View Full Version : Running a murder mystery in a gold rush town

2011-09-15, 10:23 AM
To reiterate the thread title, I want my players to investigate a series of murders in a gold rush town. The murderer is a demon possessing a prospector who accidentally found and released the demon in an old mine, got possessed, murdered his friends, and now kills for sport. I eventually want to get my players in that mine after him so they can discover the truth and defeat the fiend. I'm not sure how to run this, and would appreciate any advice.

skycycle blues
2011-09-15, 01:01 PM
What kind of players/characters are they? If there is a Paladin or someone in some way devoted to aiding those in need, just make it totally obvious that there is a problem and the town is in dire need. If there's anybody who's Chaotic Neutral and out for glory, wealth and power, throw in that there may be a large supply of gold, heavily implying that if they delve into the mines, he's welcome to take a share.

So, what are you working with?

2011-09-15, 01:39 PM
Personally I'd go watch a few old westerns, and take some notes on claims, mines, deeds, gambling, the salon, outlaw gangs, ranchers, etc. Also how they interacted and how the law responds. how the banks fit in, stagecoach express, local trading post, etc.

From there, adapt it into your game setting. This is something I've done quite extensively for my newest campaign, where the majority of the human lands are more fantasy based old west.

Of course, if your world is strong on religion, how does the local church fit in also?

2011-09-15, 02:54 PM
The party's a dwarf headcracker, a halfling cavalier/cleric, and a half orc bard. Motivation for them is covered: they are mercenary and I'm going to sprinkle murders during the campaign for background flavor until someone in their boss's organization gets killed and they are dispatched.

The setting is a frontier town in Numeria in the Pathfinder setting and people are looking for starship wrecks and super science artifacts, but thematically I've been making it with influences from westerns because the gold rush town trope fits very well.

I'm mostly looking for general ideas on how to run an investigation, let them figure out some of what's going down, and send them to my planned climax.

2011-09-15, 03:39 PM
Make it clear that something's changed about the demon-possessed guy since he came back from the mine. Maybe he took up drugs/booze/whoring. Maybe people remembered he used to be right-handed. Maybe his wife thinks he's a different man now due to him being harsh/charming/distant/amorous. Don't make it scream out at you, but give enough clues that something's different in order to pique their curiosity.

In the PC game, the Witcher, one of your allies, a detective, gets replaced in the middle of the story. There are clues as to his replacement.

1) The Witcher's "spidey-sense" medallion starts vibrating around the guy.

2) There are drugs on the detective's table that
a) Are associated with the homeland of one of the BBEGs (you find this out through journal entries)
b) Are found on enemies that are associated with the BBEG's organization
c) Are considered hard-core for the setting, and this guy doesn't seem like a hard-core user.

3) The detective's voice acting is more harsh and he starts giving you orders to assassinate others where before he was just referencing them as people you should speak with

4) You actually find his body in a crypt.

It's quite well done, actually.

2011-09-15, 03:54 PM
The investigation rule of 3:
Always have 3 diffrenet clues pointing to the next scene or person.

The players will miss the first clue.
They will not be sure of the second.
The third will send them on their way.

2011-09-16, 06:13 AM
I've got some plans from the suggestions. I think I'll lead the players into going over the murders and trying to develop suspects from their, with a major clue being the demoniac's radical change in behavior to get them looking. Also, I think I'll have a copy cat murder distinguished by a robbery to make it a bit more interesting. Thanks to everyone for ideas.