View Full Version : A Murder Investigation Adventure

2016-10-09, 05:01 AM
I'm planning for an upcoming adventure in which the PCs will be charged with investigating a series of strange and brutal murders in a small port city. But I'm having a little trouble writing up a series of encounters tat work for this kind of adventure. The players for this game a all very new to D&D and not entirely comfortable with roleplaying yet, so I try to keep them rolling dice and make the roleplaying aspect very straightforward and simple to keep things comfortable around the table.

Generally when I plan out an adventure, I write up brief overviews of each encounter in the adventure, but I'm having trouble coming up with encounters for a murder investigation without relying too heavily on roleplaying and without making them all combat encounters.

I could use a little help brainstorming.

2016-10-09, 05:12 AM
As for every riddle/murder mystery, make sure that the entire plot does not depend on the players doing something in particular. Either double some clues or provide them with delayed tips (but the delay gives the villain more time to prepare).

You could have three or four suspects that have to be watched. (You can split the party if you the players to feel alone and increase the tension). There are three clues to be checked (e. g. do they have a motive, an alibi and the means), and only one of the qualifies as the perpetrator in the end.

To get some clues, they have to find and convince unwilling witnesses who are scared or just difficult to find. To convince them, they want a favour/money/protection or have to be persuades carefully.

Players have to find out what the victims have in common. Unfortunately, family/clergy don't want anyone to play around with the corpses, or one of the corpses is already buried and people REALLY don't want them to be dug out again.

Once the players found enough clues, they realize who the next victim might be and they have to lay a trap in order to catch the perpetrator.

Red herrings can be nice, of course.

PCs find a new crime scene, but suddenly the town guards appear and the players have to hide in order to avoid imprisonment.

2016-10-09, 03:25 PM
Similar threads pop up every now and then and you will certainly find lots of good advice in those, if you search around a bit.

For now, if there is one thing you should read, it is this: Three Clue Rule (http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/1118/roleplaying-games/three-clue-rule)
Basically, for every single conclusion you want your players to make, include at least three clues!

Koo Rehtorb
2016-10-09, 04:43 PM
D&D is a bad system for investigations. It's not a game that's about that at all.

Skills like "Gather Information" or "Investigation" are provided precisely so people can skip past that stuff and get back to the fighting.

Xuc Xac
2016-10-09, 05:39 PM
Don't make them roll to find clues.

Don't make them roll to find clues.

And finally, don't make them roll to find clues.

Decide what the important clues are and then just give them to them when they look.

Let them roll to find "extra" clues that make things easier or more obvious. Let them roll to understand or interpret the full significance of a clue. Let them roll to tie two clues together. Let them roll to know or find an expert who can help them interpret a clue. But don't make them roll just to get the clue.

The fun of a mystery is in putting the puzzle pieces together and not in finding the pieces in the first place.

Another thing is that many mysteries are a journey and not a destination. If there is law and order, you can't just kill the villain because you know he did it. You have to prove he did it to the authorities or you're just a group of murderers. A murder mystery doesn't have to be about finding out who the killer is. The PCs might know who did it from the beginning, but they have to find out how and gather evidence to convict him lawfully.

Darth Ultron
2016-10-09, 05:42 PM
First off, a Murder Investigation Adventure is a very specific type of adventure and you really, really, really want to make sure the players want to do that type of adventure. It's really worth the time to ask them things like ''do you, the player, want to solve a real mystery even if it takes hours and hours?'' , "Are you ok with not using all the combat rules and only using the couple non combat rules for hours and hours" and "do you understand how hard even a simple murder investigation can be and are you ready to not get frustrated or upset or otherwise if you don't solve it in seconds."

Next, D&D is a combat heavy adventure game and does not do a Murder Investigation Adventure well. You can run a pure role play adventure, of course, and it's possible to make dedicated detective character....but a normal D&D character is very much a poor fit for a Murder Investigation Adventure. Though a ''one hand tied behind the players back, fish out of water adventure '' can be fun too....if everyone wants to do that type of adventure.

Now when it comes down to the mystery, it's important that: "You need to give out lots of clues and half of them should be very, very, very obvious'' and the mystery should be so easy that an ''average kid'' should be able to solve it. Watch any cop/murder/CSI TV show or movie....your mystery needs to be that easy.

2016-10-10, 12:58 PM
It's easy: D&D 5 uses Perception checks. That's all you need for investigation.

Give them 3 clues each scene. 4+ players making 3 Perception checks each scene should uncover a clue should lead them to a new scene and a new clue. All it takes is one successful check to give the group the clue they need. D&D 5 does it along with pretty much any game.

2016-10-11, 08:54 AM
Investigations are excellent examples of site-based adventure design. They're a lot of prep work, but they can be neat if done well. The trick is to make sure that you know what all the relevant NPCs' goals are, what they know, what they have done, and what they want to happen. Make sure that you don't make your villain improbably good at covering his tracks. Leave at least 3 clues (as others have said) which the players will find, and have additional ones they can find.

One trick that also works pretty well, I've found, is to have a bit of a Schrodinger's Clue: if a player suggests something that might be evidence left behind which really could help them get somewhere, let him roll an appropriate check to find it. If he succeeds, the evidence was, in fact, left behind, and his character's brilliant idea to look for it allowed him to recognize it. If he fails, that particular evidence wasn't left behind. (If the evidence wouldn't have been present due to the nature of the crime, a successful check should give some hint that this evidence was not ever a possibility, perhaps by some OTHER new clue that points in a different direction.)

That works best when a player introduces a fact that you didn't think of in designing the adventure, but nevertheless makes sense. "Huh, yeah, I suppose he WOULD have tracked foreign dirt into the area, so there might be some to find mixed in the local dust on the welcome mat."

But what you're doing with an investigation adventure is letting the players explore and discover. Unlike a geographical exploration, they're exploring the fact-space, but it's the same idea. Make sure there is enough at each point to give them a hint where else they haven't yet looked.