Posted by: Sean | May 4, 2009

How to Run: A Murder

Hey, we’re back! Despite all rumours to the contrary, Blogatelle is not, in fact, dead.

Unlike this article.

Yes, today we’re looking at the murder plot. This one isn’t as common as the wedding, but it’s a classic RP plot none the less and one that’s been run in the World of Warcraft at least a couple of times. I seem to recall a rather large plot being done around a murder in Orgrimmar, but can’t find a link for it. Ce la vie.

So, let’s define our terms.

  • Horde do not murder Alliance, and vice versa. A murder is a civil act (in more ways than one, if the Guild of Assassins is involved) rather than an act of war. While assassinations do occur, even these will ultimately be orchestrated within one faction. (A human may use an orcish assassin to kill another human, for instance.) Why is this? For a simple reason: One of the classics of the genre is the murderer admitting his guilt. With no cross-faction communication, this really can’t be done. (Unless you take said scenes to the forums, or somewhere else.)
  • A murder plot is not a mystery plot to everyone. As we’ll explain soon, murder plots don’t have to show everybody investigating. Murder plots are less about uncovering the murderer than they are about the murder itself.

OK, so how does a murder plot play out? Obviously every one is different, but in general you’ll see..

1. A frickin’ murder.

Oh shush. It’s not obvious at all.

That said, actually showing a murder is awfully tricky. The best way to do this is with a hunter using Feign Death, because this can be used in the middle of a scene, it looks dramatic, and all you need to seal the deal is have an accomplice (for your plot, not the murder) yell out something like, “Holy Light! The arrow came through the window!” It also nicely shuts up snarky priests who try to just resurrect the guy.

But there are other options. If you don’t mind your murder being committed with explosives, the Goblin Sapper Charges can do up to 2800 odd damage to a friendly player, but it requires 400 engineering to use. At that point, 2800 damage is unlikely to be enough to kill you.

The other great option is a drop. Drops can kill pretty much any character if the height is high enough, and they’re all over the place. You may still have to deal with the snarky priest, however.

Alright, you say, but what if you instead want to kill an NPC as a murder plot? That’s also possible. The best idea here is, indeed, a helpful opposition player. Rogues, in particular, excel at it. Just convince a Hordie level 80 rogue to sneak into Stormwind and murder Crier Goodman. He’s one-shottable. Voila. An instant body. Also, you don’t need to use an ‘assassin’ plotline to make that one work. Murder the guy off-stage, and then bring in someone to discover the body. Your plot begins!

2. An investigation AND a coverup.

Remember how we said it’s not a mystery to everyone? This is what we meant.

Far from being a straight mystery plot, most good murder plots in Warcraft actually are conspiracies. It may go like this…

First: A prominent person, perhaps the guild leader, makes an announcement. They confirm that the victim is dead, and has been murdered. They rule out Horde interference. (Or Alliance, if you’re playing one of those filthy Hordies.) Anyone with any information is begged to come forward and, then, one crucial hint is given. Something like, “We know this. The weapon used to kill him was a dagger. Our gnomish friends believe it was made from cobalt.”

Second: Everyone kicks into investigation mode. People start talking to each other. Rogues throughout the guild probably get questioned, if it’s a dagger that did it. The clue really just needs to give enough context to let people have their own fun with the plot.

But as this goes on, there’s a tearful confession from someone in the guild to another – They did it! And they need help in hiding the fact…

One thing which often gets overlooked in role-playing is that it is not a film. It’s not a TV series. It’s role-play. It has multiple perspectives. You can reveal the murderer in one scene, and as long as the person it’s revealed to plays along, it doesn’t spoil the surprise for anyone else.

By doing this, you get everyone involved. Basically, the murder co-opts game masters for the plot, people who will struggle to hide the evidence, becoming co-conspirators and, most importantly, potentially the person who gives the game away.

The investigation, by contrast, is likely to be fairly heavily interview based. Given the difficulty in doing CSI style physical evidence in Warcraft (although it can be done, and we have a review of an add-on that may make it even easier to do in the works…) it’s likely that much of the investigation will be done by good old fashioned talking, and the fun thing is that if you co-opt assistant GMs as we’ve suggested, it actually runs itself to a large degree, with your role-play group dividing neatly between investigators who don’t know the truth, and conspirators who do. Investigations may be hostile, or co-operative, but it’s actually unlikely that conspirators will stonewall, since such scenes are boring as hell to play. Most are more likely to give a bit of give and take.

If you do want to do a CSI investigation, we recommend taking one investigator who’s ‘in’ on the whole plot, and use him/her to whisper the clues to the others. Basically, make them a GM.

3. The Reveal!

The reveal is, of course, a classic part of any murder mystery: The whodunnit moment. There’s lots of ways to do this. The Agatha Christy method, which these days is a bit of a Discredited Trope, uses a direct confrontation of the murderer with overwhelming evidence, at which point they confess. A more likely variant these days is the accomplice confessing. (Another reason to co-opt assistants!)

Alternatively, evidence may be brought forward, if you’ve done such a scene.

No matter what you do, make the reveal as public as you can. It’s a turning point. Let as many people be part of it as possible, because…

4. After this, nothing will be the same.

The repercussions of a good murder plot should be heavy. The murderer will be jailed, executed or (more likely) on the run. The conspirators will face charges of their own. And this is a military society — It’s likely to be quite severe. Court scenes can be terrific here, especially with some players turned into counsels for the defence.

And, of course, a frame up is the obvious subversion.

Have fun.


  1. I haven’t run into anything this elaborate in game yet, but it sounds like fun! Thanks for the run down on how it works and the details. I’m looking forward to the point where I can participate in something this involved. 🙂

  2. Another good trick that I use to kill myself (or drop if seriously wounded) is the simple soulstone+lifetap+hellfire method. Nothing like blowing out the candle with an explosion of fire.

    personally, I tend to shy away from killing people or murder scenarios. Its all to finite: when the victim is dead, the fun is over!

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