This adventure was originally posted to the pre-magazine Freelance Traveller website in 2003, and reprinted in the July/August 2019 issue.
When faced with a ‘fixed’ boxing match and the heavy bookmaking losses that would result, an odds maker approaches the PCs for help in ‘un-fixing’ the fight.
While hanging around the star town and finding themselves with a few days of free time, the PCs are approached one afternoon by an acquaintance who asks if they might like to earn a little extra money for hardly any work. If the PCs indicate that they are open to the idea of earning some extra lucre, their acquaintance says he would like to introduce them to friend of his. The PCs are then lead to a table at a fashionable cafe and introduced to a Mr. Bhushan Lis.
Mr. Lis is a nattily attired fellow of considerable charm and excellent manners. After being introduced, he will immediately do his best to put the PCs at ease. The waiters will be very attentive to Mr. Lis’ needs. They will take the party’s orders rapidly and return with whatever was ordered even more quickly. Once the drink and canapes have arrived, Mr. Lis will turn to business.
He will politely ask about the PCs’ backgrounds, never prying and seemingly happy with the most general information or responses. He will be particularly interested in any ‘extracurricular’ jobs the PCs may have had in the past, especially those in which the PCs had to deal with people in a variety of less than perfect situations. He will also try and determine if the PCs can handle themselves in potentially ‘dicey’ situations.
The conversation with Mr. Lis will not in any manner seem like an interrogation. The tone of the conversation will be light, and Mr. Lis’ manner will be decidedly ‘formally informal’. No matter how guarded or wary the PCs behave, Mr. Lis should remain pleasantly genial though out the meeting.
Once the canapes and a round or two of drinks have been consumed (or not, depending on how paranoid the PCs are), Mr. Lis will take his leave. He will pronounce himself very satisfied with the conversation. However, he will state that he needs to think things over before hiring the PCs for the ‘little task’ he has in mind and he hopes the PCs will understand.
Mr. Lis will suggest they all meet at this cafe sometime this evening, agreeing to whatever time the PCs decide on. Pulling a large roll of cash out of his coat pocket, he will first pay the café’s check, leaving a tip well above the cost of the food and drink, and then count out 100 CrImps per player in large denominations bills for the ‘PCs’ time’. Before leaving, he will also present each PC with an engraved business card and suggest that they ‘ask around’ about him before they meet that evening. Mr. Lis will then bid the PCs good day and take his leave with the PCs’ acquaintance.
If the PCs follow or shadow Mr. Lis and their friend, they will notice Mr. Lis handing over a sum of money to their acquaintance before leaving in a taxi. Following the taxi will prove fruitless.
Mr. Lis’ card will be of obvious high quality. The card will have Bhushan Lis - Consultant engraved on one side and the day’s date written on the back.
‘Asking around’ about Bhushan Lis before their next meeting should now be the PCs main concern. While getting information from their acquaintance who set up the meeting will be the first route many PCs would take, working the startown’s ‘street’ will turn up information too.
As the PCs canvas and ‘work the street’ for information regarding Mr. Lis, they should become aware that someone is doing the same thing about information regarding them. That someone is Bhusan Lis.
By the time for their evening meeting with Bhusan Lis arrives, the PCs should be very intrigued to learn about just what sort of job this gentleman has in mind for them.
Locally, betting is in a legal grey zone. While the region around the starport does not allow bookmaking or betting, it does allow local bettors to contact bookies and make bets in any region that does allow bookmaking. A number of bookie operations have been set up inside the starport’s extrality line as a result. Physically, a bettor may be in the region that prohibits betting, but legally his bet was made 'at' the starport. The local authorities are well aware of this loophole but tolerate it as it prevents bookmaking from being a source of cash for organized crime.
Contrary to public belief, bookies do not make their money from people losing bets. Instead, bookies make their money on the ‘vig’ or interest they charge losing bettors. In an ideal situation, bookmakers want the wagers on either side of a contest or event to balance. They can then pay the winners with the losers’ money and charge the losers interest to keep their accounts open. The desire of bookies for this ‘balanced’ betting leads them to offer ‘odds’ or ‘lines’ on all events.
Every event or contest will have a favorite, an individual or team that the public feels will win or prevail. When betting, the public will naturally place their wagers on the favorite. That’s where odds and lines come into the picture. By offering to pay more on a given bet if an upset occurs, the bookmakers can lure more bets to be placed on the non-favorite in a contest and thus ‘balance’ the wagering.
Quite naturally, with all this emphasis on ‘balancing’ wagers, the odds or lines published for each event are critical and subject to change. As wagers are placed, bookies will monitor how balanced the betting remains. If the balance is off in some manner, the bookmakers will adjust the odds or lines to bring the wagering back into balance.
Bhusan Lis is a well respected local odds maker. He does not operate any betting books or parlors, rather he consults with those who do take the ‘action’. Using his skills and knowledge, he helps them set and adjust the odds for whatever contests and events they then take bets on. While Mr. Lis’ business does bring him into contact with some of the less savory aspects of society, there are no hints of any impropriety on his part in any manner.
When the PCs and Mr. Lis meet again, both parties should be satisfied with what they have found out about the other. Before the PCs can ask him about it, Mr. Lis will admit that he had been ‘asking around’ about them during the afternoon. Just as in the first meeting, Mr. Lis will order food and drinks and await their being served before discussing any business. He will engage in the same polite and genial small talk as he did earlier. After everyone is settled in and has been served, Mr. Lis will place a handbill on the table and tap it with a well manicured forefinger. This is the little job he would like to hire the PCs to help him with.
The handbill, or flyer, is an announcement of a boxing smoker to be held two nights from now. The preliminary matches, or undercard, lists the usual assortment of tomato cans beating each others' heads in for the paying public. The marquee match-up involves two much more well known fighters; Gamel “Kid” Kamehameha and Niko Broz, the “Battling Belter”. Mr. Lis indicates that he has a professional interest in this particular boxing match.
It seems that Mr. Lis calculated the odds for this boxing match; given both fighters’ records, the “Kid” is very much an underdog. Several of Mr. Lis’ clients then used those odds in their bookmaking operations. Once the books were open for this fight, the bookmakers noticed something unsettling: too many people were betting on the “Kid”. The bookies then adjusted the odds several times to try and bring the wagering back into balance, but money continued to be bet on “Kid” Kamehameha.
The bookmakers contacted Mr. Lis about this and strongly questioned the rationale behind his original odds. Eager to protect his professional reputation, Mr. Lis assured his clients of his original estimate and promised them he would look into the matter. After spreading around quite a bit of money and calling in quite a few personal favors, Mr. Lis discovered that the fight has been fixed. Someone has paid Broz to throw the fight and news of this reached enough ears to upset the normal flow of wagering.
Normally in this case, the bookmakers would immediately close the book on the fight in question and return all the moneys wagered. However, Mr. Lis also uncovered some information that convinced him he would be able to ‘unfix’ the fight; he believes this new information can be used to persuade Niko Broz not to throw the boxing match. With that in mind, Mr. Lis has counseled his clients not to close their books on the now ‘unfixed’ fight.
Mr. Lis would like to hire the PCs to speak with Niko Broz regarding both the upcoming fight and the new information Mr. Lis has uncovered. He would also like the PCs to spread the word around the port and town that the upcoming boxing match is not ‘fixed’. He is willing to pay the PCs 350 CrImps each to do this, plus an additional few hundred as ‘walking around’ money that the group can use to spread the news. The PCs can negotiate with him and he will go as high as 500 CrImps. However, if the PCs hold out or haggle for more, Mr. Lis will thank them for their time, pick up the café’s check, and leave.
If the PCs accept the job, Mr. Lis will pay them on the spot from his large bank roll and throw a few extra hundred in ‘walking around’ money. Mr. Lis will then pass over an envelope. Inside are tickets to the boxing smoker, a list of addresses where Niko Broz can be found, and a piece of paper with the name ‘Giacomo DePeyster’, the phrase ‘Edam Neckties’, and the word ‘extradition’. Those cryptic facts are the information Mr. Lis wishes transmitted to Niko Broz.
Mr. Lis will recommend that they ‘remind’ Niko Broz of the facts three or more times before the boxing match. He points out that Broz is most likely at the gym listed among the addresses right now. Mr. Lis wraps up the meeting by wishing the PCs well and remarks that he will see them at the fight. He also intimates that, if things go well, there may be a bonus in it for the PCs. With that, Mr. Lis will pick up the check and leave the PCs to their work.
The initial approach to Broz, who is after all a boxer, should be handled circumspectly. Simply waltzing up to him as a group in a public venue and shouting Mr. Lis’ information will hardly get the job done. Broz should be taken aside by one or more PCs, with the others nearby, and spoken to gently. Presenting Mr. Lis’ information in friendly terms will help things go smoothly.
Broz will be quite interested in the information. He will question the PCs about it, trying to determine what they know and how they know it. The PCs should keep things simple, merely repeating the three facts and suggesting that throwing the boxing match may not be a good idea.
Ideally, Broz should be first approached as soon as possible after the PCs’ meeting with Mr. Lis. If the PCs put off approaching Broz for whatever reason, a message from Mr. Lis will reach them asking why the approach has not been made. After the first approach, keeping tabs on Broz and reminding him of the facts should be easy. The two days before the fight, Broz will usually be found either at the rooming house where he lives or at the gym where he trains. The other addresses found in Mr. Lis’ envelope include a diner Broz frequents and a cabaret Broz enjoys.
Spreading the news about the now ‘un-fixed’ boxing match should be even easier for the PCs. All they need to do is spend two days visiting their usual and not so usual haunts chatting with anyone who cares to listen. Mr. Lis’ money will provide them with the wherewithal to carouse to their hearts’ content. Crafty PCs may even use part of their pay to place a bet on the fight!
The night of the fight the PCs will find themselves enjoying ringside seats courtesy of their patron. Mr. Lis will be seated nearby with the port’s chief constable as his guest. The PCs will undoubtedly notice Bhusan Lis introduce the chief to Broz before the fight. If the PCs did their job well and Niko Broz took the information to heart, the boxing match between the “Kid” and the “Battling Belter” should be one for the ages.
- Niko Broz is losing the fight. If the PCs were conscientious in their work, Mr. Lis will not hold them responsible. If they shirked their job, Mr. Lis will be displeased. Either way, he will send the PCs a note suggesting that they do something. Realizing that they are ringside, savvy PCs will heckle and taunt Broz. Shouts of ‘extradition’ and the all other bits should bring Broz back in fighting form rather quickly.
Niko Broz loses the fight. He either slipped on a banana peel, the “Kid” got in a lucky punch, or Broz decided not to heed the PCs’ warnings. As in 1 above, Mr. Lis’ reaction will depend on how conscientiously the PCs performed their job.
Broz will be arrested after the fight on unspecified charges and held for extradition to an unspecified location.
After being first approached with the information, Niko Broz asks the PCs for help. The person(s) who originally paid him to throw the fight will be angry if he goes back on the deal. Broz fears for his life if he doesn’t throw the fight, but he cannot risk Mr. Lis’ information about him being given to certain parties. Broz will beg the PCs for help in solving the mess he finds himself in.
The PCs could help Broz ‘disappear’ after the fight, speak to the original fixers about the matter, or try and guard him from any unpleasantness. Smart PCs may think of approaching Mr. Lis for assistance with Broz’s problem. Mr. Lis will gladly help, only if Broz first boxes in the scheduled match.
Niko Broz disappears before the fight. After being approached by the PCs, Broz sets out for parts unknown. His disappearance will be cause for few inquiries in official circles, but other parties will take a great interest in Broz’ absence. Seeing as the PCs were observed talking to him recently, those other parties will want to talk with the PCs.
While the books had to be closed on the fight and all wagers returned, Mr. Lis and his clients will be satisfied with the outcome.
Niko Broz is found dead either before or after the fight. As with 4 above, the PCs’ private chats with Broz will be of great interest either to the authorities or other, more private, individuals.
The manner in which Broz is murdered, the PCs’ alibis, and any other factors should be determined by the referee for the type of effect she wants. Are the PCs prime suspects or merely witnesses to be interviewed? Will the authorities and the other interested parties believe the PCs’ testimony?
As a respectable and low profile citizen, Mr. Lis may be reticent to admit any involvement with the PCs.
There was no fix at all. Either someone spread a rumor to queer the fight’s odds and that rumor took on a life of its own, or unknown parties decided on a course of action to besmirch Mr. Lis’ reputation with his clients, or someone is engaged in an elaborate con, or whatever other explanation the referee develops, it all doesn’t matter. Broz was never paid to throw the fight and knows nothing about the information the PCs’ approach him with.
The PCs actions; seeking to speak privately with Broz and then passing along gibberish, will seem very odd in certain quarters. Broz, his handlers, or the smoker’s organizers may all become interested in the PCs and their behavior. The PCs may be approached by those interested parties or they simply may be reported to the authorities. Either way, as in 5 above, Mr. Lis will be reticent to admit any involvement with the PCs or their work.
Resolution and Conclusion
However this adventure plays out, the PCs will have a chance to flex their carousing and streetwise muscles instead of their trigger fingers. The PCs may find themselves earning some easy pocket money while enjoying the sights and sounds of the starport or they may find themselves deeply involved or even implicated in a murder investigation.
Depending on how well the PCs handle the job they were hired for, Mr. Bhusan Lis and his ‘odd’ occupation could make for an interesting and recurring patron or an interesting and recurring irritation. The unknown person(s) the PCs prevent from fixing the boxing match may prove to be trouble also. However the fight turns out and whatever his role it in, Niko Broz will be interested in the PCs too.