GreenTongue
 member, 910 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Tue 14 Jan 2020
at 23:11
Solving Mysteries in Games
How do you run games that require players to solve mysteries such as a robbery or murder?

Any "Who Done It?" type game actually.

Do you depend on the player to know how to solve or depend on the character to unravel (with GM help)?

This message was last edited by the user at 23:15, Tue 14 Jan.

donsr
 member, 1815 posts
Tue 14 Jan 2020
at 23:40
Solving Mysteries in Games
its  harder in here, then it would  be  Face to face.

I have  clues spread  about in the   GM  posts, and even answer posts to player's RP ..IC... some player s  figure it out.. some  don't..some surprise you by figuring it out  in a way you didn't think about ( which is really great, I love when a player  comes up with something  I didn't foresee)

 sure?  you can have  a Post where   'its away from the characters"...like a TV or Movie  does...But? TV  and Movies  don't have the   characters  having to figure it out  on thier own.

 Clues whether it is Items... NPS.... conversation.. backround 'fluff'...should be for the characters  to find... and..not have the whole game depend on it...( you win some, yuou lose  some)..now?.. if you can tie that winning  and losing , into  the  future  of the game..well!  so bunch the better!!
yuirick
 member, 15 posts
Tue 14 Jan 2020
at 23:43
Solving Mysteries in Games
I'm not too experienced, but my answer to this is to always leave new avenues to garner information if the stuff they've already seen isn't enough to piece it together. So if I've given hint A, B, C, I'll also try to make it obvious they can ask A for more info or that box B might contain another clue, etc. If you run out of hints, just make up something new.
tibiotarsus
 member, 105 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Wed 15 Jan 2020
at 00:55
Solving Mysteries in Games
^ That.

Though your players should know a mystery when they see one, make clues more obvious than normal here, since the stretched timescale of pbp causes many players to forget things before putting them together, even if you keep a 'Gathered Clues' thread (very necessary for longer games).

Also remember to make sure your perpetrator has a story job to do other than "murderer", "head cultist" etc. if your players have interacted with them to any depth, too - have them give information on someone else, be useful to the players, run the bar/laundry/police station, or stumble around seeming like a funny/helpless 'pet' for the players to adopt. When your mysterious murderer is the only NPC that's had narrative attention drawn to them and not much else to add in to the plot, they stand out.
GreenTongue
 member, 911 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Wed 15 Jan 2020
at 01:11
Solving Mysteries in Games
Keep a 'Gathered Clues' thread seems like a requirement.
As you say, people forget or only one person notices but all need to know.
"I thought I told you" happens for both the GM and the players.
engine
 member, 759 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Wed 15 Jan 2020
at 03:47
Solving Mysteries in Games
Me, I put it entirely on the characters. The players probably even know what they solution is, because I'd rather make it up with them that hope to come up with something that makes sense, is interesting, and has decent pacing.

The characters can know the truth too but that doesn't solve the problem. OK, you know the mayor is a werewolf, but it will take more than just stating that, or even passing a few Diplomacy checks in the hopes of convincing the townsfolk. He didn't get to be mayor by making it that easy. He has people fooled, plus he has, as the players know, lackeys with a vested interest in keeping him in power. It's going to take ironclad proof, and getting rid of those lackeys.
V_V
 member, 890 posts
 Script like razors
 Absence like wire
Wed 15 Jan 2020
at 03:56
Solving Mysteries in Games
In reply to engine (msg # 6):

I agree. :) The multiple players will always come up with better and more interesting solutions then one GM (you) can. I hate mysteries asa player, and so when I GM them (I have one RL player who LOVES them) I create a mystery, but then just listen to the players ideas. Seldom does it turn soap opera, but that is the price I pay when it does, where so-and-so is the twin of the man who faked his death and was actually....most of the time it's actually quite fun to roleplay, as in play the role, the players make for me.

I suggest watching some melodrama plays of who done it, or even the Tim Curry movie Clue. Despite it being silly, the idea of flexibility is there, even for a very serious game tone. Just create enough suspicion that ANYONE could have done it. The players will help you discover the truth.

Well...that's my method at least. I find mysteries as a player tedious, TBH. Often it's chore to find those clues. It's one of the few things, VERY few things I agree with Matt Coleville on. Give the players an imperative action; investigate is not an action. Instead START with the clues; don't have the player search.

Again, this is my suggestion. Take this in account in that I usually hate mysteries. ;)
engine
 member, 760 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Wed 15 Jan 2020
at 04:04
Solving Mysteries in Games
In reply to V_V (msg # 7):

Thanks. To be clear, I don't just go with their theories (though I will do that if they're excited about something). I might actually say, "This town you're coming to: the major is an evil creature in disguise and is up to something nefarious." The players then help me come up with that detail and they all know and remember it, and work hints about it into the game, even if the party never bothers investigating.
donsr
 member, 1816 posts
Wed 15 Jan 2020
at 05:16
Solving Mysteries in Games
 My best game has   lots of plot points... the main plots..sub plots...Plots that  characters  never uncover, and plots they create with the RP.

 over the years, I have been  realy happy when  a player   comes up with somehting that ,. not  only works, but was gleaned by the stuff I put in the backround.

 they don't  know  if the stuff  I have is 'important' or just for show,, and it makes it a lot of fun for both sides..it  requires  the flow changing, if they figure out...start something..ect..but its  worth it  to keep the game interesting.
facemaker329
 member, 7150 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Wed 15 Jan 2020
at 07:55
Solving Mysteries in Games
It's also important, as a GM, to keep in mind that your players may not have the encyclopedic knowledge of your setting that you do...

I had a friend in college (we were roommates for a while) who ran a Marvel Super Heroes game...we were all playing X-Men.  The GM had been a die-hard comics collector for most of his life; he could give you the abridged history of the Marvel or DC universe in about fifteen minutes, including significant crossovers with titles by other publishers.  We, as players, all enjoyed X-Men comics, but most of us had only been reading them for a year or two, at the most, and some had only read, say, the last ten or so issues (from his collection, no less).  So he was familiar with EVERY hero, villain, sidekick, secondary personality, etc of note.  And he came up with a plot line for us to follow which assumed that we would recognize the INCREDIBLY and obscure hints that he was laying out for us.

After about three sessions of us effectively beating our heads against the wall without any sign of realizing just what was going on, he said something about not understanding how we could miss all the clues.  We all said, in some form of phrasing, "WHAT CLUES?!!!"

The game didn't die...but that particular storyline faded into obscurity and he found some more mainstream bad guys with more obvious intentions for us to deal with.
V_V
 member, 891 posts
 Script like razors
 Absence like wire
Wed 15 Jan 2020
at 08:19
Solving Mysteries in Games
I can beat that story, and I'm the heel/GM in it. xD When I was 20, and not a year older, I ran a homebrew mutants type game. Well, one PC had the power to to color things, among other powers like talking to plants (she was a carnivore from the whining salads! xD) and controlling and acceleraing plants growth. She also had what was called Nigh Omni Regeneration. Meaning she could be decapitated and live. Anyway, you can see her effectively spray painting stuff being a niche but worhtless power. Well, I didn't. In one of my many blunders as a new GM, I created an unwinnable combat. Not that I hand waived it, but that the enemy forces had so much better stats. The group was trapped in prison, the mystery was how to get out. No plants, bunches of veto/nope anti powers BS. Star (the mutant plant/color girl) was the only one with power. The answer? she had to color ultra violet message so their away team could see it with ultra vision. Dx< Of course they had NO idea she could do that! So after I spent two hours yelling at them they walked out on me, and I told them and they laughed me off. Days later I did too. We remained friends for year after. ;) Though I gladly wear that shame of early GMing days.

So what's clear to the GM, is often, though not always, beyond player suspicion, and suspicion is at the heart of good mysteries.

This message was last edited by the user at 08:35, Wed 15 Jan.

GreenTongue
 member, 912 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Wed 15 Jan 2020
at 11:55
Solving Mysteries in Games
From your experience, does filling the logic matrix for the players with the clues as they find them help them resolve?
Do you create a Known Clues thread where everyone can keep track of the clues (even the GM)?

Have you used the concept to frame someone?

Which do you think works best a logic matrix where you add clues to resolve or the classic elimination method like with the Clue boardgame?

I would think both can drive characters to gather clues.
donsr
 member, 1817 posts
Wed 15 Jan 2020
at 13:54
Solving Mysteries in Games
  If  done right?... I have had players, either  'muse' to themselves IC, as the figure something out, or  notice the  clue... I have  had  other players  jump up and down in IC that 'they found something"...and. a lot, miss  things?

 Its good, because those that are missed, resurface, sooner  or later ..and those   found, drive the game  along, sometimes in another direction.

 for my  game, at least, the player who plays thier characters  well, tend to  find it.. some of those who come and go are more reactionary , then proactive.
V_V
 member, 894 posts
 Script like razors
 Absence like wire
Wed 15 Jan 2020
at 17:45
Solving Mysteries in Games
In reply to GreenTongue (msg # 12):

Mysteries in my games tend to have a few notes sections. People of interest, I usually call this Icons or NPCs or STPCs. Then I have one on places. A next one on esoteric notes. For instance; I GM a nine group game IRL on Table-top simulator (it uses cards for conflict resolution and is much faster paced); and one of the big mysteries is something I call Numera, and Mantles. In short they are mythic (not card rarity persay) tranferrable traits and positions into the society. They are so powerful they make one an undeniable god. Well, they require collecting pieces, or hunting certain sites for certain icons. All this together allows the players to ignore the quests, as they desire, or as a few groups are doing, labor over researching these Numera and Mantles. One has gotten a few of the Mantles, and one Numera. They felt ultimately vindicated having worked for RL months researching, fighting, dying (and having to face the state of being shade seeking reincarnation) to have such very potent magic, and also access to very plot sensitive information. In this case, for the mysteries sake, this main group, the Sun, know the Timelord's Identity, they know secret passages between worlds, they know how to predict omens with precise detail, rather than vague and mostly worthless prophecy.

I also have clue cards in their decks. All the cards have comments, but some contain secret information. The player simply has to take the time to read them. This also creates an economy of lore that the players feel invested into learning. One minor problem was going from being a shade to life again. A player read the card's description, saw the "code word" and said it, and then gained access to place they could soulbind their lifeforce to, but would have to soulbind again if they died and wanted to secure their soul again.

As far as framing. This is often character centeric, not plot centeric, but yes, I'm doing this in my big 9 group TTMMORPG. I have a few characters that are framed. A few loyalists that believe it, and few that don't. It isn't, and I must tress this, it isn't a plot point. The plot is something far more engaging, as in an imperative action "protect, destroy, kill, rescue" A criminal pursuit/profile/trial is a spectacle and one I do sparingly and even then only when players are told "there is a trial" and they want to watch. I make sure the trial has the ability to be interrupted, but there is penalty, and I run off general script, to keep clues and information very crisp and clean. Character cenetric framing comes out naturally. An innocent man executed for crime he didn't commit doesn't end the game, it enhances it, even if for tragedy. A framed job never impedes or paces the story. Again though, my mysteries are different. It's character point, the elimination is tangential, relevant, but tangential to the plot. It's not the main objective, or even side objective necessary. IT is never center stage.

In the framing of few good people, anmd masquerading of villains, I have at least a dozen people have the pieces necessary to solve it, by simply asking them the right questions, or even better giving them the right prompting. "Do you know who Droy is?" "Oh yes...he a died a horr-..." "He's not dead Count Valune" "What?! My gods! There's still time!" and then such kind of prompts, that over ten people can trigger a dialogue. Sometimes it's bread crumbs, sometimes it's learning or getting lucky to find the whole loaf. After all, if a mystery is a loose floor tile, then a certain character is the perfect tool to fix that tile. I just don't stop with a single one being available. I also make sure the players have more than sufficient tolls within their own repertoire. In one group, we have loremaster of sorts. In another it's all good old boys soldiers. The latter mostly want to out source investigation, and so frequently gossip and chat with people they meet. The former is very much a secretive one, and what she learns is by observation. She has a master infiltrator that head a spy's and assassin's guild.

I think mysteries, as whole, are better as spectator stories. If players like that, they Won't be as engaged. If they are engaged, they'll not just want to follow clues, they'll want something more pressing to DO. Finding a serial killer is okay. Having to save victims, or set up traps, or have a car chase appropriate to the genre, I think is more engaging. Even in deep intrigue, with next to no action in the genre, having the players do things like recruit intelligence "You have $2,000. You might hire private investigator to help. You can buy a computer to access the dark web and have relay to avoid detection. Or you can buy grade A survellence equipment to assign to a crime scene to see if the culprit returns" adjust these fore genre, but keep in mind the players have options, they have agency, they have tools to accelerate success in avenues they want. In the first case, they have a strict time saving strategy. The P.I. can now work while they sleep, socialize, or build something. The computer might let them go rogue, even deep undercover and try to meet shady people while maintaining anonymity. In FUBAR worst case, if "caught" they have their relay, which would have a hangman switch to detonate if proximity is breeched; basically ensuring even with the most state of the art tracking against the ToR and astronomically skilled task force, it's still a disposable ID. In the last case, they save time but also have objective record. Sure, they have spend time to watch it, or it's no good, but they can also PROVE in court that the culprit did what was on the recording. Eventually the group may be able to hire the PI just to watch the survellence. So there's synergy.

In any RPG, the Storyteller or GM or DM, ideally should have this idea in mind. Create a barrier, and then layer the field with tools to circumvent, destroy or control/occupy said barrier. Unless failure is a desired list of outcomes, you're only going to stall something you want to see happen. It's a case of gambling, and the odds are against you. The barrier should be malleable. Options are good. Too many might be bad, but more is usually better. I personally would find it boring if all I was doing was finding a murderer, and that WAS the plot. It's what I call spectator activity. In that case You're following the GM's clues like a GPS, you're bound to the road, and just taking the directions, in a rather often tedious journey. These make better subplots, after the players are deeply invested into characters and the world.

That's my last advice. Best of luck! You (anyone really) can Rmail me  if you want a clarification. Otherwise, I should get off CC, I have my own games to work on. ;) Cheers!
facemaker329
 member, 7151 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Wed 15 Jan 2020
at 19:25
Solving Mysteries in Games
I've had several GMs effectively drop clues by the simple expedient of pointing out, "Your character would know this," even though the player doesn't.  Sometimes it would be a dice roll ("Make an Intelligence check...") and sometimes it was just GM fiat.  Also had many GMs drop, reinforce, or remind of clues through NPCs ("Wait...Lecter...didn't he work with this guy who disappeared last month?")  Usually, dropping clues via NPC was a case of an NPC saying, "You go check this, I'll look over there..." (guess where the clue was...)

In terms of the PBP format, an ongoing thread listing found clues can be useful, although if you set one up for the players, it gives away (or at least creates the impression) that there are going to be LOTS of clues, potentially over a very long period.  Depending on the game you're running, that can be good or bad.  Setting it up at player request avoids that issue (but assumes your players think to ask for one, and if your players are good at using the Scratch Pad feature, they may not need it.)

As with a great many other options, it's all up to the GM and the players.
OceanLake
 supporter, 1091 posts
Wed 15 Jan 2020
at 23:20
Solving Mysteries in Games
Many of us players are Dr. Watsons; few, Sherlock Holmes.
GreenTongue
 member, 913 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Thu 16 Jan 2020
at 01:36
Solving Mysteries in Games
In reply to OceanLake (msg # 16):

Surprising how few of the many Sherlock Holmes stories were about murders.
donsr
 member, 1818 posts
Thu 16 Jan 2020
at 02:11
Solving Mysteries in Games
Big fan of Basil Rahtbone, and  Jermey Britt...