Well, this write up is only 7+ months late. I'm mostly including it for the sake of completeness because I will be damned if I can remember half of the shit that happened from this adventure.
I believe we left the PCs at the Oracle's encampment. The party had received healing and a meal in exchange for exploring a dungeon in the area. Yea, pretty damn cliche. At this point, being only the 2nd session as DM, I was still feeding the PCs plot hooks to help them move along. At this point, I was done making it easy on them. They were out of food and mostly broke, so I was able to subtly convince them to trek back to Melford to buy food and supplies and try to make some coin to finance the dungeon delve.
Upon arriving back at Melford, I had a few ideas. First, a tracker would appear in town after a day or two with the location of the lair of the Goblins from the previous encounter. I wouldn't just give them this information though. The tracker would have originally been hired by one of the NPCs who was engaged to the now deceased owner of the Spider Farm. So the PCs would be able to find this link if they talked to this NPC or spotted the tracker in town. I was hoping to get them used to the idea that the world around them was a moving, living thing that they should be interacting with in the absence of plot hooks being dangled in front of them. Unfortunately, the party has a difficult time interacting with NPCs without being prodded.
In the mean time, the innkeeper of Melford was murdered; cue the material from Stuart Marshall's Melford Murders. The murder mystery is fairly straightforward, focused on role-play with the chance of a fight at the end, all with a nice little reward. I was using the "easy" version of the mystery, this was their last gift.
Essentially, in the easy version, much of the work has been done for the PCs. The town constabulary has trampled through the crime scene, so there is no forensic minutia to wade through. All of the patrons of the tavern that night have been identified and are available for questioning. Questioning all of the NPCs should lead the party to two people with the same shared alibi that is also the weakest. One is the murderer, one is an accomplice. The accomplice will sing if squeezed, and the murderer will try to flee. If she escapes, she can be tracked down and the party has to deal with her and her brother in their hideout.
The NPCs' stories focus around two events that night. There is a convoluted love triangle that was playing out within and outside of the Inn. After wading through the initial lies and cover ups from the people trying to avoid being exposed as adulterous, it is easy to see that these people were not involved in the murder. The other event occurring was the Innkeeper's sister (and co-owner) having an argument in the cellar with the accomplice. This is a sham as the accomplice continues the argument one-sided as a ruse while the murder takes place. The final clue that exposes this alibi as weak is that one of the suspects outside can testify that the cellar door was open. This all should lead to the Innkeeper's sister and accomplice as being the primary culprits.
Well, the PCs latch onto the love triangle aspect and think one of them is the murderer. However, there is literally no connection between the victim and any of the lovers in their quarrels. So how in the hell does this murder make sense? They just assumed since these people were acting fishy and ultimately covering up their amorous affairs, that somehow the Innkeeper got involved and then was murdered. Not like you would try to kill the person cheating or the cheating spouse, but instead kill some random passer-by. The sister's motivation for her murder was sole ownership of the Inn, something that completely eluded the PCs. They never really thought about motivation period; motivation alone would point to the sister.
All of this was relatively simple once you question everybody. The party dropped the ball and then started acting ridiculous. When they go to question the Innkeeper's sister, she is rightly apprehensive. They latch onto this fact, so the half-orc fighter (Justin) attacks her without any real provocation or knowledge that she is the murderer. He hits her with a chair, roles a maximum of 6 damage, so I rule it's partly "sub-dual" so she is unconscious but not dead. Great. They try to wake her and question her, but with that much damage, she has a concussion and cannot answer any questions intelligibly. The Cleric/MU in the party (Terry) has a guilty conscious and heals the women. This lands the half-orc in lockup. The party then continues to badger the suspects involved in the love triangle but are not getting anywhere.
Now, I don't want to be seen as being spiteful for having the PCs attack the murderer even if it was mostly blind chance they picked her. It's a decent ploy to make an unfounded but convincing accusation to try to get someone to let out a guilty burst of incriminating evidence, but a straightforward physical attack doesn't really qualify.
At this point, the session is drawing towards the evening. The PCs are frustrated and are now getting the testimony of the NPCs mixed up, wrong, and are incorrectly attributing statements. I call an end to the festivities. I mention that they do not have to solve the crime by any means, it's not the end of the world. Instead, they are really gung-ho about giving it another go next session. They seemed honestly enthralled in the role play even if they are bumbling through it.
Ostensibly, I agree to give it some more time next session, but that of course never occurs. As mentioned before, this was my last session with these guys, either as PC or DM, until December of 09 for a one-shot attempt at restarting a campaign as DM with a trip to the Caves of Chaos. I owe you one more writeup of that session. Here's a teaser: TPK.