Dungeons & Dragons Online

I’m in the process of getting a mystery together and I would love some advice on how to keep it interesting while not being convoluted. I’d love to have your advice!

First of all, Terra, Ace, or Chloe, please don't read!

So I have a group playing a space western game, just surfing the solar system, trying to get paid to buy fuel to keep going (like Firefly in a way). They recently just took a job as a kind of caravan escort, going to fly with a massive grain barge from one planet to the other and defend against bandits and the like. But when they reached the rendezvous point, the grainship wasn't there. They waited a while, and it became very clear that the grainship was missing. After a large sensor sweep, the party finally found the grainship lifelessly floating through space. They docked with and entered the darkened ship, narrowly missing a booby trap in the cockpit. So far, they haven't found anyone on-board: it seems that it's a true ghost ship.

It was at this point that we had to break for the night, and one of my players told me that he loved ghost ship mysteries in books and tv shows, so he was very excited to see how this worked out. This both made me excited…and also very nervous. You see, I had not been planning on it being a big mystery: the grainship was supposed to be just another victim of an organized crime syndicate with which the party had had run-ins before. I'm thinking of changing this to be more of a mystery, and I'd like to bounce the idea off of you fine folks!

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In their adventures, the party (primarily the nobleman-in-disguise-as-a-Han-Solo-type) has met a mysterious aristocratic woman named Ofosu who is the heir to a large luxury textile company based on Saturn. I was planning on revealing that this company had done lots of unethical things to rise to power: indentured servitude, company stores, corporate sabotage, etc. all under the name of the Golden Sun syndicate. So here's my thinking: this grainship was attacked and wiped out by the Golden Sun. The party will investigate further into the ship and find a few more booby traps as well as information on the ship computers that hint at some contraband cargo in with the grain they were carrying. After more searching and a couple of puzzles, the party will find a secret compartment that is bare, stripped clean. Investigation checks will reveal strands of the specialty silks that the textile company is famous for. At this point a massive booby trap will trigger and the party will have to escape from the ship before it explodes.

Is that a good enough mystery? I've heard not to go too convoluted, since it can make sense to you when you know the answer already but be majorly confusing to someone just reading it. I also do want to add some combat into it, maybe a couple of automated turrets to keep the ship bare of life? That could be one of the booby traps.

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One of my problems is that the party really only knows about one crime syndicate that sells drugs, and this would be their first run-in with the Golden Sun syndicate. My hope for like a major plot is to have several crime syndicates that all band together to challenge the main authority in the solar system and try to rule by fear. Would this be too confusing and/or disappointing to reach the end of the mystery and have it all be perpetrated by a group they haven't seen before? My mitigation of this would be for them to find a message from Ofosu in the secret compartment to bring it all full-circle, revealing her to be basically the leader of another crime syndicate and being a signal to the party that they can't rely on any major political power to protect them in the outer stretches of the solar system.

Hopefully any of this makes sense. I want to give my players a good mystery that is satisfying to uncover, is fairly easy to follow (one of my previous mysteries was completely convoluted so I want to avoid that), and allows for interesting exploration and combat. If you have any additional ideas, I would love to hear them! Thanks!

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