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Mystery Adventures / Running Mysteries

Give Confessions

Source Starfinder #25: The Chimera Mystery pg. 44
When the players have pieced together all the clues and confronted the correct suspect, they deserve a denouement that makes all their work worthwhile. At this crucial moment, the culprit should confess to the crime in a dramatic fashion. This narrative element works in television and movies, after all! Whether it’s a tear-choked admission of accidental guilt or a gleeful declaration that they would do it all again if they had the chance, a full confession puts a neat little bow on the adventure. Often, given the action-adventure nature of Starfinder and depending on the nature of the culprit, a climactic battle ensues. You can use the confession to fill in any holes in the investigation, perhaps accompanied by the NPC’s smug gloating.

With the culprit’s confession, the PCs can be sure they have accused the correct suspect, clearing up any lingering doubts they might have about any leaps of logic they made. Even if the players have ironclad evidence, such an end to the adventure can be a cathartic moment that allows the PCs to cleanly move on to the next part of the campaign… unless any loose ends are part of an overall mystery in which the PCs are entangled!

On the other hand, if you are running a grittier, morally gray type of game, you might want to hold off on the confession and explore what happens after the accusation and the suspect’s arrest. Are the PCs members of a law enforcement organization, or did they call one in? What are the laws on the planet or space station where the crime was committed? Could the culprit, even if clearly guilty, walk away free from the repercussions of their actions?

Such aftermaths fall more under the genre of legal thriller than the mystery genre, though the two share some aspects. The PCs might be tasked with performing further investigations once the culprit’s legal representation begins muddying the water with false witnesses and coerced testimony. The PCs could uncover other crimes or start digging into cold cases where the culprit was a possible suspect but was never caught due to lack of solid evidence, leading to further mystery adventures. All these vagaries assume the culprit is a person of wealth or influence, or otherwise has the resources to corrupt the legal process.

Although this article doesn’t present any specific advice for describing what happens in the aftermath of a mystery adventure, you can adapt the advice given to help you craft other compelling scenarios full of intrigue and deception!