If you’ve ever run — or attempted to run — a mystery in your D&D campaign, you know it can be a challenge. Sometimes, players don’t find, recognize, or correctly interpret clues. Other times, they’ll become fixated on the first clue or suspect they find, blinding themselves to other possibilities. Often, mysteries break down during the investigative process — the players, who generally aren’t trained private detectives, don’t always know what questions to ask.
While this may seem to cast the issue as a player problem, it actually arises from a disconnect between DM and player thought processes. Something that may seem obvious to you can be obscure to a player — your thought process is biased because you’re thinking through your mystery with the solution already in mind.
Fortunately, some planning and a proper understanding of the components of a mystery can help you construct a mystery that will engage your players without frustrating them. This post written by Mike on Campaign Mastery offers some of the most comprehensive advice on running a mystery that I’ve ever seen, and it’s equally applicable to fiction writing.