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Basic Information

A Coroner is an elected or appointed official who rules on cause of death. They might be the sort who physically perform an autopsy, but are also likely to be just be the authority who makes official declarations. It depends a lot on the local laws. In most US jurisdictions, for example, the coroner is NOT required to be a physician, nor be trained in forensic pathology. The only requirements are often age and a lack of a criminal record. It’s often a political position, voted into power in a public election.

Under UK law, a coroner is a member of the judiciary, originally intended to represent the interests of the Crown in his local area. Determining the causes of deaths was only one of his duties - he was also, traditionally, responsible to adjudicating the ownership of found treasure and taking responsibility for shipwrecks and assorted kinds of marine life (known as "royal fish") coming ashore in his area. In the modern era, he retains the adjudication of treasure trove, but is mainly concerned with holding inquests into deaths.

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Game and Story Use

  • If your story is all about a local conspiracy or coverup, and you want the setting to facilitate that skullduggery, it's probably best to set the tale in a jurisdiction with coroner. They are well positioned to interfere or obstruct with the PCs investigation. It may be hard for the PCs to determine if the coroner's interference is innocent incompetence, mundane politicking, or something more sinister. (There's a reason Scientific American thinks Coroners Should Be Abolished. Just sayin'.)
    • The role of a coroner in The Masquerade cannot be understated - the ability to apply bland rationalisation to the patently uncanny is probably a necessary career skill.
  • It seems like the job of coroner would be an appealing line of work for a serial killer, necromancer, or other unsavory types. Lots of access to dead bodies, and control of how the messaging about those deaths gets spun. The only downside is the spotlight cast on you by the election season. A plucky reporter or muckraking politician might dig into your past misdeeds, and expose your evil.
    • Got to say that being a necromancer could make the job a lot easier … certain television MEs may talk to their clients, but so far none of them have actually answered.
  • A medieval English coroner is actually a pretty cool job role for one of a small party of PCs: Bernard Knight's Crowner John Mysteries set out series of adventures in this role for the titular protagonist and his two retainers - everything from straightforward murder to high politics and a long standing conflict with the incompetent and corrupt county Sheriff … who also happens to be his brother in law.
  • The coroner is, probably, the guy the PCs get to deal with about the small matter of all that treasure they've acquired (assuming they acquired it within the kingdom, otherwise they're dealing with whoever has the rights to collect import taxes).
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