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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 29 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: No investigations? II (split)  (Read 4426 times)
contracycle
Member

Posts: 2984


« Reply #15 on: April 05, 2011, 09:41:52 PM »

It's very wasy to handle.  Computer games do it all the time; dump data x, assign mission y.  In this context the CRPGs provide an excellent baseline, as they are in practice one GN talking to one Player.  Data dump leads to combat mission.

If you really need advice on how to do this, then you need to concentrate on NPC's who will provide info and missions.  There are countless examples from TV.  The only diffuculty, in as much as there us any, is constructing a trusted relationship with said NPC's, such that if they are told so-and-so is conspiring to nuke the Vatican* they believe it.  All the rest is combat adventure staging.

** or an orphanage, etc., whatever.
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
Gwynplaine
Member

Posts: 7


« Reply #16 on: April 10, 2011, 06:15:22 AM »

Investigation in role-playing games is always a hard thing to work as, at the very least, it is several people working to figure out something only one person has created.

I tend to find that the player’s and their characters should be in on some of the secrets, to some extent, so that not only do the players have a handle on what is going on, but they’re able to act that out too.  (Plus when players aren’t totally in the dark I tend to find that they help create more detail and flavour for what is occurring, but when they’re clueless there’s a limit on how much they can help out that way.)

Also, depending upon how involved they are in the investigations, failure should be just as dramatic as success.  If you are planning to pretty much predetermine success on areas of investigation then one way could be to pre set-up a seemingly impossible situation down the line (or invincible bad guys etc), and the success gives them a way to overcome this immense obstacle without trivialising it. 

Equally though, certain parts (especially early on) could be set up so that they could see the ‘downside’ or ‘cost’ of failure (handy for establishing drama and personal stakes in a story, but tricky in that players can get disheartened/ annoyed if it comes across as too rail-roaded).

Lastly I would say that investigations that involve interacting with NPC’s to gather info, find secrets and so on, tend to come off better than ones where the players are attempting to interact with a passive scene, as the NPC element gives you more control of the situation and a more ‘living’ atmosphere to the investigation (also if worst comes to worst you could have the NPC 'slip' up in a way that gives the players a new angle on the investigation).

Oh!  Just thought; if the players are aiding a professional investigator (or group thereof), who are looking into something.  That way the players can get some direction as to where to go/ what to look for, and it’s the NPC investigator that can ensure success if the players fail to sort out whatever, but then equally (probably about half-way through or maybe little earlier), the NPC needs to become overshadowed by the players (perhaps the NPC is captured/ killed, leaving some clue for the players to latch onto and follow).  Of course the problem here is ensuring that not only is the focus staying with the players all the time, but they do not feel the NPC’s are ‘better’ than them, it needs to be clear that the NPC is only a holder of some specialised info, but in other ways inferior.  (Of course another spin on this could be a game whereby the players –are– inexperienced assistants to some great Sherlock Holmesian fellow).
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simon_hibbs
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Posts: 689


« Reply #17 on: April 13, 2011, 07:52:33 AM »

Investigative games can be frustrating if the game effectively comes to a standstill while the party look for/try to interpret the clues. However it doesn't have to be that way. An investigation where the question is "who is the bad guy, and where is he so we can progress with the plot" is one thing, but an investigation where the question is "Why do these ninjas, gangsters and corrupt cops keep trying to kill us" is another kettle of fish. Mysteries don't have to block progress, nor do they even have to be resolved by conventional investigation. After all, you can always just capture one of the bad guys and ask him "Spill the beans, or swallow a bullet!".

Here are some mysteries you might use:

The party find secret papers ordering the re-capture of a monastery. Why do the Nazis want the monastery so badly? It's a mystery, but it motivates action - stop the Nazis taking the monastery, while trying to find out what they are after. Ways to resolve: Capture a bad guy; Research about the history of the monastery; Don't bother, just blow up the monastery.

The party discover that the Nazis have a secret agent among the allied ranks. Who can it be? Ways to resolve: Capture a bad guy (I like this one); Feed misinformation to various suspects and see which misinformation the Nazis act on; If you know how the Nazis feed info to the spy, send him a bogus message and trap him (or her).

Mysteries should impulses to action, not obstacles to progress. If the players don't come up with ways to resolve them on their own, just have NPCs suggest them or hint at them - that's fine because at the end of the day it's carrying out the actions that matter, not necessarily figuring out what to do. Especially if you provide them with several options, as above, it's up to them to choose which approach they take, so they are still in the driving seat.

Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
stefoid
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Posts: 657


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« Reply #18 on: April 13, 2011, 03:40:22 PM »

I like your thoughts there.  There is a difference between mystery and investigation. 

You could look at it this way, one is a noun and the other a verb.  Situation and action.

But its not really 'action' in the high-stakes conflict sense.  Its more just about decision making, as you say, which can/should lead to high-stakes conflict down the track.

This actually does fit in well with recent thoughts I have had with the game I am designing and playtesting at the moment.  Breaking play up into descision making and high-stakes conflict phases is a lot better description than low and high drama phases.  After all, decision making can sometimes be dramatic.

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Gryffudd
Member

Posts: 81

Just another designer


« Reply #19 on: April 29, 2011, 05:37:09 AM »

That sounds interesting. I haven't been able to come up with a solution to the problems I was having with investigation in Air Patrol, but these last two posts have gotten me thinking again. I like the idea "mysteries should impulses to action, not obstacles to progress." Also decision making phases and conflict phases being separate. In AIr Patrol I wanted to have the focus on the 'cool scenes,' which sounds to me like the conflict phases with the decision making phases being what leads to them. Or something like that. Have to think on how it could apply to the game structure I wanted for Air Patrol.

Pat
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stefoid
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Posts: 657


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« Reply #20 on: April 29, 2011, 04:21:17 PM »

Hi, Im right into that in my game, you can check out the second draft here, with the more complete first draft in my sig.  Let me know what you think.

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B5W32IfgIIkrOWYxNjg2MDEtZWQ0OS00YmIxLTk5ZTYtNDVmZjY0NWMyYjY3&hl=en&authkey=CLaJ4P4J

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Warrior Monk
Member

Posts: 117


« Reply #21 on: May 19, 2011, 03:04:31 PM »

I was remembering the Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis video game. On the first part of the game there was a clear goal: to get inside a local and speak with an npc. Yet there were more than one way to accomplish the goal: you could either solve a puzzle of boxes and objects to climb to the roof, talk your way inside or defeat the guard with your bare fists. Each way had the same level of complexity in its own way.

I've used that system to create campaigns before: providing players with a goal, leave to them the way to get there, but then adding key elements that let them get to the goal faster, better prepared or both, and reflecting that on the status of the final conflict: If players got lucky rolls on a "preliminary investigations" stage, PCs could arrive in time and surprise the enemy. If they got the info later, they could find the enemy prepared but there anyway. They could also fail all the rolls and find themselves facing the enemy in the worst situation possible.

The "guess what number I'm thinking" mechanic is actually the only way to keep the players with the feeling that there's a mystery to unveil. All I can add is that if you make more mechanics available for the players to beat the game, then players themselves will keep the story from stalling. Yet be sure to show them the investigation option first and reward them if they beat the game that way, or they'll keep kicking the doors, shooting first and asking questions later.
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Callan S.
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Posts: 4268


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« Reply #22 on: May 19, 2011, 04:46:31 PM »

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.
Does 'who is behind it' matter the most (for your design)? Or is it
Quote
What I want the conflicts to be about are 'what is the cost of finding the clue and its meaning?'

I mean, suppose the character never get to the nazi's, but in the process of not getting there we find they will sacrifice something dear to them for information, or at other times when we thought they might sacrifice, they say 'I'll do anything for love but I wont do that' (heh).

Would that be sufficiently engaging as a session and the zombie nazis, despite how gamers often seek high concept mash ups, not actually all that important to the play group?
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stefoid
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Posts: 657


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« Reply #23 on: May 19, 2011, 08:02:34 PM »

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.
Does 'who is behind it' matter the most (for your design)? Or is it
Quote
What I want the conflicts to be about are 'what is the cost of finding the clue and its meaning?'

I mean, suppose the character never get to the nazi's, but in the process of not getting there we find they will sacrifice something dear to them for information, or at other times when we thought they might sacrifice, they say 'I'll do anything for love but I wont do that' (heh).

Would that be sufficiently engaging as a session and the zombie nazis, despite how gamers often seek high concept mash ups, not actually all that important to the play group?

After some thought and playtesting, personally Ive come to a conclusion that works for me (and my design).  Investigation is no different from any other mundane (non exciting) activity:

At first I was like "some forms of activity are intrinsically suited to dramatic challenges and some aren't"

But now I'm all "any activity, no matter how mundane, is a fine subject for a dramatic challenge, if whats at stake is dramatic and its framed the right way"

poor dramatic challenge:

activity: investigating a room for clues   (mundane activity, but so far so good)
whats at stake: whether the PCs can find clues as to who is behind the plot  (non dramatic stakes - not so good)
framed: if they find the clue they can pursue the baddie.  If they dont, they have to wait for another clue to drop.  (If they fail, the story doesn't advance, the PCs are in the same position they were in before the challenge.  Nothing has changed)


good dramatic challenge:

activity: investigating a room for clues   (mundane activity, but so far so good)
whats at stake: preventing the baddies plan from being executed.  (dramatic stakes!  good)
framed: if they find the clue they can interfere with the plan.  If they don't, the plan will will go ahead.  (either way, something happens.  The story moves forward)

With reference to my game, which involves players explicitly setting goals,the conclusion is to base the goals on the stakes rather than the activity, which makes it easy to determine if a proposed goal is actually goal-worthy?  Are the stakes dramatic?

Find out who the baddie is:  not really dramatic.
Stop the plan from being executed:  dramatic!

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Callan S.
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Posts: 4268


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« Reply #24 on: May 20, 2011, 03:57:53 PM »

I think what is dramatic (an ambiguous word) involves event depictions in the game linking back to some real life issues we have in real life. And basically in a way that could, depending on how play goes, have game events which do not match the mainstream media conclusions or zeitgeists inertia.

It's hard to give an example because what might be a RL issue to me might not be to you (and vise versa). For example, a real life issue to me is how the jobs system simply discards you to starve should it care to, there's also the heavily pushed idea of 'you can get a job' when you don't have control over that (barring hypnosis or mind control abilities I'm not aware of) and yet although it'll discard you, it's declared all the lands its own and will use martial force if you were to try and sustain yourself (via growing food) without it. Tack on the just world fallacy for good measure.

Okay, long example, but issues don't always fit in a neat slogan. What is dramatic is what links in to our own real life immediate fears (no, that you would be afraid of being eaten by a tiger if confronted by one doesn't mean it's a fear you carry from day to day (assuming your in a country without tigers, that is)).

That's what I think is dramatic - or atleast how I use the word 'dramatic'. I'm not insisting anyone else does, just describing it in case you think 'Oh yeah, that seems a good description of what I'm aiming for'.
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