Corpse with a broken neck ... but how?

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I goofed. But now I'm looking fow a way to turn my gaffe into an interesting subplot element.

The situation: while exploring an underground complex of catacombs revered by descendents of an ancient goblin empire but overrun with undead and aberrant monstrosities, the heroes uncover a corpse at the base of a twenty foot cliff in a chamber shattered and split into two levels by seismic activity. The corpse wears a signet ring and other identifying markers making it to be the remains of a long lost noble scion who disappeared two centuries ago while battling monsters on the frontier in which the catacombs lie. His demesne passed into another family member's hands once it was clear he would not return to claim his eventual inheritance.

The catch: among its items, the corpse wears a Velvet Crown, a rare magic item that, along with its other powers, has the property that "When you fall 30 feet or less, you take no damage and land on your feet."

The error: I described the corpse to the heroes upon their successful Heal check as having a broken neck. (The corpse, by the way, was the source of a wraith in the chamber that was among the monsters they battled and vanquished.)

So rather than just retreat from my error, I would like to find a creative way out of this that could potentially spur new plot development down the line. Any ideas on how this noble warrior died despite the protection of his magic item? Was he murdered? How?

Any and all fiendish, convoluted plot device suggestions are welcome! And many thanks for reading along! 
He was 15 feet above the top of the cliff when he fell.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

His neck was already broken when he fell.
He was hung and put there to make it look like an accident. It's part of a larger conspiracy that is still going on two centuries later, and they're close to attaining their evil goals.
Noble was accompanied by guardsman who murdered him in plot with natural enemies, promised rich reward but ripped off. Guardsman's kin still roan the underground, bitter about being denied their inheritance.

Noble was secretly in cahoots with enemy state. This inner evil caused Velvet Crown to not function for him, as the One Ring will sometimes fall off the hand of its owner.

Noble was battling air elementals at time of death. Broken neck came from being flung into ceiling. Crown works only during natural falls in a downward direction.

Broken neck from bludgeoning melee attack. Golem with massive iron club and proclivity for targeting necks dormant nearby. 
Somehow the hat was disabled temporarily?

If you're playing 3e it could be something as simple as a Dispel Magic spell/effect.

Maybe the hat wasn't on him when he fell. Is it even his? did someone else put it there to 'decorate' the body?
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
The magic items did not belong to him. They were placed there by someone who has means for the heroes to get stronger with them, though for a good purpose or a bad one is still a mystery.
The magic items did not belong to him. They were placed there by someone who has means for the heroes to get stronger with them, though for a good purpose or a bad one is still a mystery.



So much better an idea than I came up with. *grumble*
Is it even his? did someone else put it there to 'decorate' the body?



I feel so ignored.
 
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
Plenty of good possibilities here so far! Indeed, several I could work with. But don't let that stop you from keeping them coming or fleshing something out further! Wink

And many thanks, all, for some really good brainstorming!

 Well, the simplest solution (assuming anyone even questions the discrepancy) is that he landed safely but a chunk of rock fell down after him and landed on his head...
Or he was pushed over the edge by someone who didn't know about the magic item and when he landed safely they threw the rock down on him.

Show

I am the Magic Man.

(Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.)

 

I am the Lawnmower Man.

(I AM GOD HERE!)

 

I am the Skull God.

(Koo Koo Ka Choo)

 

There are reasons they call me Mad...

The magic item only works for those of noble birth...meaning...he wasn't as noble as he claimed to be.
 
The item is intelligent and chooses when and whom it works for.  When you wear the item it has the option of telepathically communicating with you-if it likes you. 

All the answers the party needs are at their fingertips.  If they can convince the moody and distempered item to disclose them. 

Maybe the intelligence is even the spirit of a much older part of the Nobleman's lineage.  Which could raise new questions such as what was it the Nobleman did to lose the loyalty of his family> 
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
Stelactite fell on his head.

Maybe the crown itself broke his neck... a man who wears a crown has a lot of weight on his shoulders (so much so that his spine couldn't support the weight, causing his neck to break). Artifacts are poetic that way.

Stelactite fell on his head.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
Spiderman comics Gwen Stacey's death.
After being thrown off the bridge by Green Goblin spidey catches her with a web line before she hits the ground. There is a "snap" onomonapia printed on the comic panel.
For the rest of his life Peter wonders wether she was alive or dead before he messed up in trying to catch her.
The sea looks at the stabillity of the mountian and sighs. The mountian watches the freedom of the sea and cries.
i'm thinking that it was a cursed item or its true nature was kept from the person wearing
possibly given as a cruel gift from some conspiring mage
the person then jumped off the cliff thinking it would not harm but fell unknowingly to his own death

THEN the players can take his "supposedly beneficial" items and figure for themselves the curse and attempt to trace it back to its origins
maybe the ring will curse one of the players until it is lifted making the players pursue this quest harder