael also enjoys the TV show 'CSI' too much, and remembers the episode, based on a true story, about 'The Reptile'. He knows 'The Reptile' is a woman, and her usual method of assassination is to get to know her victim intimately, then kill them when their pants are down (figuratively, and literally.) Michael was unaware of the plot to kill Jim.

Elizabeth Walker

Elizabeth is Jim's secretary. She's also the hitman known as 'The Reptile'. Her plan was to start an affair with Jim, in which she would string him along until finally killing him. Unlike her usual method, she decided to kill Jim this time as he made love to his wife, as she actually started to develop feelings for him and wanted his act of "betrayal" against her to help spur her to action. Elizabeth is in her mid-twenties, and is shockingly beautiful with a thin frame and short black hair. She doesn't know Michael, has spoken to but has never met Jim's wife (although they've spoken on the phone, and would recognize each other's voices). Elizabeth does know "The Scorpion" very well, as he is a rival hitman from their organization.

"The Scorpion"

The Scorpion is a rival hitman from Elizabeth's criminal organization. The organization put out a hit on Elizabeth when they saw an episode of CSI that sensationalized her, and therefore made her (relatively) useless. He'd been instructed to follow her, and just as soon as she finished the hit on Jim Denison, to take her out. The Scorpion knows Jim, and Elizabeth, but wasn't briefed on Jim's wife (Liz's client) or Michael. He's 45, bald, and has dark brown eyes.

The Theme

The theme of this scenario could be best summarized by one word: Poker. Each player needs to reveal just enough to keep the information flowing to them, without revealing too much information and therefore making their input irrelevant. They're all against each other, and they're stuck in this room until they get out. It's suspicious, dark, and can lead to some great conversations.

The Setting

The actual setting of this scenario is relatively unimportant. It's a purgatorial holding cell, solid steel on all sides, enough room for the characters to walk and be out of earshot from each other if they whisper, and a big red button in the center that a character can press to summon death and solve the mystery, thusly earning them a shot to live.

There is another setting to talk about. The house where all this took place. It's semi-critical to understand that it's layout is relatively unimportant, just let everyone be aware there are numerous closets and rooms, and although it isn't palatial, it is a large house in a suburban neighborhood.

The Events - Or here's how it happened

So who killed whom? Lets get that out of the way first.

Phylis killed The Scorpion inadvertently, by setting a timer to start her microwave. When the microwave started, it was set to the same frequency as the radio detonators for the explosives in his pack, causing them to all go off, leveling the house across the street (and part of the neighbor's). A "tragic" accident.

The Scorpion killed Elizabeth "The Reptile" Walker, by shooting her from across the street on a neighbor's roof with a Sniper Rifle, just before he was exploded, and as she had a brief moment of indecision near the house.

Elizabeth shot Michael (who was making love to Phylis at the time) dead, then fled the scene to go get shot.

Michael stabbed Jim and left him to bleed out in a closet, then went to make love to Elizabeth.

Jim, barely conscious, forced his way out of the locked closet by shooting the doorknob (he kept his gun in a shoebox in this closet) and vengefully shot Phylis, mistaking the blood she was covered in for his own blood (assuming she'd stabbed him.) This was before he fell dead to the floor.

Now that you've got the basics, lets get into details. The only way to carry off this scenario is details. Everyone heard or saw some things unrelated to their murder (gunshots, bloodstains, etc.) Let's construct a timetable of the series of events, and detail further from there.

Lets start with the layout before this all began. Michael was over at the Denison household with Phylis, and they'd stayed in bed all day. Jim told Phylis he was out of town for all of today and tomorrow on a business trip, in fact he was just at work, having sex with his secretary (he never mentioned to Elizabeth that he'd be out of town.) Phylis decided to make some food, and set the microwave timer to start cooking in exactly 30 minutes. Phylis returned to the bedroom, and began making love to Michael, with him on top. They finished, then Michael went to go get a cigarette on the front porch. The Scorpion was already all set up on the neighbor's roof, and could see Michael. Michael watched as Jim's car came up the driveway. Before Jim saw him, Mike darted back inside, and then to the kitchen. He grabbed a large steak knife, and waited by the front door. This is when the first murder occurred.

Jim came in through the front door, shut it behind him (obscuring Scorpion's vision) and Michael stabbed him three times in the back, then shoved him into the closet. Jim never saw his attacker, and Michael quickly locked the closet door with keys Jim had dropped. Michael ran up into the bedroom, with some blood on him, bypassed Phylis completely and ran into the bathroom. As he was washing out the blood, Phylis saw him and asked him what he was doing? Michael explained Jim attacked him, and he had to defend himself and kill Jim. Michael began to beg Phylis for her forgiveness, but Phylis simply quieted him, kissed him, and told him that they'll take care of the body together. She proceeded to push him onto the bed, then they made love again, with Michael on top. This is when the next murder happened.

The Scorpion watched as Elizabeth came in through the front door of the house. She then saw the blood in the entryway, and left the front door open (revealing the blood to The Scorpion, who didn't witness the stabbing of Jim by Michael.) Elizabeth stalked up the stairs, and snuck towards the bedroom. The door was open, and she saw the motion in the dark room of someone making love to Phylis. She (assuming it was Jim) shot him execution style, twice in the back (near the spine) and once in the back of the head. She then retreated before Phylis could see her, and was out the front door before Jim broke free. Phylis, screaming bloody murder and covered in bloody murder herself shoved Michael off of her, and ran out of the room, still shrieking. Jim, meanwhile, managed to shoot off the doorknob to the closet, and bleeding to death stalked his way to the kitchen looking for his attacker. Jim, The Scorpion, and Elizabeth heard Phylis start shrieking. and both her and Jim headed to the kitchen, where another murder occurred.

Phylis, still screaming, saw Jim walk completely covered in his own blood, into the kitchen. She screamed at him, and Jim (assuming she was the one who stabbed him due to her being covered in blood,) shot her in the head. He then fell to the ground stone dead from the bleeding caused by Michael. The Scorpion and Elizabeth (being the last two current survivors) heard the shots. The next murder is the second to last.

Elizabeth, assuming her job was finished, headed out the front door and at a brisk pace began walking down the street. She cocked a smile as she heard Phylis' continued screaming, but was confused after she heard another gunshot and the screaming stopped, and decided to head back to check on what happened. Her pause, to listen to that last gunshot (Jim's shooting of Phylis) is what killed her as The Scorpion scored a direct hit to her skull, killing her instantly (she never saw the shot, but in hindsight probably knew it was a Sniper Rifle - being a trained hitman herself.) The Scorpion, pleased with himself, climbed down the ladder in the backyard of the across the street neighbor, then began to briskly walk away from the scene himself. This is when the last murder occurred.

DING! The microwaves start cooking, inadvertently setting off The Scorpion's explosive's radio detonators, blowing him up, and in fact most of the block.

So, from that timetable you should be able to infer what everyone would and would not know. As far as their individual questions about timing and what occurred when, feel free to refer to the above text as a cheat-sheet for you. If they're stumped, or not cooperating with each other, remind them that they'll be trapped in that box for all eternity if they don't try. Also remind them that they're allowed to lie to each other.

So, what happens when who wins? If it's The Scorpion, then the explosives in his pack are all duds, he hears a fizzle noise and gets on with his exit. If it's Elizabeth, then the explosion occurs early, just before he shoots, singeing her but leaving her the only survivor. If Jim wins, the Emergency Response revives his stabbed form on the floor, though they find everyone else and he's probably off to jail. If Phylis wins, Jim misses his shot, still dies, and she survives the explosion. If Michael wins, he's revived by the EMTs, who weren't able to save Jim.

That's it. Here's hoping your group can figure it out...


Let me know what you thought of this scenario by E-mailing me at

See you next month!

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