DM in need of help with a campaign idea

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i havent been the DM in probably 12 years and ive wanted to give it a shot again for a while.  so here i am, putting together a game with some good friends and i dont want to disappoint them.  ive got most of my campaign ready.  i only have 1 large glaring problem.  i dont know how to handle the "murder mystery" part of my campaign.  its kinda the big theme for the first 5 levels and i cant really change it without rewriting the entire game.
     the idea is this: the PCs are traveling north with a caravan through a transilvania esque valley.  on their way through, the caravan is beset by wolves.  enough of the caravan is killed or wounded that the group must make a stop at a small farming village.  blablabla long story short, one of the villagers is a werewolf.
    i need help designing a series of rollplaying encounters leading the PCs to discover who the werewolf is in town.  i wouldnt put it past my PCs to just guess and start lynching, so i need contingencies so i can change who the werewolf is whenever i need to.   i really have no idea how to handle this situation and to compound matters, the person who i know could help me is one of my PCs.  im planing on having all the typical suspicious characters... the herbalist/druid whom the villagers call a witch.  the strange woodsman... those sort of things.
     once i get rolling im sure i can make something work, but im really hoping to draw on the well of experience that im confident i will find on these forums.
    Any help or advice or ideas at all are appreciated.  thanks in advance! 
" so i need contingencies so i can change who the werewolf is whenever i need to."

No.  Pick someone in town to be the werewolf.  If the PCs roll into town and start lynching everyone, then they are not murder mystery solvers, they are hack and slashers, which makes DMing easier, because you just need a dungeon entrance at that point.

You cannot have 'who is the werewolf' be a fluid answer.  It needs to be a specific person so that the clues add up to a sensible storyline.  Leaving it open is unfair to the players and a lot of work for you.  

Figure out the people in town.  Decide who is a werewolf and what their actions will be on the first night the players are there, and how the werewolf would react if it is hunted.  If the werewolf is smart, it will lay low until they leave.
Sheriff: dislikes having the PCs crowd in on his turf.  Will dissuade them from hunting.  
Mayor: wants his city to be safe, and pleads with the sheriff to work with the PCs, until they do something - anything - that endangers the populace (or even appears to, such as a bar fight or a fireball).  Then he wants the PCs gone.
Town Loremaster: knows that there are rumors of a werewolf den in the hills far from here, over treacherous ground.  
Bar Owner: is happy there is a werewolf, as he owns the biggest establishment in town, and its filled nightly with people who don't want to be alone.   

The Sheriff is the werewolf and fears the PCs will find him out, so doesn't want them investigating.  If forced to work with them, he sends them on wild goosechases.

The Mayor is the werewolf and wants to have a reason to kick the PCs from town, and knows that they will provide him with one.

The Town Loremaster is the werewolf and is hoping to send the PCs to their doom - or maybe he is exacting vengeance against his old den?  

The Bar Owner is the werewolf, and likes to have drunken, easier prey.  

Pick one, cast it in stone.  If the PCs run in and think the sheriff is the werewolf when its the loremaster, and attack, that's on them.  If they charge the loremaster and expose him by killing him, they are still unwanted because they had no evidence, and just started hacking on gut feeling.

And who is to say there is only one werewolf.  I'd have two that work in tandem, so that while the PCs are angrily interrogating the bar owner about his whereabouts, a deputy runs in and says there has been another attack.   But how can that be?  I guess the bar owner isnt' the werewolf...

But cast it in stone, don't alter as you go.   

My Homebrew Website:

"It was a great tactic, and our GM applauded us. Sadly the Werewolf burst free in only two rounds, and killed everyone but the Sorceress who teleported away with only one arm." - Tetsuoh

"Having absolutely no ranks in any knowledges, my beloved Ric Flair based monk/rogue took off running immediately and attempted suicide by jumping off the bridge we were fighting on." - spitewrathhatred

"He asked me how old my character was (I said 82), and then rolled what his maximum age was. Because the number he rolled was less than what I had said, he informed me that my Bard was dead, and that I needed to make a new character." - King_of_the_Pudding

That's probably what you should do, but you do get the issue that the whole mystery might end up being cut really short and all your work wasted. It might be worth having one or two "complications" up your sleeve, even if the werewolf stays fixed.

Also, make sure it's just after the full moon or somesuch, since otherwise I would just round up everyone in the village and drag them onto the village green in the middle of the night and wait until one of them is forced to transform.

Of course, in a situation like this, the werewolf might kidnap one or two villagers, and perhaps set up some sort of distraction like a fire so that it's not even clear who was and wasn't there. Sure, the PCs have narrowed it down a lot, but it's far from over.

Remember that someone injured by the wolf may contract lycanthropacy themselves. A simple "red herring" would be to have a very obvious werewolf part-way through, maybe even someone running around in werewolf form - but actually witnesses have seen him mauled by the real wolf, and he just caught the disease. This could be a complication which slows them down if they find the right guy too soon - people come running in shrieking that the wolf is on the loose. When the PCs deal with it, the poor sod's mum (or whoever) says he stumbled in injured and transformed in front of her, etc. etc. The guy was mauled by the real wolf the night before and struggled back into town wounded.

Basically, you need a couple of ways to slow things down if they happen too quickly, or speed it up if the players can't handle things (or the full moon could just roll around again). 
both awesome replies.  this was just the inspiration i needed.  i couldnt have hoped for better!
ill have plenty of time this weekend to sit down and write up the whole story with some "complications" to throw my PCs off.  with my group theres one thing i can always count on.  theyre dicks wholl screw the dm at every turn available.  if i just plan for them to screw me over i should be somewhat safe.

anyway the next thing i need help with is tooling up and refining the first encounter to suite my group.  ill make another post regarding this later.

you guys are awesome!   Thanks!

In addition to lycanthropes there are also antherians. Antherians are animals who turn human. A lost boy who keeps showing up once a month and then disappears could be a wolf-were,unable to speak?

I will immediately report any Phishers or Lonely Hearts Scam Artists.

theyre dicks wholl screw the dm at every turn available.  if i just plan for them to screw me over i should be somewhat safe.

Just have a think about some of the ways you might be able to break this scenario. Dragging everyone into the town square under the full moon like I mentioned is one, but as I said there are things you can do to stop it from being a total game-ender. However the standard system is full of plot-breakers like Detect Thoughts, Know Alignment, True Seeing and various other divinations. A character with Scent might be able to smell the wolf - but you can use this to mislead them too. Any sort of anti-werewolf tactics could work - "hey buddy, just hold this silver coin for me a sec, OK?" You can reward these tactics (after all, you do want them to finish the quest one day) but just have ways to prevent them from finishing the job too quickly.

Also, a nice, completely-unrelated distraction (bar brawl due to werewolf stress, random goblins attack farmer, meteor falls from sky crushing player) can be handy to have ready just in case you want to spice things up (and/or buy yourself some time).
My personal maxim is to make problems part of the story, so you should include one outcome designed to make something entertaining happen if the PCs do deliberately screw everything up. 

Assume the absolute worst thing that the PCs could do to ruin the adventure and then make it part of the adventure.  For example, one possibility should include what happens if the PCs decide to simply ignore the village and push on by themselves.

The kraken stirs. And ten billion sushi dinners cry out for vengeance. - Good Omens

Co-Author of the Dreamfane, Euralden Eye, Fulminating Crab, Gajuisan Crawler, Gruesome LurkerIronglass Rose, Sheengrass Swarm, Spryjack, Usunag, and Warp Drifter, and author of the Magmal Horror from Force of Nature.

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If you're still looking, the Bad Moon Waning adventure might make a good starting point for you.

It has a lot of the pieces you're looking at and could easily be expanded to be more interesting for the players

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