I am writing a short murder/horror mystery adventure. System will be D&D 5e, and players will be level 2 (I plan to give them the 3rd level during the adventure). There will be some strong DM guidance on character creation. Some players will be very inexperienced in TTRPGs. Playing might happen on a table, or online (with player webcams), probably both. I plan to run the adventure several times, and I have a gut feeling that adventure will take 2 sessions to play through.

The focus will be in role-playing, with no risk of player being taken out of the adventure, until at the very final battles at the end. The focus won't so much be in really solving the mystery like in a detective story either, but just being swept along for the ride, things happening and then players doing what they will. They may try to solve it or just survive, or even party 'till the end as the place goes down around them (meaning probable death at the end).

It is important that each player gets plenty of spotlight time, but without fear of the game stalling if they don't play well, and without more introverted players feeling exhausted. So I am thinking of designing the events of the adventure for 3 players, allowing 2 or 4 if it is expected that players play well together.

In your experience, what is ideal group size for an adventure like this? Or any negative experiences (in the scope of this question), don't do this's?

  • \$\begingroup\$ You can design it for any number of players, from one to like six, with the limits @enkryptor pointed out. What criteria would you use to judge correctness of an answer? Open ended, opinion based discussions are poor fit for this site, and your question currently looks like one. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot May 19 at 8:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor I don't feel I need any special system support for the mystery part. 5e leaves plenty of room for free-form role playing, and that's all I need. \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir May 19 at 8:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ You disagree — and that's your opinion, one that opposes my experience based opinion. And that's the problem. This question is very easy to answer. Sadly, it is not possible to see objective correctness criteria to judge answers, and opinions are not what this site is about. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot May 19 at 8:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question is appropriate for the stack and can be answered, so voted to stay open. - from review. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu May 19 at 10:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Molot is correct that this site discourages subjective questions, but that not an absolute- have a look at this blog post for a well-written explanation. The question does ask for examples,so in that sense it's valid- although I suggest taking the second question out of the last paragraph, to keep it focused on a single item. Also, let's watch the tone in the responses. \$\endgroup\$ – The Grumbleputty May 19 at 23:29

In Mystery Writing, work backwards from your Mystery

Please note- I'm aware that the Original Poster stated that they're not really running a mystery adventure:

The focus won't so much be in really solving the mystery like in a detective story either, ...

...but I felt it important to answer the question as written, to benefit future readers who follow the thread. Hopefully this helps the OP as well.

In the scenario you've described, there is a correct answer- just one that can't be answered without knowing your central mystery. You need to start with the mystery your characters will need to solve, determine what clues will lead a party there, then determine the mix of skills needed to follow the clues. Once you know that, you can distill those skills to the smallest possible party with the mix of skills to get the job done.

I've been crafting a mystery adventure for eventual publication, so I have a bit of practical knowledge to share. I'll try my best to avoid opinion and lean on examples.

a) What is the Mystery?

As alluded to in this link, everything in mystery writing hinges on the central mystery that needs to be solved. Two key bullet points from that source:

- Know the ending of the book in advance. Then you can build toward it.

- Make a list of clues that point to the murderer, which you will
scatter throughout the book. Decide which is the crucial clue that
will solve the mystery.

b) What clues would lead a party there? For this stage, follow the great advice of The Alexandrian and use the 3-clue rule:

For any conclusion you want the PCs to make, include at least three clues.

This adds a ton of work, but helps ensure the clues the players misinterpret and miss won't completely derail their investigation.

c) What skills or talents would a set of characters need to solve the mystery?

Working backwards from your mystery and the clues needed to solve it, figure out which mix of character skills will be needed to reveal the clues. Since you've stated you intend to guide character creation, you can ensure the right mix of skills are present in the party to uncover the clues. Balance will be important here- you'll need to make sure every character gets a moment to shine, so try to have some clues revealed through combat, some through magic and some through stealth.

Don't be afraid to go back and revise your clues from step b if a character is getting overlooked, and try to use the 3 Clue Rule to make sure different character types could find the same clue (i.e. the fighter could get it by defeating a henchman, or the rogue could sneak into the henchman's chamber and find the same clue)

d) Distill that down to the smallest possible party.

Here is where the actual answer to your question lies. The best sized party to solve a mystery is the smallest possible group with the set of skills needed to solve the mystery

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you! Even though solving the mystery will not be crucial to the story, it would certainly make players feel they accomplished something, so this is very nice advice! \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir May 20 at 19:17

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