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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 39 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: No investigations? II (split)  (Read 4364 times)
stefoid
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« on: April 01, 2011, 01:35:05 PM »

Im dredging this up again, because Im about to GM a game that will have some mystery in it, which I guess all games do to a certain extent, but some more than others.  Mystery assumes there will be some sort of investigation, so its relevant, but in my game, the investigation wont be the focus of play.

Im just thinking of how to handle it.

Basically I dont want the players to have to guess whats going on, so I want the 'investigation' to be colour that leads to dramatic situations.  I dont want it to BE a puzzle that needs to be solved before the next dramatic situation can occur.

The best dramatic situations involve NPCs, either in conflict with the PCs or perhaps having to be persuaded/bargained with to help.  Troublesome PC decisions are also good.

I dont want the stakes of such conflicts to be 'do you find a clue  or even do you understand what the clue means'  that is taken as granted.  What I want the conflicts to be about are 'what is the cost of finding the clue and its meaning?'

Does this sound reasonable?  Any advice?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2011, 02:10:54 PM »

Hey,

I think it's a perfectly reasonable way to play. In my experience, the best advice is to be up-front about this particular feature. The players shouldn't be under the mistaken impression that they have to dope out everything (or anything) or be stalled.

Now, exactly how you communicate this is up to you and this particular group of people. Some people like it stated right out, and others will be happier to see it expressed through play in some way, but my call is that however you do it, make it unambiguous.

Best, Ron
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stefoid
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« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2011, 03:01:45 PM »

Hi Ron, I hope that is made explicit by the player-agreed premise of the game about what the aims of the players are and the ways they achieve them.  If the premise is about solving mysteries using investigative skills, then I suppose the approach would be different than I have described above.  But I dont think my game is well-suited to that sort of premise.

In this case its 'win the war against the axis using the secrets of the supernatural' which isnt an investigative focus, but may involve 'mystery' as the players try to work out what the nazis are up to and the methods they are using, in order that they can counter them.


Erg.  On further thought, what I wrote previously sounds easy on paper, but maybe not so easy in practice.

In my game you have story phase and challenge phase.   Challenge phase is where you roll dice that resolve player-set goals, and story phase is more of a narrated part, although players still express their characters concerns and they can be resolved by the GM.  Its just that this happens without dice rolling.  In other words, challenge phase is supposed to be high drama and story phase not so much.

So if a player sets a short term goal of 'find a clue to the murder'  or 'determine the significance of the glyph ' in a challenge phase, which I think are reasonable goals for characters to have, then by the rules of my game, that becomes the focus of the drama of the challenge phase for that character, and whether or not they achieve that goal is very much in doubt.

I guess I need to rephrase my previous post to say that finding clues and uncovering significance CAN be in doubt, but that the failure to do so cant be allowed to halt progress for any significant period. 

But how to achieve that?

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stefoid
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« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2011, 01:22:04 PM »

OK, let me rephrase that babble in a general way.

How can the results of an investigation be dramatic?  As in, if what is at stake is the success of an investigative activity = success means you succeed in the investigative activity and fail means you dont.

When you phrase it that way, as long as dramatic stakes are tied to the result, then you are right.  Its only when one of the options is boring you have a problem.  i.e.  fail means nothing happens at all.  fail means 'sorry, try again'  as in 'youll have to wait until I drop another clue on you and then investigate the new clue before anything happens'

So although the goal of the character might be stated as "Find a clue", there has to be some dramatic consequences to not finding the clue, such that the goal could just as easily be stated as 'Prevent the dramatic negative consequences from occurring'

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2011, 01:31:25 AM »

See, there is no "investigation" in the generic sense. I don't know what you mean by saying it, you don't know what I read when I see it, and now we're in no-communication land.

This is clearly an Actual Play topic begging to be split. Please think of any concrete play-situation in your experience which brings up any aspect of this question, positively, negatively, even ambiguously. Write it out, say what happened. Then I can get to your questions.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2011, 01:33:11 AM »

In fact, I'm splitting it now. All the above have been pulled from No investigations?

Best, Ron
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Alfryd
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« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2011, 08:56:44 AM »

How can the results of an investigation be dramatic?  As in, if what is at stake is the success of an investigative activity = success means you succeed in the investigative activity and fail means you dont.
I've given this a little thought myself.  I pondered the notion that if the players just figure out particular implications of a particular clue themselves, then they don't need to roll versus a skill at all.  If they want to roll versus a skill, and succeed, then that eats up one extra 'unit of time' (however that's measured- in-game hours, scene allocation, doom-track-progression, etc.,) and the GM tells them at least some of the implications.  If they needed to roll and failed, the GM can still tell them the implications, but it's assumed the investigator(s) needed even longer to puzzle it out, during which time it's likely/possible that some other unpleasant event has transpired.  Rolling and failing doesn't necessarily mean 'dead end'- it just has to make a difference.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2011, 11:50:13 AM »

We're waiting for an actual play account for crucial orientation purposes. Let's everyone hold off until it arrives.

Best, Ron
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stefoid
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« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2011, 06:18:09 PM »

Hi the actual play concerning mysteries and investigations that I am familiar with is CoC which has been run like I described in the previous thread:

"Personally, this is a style of play that I dont like.  Its basically the players guessing what the GM wants.  Its kind of like a more involved version of 'guess the number Im thinking'  Is it 4?  no.  Is it 17?  no, but Ill give you a hint, its less than 15 and more than 2.  Is it 9?  no.

Yes, it isnt as random and arbitrary as that, but its still a bunch of players (not characters) trying to guess/deduce what the GM thinks the clues should mean.

No, I dont know the solution to that if someone does , please tell me. Even in games that arent supposed to be investigation games, there are often periods of play where the characters are trying to work out what is going on or why something is happening, so I think the situation is broadly relevant."


My concern is to avoid this style of play where if the payers dont  (a) find the clues  and/or (b) guess correctly what the clues mean, then nothing happens.  The story does not advance, which is boring and frustrating, rather than dramatic and satisfying (whether you find the clue or not, something interesting happens)

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stefoid
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« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2011, 06:34:34 PM »

Here is the actual play I am anticipating:

something happens that the players cant ignore, lets say in my upcoming game that the nazis are suddenly taking previously impregnable allied positions, and the PC squad is called in to such a battlefield where the allies just managed to be repulse and attack at great cost -- to find out how the nazis are doing it.   Ultimately Id like this to lead to some realisation that the nazis are using supernatural forces to aid their war effort, such as using reanimated soldiers or something, and who is behind it.

So essentially its a mystery that requires successful 'investigation'.  And Im thinking of how to handle that.  How to make it dramatic.  OK, the use of undead soldiers will be easy to 'solve'.  This corpse has been dead for 4 months!, and a few hysterical soldiers relating pumping magazines of bullets into nazis who keep advancing... pretty obvious.  That can be narrated in response to PC actions, its low drama stuff.

But how to proceed from that realisation to which particular nazis are behind the reanimation?  Do I continue to drop 'clue scenes' on the PCs and resolve them in a low drama fashion, as above, leading them by the nose to to the villains?  where do my challenging , dramatic scenes come from when the players are involved essentially in an 'investigation' process?

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Alfryd
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« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2011, 02:37:01 AM »

But how to proceed from that realisation to which particular nazis are behind the reanimation?  Do I continue to drop 'clue scenes' on the PCs and resolve them in a low drama fashion, as above, leading them by the nose to to the villains?  where do my challenging , dramatic scenes come from when the players are involved essentially in an 'investigation' process?

Well, if you don't want to waste time on the players' having to guess what you're thinking (or earn it via forensics/interrogation/sleuthing rolls,) then the solution is simple- tell them what's actually happening OOC, so that the mystery is strictly from the characters' perspective, not the players.  Then simply allow the possible paths of investigation to go in different directions and tie that in with the characters' motives-  e.g, the leading expert on the Lance of Longinus is one the PC's old flames, the Ark of the Covenant can only be gazed upon by the faithful, etc. etc.  As long as the players have choices the reflect on different moral/ethical problems- particularly those tied to the PCs' personality- you should be getting a certain amount of drama.

The question then isn't 'can you figger out 'dem clues?' but 'do you have the balls to collect them, and deal with the implications'?  What you're doing sounds more similar to Indiana Jones than Agatha Christie, so maybe the former would be a good point of reference.
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stefoid
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« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2011, 04:11:40 AM »

Im starting to think that there isnt really any way to make the 'investigation' a high drama process.  It can still happen, the players can still choose to go places, check shit out, talk to people etc... but its the circumstances surrounding the investigation activity that has the tension.  What is at stake if the investigation isnt resolved? 

As for the challenging situations, I dont see how they can be integral to the investigation process either.  Play must proceed towards confrontation with the nazi antagonists, and that progress cant hinge on dice rolls.  I guess the progress must move more smoothly if characters are winning the challenging situations and with a lot of collateral damage if they arent. 
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Alfryd
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« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2011, 06:54:37 AM »

Im starting to think that there isnt really any way to make the 'investigation' a high drama process.  It can still happen, the players can still choose to go places, check shit out, talk to people etc... but its the circumstances surrounding the investigation activity that has the tension.  What is at stake if the investigation isnt resolved?
Again, failing an investigation-related skill-test doesn't have to mean 'dead end'.  It can, for example, simply mean that the protagonists took too long to figure out the clue, and in the meantime, the antagonists have moved ahead a step or two in their plans.  e.g, you flubbed your Archaeology roll, so you failed to find the Tablets of Collectability fast enough to prevent the Nazis from seizing the Artifact of Plot, but you do have some idea where they're headed.

So now you'll have to try to battle through/sneak into their encampment in order to capture it back, or scale the mountain in order to interrupt the ritual, or call in for backup from an erstwhile rival, or whatever.  The point is, the PCs' lives become more complicated as a result of the investigative failure, but the story doesn't just grind to a halt.  And because that 'something' is at stake during the investigation, that can be a legitimate source of drama.
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NN
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« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2011, 01:22:48 PM »

What if: the point of the "investigation" isnt to discover that the Nazis are using the occult - the characters are already "believers" - the aim is to collect enough evidence to persuade Allied VIPs of the occult danger.


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stefoid
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« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2011, 03:05:28 PM »

What if: the point of the "investigation" isnt to discover that the Nazis are using the occult - the characters are already "believers" - the aim is to collect enough evidence to persuade Allied VIPs of the occult danger.

Thats some good ammunition to have.   
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