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Author Topic: No investigations? III (split)  (Read 1221 times)
stefoid
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« on: May 29, 2011, 06:39:35 PM »

I ran a 'mystery game' last night where the PCs were MI6 operatives sent to Rome to find out what some known SS operatives from the occult arm of the organization were doing there, and put a stop to it.  Year is 1937.

I only had 2.5 hours due to people turning up late and whatnot, and it was a one-shot scenario I was trying specifically to see test my theories on handling investigative or mystery scenarios.  It was totally improvised, the setup was what I have written above.

The main thing I was concentrating on, especially due to the time constraints,  was to keep everything moving - roll with PC decisions, don't squash their initiative and 'clues and fact finding' separate from conflicts.  and Im happy to say it went well.

Whenever they needed to find out information necessary to advance the plot, I went with it -- they always found something.  No dice were rolled to determine if they found something or how helpful it was - I narrated an interesting factoid or clue that enabled them to continue.  they talked and debated amongst themselves about the best course of action, of course, but whatever they came up with, I rolled with it.  There ended up only four occasions when they had to roll dice for conflicts, three of which were social situation and one of which was the last physical combat with 'the creature' with the rabbis in the Colosseum at midnight.  (dont ask).  Two of the social situations were interrogation situations with captured German operatives.  The other was trying to convince a bishop to release a relic for their use against the creature.

I must admit that I am now more concerned with social challenges than working out 'investigations' - every social challenge the PCs were involved with tended towards escalating straight to violence, even with the bishop, when they failed to get full compliance from him (he would only release the relic into  the hands of a recognized exorcist from the vatican)  they fell back on physically restraning the poor dude and nicking his relic.
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ADGBoss
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« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2011, 07:56:31 AM »

Sorry for coming to this a bit late, but this thread has been very interesting and I finally felt like I had enough coherent thoughts to comment.

The thoughts are coherent but they may seem a bit disjointed, so for that I do apologize in advance.

The notion of an investigation's integrity based on an outcome that is predetermined. Well, all investigations have a predetermined result. A couple of examples if I may

The Speed of Light - Light moves at a constant speed. Unless you believe reality is fluid and not set until the great consciousness "discovers" something, then the SOL was always constant. We just needed to figure it out.

The New World - Whether Vikings or Columbus, the notion of whether one can discover a new land that other people live on is debatable. It was new to most of the rest of the world, however. Someone sailing west from Europe or Africa, assuming they did not die, could only have one real outcome - the discovery that there is another set of continents on Earth.

An actual crime - This has a bit more variables when it comes to outcomes, but the outcomes are still a finite set. However, A crime is committed and someone or someones did in fact commit those crimes.

Puzzles in an RPG are not really any different just because the GM knows the outcome. Real investigation work IS hitting certain points and getting certain pieces of evidence to bring the whole picture into focus. In addition, a puzzle has to intrigue the player, even if in no other way than through the lens of his or her character. Otherwise the player will not be getting as much out of the session as he or she could.

The question has always been how do you resolve mysteries? On one extreme you can simply let the players roll based on their characters skill. It makes the solving of such puzzles based solely on the character abilities as chosen by the player through character creation and subsequent experience. The other side allows the players to bring the full force of the real world (for lack of a better term) into the process and deduce the outcomes that way. I have seen both and seen both be enjoyable and work well.

Personally though I think a synthesis of the two works the best. The character provides the in game means and skills, while the player provides the equivalent of intuition based on their real world experience and meta knowledge of the setting.

Just my two lunars
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2011, 10:23:25 AM »

Hi,

This is the third thread, via splits, for this topic, and these are the two preceding threads.

No investigations?
No investigations? II (split)

Let's keep those thread untouched and proceed with this one. Thanks!

Best, Ron
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stefoid
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« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2011, 05:49:04 PM »

Two of the social situations were interrogation situations with captured German operatives.  The other was trying to convince a bishop to release a relic for their use against the creature.

I must admit that I am now more concerned with social challenges than working out 'investigations' - every social challenge the PCs were involved with tended towards escalating straight to violence, even with the bishop, when they failed to get full compliance from him (he would only release the relic into  the hands of a recognized exorcist from the vatican)  they fell back on physically restraning the poor dude and nicking his relic.


It occurs to me on re-reading this that interrogation is just another term for finding a clue. 

The PCs tendency towards instant escalation to violence is perhaps a recognition that for the story to proceed during that moment, the interrogation must be successful.

I should point out that in my game, the players basically set when the conflict resolution mechanics are invoked by explicit goal setting.  So when they announce a goal where interrogating a suspect could advance them to achieve it, the GM is honor bound to make that situation an official conflict and whip out the dice.

oh!  Gaining information is a poor goal!  Where is the bosses hideout, what are the villains plans, does she really love me?  These are poor goals!  Capturing the boss, foiling the villains plans, falling in love with the girl.  These are the good goals...

violence...   I guess the only reason not to use violence is (a) moral inhibition (b) fear of consequences.  So if your characters are not morally deterred from using violence to achieve their ends, and lets face it that is a very small percentage of roleplaying characters ever made....  then its (b) I should be looking at.
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D.R. Clifford
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« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2011, 08:57:56 PM »

Im glad to see the discussion moving away from semantics and more toward application. I've actually been struggling with some of these questions myself recently.
Presently, I think that before you can answer how investigation should work, you need to determine what needs investigating.
Different games have different needs, so what does a Mystery mean to a given game? What purpose does it serve to the game?
Off the top of my head, here's some criteria:
1. Is there a right answer?
2. Why are players invested in that answer?
3. Can the players Fail to solve it?

I've only ever seen two approaches.

The standard Gameist mystery
1. Is there a right answer?
Yes. Not only is there only one right answer, there's often only one right way to find it.

2. Why are players invested in that answer?
A. Because they need to know who and or where this weeks Bad Guy is before they can kill him.
-OR-
B. Because the game will not (can not) move forward without it.

3. Can the players Fail to solve it?
No, it is the destiny of The Bad Guy to be found and slain. There are several likely outcomes.
A. The GM will give the party a NPC tour guide they must protect until 'The Big Reveal'
B. The GM will call for rolls. If they succeed, they make their way to 'The Big Reveal'. If they fail, see outcome A.
C. The party gropes around in the dark trying to guess at the GM's awesome tale of intrigue. If the game goes on to long or they come to the wrong conclusions the Bad Guy will eventually make himself known, brag about his accomplishments, and subsequently get killed to death.
One exception: Chaosium's 'Call of Cthulhu'. As appropriate to the subject matter, the party might wind up to dead or crazy figure out what was really going on.

The common Narrativist mystery
1. Is there a right answer?
No. In fact, most of the clues and suspects are invented as the case progresses.

2. Why are players invested in that answer?
Investigating mysteries is most likely the core mechanic of the game, or at least the premise of the campaign.

3. Can the players Fail to solve it?
No. The GM is obliged to kludge the invented clues together into an at least semi-lucid outcome.

Can anyone else think of other ways mystery has been used in an RPG? Or how it could be?
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Noclue
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« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2011, 08:02:51 AM »

If you put an NPC in front of the PCS with a big sign on them reading "open here to get info," they're going to start looking around for a can opener.
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James R.
ADGBoss
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« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2011, 08:57:49 AM »

If you put an NPC in front of the PCS with a big sign on them reading "open here to get info," they're going to start looking around for a can opener.

I think this statement speaks volumes and it made me wonder at the validity of the entire discussion. Before I go further though...
-If the mods think this needs its own thread, that is no problem feel free to break it off

We have been talking about investigations but is that what we are really talking about? Let me give you an example of what I mean -

You are having intimacy issues with your partner. You sit down to talk and your partner mentions that you watch too much NCIS and you mention that you are tired of your partner talking for two hours on the phone with mom while dishes sit in the sink uncleaned... (after all dinner time is also NCIS time on USA). You make suggestions about rose petals and chocolate or perhaps making love while a Speztnaz Commando team has a knife fight with the Finnish Bikini team, but nothing seems to be working.  Well come to find out intimacy is a symptom of a greater issue.

The more I read the various discussions on investigations the more it seems to me, that not only is it not really about investigations, but is actually all the old arguments coming to the front. By old arguments I mean, everything in the archives which honestly is just the latest set of data in discussions that have been going on for decades. No one in my group of fairly bright kids was interested in discussing game theory with a precocious 9 year old back in 1980, so I invented my own game to solve D&D's problems. Pommels & Paradoxes sucked (but I love the name) but it was a step. A step others were also taking even though most of us did not know it.

So again, I ask the question: Is this really about investigating or is it about something else more basic?

When we would write modules for Living Greyhawk, the authors and admins had a bit of a mantra we all used: Players say they want story but they really want is more stuff. I assume it was like that with Living City before LG and many of the contemporary and subsequent campaigns as well. Now the point here is not to trash players (as presumably we are all players as well as designers and game masters and theorists) but to point out that there is fundamental antagonism built into the role of player, GM, and game designer. Sometimes those of us who wear more than one hat can fall into different sides of the conflict depending on that hat, which is perhaps an entirely different discussion.

Okay so let me grab this back to investigation. In my head I am still coming back to the word integrity: we are wondering if an investigation in an RPG is a real thing or can be a real thing that has consequence for failure in the game or is it simply window dressing or a means to end for other kinds of conflict. Well I think the answer is: yes, it is both.

An investigation into a mystery or puzzle is still an investigation whether it is real life or a game. The means may be different (dice n Intuition vs. forensics n Intuition) and an investigation may be mostly for show even in real life, but I do not think the validity (which may be a better word than integrity) is affected regardless.

I do not think investigation validation is something that can be designed into a system. I think its validity is handled at the table level as I do not see a mechanic that can cross many or most systems being all the helpful.

A final word just to sum up my ramblings. I think if you were to take "conflict" or "conflict resolution" and substitute it for investigation in many of the discussions so far, I think you would lose little if no coherency. That more than anything suggests that perhaps investigation is not the issue.

Sorry for rambling, apologies if you feel I went off topic.

just my 2 lunars

Sean
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D.R. Clifford
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Posts: 6


« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2011, 12:47:54 PM »

I response to ADGBoss,
Nope, you post seems more or less in line with the actual thread topic to me. If anything I'm trying to actively derail things by (hopefully) moving the conversation away from, "What is a wrench, really, when you get down it?" over to, "Hey guys, I head this was a wrench store. I've got these bolts here that need adjusting, can anyone help out?".
I don't want or expect a catch all solution. I don't care if the outcome is genuine or controlled delusion. I would like to hear some techniques that have been used in the past (or may have not yet been tried) in an effort to simulate investigation across different genres and play styles.

Yes, this is about conflict resolution, but it's a particular brand there of specifically.
 I would like to see a few different takes on (for example) how one might facilitate a fun Noir game juxtaposed with how one might facilitate a Scooby-Doo game. If the machinery already exists, mores the better, please point me to it.
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