After playing and really enjoying Detective Pikachu, my youngest son – aged 9 – wants more detective stuff. (And a bit more dad time too, if I’m honest)
So we went looking for a bunch of stuff, but I thought he’d enjoy a little one-on-one murder mystery RPG. I’ve never DMd before (or even played an RPG – as next weeks edition of my podcast Sunnyside Show Podcast will attest) so I figure we’d go through a simple murder mystery. This took about 2 hours of me figuring out what this looked like for half an hour of playing. I’m gonna try and get better at it, it was sort of fun to come up with.
So, if you have a similar inclined child, and you feel the need to spend an hour or so here’s the outline of a scenario that you can stretch to fit, probably. (I didn’t use dice, and liberally gave him plenty of clues, since I didn’t want it to seem too hard. Turns out it was too easy, which means I’ve got to rethink a lot of it, either that, or just accept criminals are idiots who always give themselves away). You’re welcome to take this, adapt it, lengthen it, shorten it, twist it, add more rules, subtract stuff, etc. I’ve tried to make it PG friendly, but YMMV.
I’ll outline what happens in the case right here, you can then give out clues to it as you feel appropriate… Your detective needs to find MOTIVATION, OPPORTUNITY, and the MURDER WEAPON!
What happened (This will tell you everything, so don’t let the player see it!)
Earlier in the day [OPPORTUNITY], the Crime Photographer had been blackmailing the Deputy Mayor to pay him more money (he is the only person in the Police Department who had been getting pay rises) but clearly he had pushed too far. The DM and he had argued in the DM’s office. When the DM threw the Photographer’s camera out of the window [MOTIVATION!] the Photographer had stabbed him with an envelope opener [WEAPON], realising what he’d done he carried the body down the stairs to the top of the main flight, ran up stairs (look it’s for kids, just go with me on plausibility here) threw the computer out of the window to cause a distraction, then ran back down and threw the Mayor down the steps. He had to remove his coat because the DM had gotten blood on it and so he stashed it at the top of the stairs. The coat is a man’s coat with the initials CP on it.
The Case of the Dead Deputy Mayor
You are The Detective. Called in on any case that could be foul play. Tonight you’ve been called to City Hall, where something is afoot.
Outside City Hall
You arrive at the outside of City Hall, where the last tour has been taking place. Outside the police are holding back press, and a crowd gathering due to the recent commotion. There is a cordon around the hall as well as around a computer that is smashed to pieces on the ground, [ it is clearly an expensive piece of equipment , in the wreckage and only visible in close examination is an expensive camera]. If you think to look up you’ll see on the third floor window, the only room which it could have come from – the Deputy Mayor’s Office. As a frequent visitor to City Hall, you know the location well.
You are met by Sergeant Christopher Peele. [He will act as a guide for the Detective if he’s ever stuck.]
There is a simmering resentment from the Sarge about the Deputy Mayor, who gets all the fancy equipment while strangling funds to the police department.
Inside the reception area of City Hall.
The old building, has a single wide stairwell leading up. There are a few potted plants, a reception desk to the left manned by a receptionist and on the right a small crowd of tourists being questioned by the Police. At the base of the steps is the body of the Deputy Mayor. [Did he fall, was he pushed, or did something worse happen?]
The receptionists desk is missing a heavy paper weight (it’s fallen down behind the desk in all the commotion) maybe this is the murder weapon? [RED HERRING!]
There is a little pot with all sorts of things in it, pens, pencils, and an envelope knife that is the murder weapon. She might notice it, she might not.
The First Floor. Potted plants. Dark. Everyone is away home. Behind the potted plant is a clue: A fancy new sport’s coat. It has a monogram CP on the inside. if examined closely it’ll have a dark patch of what might well turn out to be blood on the left hand shoulder.
The Second Floor. Dark, lights off. No clues.
Third Floor. Dark lights out execept the Deputy Mayors office.
Deputy Mayor’s Office.
Window wide open, papers strewn about everywhere, computer missing from desk. Here we may find a brown envelope, inside photos of the secretary and the DM kissing. Well shot photos. Someone who knows how to use a camera.
The Victim. Deputy Mayor Wayne Smith.
The DM was not well liked. Well, except by his Wife and the receptionist. Everyone will know little bits of this. He was in charge of budgets and had slashed every one’s budgets except for the receptionist (who had a shiny new chair) and the, weirdly, the crime photographers. His body, at the foot of the stairs is face up. Initially it’ll look like he died from the fall, but could he have been hit on the head and it staged? Was he pushed? Or, if the Detective thinks to turn the body over, he may discover a small pool of blood at his back that suggests something darker happened. Accident or Foul Play? (It was Foul Play, otherwise what’s the point?)
The Receptionist, Cynthia Parkhouse. She knows everyone well, rumoured to have been having an affair with the Deputy Mayor. She will grumble about money and maybe be a bit miffed about the Photographer being paid more. But she won’t elaborate.
It’s his business. She loved the Deputy Mayor and would never do anything to harm him.
She thinks he might have tripped, as he was clumsy.
The Tourist Guide. Carl Paxton.
He knows all the rumours, and will point out that the Receptionist and the Deputy Major are known to be having a secret affair. If asked, he may suggest that maybe she pushed him down the stairs since he might have wanted to leave her.
He didn’t like the Deputy Major much, because the DM set the budget and there were big cuts last year in everyone’s budget.
Carl can’t find his camera. (One of the kids took it and put it in their bag) if shown evidence of the camera outside Carl won’t be sure if it’s his or not (big help, right?)
You can fill these guys out as you wish. I had a family, mum, dad, 9 year old son, and 3 year old daughter. The police will confirm their statement that they heard a small noise, like something falling on to the ground outside (the camera falling) then a loud crash outside (the computer) they ran out and seeing it was a computer walked back in to see the DM dead on the ground outside at the bottom of the stairs.
The Crime Photographer. ‘Toph Pickering.
‘Toph is short for Christopher. Information someone may volunteer if it’s not obvious. ‘Toph is wearing a shirt a tie, has a single camera (though he’s more often seen with two cameras).
If asked, Toph will say he arrived at the same time as the detective, who maybe didn’t notice him walk in. The receptionist might say Toph arrived half an hour before the detective.
Up to you how obvious you want it to be Toph. Toph will suggest that his job is to photograph crimes up to the detective to figure these things out.
Outside beside the damaged computer is a fancy, small digital camera. This could belong to the Tourist Guide OR the Crime Photographer (depending on the damage)
Small pool of blood under the DM suggesting something happened to him before he fell down the stairs (if the Detective doesn’t figure this out, maybe the seasoned Sarge could suggest it)
The Photographer isn’t wearing his new super expensive jacket you may notice this or not (revealing this specifically may give the game away early)
The Shiny new jacket with CM written on it (it’s obviously a man’s jacket though)
The missing paper weight [RED HERRING]
The extra envelope opener (The secretary may or may not notice she has that) if examined it’ll reveal traces of blood.
Ok, there we go, you can add more to that. I ended up drawing a little sketchy diagram to help Tom place things – but that’s easy for me, so I’ll offer those to you now…
Hope you can make something fun for you kids! (I think I didn’t quite give enough red herrings, or enough clues that let him narrow it down, so if I do another one I’ll be trying to think along the lines of “how do the clues knock one person down, but leave n-1 standing…”)
(Oh, and one last thing – desperately not wanting this to turn into the finale of Lord of the Rings, but… I honestly am not sure if I’d approached this the same way or with the same eagerness if I hadn’t been doing the couch to 80k writing workshops – without realising it, they’ve built confidence and muscles that I think were always available to me, but until I started going through the daily grind of 10 minutes of writing every single day I certainly don’t think my thoughts would have marshalled themselves in the form that they have here. So it’s already having benefits, even if it did take me longer to create this and write it up for my blog than my Son and I actually played it…)