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Modern mystery prep

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I'm setting up a modern day detective game pretty soon (using mini-six) and I'm finding that prepping mysteries tends to take a long time, building lists of clues, suspects, etc. What are some methods you've used to prepare mysteries before?

I don't really do mysteries, but this is a good resource -

It has been a several years, but there were a few things we did.

In game, the detectives had a bi-weekly review with their captain on all open cases. We obviously tracked time, so every other Monday morning was a meeting with the captain. The players were put on the spot to provide updates on their cases.

Players would review and provide an update on their evidence, suspects/people of interest, open questions, next steps, and case status.

1. Players were given their experience/level up opportunities for successfully closing a case during this conversation.
2. For open cases, players would indicate which cases they were still considering active, and which ones they were making inactive.

I have read the three clue rule, but I go a different route being that I am okay with unsolved/open cases. I do not want redundancy built in to that level. It adds to the realism, and eventually, the catharsis of solving a case.

The meeting with the captain was amazing for gathering notes, planning out future sessions, and understanding what was going through my players’ heads. It erased all frustrations I had experienced over the years running those types of games.

Cases could fit on an index card. My old notes are packed up, but I could provide an example or two later, if interested.

I've read the three clue rule, I do find it useful for adding some structure to my prep. The bi-weekly review sounds like an excellent tool for figuring out what players are thinking, I think I'll give it a shot. I'd be interested to see what the index card sized cases look like if you wouldn't mind.  :)

Searched for nearly an hour, nothing. I will build out an example from memory. I start with a quick title on the card followed by the synopsis of the crime. The title includes a name and some sort of title as a memory aid. All of this fits on the side of the card with the lines.

--- Quote ---Julia - Single, Ready to Mingle
Late night/early morning Julia was strangled and stabbed 13 times, the word ‘SLUT’ carved into her back. COD, strangulation—stabbing post. No witnesses. Rage killing by her neighbor after seeing other men come and go for weeks. Herrings: DNA under nails (consensual evening before) and phone/dating app will identify four POIs, two with criminal backgrounds.
--- End quote ---

On the other side of the card I draw a line down the middle, breaking down NPCs with name, alibi and a couple key words on the left side. After I roleplay them the first time, I expand my notes a little.

On the right side I use the top half for forensics, the bottom for misc items.

--- Quote ---Left Side: People
Neighbor Jack—murderer, paralegal, slight build, Islander’s hat, quiet
Neighbor Elaine—asleep, retired teacher, nosy, “men coming and going”
App Tim—friends, unemployed, sex w/Julia night before, skin under nails, texts, six months battery of ex
App Brian—asleep, banker, date (no sex), smells bad
App Mark—asleep, teacher, date (no sex) two weeks ago, unanswered texts
App Drew—working, Uber driver, date (sex) month prior, stoner, minor possession
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---Right Side Top: Forensics
Body—deep cuts, carving likely kitchen knife (coroner 3 days), DNA (lab 7 days)
Phone—dating app names four POIs, text messages with Tim and Mark, two separate pictures Julia at clubs, one with Tim, one Mark, background small male with hoodie in hat blue/orange logo (blurry) in Tim, same hoodie in Mark
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---Right Side Bottom: Misc
Knife under bedroom floorboard in Jack’s apartment w/small box of Julia’s trash, article of clothing. Jack has no alibi for evening/morning of murder or when photo’s taken. Will admit to crime upon interrogation if evidence is found/presented. Hoodie from pictures found in closet.
Tim has violent/jealous history, harassing texts to other women in his phone
--- End quote ---

Looks like a lot, but it really isn’t. I had over a dozen of these at any time and would introduce them slowly to the game. Several went unsolved, or were solved much later. Waiting on reports and DNA spread them out over multiple sessions as well, so players had 3-4 cases going at a time.

If I had to do it today, I would use manila folders with notecards and post-its. I might even type up reports and aids to hand the players. Post-its would describe things such as photos, exact texts, etc. I remember it was a lot of improve with post-session notes. I want to say we played for about six months. We used a custom d100 system.


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