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Has Your Mystery Machine Flown Off the Path?

July 16, 2013
Campaign Diaries

Campaign Diaries

Investigative scenarios can be tricky to run if you’re a sandboxer*at heart. They lend themselves so well to A-B-C plotting, moving from one clue to the next, that when you open the scenario up, you run the risk of the plot flying off the rails. Clues aren’t found–or worse, misinterpreted.  Nothing seems to make sense –all the various contingencies of the sandbox become loose ends of the mystery. Players get bored because things aren’t “going anywhere”, because, really, things are going everywhere.

In short–it can become a bit of a mess.

I’m currently running a murder mystery scenario with my players and, while the plot hasn’t completely derailed, I fear my players are starting to get more frustrated than interested. And that’s a problem.

I have a couple of ideas to get things back on track and (hopefully) regain their interest. But has this been your experience with investigative plots? How did you handle it?

* I let my players into the sandbox of the scenario and then just see how they play as opposed to railroading them into a linear plot
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3 Comments
  1. While I have no suggestions (this is something I struggle with on my own), I think one of the biggest challenges is the clues vs. background details balance point. When you describe a scene, you need to point out the clues, but you don’t want to be as obvious as to state “here are the three things of importance in the room.” You want to describe the room in such a way that it sounds alive and detailed, but not bury the clues so that they get overlooked. There’s a equal risk of them missing the clues as latching on to a different detail that has nothing to do with the mystery.

    • That may be where mine has gone off the rails a little. Somethings that stood out for some reason have become “clues”–little rabbit trails to follow to nowhere.

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