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#1 stepanxol

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Posted 03 July 2016 - 11:09 AM

Hi everyone! I've owned ToC for a long time, but I'm just now setting to play my first game as a DM. I've read all: the manual, GUMSHOE 101, the condensed rules, the Enchiridion, and STILL I'm not 100% sure about how to manage the most critical of the mechanics: investigative point spends to get clues.

 

The problem is, the sources are all subtly different. Many seem to imply that you can get all clues for free, even non-core ones, if you just have 1+ points in your ability (not pool!). For example, Gumshoe 101 (and the cheat sheet) states "Spend these points to get cool in-game advantages". No mention of spending to get non-core clues. The condensed rules distinguish between Core, Zero-spend, Point-spend. But how can I distinguish the latter two in the published scenarios? It's just up to me? (Not to mention, the manual does not even mention this distinction.)

 

What if a player just roleplays the relevant investigation/interaction with a clear purpose and the right intent, without stating a spend? Do I give her the clue "for free" or I just make her auto-spend the corresponding point? I thought that all the clues not explicitly marked as core were "supplementary" (a term used in the Enchiridion, but again, not present at all in the ToC manual!), and all the supplementary clues required a point spend in the relative ability. Then again, the Enchiridion seem to imply that a suppl. clue is in practice another form of benefit (you spend not to get the clue, but "something more" out of it, whatever that is).

 

Take a module like The Dance in the Blood. In Manesty (pag. 16) I see 7 possibile clues plus a core one. The first seven clues require a 1-point spend or not? Are some of them zero-spend? Do I just decide based on what the players say and how they role-play?

 

I love the system and I'm grateful for all the supplementary material, but really, if the "player aids" introduce new terms that are not even present in the manual (supplementary clues, zero-spend etc), without a mention about their use, they risk to make the system harder to comprehend, not easier!

 

[LATER]

Ok, I'll auto-reply to myself: I've read this
http://site.pelgrane...r-of-the-clues/

 

and everything is clearer now. I understand that the (very useful) terminology from the condensed rules is taken from a newer, more developed version of the GUMSHOE system. Still, I think this should be clearly stated, since I lost Stability trying to trace back the (very useful and sensible) information there back to the manual!

 

That said, I'll just use my judgement and consider the level of role-playing involved when deciding if a particular clue "consumes" 0, 1 or 2 points. That's more or less the official position on the subject now, right?


Edited by stepanxol, 03 July 2016 - 12:29 PM.



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#2 Tony Williams

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Posted 03 July 2016 - 05:03 PM

You are right - well done for figuring it out. But also the amount of spend ( 0,1,2 ) depends on how helpful/illuminating you consider the clue information is for the players to solving the mystery of the scenario. 

 

The reason the terminology is not consistent is that the terminology ( and GUMSHOE ) was still evolving when the main rulebook was published.

 

Later GUMSHOE games ( like Nights Black Agents or the upcoming Fear Itself 2nd Edition ) solidify and define the terminology more.

 

At the time the main ToC rulebook was published GUMSHOE authors tended to consider everything as either a Core Clue or, if it wasn't a core clue it was classified as a Benefit i.e. point-spend clues were Benefits ( because the players have to spend points to get either of them, they tended to be considered as the same sort of thing ). I think the reasoning was to keep the rule-system simple but I think, in reality, it only made the system confusing as there is a very real notional difference between a "clue" and a "benefit".

 

I actually wrote the Keeper of the Clues article you mention because I had the same problems you experienced when starting out with ToC.


Edited by Tony Williams, 03 July 2016 - 05:04 PM.

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#3 The_Tatterdemalion_King

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Posted 03 July 2016 - 07:11 PM

The original GUMSHOE books really don't explain it very well; it'd be a lot easier to explain if there was no spending at all.

That said, I'll just use my judgement and consider the level of role-playing involved when deciding if a particular clue "consumes" 0, 1 or 2 points. That's more or less the official position on the subject now, right?


If you decide a particular piece of information is worth 1 or more points of a spend, you should ask the player if they intend to spend it before telling them it costs anything. In a social situation, if you think their dialogue skills were strong enough that they have gotten naturally to something that might cost a point, you should just give them the clue without making them spend points for it.

I've slowly come to the conclusion that, when I run games, a point-benefit has to be something I can conceive of as affecting a future General Ability test (either the surrounding context of the test, the resources brought to bear, or the actual difficulty/Ability required of the test). Otherwise I don't make them spend points.

I think the binary resolution method of the Investigative Abilities is so much more valuable and useful in making fun investigation games that if concerns about spending points come up I'd disregard the points in favour of the players treating their Investigative Abilities as effective and reliable.
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#4 stepanxol

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Posted 03 July 2016 - 08:50 PM

Tony, Tatter_king, thanks to both of you! I think I understand everything perfectly now.

 

If I can give an advice to the community, it is to state this evolution clearly in the sources (ie Enchiridion, condensed rules), because as things are now, the most misleading source of all is... the manual   :)

 

In fact, many times I thought I had it nailed, to get back to it and... get it all messed up again! (Maybe it's time for a 2nd edition? I'd buy it for sure!)

 

later,

S


Edited by stepanxol, 03 July 2016 - 10:28 PM.


#5 Tony Williams

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Posted 03 July 2016 - 09:20 PM


 

If I can give you advice to the community, it is to state this evolution clearly in the sources (ie Enchiridion, condensed rules), because as things are now, the most misleading source of all is... the manual :)

 

Are you reading this Simon & Cat ? ;)

 


 

I've slowly come to the conclusion that, when I run games, a point-benefit has to be something I can conceive of as affecting a future General Ability test (either the surrounding context of the test, the resources brought to bear, or the actual difficulty/Ability required of the test). Otherwise I don't make them spend points.

 

An interesting rule variant.

 

So point-spends only ever happen for a "Benefit" ( as defined by ToC ) rather than clues, yes ? And you are saying some "Benefits" are to alter General Tests.

 

Without thinking things through fully that sounds like it would simplify things for the Keeper a lot. Possibly there might need to be some sort of alteration of character creation for the numbers to work ( i.e. still allow characters to have the same amount of investigative abilities as normal but somehow limit their starting amount of investigative points - otherwise they'll have loads of "Benny Points" to spend now that they don't have to spend them on clues ).

 

I can imagine maybe the game could change so that the character sheet says either you "have" the particular Investigative Ability or you don't ( rather than having a rating level in it ) and you start the adventure with a stash of "investigative chips" that you can spend against any of your investigative abilities during the game for a "Benefit".

 

Sherlock Holmes would start an adventure with a lot of "investigative chips" compared to a run-of-the-mill investigator.


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#6 GBSteve

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Posted 03 July 2016 - 09:40 PM

Some benefits alter general tests. I usually give a +3 to general tests for the spend of and investigative ability point (which is pretty much what NBA does).

 

All clues are benefits but not all benefits are clues is how I view it. So you search the scene and find an invoice. Chemistry as a core clue tells you it's from a chemical company and you know their address. A chemistry spend tells you what they chemicals are used for, that's information so it's a clue, but it's also a benefit. Spending chemistry to know a Chemist who works at the company isn't information, so not a clue, but it is a benefit.

 

That said, I'm not hard on the distinctions. The main point is that if you spend a point, you get the good stuff in exchange. If there's no good stuff, you can't spend the point.


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#7 Tony Williams

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Posted 03 July 2016 - 09:49 PM

All clues are benefits but not all benefits are clues is how I view it. 

 

I believe that's how Robin and Ken view it too ( based on the language in the ToC manual ) but I don't think that is helpful to a newbie, worse - I think it is actually confusing.

 

Better to call a clue a "Clue" ( be it Core, Zero Spend or Point Spend ) and call anything else a "Benefit"


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#8 GBSteve

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Posted 03 July 2016 - 10:12 PM

Well, as I said, I'm not hard on the distinctions, except for how much it costs. I give 0 point benefits too. Some of them are invitations to spend more, and some of them are all that's available that's not worth a point.


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#9 stepanxol

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Posted 03 July 2016 - 10:36 PM

I believe that's how Robin and Ken view it too ( based on the language in the ToC manual ) but I don't think that is helpful to a newbie, worse - I think it is actually confusing.

 

Better to call a clue a "Clue" ( be it Core, Zero Spend or Point Spend ) and call anything else a "Benefit"

 

Yes! This!

 

Once you get the idea it's not hard to make it work somehow, but if the published material already included the distinction between zero, 1- and 2-point spends, it'd make the GM's life much easier.

 

I can imagine maybe the game could change so that the character sheet says either you "have" the particular Investigative Ability or you don't 

 

 

This is tempting for its cleanness, but I wouldn't go that far: after all, having a full spectrum of proficiency from 0 to 5 is nice, at least for comparing different characters ("that guy is even better than the Professor!")


Edited by stepanxol, 03 July 2016 - 10:37 PM.


#10 The_Tatterdemalion_King

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Posted 04 July 2016 - 03:38 AM

An interesting rule variant.

 

So point-spends only ever happen for a "Benefit" ( as defined by ToC ) rather than clues, yes ? And you are saying some "Benefits" are to alter General Tests.

 

Well... I wouldn't describe this as a variant per se, but rather my valuation of points versus Robin or Ken's.

 

Of: 

  1. make your Investigator seem clever, powerful or heroic
  2. allow an ability to take less time than normal
  3. succeed more flashily
  4. benefits useful later in the scenario
  5. making a favourable impression on NPCs
  6. information that is useful for later contests
  7. leap forward into the story by gaining a clue apparent in a later scene
  8. 'spotlight time' in general

I don't care about 1, 3 or 8, and in fact would assert (as a frequent player of Gumshoe) that if 4 or 5 doesn't follow 1, 1 never actually happened. 

 

7, on the other hand, is something I just never do nor particularly like to have in scenarios, because it can short-circuit the need for players to figure stuff out on their own. 

 

8. is a theory of player attention i'm not sure I fully buy into, because I want mechanics that encourage players to talk *to each other* and not have the GM be the arbiter of that kind of stuff (except as a brake on too much spotlighting).


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#11 Tony Williams

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Posted 04 July 2016 - 06:40 AM

... but if the published material already included the distinction between zero, 1- and 2-point spends, it'd make the GM's life much easier.

 

 

As I said in an earlier post, later GUMSHOE books do include this distinction - Esoterrorists 2nd Edition and the upcoming Fear Itself 2nd Edition define "Zero Spend Clues". I'm going to amend the Enchiridion to help explain this further too (look for version 3.2 soon).

 

@Tatty - I am in full agreement with your analysis of the benefit number list but I think 8 should be included because, as well as calming down the overbearing players, you can use 8 to bring withdrawn players out of their shell ( or at least make them involved by throwing the benefit at their investigator's face ).


Edited by Tony Williams, 04 July 2016 - 08:47 AM.

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#12 GBSteve

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Posted 04 July 2016 - 01:56 PM

Points do double service in that they are how the player chooses to interact with the game, and they are hooks for the GM to bring players in. So if someone puts 4 in cryptography, then as the GM, you'd better line up some uses for that.

 

 

We also have a rule that if you haven't used an ability then you can move the points, or some of them, to something you deem more useful.


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#13 Tony Williams

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Posted 06 July 2016 - 12:59 PM

If I can give an advice to the community, it is to state this evolution clearly in the sources (ie Enchiridion, condensed rules), because as things are now, the most misleading source of all is... the manual   :)

 

The Condensed Rules and Enchiridion have been updated to better explain the subdivision of non-core clues into Zero-Point Clues and Point-Spend Clues after the publication of the original ToC rulebook.

 

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#14 The_Tatterdemalion_King

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Posted 06 July 2016 - 08:28 PM

You know, initially I was skeptical of people who said that GUMSHOE was hard to understand, but given that, apparently, the way the books are written requires people to call things 'zero-points spends' when explaining GUMSHOE, I have to admit it has some problems.


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#15 GBSteve

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Posted 06 July 2016 - 09:48 PM

It's never been difficult in play. However I would rather have action/information over general/investigative, more infomative and easier to say (and perhaps meters for health/stability/sanity).

 

I started writing things in a different way for Fearful Symmetries but in the end went back to the same terminology. I was going to talk about spending having an information ability to give you basic information (0-point spend) or get you a lead (core clue) or spending points to get you information (supplementary clue) or to use information (benefit). But there's no sense in doing that given the backward capability issues. And besides, it's not even a core book.


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#16 Tony Williams

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Posted 06 July 2016 - 09:56 PM

You know, initially I was skeptical of people who said that GUMSHOE was hard to understand, but given that, apparently, the way the books are written requires people to call things 'zero-points spends' when explaining GUMSHOE, I have to admit it has some problems.

 

I think your idea of ALL clues cost 0 and only the Benefits cost points is how GUMSHOE should have been designed but we are where we are...

( I think I have even read a post somewhere on the forum from Simon Rogers that says that is how he plays GUMSHOE now. )

 

I think the term Zero-Point Clues came about ( in Esoterrorists 2nd Edition onward ) because Robin & Gareth wanted to codify that some non-core clues can provide such trivial or non-relevant info that they are not worth charging points for ( and that problem came about because Robin insisted on calling everything that wasn't a Core Clue a Benefit, which always cost pointsinstead of saying there were Core Clues, Benefits and Non-Core Clues - and Non-Core Clues could have ANY point worth - zero to infinity  )

 

It would have been far better to have not created the distinction of Zero-Point and Point-Spend Clues - just lump them all together as one type: Non-Core Clues ( or what GBSteve likes to call Supplementary Clues ) and explain that they can have any point value ( including free ).

 

But hindsight is 20:20


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#17 GBSteve

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Posted 06 July 2016 - 10:47 PM

Non-Core Clues ( or what GBSteve likes to call Supplementary Clues

 

I think that's what they were called in some early edition. I've seen these treated in different ways too. Sometimes they just cost a point, sometimes they cost more, and sometimes there's a sliding scale where you get more the more you spend.


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#18 The_Tatterdemalion_King

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Posted 06 July 2016 - 11:16 PM

I think your idea of ALL clues cost 0 and only the Benefits cost points is how GUMSHOE should have been designed but we are where we are...

 

Well, the thing is, we never noticed the core/non-core no-spend thing when we were playtesting it, and its not like Robin declares stuff as "CORE CLUES!" when you get it—it's basically just a game of 'twenty questions.' The procedure of play closest to Investigative Abilities outside to GUMSHOE is actually 0e/OSR-style narrative description of exploring a room. 


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#19 Tony Williams

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Posted 07 July 2016 - 12:28 AM

Well, the thing is, we never noticed the core/non-core no-spend thing when we were playtesting it, and its not like Robin declares stuff as "CORE CLUES!" 

 

Well you wouldn't I suppose. As a player ( even today ) if you haven't read the rulebook you wouldn't really know the difference of a core/non-core clue. You would just experience the Keeper sometimes asking you to pay pool points for certain bits of information.

 

A "Core Clue" is really a concept for scenario designers rather than the players. I'm glad GUMSHOE thunk up the idea as it really makes scenario writers focus on the pathways through their narrative. Something that CoC scenario writers have sometimes been lackadaisical about in the past.


The procedure of play closest to Investigative Abilities outside to GUMSHOE is actually 0e/OSR-style narrative description of exploring a room. 

 

Keeper: there's a copy of The Book of Dyzan on the table...

 

0e Player: I'll poke it with a 10 foot pole.


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#20 Laraqua

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Posted 07 July 2016 - 02:51 AM

Fair response from 0e player, actually.


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