Thane Mullen
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For anyone unfamiliar with me, my name's Thane and I wrote one of the fancases here on BGG (The Slain Scholar). I was a frequent poster on this forum over the summer as I tweaked and tested based on the feedback that I got from people.

One of the main questions people asked me was, 'How did you make this? I'd like to make my own but I don't know how.' This was a very hard question to answer briefly, so this is my attempt to explain the whole process.

My intention is that this will be a living document that I will tweak and add to as people make suggestions and add advice. It will start out as my work, but my hope is that it will turn into a conglomeration of all the working knowledge that the community of relatively-isolated writers have developed as we try to breathe new life into this game.

Here we go.



Step 1: What Happened?

Come up with a novel case premise that varies somewhat from any of the cases that have been included in the base game. Decide who the culprit was, why they did it, and how, making sure that at least one of those three aspects is going to be unintuitive so that no one will immediately guess the complete solution.

There should also be some secondary storylines going on that involve multiple characters. These can be dead ends for the most part, but try to make certain that the players gain something of some value while going down these roads.


Step 2: Construct a World

Create some other characters who have either a clear motive or opportunity to commit the crime. You won't have a large enough word count to make these characters multidimensional, so make sure that whatever two or three characteristics of theirs you consider important are prominently displayed. You'll also need more characters to flesh out your story, but when characters are this one-dimensional, designing them won't take much thought.

Adding one or two major current events that are frequently discussed can add some realism to your story. It could be complaining about the weather, or about an upcoming election, or any conceivable news story or gossip material.

At these point, you don't need to have anything beyond some rough notes. Don't start by putting a lot of time and effort into writing leads that may need a major overhaul.


Step 3: Names and Addresses

Find names and addresses from the directory that match the characters that you've designed. This is particularly daunting if you want a character with some certain trait that their name would give away (like a lord, or a German) who also lives in a certain part of town. Don't feel obliged to stick strictly to the directory, but if you include a person or location that you made up, you will either need to list their address in your intro/newspaper, or on EVERY occasion that a lead mentions them. You don't want someone to know a character exists, and yet be unable to look them up. The only leads that you don't need to mention their address in are ones that are introduced in that lead only (and therefore must be a place that you went after having been there).


Step 4: Introduction/Newspaper

How you decide to use the newspaper and introduction is up to you, but they have some very important tasks that they need to accomplish. It's up to you whether you pack your newspaper with flavor bits and irrelevant information, but how you handle that decision won't have any impact on the rest of the process.

As you design these two sections, remember that that any person or place that you mention in either of these could end up being the first lead that a player may take. The same goes for Holmes's list of allies.

Also remember that any location that you intend to be a lead must either be in the directory, or else you have to give a coordinate address as you mention it.


Step 5: Decide What the Important Questions Are

This can be a little trippy, so bear with me.

Let's say that one of the major questions that has to be answered in your case is, 'where was Dr Osbourne on the evening of the 8th?' If this question is something that your character is going to ask to a large number of people over the course of many leads, then it is important that no one ever provides a complete, clear answer to it. Otherwise, there is the possibility that someone will hear the answer, and then at a future lead see that their characters are still asking that same question.

While this doesn't make the case unplayable by any means, it is a pretty big flavor foul. Some people may just choose to ignore it, others may choose to simply not have any one question asked a bunch of times. The answer I used to this dilemma in the first case I made was for the answer to be found in bits and pieces rather than from any one explanation. At no one time does Watson or Wiggins claim to have figured it out, but the player may.


Step 6: Write the Initial Leads

These are the leads that you could potentially be going to as your first lead. That means Holmes' allies, and every lead that you mentioned in your intro/newspaper.

These should be the easiest leads to write. For each one of these leads, keep in mind that the speaking characters who represent the player – Holmes and Watson – may not have any information other than what they read in the paper and what they heard in the intro. If a character that you interview mentions someone in passing who was not in the intro/paper, Holmes or Watson should ask something about them unless they sound completely irrelevant to the case.

For example, if the introduction has not told you anything about the deceased having a wife named Angela, and your first lead is to go to the scene of the crime where a policeman mentions Angela, have the cop mention that she is his wife immediately.

Like any leads, there is room for some Victorian flavor here. Try to set the scene for the player so they can immerse themselves in the world that you are creating. If you don't include enough flavor fluff, it will be nearly impossible to sneak important information in without making it clear immediately that it's important.


Step 7: Determine Holmes' Path to the Solution/Write Your Questions

Some people don't care about this because they play the game strictly for fun and aren't striving to beat Holmes. Others, however, care a great deal about outscoring Holmes, so I believe that it's important to get this right.

Determine what sequence of leads Holmes will take to find the solution, and then make sure that those leads in that order provide the necessary information. It's okay if he takes some jumps in logic, but try not to go overboard with it.

Your Part 1 questions should all be things that Holmes would have been able to answer by taking the leads he took. They should be pivotal points. Your Part 2 questions, however, should be things that Holmes would not have found the answers to. This aspect is really not that important, but it does keep with the game's backstory.


Step 8: Write the Secondary Leads

These are all the leads that were not introduced in the intro or newspaper. First of all, make certain that all of your secondary leads can be reached through a reasonably small number of steps from one of your primary leads.

From a flavor standpoint, this part can be a challenge if there are multiple leads that introduce the same Secondary Lead. For example, one lead tells you that John Smith is an expert marksman, while another tells you that John was seen talking with the deceased the evening before he died.

It would not make sense to a player who came from the marksmen lead if Wiggins begins the interview by saying that he heard John was with the deceased the night he died, because that player hadn't learned that yet.

Make sure that you begin your lead in a way that fits flavor-wise with either background. One possible way would be that you are met at the door by John Smith's maid who mentions both things, and you then ask her some questions, before speaking to Mr. Smith.

This is not that big of a deal if you just want your case to be functional, but for some people these little things will make or break your case.


Step 9 (Optional): The Grand Flow Chart

Take all of the people/places that will be leads in your case, and draw up a flow chart that shows which leads point you towards which other leads. This can be valuable in showing you which leads are difficult to reach. Perhaps at this point you might to go back and add some more details to leads so that you can form more connections on your chart.

I called this step optional only because I didn't do it. But I highly recommend it; it would have made life much easier for me.


Step 10 (Optional): Tie Leads Together

The more tied together your characters are, the more possibilities will be going through your players' minds, and the more different roads there will be that can lead to success eventually. For example, you could have the deceased's brother and business rival (both of whom are suspects in your case) belonging to the same social club. This doesn't need to be a pivotal plot point, but your players don't know that it isn't.


Step 11: Write up Holmes's Solution

This is pretty much all flavor. Explain how he did it, but add lots of Victorian fluff. This is your victory lap, and it might be the same for your players. Enjoy yourself.


Step 12: Proofread
Step 13: Proofread
Step 14: Find a Another Proofreader


Proofreading is really important. The slightest word out of place can completely throw your players off. Read it over carefully multiple times, and make sure that you have someone else proofread it too.
If any of you ever do make one of these, I would be happy to proofread a case when my schedule permits.


Step 15: Playtest

In a perfect world, you would be able to test this with friends while you sit back as an observer. You will learn a lot from seeing the results of people who aren't you laying eyes on your work for the first time.

Don't give them any guidance except in instances where you realize that you were at fault and have decided to change the wording. If they are overlooking something, let them.

Tips on writing leads in general:

*If one of Holmes's allies has established character traits, don't have that character behave differently in your case. It just feels weird.

*Most of your leads should probably be 300-550 words. Some big, important leads can be longer. My longest lead was 912 words, and it feels almost too long.
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Xanthe
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Wow
thanks for all the hard work putting this together.
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Dominic Mahon
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Hi Thane,

That's a really useful document and I hope it will develop in time as you suggest. I plan on writing a scenario in due course myself so it's invaluable to have a guide like this to refer to so that I don't miss any vital steps in making sure the case works well.

Looking forward to seeing this thread grow, great work
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Paul Schulzetenberg
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This is a fantastic write-up. Thank you so much.
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Mandiekinz
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Professor Xavier convinced Katniss to leave her home at 221B Baker Street. She jumped into the Impala shouting, "Allons-y!" .....
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.... to take The Ring down the yellow brick road, all through the black of the 'verse, to Narnia, to shine like a star, while saving the Enterprise from the Six-fingered Slytherin Sith.
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This is fantastic!!

I have SO many ideas floating around in my head and this makes it so much easier to create my own cases. Thank you!
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Domitilla D'Amico
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Ferentino (FR)
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Dear Thane,
should I have to add this to my "Custom Mistery Pack"?
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Thane Mullen
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DD'A: I feel like that is up to you. I don't feel like this article is necessarily done, nor is it authoritative in any way. Cases could be made via vastly different means and still look very similar.

But that said, I wrote it so that it could be used in whatever way people wanted to. If you feel it would be a good inclusion in a compilation, feel free to use it. The same goes for if you would like to add to it.
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B C Z
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I recently play tested a similar effort set on Mars.

While playing, I intentionally went off the rails at times -- I would key in on a name someone mentioned and then scour the directory for everyone who could possibly be that name (including derivations of the name, first/last, possible nicknames, etc).

I also would check locations "nearby" an obviously rowdy scene to see if anyone saw or heard something.

If a dialog mentioned a "shop south of here", I checked the directory for shops that were nearby and south of that location.

Rewarding these kinds of play can be valuable.

---

As to playtesting, I was given a PDF of the document and made copious notes *in the document* which I then sent back. Enabling this kind of feedback is important in the process, and this style of game can fully enable that. I'd recommend anyone writing a scenario enable comments for their playtesters and have a specific list of questions they want answered in addition to anything else noticed.

For example, I highlighted typos, grammar and strange turns of phrase. I commented on my play choices and path. I dropped comments where I wanted to find an entry (and why) but there wasn't one.

Basically, make it easy on your playtesters and you'll be rewarded.
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Airborne XO
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Awesome job...that was the rough process I've been following for Arkham Investigator :)

Cheers, Hal
 
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Toby Mao
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I haven't really worked on my site in a while because no one really seemed interest in writing stories, but I've recently discovered this thread and thought there may be some renewed interest... so I'll share my website again... it allows you to create and play your own Sherlock style games online.

If people are serious about creating some content, then I will do work to add any features that you want to facilitate your story.

http://mistery.io/
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This is very important blueprint for developing one's own SHCD cases and I just thought I'd add a few ideas of my own.

1) First of all, analyze any and all of the cases from the original game that you have already played, and if you're at the designing phase that should mean that you've played more than just a couple of them. Once you know Holmes' solution and the answers to all of the questions, you can then dissect the completed case to see how it works. This involves:

a) Completely reading every single one of the clues for a given case, even the ones you didn't check the first time round. This is the best way to map out all of the different lines of inquiry the designer anticipated and prepared for.

b) Seeing why some cases require a large number of clue points (50-70) while other work just as well with far fewer (20-40). It is very possible to write a good case with a small number of total clue points. Why write seventy clues when the person who eventually plays the case will be trying to solve it in under ten leads?

c) Get a feel for the recurring character, especially the informants. The best way to do this is to read all of the clues where you visit, for example, Scotland Yard (13 SW) or Langdale Pike (2 SW). Over the course of multiple cases (the more the better) you'll begin to see patterns of behavior and methodology for each of these characters. You can also learn multiple ways whereby each of them can offer you information (or not).

d) Rereading the clues for these cases over and over again to get an ear for the language the characters use and a feel for the world in which they live and move.

2) Develop strategies for using the London Map and Directory to your advantage. These include:

a) Being able to search the Directory electronically. I use the following PDF scan:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/v69918ozjlttmcs/London%20Directory...

This gives a number of advantages. You can see exactly who lives at any address on the map. You can see everyone (sometimes up to five different people) who lives at any one address on the map. And you can chose characters for your story based on where they live on the map.

To illustrate the value of this ability, I’ll ask a question. In addition to Sherlock Holmes, Dr. John H. Watson and Mrs. Hudson, what other person or business can be found at 42 NW? I quick search of the PDF directory shows me that the answer is Waverley & Broadmore. I guess now we know who gets their mail at 221A Baker Street 

b) Correlating labeled addresses and street names on the map with names in the directory. This is especially valuable for placing employees close to their workplaces, explaining someone presence in a given area of the map or plotting out avenues of travel for either pedestrian or wheeled traffic. These are just a few examples.

3) Make use of resources outside of the game itself. A couple of examples that have worked well for me include:

a) Keeping a copy of Molly Carr’s “Sherlock Holmes Who’s Who” close by. It’s important to know when you’re dealing with a character from the canon so that there are no accidental discrepancies – like describing Jabez Wilson as a having light blond hair when he actually has fiery red hair.

b) Generating ideas for cases from games like 221B Baker Street or Orient Express. There’s a lot of cases in either of these games that are just stock plots begging to be fleshed out into much more fully developed adventures.

These are just a few of my own ideas on this topic.
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Stephane Anquetil
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After my third case, I wrote my own guide. Sorry, it's all French, but I don't have the patience to translate it at the moment.

Enjoy !

http://www.sleuth-games.com/2016/03/31/une-methode-pour-ecri...

(awful English here)

I will say that I recommend :
- read more historical books and TIMES archives to find REAL interesting peoples, places and so. Brings you authenticity and originality.
- link secondary plots and wrong leads to the main plot. DO NOT separate THME from the main plot.
- double the paths to the solutions or important leads to avoid blocking a player (ie. with an unsolved code).
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