Posts belonging to Category Mystery Month

Impractical Applications (Damage Control)

The mystery I’ve spent the last few weeks writing about wasn’t my first attempt at a mystery; instead, my first had been a while before, as an attempt to see if my group was the type before I hit them with a big one. It crashed and burned. So when I started the second one, [...]

On Embedding Mysteries

An embedded mystery, or a mystery inserted into a larger plot, poses a unique challenge to its creator, particularly when the narrative is clearly moving in a certain direction and the mystery slows it down. How do I make this sufficiently complex and interesting without it seeming like a way to stall? Do I use [...]

Mystery and the Burden of Memory

Who’s on the suspect list? Who have we eliminated? What clues haven’t we come up with explanations for? Who was there on that New Year’s Eve when Minna “Munchkin” Maxwell was found with a bag full of dice shoved down her throat? Did we ever establish a motive for the Looney? Does anyone remember? Why [...]

Mystery: Logic Mismatch

One of the biggest challenges in GMing a mystery is making sure that the clues actually point to what you want them to mean. You’d think that wouldn’t be hard, wouldn’t you? That as long as you know what you’re trying to say, that the players should be able to pick it up and follow [...]

Dilemmas and Deliberation

For Mystery Month. Can you guess why?
Nighttime in the big city. The D-4 Detective Agency is on the case, and we’re pretty sure it’s close to the end. There’s The Dame, on the other side of the table with her piles of folders and that screen she always carries. And Clubs, plastic rattling between [...]

Mystery Mistakes: The Undefined Suspect List

Many people run mysteries in their games, but not all of them are successful—and in many cases, the failure can be pinned on the GM. This week, I’m going to discuss ways the GM can inadvertently sabotage her own mystery.
One of the biggest ways to scuttle a mystery is an undefined suspect list. And I [...]

Motives Operandi

Even when they’re of the same type, not all crimes are alike. Some thefts are well-planned and for a purpose, while others are last-minute; some murders meant to shock, some to silence, some to not have happened in the first place; some kidnappings are for ransom, some to protect the victim from someone else, some [...]

Finding Their Own Clues

Most of the time, you hear about players in mysteries being paralyzed with indecision, not sure what sorts of clues to hunt, or missing the stuff they’re supposed to find. But some people have the other problem—not content with the clues they’re “supposed” to find, they start coming up with other aspects of things they [...]

No Crime Is Too Perfect

When most people start planning a mystery, they see the clues as all being where the culprit made mistakes in covering her tracks, visible signs of slipping up. As a result, they have trouble running culprits who know the tricks and how to work around them. What they don’t realize is that for a sharp [...]

How to Foil Investigation Magic

When people start talking about creating mysteries in settings with magic, the magic often comes in as a potential problem. How do you hide the murderer when a simple spell will expose the evil in his heart? What do you do when dead men can tell tales? Is there still a mystery if someone can [...]