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About clues and point spends


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#61 Tony Williams

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 07:22 AM

I've had players thank me when I've made it obvious a path they were beginning to go down was a useless rabbit hole.


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#62 rylehNC

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 01:37 PM

This is an aside, but it's only railroading to me when the choice the Keeper deprives you of is meaningful. Saying "You book a room in a hotel" is different than "there are two hotels, but the 'no vacancy sign' is on at the Squamous Arms and none of the residents there will give up their room for any price. And the police are rousting anyone who sleeps in the park - but not arresting them....the Gilman House is open, however."

 

And when a Keeper shuts down an avenue of investigation by invoking the PC's abilities, it's an implicit acknowledgment that there is no deception involved. The players don't have to take the word of an unreliable GMPC, or suffer due an environmental factor beyond their control.


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#63 vincentVV

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 03:12 PM

P.S. regarding your proposed home-brew ideas about your ToC game:
 
1. Higher damage - I wouldn't adjust the weapon damage modifiers, just use the Purist rule option that an investigator can only have a maximum 12 Health rating.
You could also use the "Lethal Firearms" optional rule but I find that can be very debilitating.

 

Well, maybe you are right, but GURPS approach to weapon damage looks more interesting to me, because it can make even a common knife qiute a lethal weapon. Anyway I'm not 100% sure about it and will try several approaches to find more suitable. =)
 

2. Sources of Stability - there isn't much to understand; they are NPCs the player creates that they are assumed to be spending time with in-between adventures that are the reason their lost Stability points regenerate. They exist to give the investigator some back-story but also for the purpose of a Keeper to work into scenarios to threaten them as a way to damage an investigator's Stability
e.g. an investigator has a weird dream that Deep Ones are encircling his parents' house ( and the parents are 2 of his Sources of Stability ) - he wakes up in a cold sweat and must pass a Stability test or lose 2 points.
Sources of Stability is an optional rule anyway.

 

Hm... An idea about a dream is rather interesting. I would only have mad some changes: you can recover lost stability points in-game, if you rolepley an episode with your source.

Although roleplaying dull and pointless scenes of usual life can be something most player would not like very much. Well, I think my games eill not lose too much without this rule.
 

I refute the assertion that everything in a game setting has to have importance. The Keeper has just as much a right to be entertained - and should have the prerogative to say "I haven't prepared for this" or that something isn't important.

 

It's a question of metagaming. When the Keeper provides the players with a colorful photo of an NPC - it's a sign *IMPORTANT* for them no matter how they try too not metagame. =) The same here. I think the players should figure out what is really important themselves.

 

This is an aside, but it's only railroading to me when the choice the Keeper deprives you of is meaningful. Saying "You book a room in a hotel" is different than "there are two hotels, but the 'no vacancy sign' is on at the Squamous Arms and none of the residents there will give up their room for any price. And the police are rousting anyone who sleeps in the park - but not arresting them....the Gilman House is open, however."
 
And when a Keeper shuts down an avenue of investigation by invoking the PC's abilities, it's an implicit acknowledgment that there is no deception involved. The players don't have to take the word of an unreliable GMPC, or suffer due an environmental factor beyond their control.

 

So, which example with the hotel is less railroady? =) They both lead to the same result after all, the second a little more discriptive maybe.
 
One more thing about spends.

I really don't like the cyclopean idea of 4-5 types of clues, integrated in game mechanics. It makes quite a mess to me and the players will be messed up even more IMHO.

I ended up with simplifying the idea.

1) The players get the obvious clues without anything - no ability required, no spends. After all, you don't need to be a chemists to feel the smell of gas or to be a cop to find a dead body with a note pinned to its chest with a ritual dagger.
2) The players may use abilities to analyze what they've found or to find something specific. To get a deeper insight. Use medcine to find out that the person was killed with a single blow or use something suitable to make some presumtions about the author of a note. Or use chemistry to realise that the gas is not the natural one although it looks smells very close.
3) The players spend points to influence the game.
- to hurry up something (research, postal delivery, lab examination etc.)
- to introduce NPCs connected to their characters who can help and be used by a Keeper later;

- to get even more information about the clue. "You smell hard and suddenly remeber your uncle told you that while he was working at a gas station he was afraid of a so called "Blue gas" which is twice more toxic than the usual one, although it can appear only with a suitable circumstances". Or "You realise that the dead body is a perfect example of a one-blow kill you studied at a police academy. It will really be no problem to you to deduct the killers height, handedness, his position twards the victim and so on..." Well, something like that.
 
That's all. 2 types of clues (no-ability using and ability-using) and several ways to spend. Simple to understand to everybody (including myself) and simple to use. =)



#64 GBSteve

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 08:22 PM

A couple of things:

- if players are well-educated about certain points, then use their knowledge. Ask them which Roman was in power when the 9th Legion was lost, or which tube station is nearest to the British Museum

- also, you only need to stay ahead of the characters for the next couple of hours. If you're playing online it's easy to Google British alchemists of the 16th Century, but otherwise the next best thing is a list of names. You can add pretty much all the other details between sessions.

- red herrings can be fun if you give them relevance. Sure Mrs Miniver wasn't actually a cultist, she just happened to be in the pub at the same time, but when the PCs follow her up, they learn that she's the head of the local coven of witches and they have seen some very strange goings on in the woods during their ceremonies. She might not like to talk directly about them, coven rules, but if someone were to join the group, then it would be fine. Just sign here in this black book.

- improvising is a skill that is useful for all GMs, even those who just run other people's material. There are many places you can find good material on how to do, such as Graham Walmsley's Play Unsafe or Stealing Cthulhu (or even some of my writing), or back to source with Impro by Keith Johnstone.


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#65 The_Tatterdemalion_King

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 10:32 PM

This looks like I have to review all my school and university knowledge "just in case" (O_o). That's.. to much I think for just a game. I agree that the GM has to know his world better, but improvising in a fantasy world is much easier than in realistic one.


I find the real world has the advantage over any fictional one in that the real one actually fits together. That said, I also read and watch a lot of true crime and mystery stuff when I'm not gaming, so I've absorbed a lot more than someone who's just doing research for the game.

I find designing stuff for fantasy worlds real hard without being able to fall back on RL cultures or history though.
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#66 Tony Williams

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Posted 30 July 2017 - 02:37 AM

One more thing about spends.

I really don't like the cyclopean idea of 4-5 types of clues, integrated in game mechanics. It makes quite a mess to me and the players will be messed up even more IMHO.

I ended up with simplifying the idea.

 

2) The players may use abilities to analyze what they've found or to find something specific. To get a deeper insight. Use medcine to find out that the person was killed with a single blow or use something suitable to make some presumtions about the author of a note. Or use chemistry to realise that the gas is not the natural one although it looks smells very close.

 

 

That's what GUMSHOE calles a Zero-Point Clue ( or a Core Clue if it leads to a new scene in the scenario )

 

 

3) The players spend points to influence the game.

- to hurry up something (research, postal delivery, lab examination etc.)
- to introduce NPCs connected to their characters who can help and be used by a Keeper later;

 

 

That's what GUMSHOE calls a Benefit

 

- to get even more information about the clue. "You smell hard and suddenly remeber your uncle told you that while he was working at a gas station he was afraid of a so called "Blue gas" which is twice more toxic than the usual one, although it can appear only with a suitable circumstances". Or "You realise that the dead body is a perfect example of a one-blow kill you studied at a police academy. It will really be no problem to you to deduct the killers height, handedness, his position twards the victim and so on..." Well, something like that.

 

That's what GUMSHOE calls a Point-Spend Clue

 

1) The players get the obvious clues without anything - no ability required, no spends. After all, you don't need to be a chemists to feel the smell of gas or to be a cop to find a dead body with a note pinned to its chest with a ritual dagger.

 

 
To put it crudely - "Well, durr..." - this is expected to happen in any investigative RPG (  including GUMSHOE ).
 
----
 
Congratulations, you have either:
 
1. Understood GUMSHOE
 
or
 
2. Re-invented GUMSHOE
 
or
 
3. Both of the above.

Edited by Tony Williams, 30 July 2017 - 02:55 AM.

Do you play Trail of Cthulhu ? You may find these downloads useful...

The Condensed Rules for Trail of Cthulhu PDF - the rulebook as slim as it can go.

The Enchiridion of Elucidation PDF - a guidebook for both players and Keepers, with advice on playing the game.


#67 The_Tatterdemalion_King

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Posted 30 July 2017 - 11:05 PM

and should have the prerogative to say "I haven't prepared for this" or that something isn't important.


Yeah, but then the players respond with "We've decided its important, so hurry up and prepare it!"


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#68 JustinAlexander

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Posted 07 August 2017 - 10:20 PM

It's a question of metagaming. When the Keeper provides the players with a colorful photo of an NPC - it's a sign *IMPORTANT* for them no matter how they try too not metagame. =) The same here. I think the players should figure out what is really important themselves.

 

This can manifest in more ways than photographs, though. For example:

 

Players: What's this guy's name?
GM: ... Joe?

And even when I became more confident in providing names on-the-fly, I've had players who would twig (or think they were twigging, which is often just as damaging to immersion) to the prepped vs. non-prepped status of something based on whether or not I checked my notes before answering certain types of questions.

There are a few ways of addressing this.

First: The metagame con job. Whether something is in my notes or not, I check my notes. I've also trained myself to use "checking my notes" as a way of taking a beat to figure out why my off-the-cuff improv is going to be. I also keep a list of "generic names" and, when I need to name an NPC, I'll glance at that list (which is both useful for keeping me from falling into repetitive defaults AND also constitutes "checking my notes"). If the photographs are a serious issue for your group, consider printing off 10 male and 10 female photos. When you need to improv an NPC, grab a photo for them.

Second: Obfuscate through prep. Conversely, do the opposite by over-prepping. Include photos for virtually every NPC (regardless of their relative importance) and the players won't be able to use the existence of a photo as a way of determining the relative importance or unimportance of an NPC. When I'm using NPC graphical handouts, whether or not an NPC gets a handout often has more to do with whether I was able to find an appropriate photo than it does with whether or not they're the key element of a scenario. (You could also deliberately do that: If

Third: Prep and run your games in such a way that your players learn that "unprepped" and "off-the-expected-course" are not synonyms for "wrong way". This can take some time and effort, but I've had unimportant and unprepped NPCs become long-term focal points of entire campaigns on enough occasions, for example, that my players no longer bother distinguishing between prepped and unprepped content (either consciously or unconsciously) because it's a distinction without meaning in terms of how the game plays out.

 

Thanks to Tony Williams I re-thought my approach to ToC and studied it more closely. I intend to run a ame in a near future using ToC rules with minimum changes (more lethal damage to spice it all up, some minor changes in skill list and no pillars/sources because I don't understand their function at all). Yet I still have a question about spends. Yes, again. =)

 

It looks like ToC is very demanding to Keepers: the Keeper has either prepare many things beforehand or be a very educative person. An example:

In an old grotto under an abandoned church the players find an ancient figurine depicting a strange octopus-like creature with wings on its and tentacles on its face. The players gain the core clue: the same figurine was in Dr. Williamson's house! (it provides the players with a destination to move forward). But the players have not finished yet...

Player 1: I use History on this.. thing.. to find out about the same things being used in the past.

Keeper: Hmm.. You remember some stories and legends about local natives worshipping such thing.

Player 2: I use Geology to examine the thing.

Keeper: ok. It is made of a green stone, a deep sea-green color, very hard and heavy.

Player 2: ok, I've got it, but what is a material?

Keeper (remembering green stones he knows) well.. malachite?

Player 2 who knows more about stones: no, it can't be, because <blah-blah> but ok, let it be so. I also use my chemistry on it.

Keeper: Uh.. It looks like it is.. made of stone?

Player 2: ok, i see. I also use my Streetwise to find out about who can own the same thing.

Keeper: you remember a photo from a newspaper about a Triad leader. There was the same figurine in his cabinet!

Player 2: can I make a spend to find more about him?

Keeper: yes, of course. ,<blah-blah..>. So, ok. Are you going to dr. Williamson?

Player 1: no! Why should we? I vivsit a nearest reservation!

Player 2: And I try to get in touch with a local Triad.

Keeper: <horrifyed, pulling his hair out> WHAT???

 

I guess I don't really see how this is different from any other game. (I would never ask, "Don't you want to do this other thing?" obviously.) Players ask questions about the game world, you answer them. Players propose actions, you tell them how those actions turn out. What, exactly, do you find remarkable about it?

(I'm particularly baffled at the GM pulling out his hair because the PCs are following a really obvious clue that he has just given them. If you don't want a Triad member to have one of these statues, why did you just say that a Triad member has one of them?)

 

I ended up with simplifying the idea.

1) The players get the obvious clues without anything - no ability required, no spends. After all, you don't need to be a chemists to feel the smell of gas or to be a cop to find a dead body with a note pinned to its chest with a ritual dagger.
2) The players may use abilities to analyze what they've found or to find something specific.
3) The players spend points to influence the game.

 

As Tony says, you have successfully summarized the way GUMSHOE works.



#69 vincentVV

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Posted Today, 08:00 AM

I thought about a little different approach to investigative spends. Maybe it will be useful to someone and will help to understand the spend mechaics.

First, I don't like the word "clue". It distracts. Let's say, players obtain information. And in each case the information is presented in layers.

The first layer is an obvious information.

You have found an old worn book, written in foreign language. According to pictures - it is some kind of medical book.
Or
You have found a strange stone figurine.

The second layer is knowledge-specific information - you need a skill to get here.
(Medcine) The book is a surgery manual
(Languages) The book is written in Dutch
(History) The book is dated 1916 - a WW1 period
or
(Archeology) The statue is of Polynesian origin
(Geology) the statye is made of jade.

The third layer is a deeper-insight information, acquired by point spending

(Medcine) The pictures in a book discribe surgical experiences, forbidden since 1724
(Occult) Some pictures bear occult symbolism in them - the position of limbs, the picture of scars etc.
(Language) You can translate a book by stating that you have studied Dutch (well, most part of it)
(History) The book is a reprint of an older book, the author of a book is Benjamen VanDaalen, an 18 century genius surgeon, exiled for his "Inhuman practices"
Or
(Archeology) The statue is of pre-polynesian period! Maybe as far as prehistoric period!
(History) The same themes can be met in some statues from central Africa and North America.

And so on.

1) Obvious information
2) Skill information
3) Point-spend information.

That's all. You don't have a 1-point or 2-point-spent information. Each point spent gives you another piece untill you stop or untill the Keeper has no more.

Thinking this way it is easier (at least for me) to prepare clues.

Well, you still can make a spend to gain an advantage (to translate the book in 3 days, not in 3 weeks, or to find a fellow archeologist who would know more about the statue), but the basic premise is written before.