How to Referee a Murder

One of my favorite genres of movie is the mystery. I’m not talking about film noirs and gangster pictures – though I love them as well – but the films in which a wealthy man or woman is found dead in her mansion, and a detective has to weed through a bunch of suspects to find the real killer, all the while more victims are piling up.

This sort of plot can be a fun diversion for a game of Grit & Vigor, provided you have players interested in such things. A small group of players, from one to three, works very well with such a mystery. Usually, one player is the head detective and the others are his or her assistants. To get you started, here’s a handy list of potential suspects. Roll as many times on the table as you see fit, but the more suspects there are, the longer the mystery should take.

1 The man-child – always large, strong and dangerous
2 The devious woman – manipulative to the extreme, and after money
3 The wayward son – wealthy young man, usually with a drinking problem
4 The genius – a house guest, usually a scientist, psychologist or doctor … with a secret
5 The housekeeper – an older woman, cold in demeanor
6 The playgirl – female version of the wayward son, she loves “unwisely”
7 The maid – a young woman of common parentage, either stalwart or superstitious (or maybe a mix of both)
8 The caretaker – an older man who looks after the grounds, suspicious of everyone
9 The chauffeur – usually seems worried that he is suspected
10 The ingénue – young, pretty and destined to inherit a fortune
11 The butler – did he actually do it?
12 The ardent – a foolish young man in love with one (or more) woman in the cast of suspects

Each suspect should have two of three of the following – motive, means and opportunity. One suspect, the murderer, has all three. Each suspect should also have a piece of information useful for solving the crime. It is the job of the detectives to clear the suspects and gather the clues, all the while running against the clock as suspects (and their information) are eliminated by the murderer. The murderer will try to eliminate the most useful pieces of information first.

The action should all take place in a mansion, with nobody permitted to leave. In a pinch, use a Clue board for the first floor, with note cards to represent the cellar, the attic and the upstairs bedrooms and any other rooms you want to include. A few useful clues should be spread around the rooms, so detectives have a reason to search them. The least useful clues should be the easiest to find.

And don’t forget secret passages!


A couple years ago, I lost my mother to a brain tumor. It came out of nowhere, and it was shocking and horrible. I spent a couple months after she died knowing I had not fully dealt with the loss, but also not realizing that the knot in my stomach that barely allowed me to eat and sleep was caused by those emotions. It’s funny how one can overlook the obvious. I finally, one day, stopped at the cemetery where she is buried. I was alone, and was finally able to break down and cry. Boy – what a cry. And after the cry, the knot was gone and I was finally on the path to dealing with my loss. I wasn’t done – there have been other cries, and much thinking about my own mortality and how it may affect my loved ones – but I was at least dealing with it.

I know this is technically a day late, but …

Mom – I love you and miss you! You put much good in me with your love and teaching and joking and, yes, your punishing when I needed it. And by golly, when I was a bored and lonely teenage nerd, you even played D&D with me. What more love can any mother have for her son?

Thar She Blows

Here’s a little beastie that popped into my head today while I was walking the dog. Strangely enough, there was a cloud-filled sky …

Cloud Whale
Type: Elemental (Air)
Size: Huge
Hit Dice: 36
Armor Class: 16 [+1]
Attack: Bite (6d6 + 1d6 electricity), slam (3d6 + 1d6 electricity)
Move: Fly 100′
Save: 7
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Neutral (N)
No. Appearing: 1d4
XP/CL: 3,600/37

SA—Resistance to cold and electricity, immune to fire

SP—Gaseous form, gust of wind •••

Cloud whales look just as you might expect, as masses of clouds in the shape of whales. They swim through the sky, only rarely descending near the ground, feeding on incendiary vapors and smoke. These vapors are spouted from the cloud whale every so often as a gout of flame, and coagulate within them as “flambergris”, a waxy, reddish mass about the size of a human fist, that can be used by magic-users in fire-oriented magic. A ball of flambergris is worth 500 gp. A ball can be set ablaze and thrown in the manner of alchemist’s fire.