Unchained Mysteries

The Abbot of a local monastery is found drowned in his bath. Tortured cries are heard nightly from a locked tower the Abbot had previously declared forbidden. A desperate monk seems to have something to say but they are sworn to a vow of silence. There have been reports of a ghostly child seen walking the grounds. What is going on? But more importantly…

What do you do?

Unchained Mysteriesis a three part, system agnostic, critical examination of mystery scenarios for role playing games. The first part deconstructs the popular linear or branching scene structure whereby a mystery unfolds as the players follow a chain of clues from one scene to the next. It’s a hard look at the creative limits, unfair demands, lack of uncertainty and removal of player agency in this common scenario format.

The second part discusses rebuilding the very idea of a mystery from the ground up. It starts from the premise that role playing is its own unique medium not beholden to the constraints, assumptions, structures, and tropes of other media. Proceeding from the heart of a dramatic mystery, a desperate crime, a scenario is built outward through a vibrant cast of supporting characters impacted by that crime. The methodology results in a scenario that is teeming with unresolved dramatic tension.

The final part discusses the practical execution of the scenario in play. The focus is to move away from the idea of concrete clues and planned reveals. Instead the focus is shifted to active and motivated supporting characters that bring the player characters into their crises. The mystery is no longer an inert thing to be discovered but rather a set of conflicts still in motion and desperate for resolution.

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