Since there seems to be some interest in this, here is a page for the mystery game I intend to be running. The basic principles for the game are outlined in this thread on the Forge, but the short version is that this will be a game where the characters do what the protagonists in a mystery novel really do: that is, they collect evidence, form theories to fit that evidence, and then look for more evidence to support or break the theories. This is not a No Myth game, in the sense that if the PCs do anything other than investigate the mystery there's not going to be much plot. Of course, exactly how the PCs go about the investigation is up to you.

Playtime and Players

This is going to be a one-session game, scheduled for Saturday November 5th, 12-5 EST (note that this is after the DST changeover). I don't think it's actually going to take five hours -- I'm planning on two to three and maybe four if things go slow as they usually do -- but there's not going to be a second session, so I'm blocking five hours to make sure we finish. There are spots for five PCs, plus one other person to help me run some NPCs. If there are more than six people interested, I'll work something out -- I'm open to running a second session on the 12th or 13th, for instance, if there are enough people. If you'd like to play, you need to get me a sheet by Saturday October 29th so I'll have time to integrate everyone to the story. See below for the rules on how to make characters.


The game is set in England in the rough 20s/30s of Christie, Sayers, and Wodehouse. This is about thirty years after the Sherlock Holmes stories are set. Class distinctions exist and are a definite factor, but at the same time things like the Great War and the House of Lords losing their ability to veto all legislation have started the process of breaking down the barriers. Some places and people are more traditional than others -- at large country manors like this one they usually still have the men and the women go their separate ways after dinner before gathering again in the drawing-room, and there's no doubt in the servant's hall the under-gardener would be frowned on for talking back to the valet of a guest of the house, but on the other hand guests coming down to dinner can probably get away with black-tie dress instead of white. Among the younger set things can be much less traditional, with some becoming bohemian artists or Communists or (gasp) going on the stage.


There are two likely reasons for characters to get involved here. One, they could be guests who are bored. The mystery novel was rising in popularity in this time period — some people speculated it was the desire of the post-War generation to see some action and justice — and it would not be out of the question for them to wish to apply the techniques in practice (especially not in a mystery story). Two, the characters could be professional detectives. Detectives (or policemen) are definitely not members of the Best Set in society, but sometimes dealing with them was unavoidable.

There are a bunch of possible occupations for guests, covering a range of activities, inclinations, and income levels. Some possibilities: rich young wastrel, explorer (probably just back from the Congo), banker, barrister, bohemian artist, soulful poet(ess), doctor, politician, secretary*, clergyman, old soldier, gentleman farmer**. If you don't know what to pick, rich young wastrel is certainly a safe choice, at least for the younger set.
* Note that this kind of "secretary" is not a low-class position, and definitely not a servant -- it's more like being an apprentice to the important businessman/politican/bishop who employs you.
**Naturally, gentleman farmers don't do any actual farming, but they do tell other people what to do, and rent out their land -- it's a combination supervisor/landlord position, somewhat in decline in recent years due to agricultural depression.

Because this game is taking place in 192X, please give a few thoughts to what happened to your character while the Great War was going on (roughly, five to ten years earlier). Characters in their early twenties probably only experienced the war as something that led to somewhat distant and distracted parents, which may in turn explain the roaring-twenties attitude. I originally had noted that the kids might have got packed off to the country for safekeeping, but I guess this was actually much more of a WWII thing, since bombings were a bigger deal then. Older characters probably served in the war, and are most likely scarred to various degrees. Women, if they served, were presumably nurses or auxiliaries. Some males, and more females, may not have served, either because they were minding the house or were too old or had to take care of the land or whatever. This may also have had some lingering psychological effect.


I'm going to be running this diceless and extremely rules-light, as the intent is for most of the technique to be on the part of the player, not the character. Nevertheless, it seems like it might be helpful to pin things down a bit. In addition to a character blurb, please submit a list of 6-10 skills/traits the character has, rated Terrible, Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good, Great, or Superb.

Mediocre is the default rating for traits that are undefined, and represents having no particular training — someone who picks up a gun or gets behind the wheel of a car for the first time. Terrible and Poor traits are worse than that, for some reason — someone who is notably Clumsy, Poor, Sickly, or the like. Fair traits are for things the person has been doing for a few years but shows no particular aptitude for, or has just started but has a knack. Good traits are those a person is showing some skill in, with the likelihood of getting promoted at their job or being known to their friends as an expert in the subject. Great traits are for people well-paid at their companies, popular (or boring!) speakers on their subject, and known in their community as someone that can be turned to in this area. Superb traits are for people who are the single best person in this area at the manor or the surrounding village; at home they're probably well-known, and other people in the profession will know and likely respect them. Note that things like Wealth, Good Looks, Physical Strength, and so on can also be taken as traits.

I'll be designing a mystery that fits people's traits as much as possible. Please pick "Hobnobbing with Servants" or "Spotting Small Bits of Evidence" or "Sneaking Around" only if these are things you want to do during the game (and if they are things you want to do, please pick them so I'll know).

In addition to your traits, please give some relationships for your character. PCs should be related to two or three of the other PCs in some way (served in the same unit in the War, were at university together, are cousins, belong to the same club), and similarly related to one or two NPCs at the manor (which you should give one-line descriptions for). I'll work with you to integrate your manor NPCs into the story -- if you don't have any ideas, I can give some suggestions of how you can work with the existing characters.


There are two major styles of mystery that I'm taking as a basis for this game, the Sherlock Holmes style where the solution can be primarily deduced from the physical evidence at the scene, and the Agatha Christie style where the solution is primarily deduced from talking to people and both checking for contradictions in their statements and considering the psychology of the individual. Because, well, it's easier for me, I think this is going to lean more to the Christie style, but there should be a certain amount of the half-a-cigar-butt-and-scrap-of-paper-with-the-word-"MP" Holmes stuff as well.

Therefore, as mentioned earlier, the activity of the PCs is expected to be divided up between chatting with/up people, looking for evidence, and forming theories. Ideally these theories will be mentioned out loud, both so I can amuse myself and so when you say "I look for scrapes on the floor behind the clock to see if's been moved recently" I can say if you find anything based on whether your theory is on the right track (or if, of course, you have a wrong theory in general but are correct in specific about the clock moving).


I intend to shoot for something a little like The Speckled Band, or perhaps The Mysterious Affair at Styles (the former is more correct in terms of length and complexity of mystery, the second more correct in terms of tone and period). Some general links about the period:

A cast list of NPCs is now available.