“Everyone thinks they know what I should do or what I am up to but no one seems to fucking know what I am going to do next.”
– Rifkin, procurer, former Ravensgate convict, hero of the Sangre and wizard-slayer
Came to some conclusions about running a whodunnit in BW.
- The game has to be more interesting after the reveal than before. Meaning, the reveal should inspire the player into action.
- The pace of the mystery is actually set by the player, I think.
- The GM should be putting obstacles in the way of the character, not the player.
I agree on point 3. I don’t exactly agree on the timing. If I have a player who is trying to barrel right at the answer to the mystery, no waiting, solve it in the first five minutes — that player, in my experience, does not want the mystery solved in the first five minutes.
That said, when I ran a couple of mysteries based on the Kindaichi Case Files manga, I went over the plot several times, made notes on where things would break if I didn’t do anything, and made a very large note about when it would be just fine for the players and PCs to solve things early.
I’m not 100% sure on point one. That is, I think it is far better for the game to be more interesting after the reveal than less or as interesting, but I am not sure it is necessary. What is necessary is that the reveal not disempower the players (whatever it may do to the PCs).
I think one of the two Kindaichi plots I ran did actually succeed in having the post-reveal game be more interesting than the pre-reveal game, and it is something I want to strive for.
Recommended Reading: Lisa Steele’s GURPS Mysteries, which has a lot of excellent advice on what things that work in books or movies just don’t work in rpgs.
Lisa, I think we are having an internet agreement.
When you write:
“That is, I think it is far better for the game to be more interesting after the reveal than less or as interesting, but I am not sure it is necessary. What is necessary is that the reveal not disempower the players (whatever it may do to the PCs).”
I suggest that the game is more interesting if the players are empowered.
If a player who goes for it in the first five minutes doesn’t want the answers, what is it they want?
#1 floats on top of something that, I think, runs through a lot of good mysteries in gaming and in fiction. The reveal is a flourish, and while we tend to imagine it in the Agatha Christie vein (Gather everyone in the parlor, and now I will reveal everything, including the identity of the murderer!), most good detective fiction forgoes that in favor of the reveal being secondary to the interplay between characters and events. Hell, the good mysteries are a non-stop chain of reveals, and each one very clearly drives things forward.
Mysteries are very rarely about what they’re about, and that’s a great thing for gaming. But this is a big enough point I’m going to need to chew on it some more. May turn into a blog post.
I’d love to see what you blog on this.
I feel like there’s more to say and that there’s a severe gap between mystery fiction and mysteries as part of games, as I enjoy them but I can’t quite put my hands around that idea’s throat.