This is a tip I wrote for our authors at Freeform Games
Goals are simply a list of objectives for the players to try and achieve as part of the murder mystery. You should aim to give each character at least four goals.
Goals follow the background information in our character sheets, and should reinforce and re-emphasise that background. A goal should never introduce something new.
(In our older games, goals sometimes referred to information that was provided in a character's Other People section. That's because the layout of the character sheet had the Other People appearing first. Now that the goals follow directly on from the background, anything that you want to include as a goal must be in the background.)
Not everything in a character's background needs a formal goal. In particular, goals are only stated if the character is expecting to resolve them during the party — you should not include goals that will only become apparent during the course of the game (even though they might be achieved anyway). An example:
The Sheriff of Nottingham's sworn enemy is Robin Hood. However, because the Sheriff doesn't know that Robin will be present at the Silver Arrow Competition (setting for "A Mediaeval Murder"), that goal isn't listed on his character sheet. So the Sheriff's character sheet needs to be written such that if he were were to discover Robin at the competition, he will quickly realize that he should try and arrest him (even though he doesn't have that specific goal listed). This might be done by, for example, at the end of the background para that talks about his enmity with Robin "… you would dearly love to arrest Robin Hood, if only you could catch him. But so far you have never had the opportunity to lay your hands upon his thieving carcass."
If, on the other hand, the Sheriff of Nottingham had good reason to expect Robin to be present at the competition and was planning to arrest him, then that would be a suitable goal. The background might say "… your informant told you that Robin would be here at the competition, in disguise", and then the goal would be "Arrest Robin Hood: find out which of the competitors is actually Robin Hood in disguise, and arrest him."
- Goals should remind/reemphasise why a character is present at the murder mystery.
- Goals must be directly relevant to the event
- Goals should not include life goals, unless the character is present expressly to try and achieve those goals.
- Formatting: Goals should be formatted with a summary in bold, followed by a sentence or two of explanation. (A bit like this bullet point, in fact.)