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Mystery Adventures

A Mystery’s Three Pillars

Source Starfinder #25: The Chimera Mystery pg. 41
Whether the mystery occurs on a high-tech space station or in a colony settlement on a backwater planet, the culprit has a means, motive, and opportunity to commit the crime. Some suspects might have one or two of these elements. However, the true criminal must have all three.

Means

Source Starfinder #25: The Chimera Mystery pg. 41
A suspect has the means to commit a crime if they are physically able to do so. Could they reliable fire a pistol to kill the victim with one shot? Are they dexterous enough to reach the only window that showed signs it was forced open? Do they have the knowledge to be able to create a malignant computer virus?

Some crimes are simple enough that all suspects could conceivably have the means to commit them. Other times, the means by which a crime was committed are unknown or indefinite. In such cases, discovering the culprit’s motive and opportunity become even more important. However, knowing that a suspect couldn’t possibly have had the means to perpetrate the crime is probably the easiest way to eliminate them from the list.

Motive

Source Starfinder #25: The Chimera Mystery pg. 41
A suspect’s motive for committing the crime should be compelling enough for them to want to break the law or at least act outside norms. Might they inherit a large estate when the victim passes away? Are they trying to keep the victim from revealing a devastating secret? Did they fly into a fit of rage at the mention of some past misdeed?

No criminal acts without a motive, even if the motive has little connection to reality. Money and love are common motives in classic mysteries. Motives might abound in a mystery adventure, and should in a good one. Then, it’s up to the investigators to determine which of the possibilities is strong enough to warrant the perpetrator’s actions.

Opportunity

Source Starfinder #25: The Chimera Mystery pg. 41
A suspect has the opportunity to commit a crime if they could have been at the location of the crime at the correct time. Were they having dinner with a large group of people at the time of the incident? Did they redeem a fare for public transportation in a city hundreds of miles away? Do the security logs show them entering the restricted building before the crime occurred?

Most perpetrators try to have an alibi for when the crime happened. It’s important for it to seem like they had no opportunity to perform the deed. Investigators need to sort through the alibis to discover which are true.