nstant Mysteries is a gadget used to produce mystery plots, and a
set of techniques for fleshing out these skeletal plots into full mystery
adventures, and two ways of using the thing: one as a handy GM aid in
building mystery adventures, the other in a crazy hippy collaborative real time
way that builds mysteries on the fly.
The MysTery of MysTerIes
Mysteries are always a bit tricky in role-playing games. You can plot and plan and
come up with pages of devious notes and complex subplots, and within five minutes of
starting, some pesky player looks at you and says, “She was hypnotized into killing her
husband by the jealous carnie. Duh. Obvious.” And then you have to keep your poker
face, and mentally chuck all your lovely prep into the garbage.
One of the pleasures of reading a mystery story is the thrill of vicarious revelation
as the protagonist puts the pieces together, and the slightly less pure thrill of figuring it
out before the protagonist so you can feel smart and superior, until you realize you’re
feeling smart and superior to an entirely fictional imaginary character in a book.
To this end, it’s imperative that you don’t start feeling like your mystery story is a
“ME vs. PLAYERS” sort of thing. Yes, they won’t act like you expect, and yes, they’ll
stomp all over your lovely plot, and they’ll miss clues you think are eye-searingly
obvious, but that’s OK. That’s why they’re there. Your role is to do three things: