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stepanxol

About clues and point spends

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GBSteve

That kind of stuff is gold dust. I love players who come up with this sort of thing. I see more of it in NBA, partly because the rules encourage it, but I'm very happy for players to create things with their pools. That's why I love playing GUMSHOE, there are so many ways that players can create things in the world.

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csmithadair

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?

So, one thing that both clarifies and obscures how spends for clues work are scenarios. Part of this comes from different play and design styles for individual writers. This is fair enough--there are a number of ways to approach dispensing clues, depending on personal Keeper and group taste, etc. (A similar variance happens with any game system, but it's a bit more obvious in GUMSHOE.)

 

Your example here is from a Graham Walmsley scenario. His particular view is that core clues are free but any other clue requires a 1-point spend. So in Manesty,seven of the clues cost one point each, and the core clue is, of course, free.

 

In THE DYING OF ST MARGARET'S and THE WATCHERS IN THE SKY, the first two scenarios of his, this is explained in the introductory material. I only have THE DANCE IN THE BLOOD as part of THE FINAL REVELATION collection, so I don't know if that had the same sort of explanation when it was published by itself.

 

Basically, it's just Walmsley's scenarios that are presented in this style. In other scenarios, point spends are called out and specified. You may see a reference to Library Use finding the book, a 1-point Latin spend translating the information, and a 2-point History spend noting that a particular passage contradicts established history wildly. So, you as Keeper know you are dealing with clues that 0, 1, and 2 points respectively.

 

It was in published scenarios that I first realized that a non-core clue didn't necessarily require a point spend. The inference I (and many others) make when reading the rules is that core clues are free and that other clues require spends. But the actual situation is that while all core clues are free, not all free clues are core clues.

 

As for how you should handle Manesty and the rest of that scenario, make the core clues free. As for the others, you can either charge a point for each of them (which is how it was designed) or vary it as you like. Certainly, it's easiest, especially while getting used to the system, to just charge a point each time.

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stepanxol

Thanks a lot, Christopher, for your extremely detailed explanation. After reading the whole thread I had arrived to the same conclusion, but it's nice to see you expose it so clearly!

 

(Of course, the whole thing opens another can of worms, ie: if as Keepers we actually want players to get all the clues, at least the ones they're clever enough to discover, and to this purpose we generate characters well-endowed with points and we encourage players not to hoard them, why are we asking them to spend points, a scarce resource, to begin with? I already know the response: player participation and balancing of the "spotlight time". But wouldn't the abilities' distribution already take care of this? Clearly only the archaeologist is gonna use Archaeology, even if the tough cop's player has the tendency to grab a little too much screen-time for himself. But this is a minor point, and it's never going to actual come up as long as there's plenty of points to spend in the pool...)

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Tony Williams

But the actual situation is that while all core clues are free, not all free clues are core clues.

 

A very good piece of info to remember ( and I think this is what caused the official GUMSHOE canonisation of the "Zero-Spend Clue" with the publication of Esoterrorists 2nd Edition ).

 

Now, if they could just stop lumping point-spend clues in the "Benefit" category I'd be a happy camper; they're CLUES!!!

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Tony Williams

(Of course, the whole thing opens another can of worms, ie: if as Keepers we actually want players to get all the clues, at least the ones they're clever enough to discover, and to this purpose we generate characters well-endowed with points and we encourage players not to hoard them, why are we asking them to spend points, a scarce resource, to begin with? I already know the response: player participation and balancing of the "spotlight time". But wouldn't the abilities' distribution already take care of this? Clearly only the archaeologist is gonna use Archaeology, even if the tough cop's player has the tendency to grab a little too much screen-time for himself. But this is a minor point, and it's never going to actual come up as long as there's plenty of points to spend in the pool...)

Robin's optional rule in the Enchiridion of Elucidation called No Spend Investigative Spends answers this problem more or less.

 

It allows the clues to go to any investigator with the required ability - they don't have to spend points - it shares the clues fairly if more that one investigator has the same ability - but lets investigators who invested more heavily in the ability get the "juicy" clues. No investigative pool points are actually spent using this rule, except if the player wants to propose a Benefit.

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csmithadair

Robin's optional rule in the Enchiridion of Elucidation called No Spend Investigative Spends answers this problem more or less.

 

It allows the clues to go to any investigator with the required ability - they don't have to spend points - it shares the clues fairly if more that one investigator has the same ability - but lets investigators who invested more heavily in the ability get the "juicy" clues. No investigative pool points are actually spent using this rule, except if the player wants to propose a Benefit.

 

Right. This first appeared as a recommended option for Mutant City Blues. It's not particularly more suited to a game about super-powered cops than any other GUMSHOE game (it's just where it first appeared), so it can certainly be used elsewhere. It sounds like a good option to try out, stepanxol, especially if you allow Investigative point spends for benefits. As it is, I've rarely seen a player not be able to spend points to get a clue (I may never have), so the dwindling resource tends to cause some anxiety that doesn't come to fruition (that's not necessarily a bad thing, until players notice.)

 

The fact is, if you have four or five players, there's going to be at least some overlap in Investigative abilities. (And even with three players, if they're like mine, everyone grabs Assess Honesty.) This overlap likely increases if you award build points. So, protecting spotlight time is important, especially when you have players with varying degrees of forcefulness.

 

A very good piece of info to remember ( and I think this is what caused the official GUMSHOE canonisation of the "Zero-Spend Clue" with the publication of Esoterrorists 2nd Edition ).

 

Yeah. I recall pointing this out several times on this forum (and probably others) over the years, though it doesn't seem to come up as often now. For one, I've advised those making conversions from Call of Cthulhu to be liberal with the free clues. A good candidate for shifting clues to free is when you analyze your ability usage and see something like Library Use requiring a spend of 10 points across the scenario.

 

It was always part of the rules, but it wasn't explicit until Esoterrorists' second edithen. The very first GUMSHOE scenario, in the first edition of that game, has numerous clues requiring no point spends. Looking at most GUMSHOE scenarios (including those by Laws and Hite) reveals the same--the preponderance of clues in many scenarios are free. But when even another writer for the game seems to have not noticed, there's a problem.

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stepanxol

Hi guys, I wrote a quick introduction to the GUMSHOE system for my ToC pbp players, highlighting what I believe are its main points.

 

https://www.rpgcrossing.com/showthread.php?p=7181129#post7181129

 

What do you think of it? Is it correct / useful? Did I make so many mistakes, this is actually harmful to the comprehension of the system? :D

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Tony Williams

I think that is a very good introduction to the game and a nice explanation of the difference between using Investigative Abilities versus General Abilities ( and I like the example of using an investigative ability to get a bonus on a general ability - the flattering of a maid for a better escape route ).

 

The only change I would suggest is changing what you call "skill values" to "ability ratings" ( to correspond with what the rulebooks call them ). Also change any other mention of "skill" to "ability."

 

Well done.

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vincentVV

I have something of a quite uncomfortable observation...

 

The whole GUMSHOE system is based around getting clues.

 

It is said that if you have at least one point in investigative ability - you are a professional and an expert. So be it. You spend one point... The second point.. The third... and then what? You stop to be an expert as you are unable to spend more points? Doesn't it sound stupid?And the guys based the whole system around this and earn money.

 

While at the same time you can use the same engine with much more logic with ANY skill-based system (including CoC):

 

If you have any points in a given skill (or some minimum amount) - you get the clue.

 

If you want something more - you ROLL your skill and get additional information if you succeed. It is fair. It is more logical. If you are an expert - you are always an expert, not only as long as you have abstract "points".

 

What I want to say is that because of the above written the whole GUMSHOE system looks like selling baloons to players. They are nice-looking, they are vivid, but inside they have the same air everyone can breath. So, IMHO this is a major and critical disadvantage of a GUMSHOE system: it gives you what you already have but says it is unique while it is not.

 

Yet, it also has an advantage - their adventures are really well-written and layed out.

 

But posing a "spend-get the clue" mechanic as something revolutional? No way I buy into it...

 

All this is just an IMHO after all.

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Tony Williams

For starters there are only 2 times you need to hand over Investigative pool points - for a Benefit ( which is not what you are criticising ) or for a Point-Spend Clue.

 

All of the other 4 clue types don't require handing over pool points, and an investigator with the right skill would get those clues whether they had pool points remaining or not.

 

Point-Spend Cues are not intrinsic to solving the adventure mystery (they provide ideas about motivations or the reasons things are happening, but not where to go and investigate next).

 

You have not understood the reason for Investigative pool points. They are not a measure of how competent the investigator is - they are a limiting factor on how much "cool screen time" the investigator can show off in that particular skill during the adventure. If I have run out of my stock of Chemistry pool points then I must, by definition, have already had times during the adventure where I have either earned Point-Spend Clues in Chemistry or twisted the narrative in my favour in a Chemical way by proposing a Chemistry Benefit. If I have run out of Chemistry pool points then it's time for another investigator to show how good they are at Chemistry because I've obviously been showing off my Chemical skills enough by now.

 

And the guys based the whole system around this and earn money.

What I want to say is that because of the above written the whole GUMSHOE system looks like selling baloons to players. They are nice-looking, they are vivid, but inside they have the same air everyone can breath. So, IMHO this is a major and critical disadvantage of a GUMSHOE system: it gives you what you already have but says it is unique while it is not.

But posing a "spend-get the clue" mechanic as something revolutional? No way I buy into it...

 

P.S. Your language is pretty emotive, I suggest dialling it down a bit.

 

P.P.S. Your analogy with CoC/BRP doesn't hold up either; I've got 75% Chemistry - so I'm a Ph.D level. I roll for my first clue in Chemistry and get 79% - I'm not so smart now am I ?

For my next clue I roll 82% - my fellow investigators are thinking I bought my Ph.D. from an on-line university.

For the third Chemistry clue I roll 91% - well I guess I may as well rip up my Ph.D. certificate.

Now the chances of that happening are only about 1 in 50 but it could happen.

Under GUMSHOE rules I would have got at the very least the first clue for certain ( and maybe all three if I had enough pool points or they were anything but Point-Spend Clues ).

 

P.P.P.S. There is even an optional way of playing GUMSHOE called "No Spend Investigative Spends" which means you don't hand over Investigative pool points for Point-Spend Clues either ( you only pay pool points for Benefits ). 

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GBSteve

You'll also see in the more recent incarnations of CoC and DG that the flow of information problem has been addressed. It was something that keepers had their own ways of fixing but I've played a 7e game where the GM has asked us to roll different skills until someone gets the clue (make a Luck roll). It's frustrating and it's nice to have it written down in a simple way.

 

There's also the balancing act of giving everyone a go and not using a hammer all the time because it's your best tool. GUMSHOE is not a strict simulationist game.

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numtini

Yeah, the latest iteration, The King In Yellow RPG, completely removes spends from investigative abilities. You get two non-specific pushes to use for secondary things related to your abilities, but which aren't clues. 

 

People either love or hate gumshoe. Nobody seems to be in the middle. But, it's not like Pelgrane owns the license and is pulling it from Chaosium and shutting CoC down. It's not even the primary Mythos game. But really, as someone who's come to love it, the idea that the only reason we play it is this clue thing is a bit of a straw man.

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GBSteve

I very much dislike BRP, but I'll still play it.

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Mograg

Speaking generally, I've struggled with implementations of various rules across various systems for some time. I have an urge to 'get it right,' or at least as the author(s) originally intended, even if I later decide on various hacks and work-arounds at my local table.

 

I've come to love the Cthulhu Dark rpg, which with its uber-stripped-down rules, gives the players great agency without getting tangled up in the weeds.

 

When I think of Cthulhu Dark, I think of the quote by writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery: "Perfection is Achieved Not When There Is Nothing More to Add, But When There Is Nothing Left to Take Away."

 

The core Cthulhu Dark rules are free, too!

 

http://www.catchyourhare.com/files/Preview%20-%20rules.pdf

 

Currently I'm running Chaosium's 'Horror on the Orient Express' campaign for two separate play groups. One group is fine with the stripped-down rules approach of Cthulhu Dark. The other group demands more mechanics and we're powering the campaign with Call of Cthulhu 7th edition. And both campaign experiences are terrific fun.

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The_Tatterdemalion_King

It is said that if you have at least one point in investigative ability - you are a professional and an expert. So be it. You spend one point... The second point.. The third... and then what? You stop to be an expert as you are unable to spend more points? Doesn't it sound stupid?And the guys based the whole system around this and earn money.

Your rating in the ability doesn't get lower as your pool does. In the original system writeup, the point-spends aren't reflective of anything your character chooses to do or expends in the game-world, they're just a kind of 'fate point' for getting extra benefits.

 

It is said that if you have at least one point in investigative ability - you are a professional and an expert. So be it. You spend one point... The second point.. The third... and then what? You stop to be an expert as you are unable to spend more points? Doesn't it sound stupid? And the guys based the whole system around this and earn money.

 

Really the money isn't in the system — you can get that free.

 

While at the same time you can use the same engine with much more logic with ANY skill-based system (including CoC):

If you have any points in a given skill (or some minimum amount) - you get the clue.

See also minor, significant and major skill checks in Unknown Armies.

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vincentVV

Ok.

First - thanks for your answers anyway. I also apologize if my posts look too emotional, I'll try to tone them down a bit.

Now on to ToC. =)

Tony Williams

Point-Spend Cues are not intrinsic to solving the adventure mystery (they provide ideas about motivations or the reasons things are happening, but not where to go and investigate next).

You have not understood the reason for Investigative pool points. They are not a measure of how competent the investigator is - they are a limiting factor on how much "cool screen time" the investigator can show off in that particular skill during the adventure. If I have run out of my stock of Chemistry pool points then I must, by definition, have already had times during the adventure where I have either earned Point-Spend Clues in Chemistry or twisted the narrative in my favour in a Chemical way by proposing a Chemistry Benefit. If I have run out of Chemistry pool points then it's time for another investigator to show how good they are at Chemistry because I've obviously been showing off my Chemical skills enough by now.


I understand it pretty well, although to me it looks more like "Spending points is all about the KEEPER telling you how bright and clever your investigator is. Something like playing a console game: you press the button O or X and then enjoy the cut-scene of your character doing cool things, not doing cool things yourself. =(
 

P.P.S. Your analogy with CoC/BRP doesn't hold up either; I've got 75% Chemistry - so I'm a Ph.D level. I roll for my first clue in Chemistry and get 79% - I'm not so smart now am I ?
For my next clue I roll 82% - my fellow investigators are thinking I bought my Ph.D. from an on-line university.
For the third Chemistry clue I roll 91% - well I guess I may as well rip up my Ph.D. certificate.
Now the chances of that happening are only about 1 in 50 but it could happen.
Under GUMSHOE rules I would have got at the very least the first clue for certain ( and maybe all three if I had enough pool points or they were anything but Point-Spend Clues ).


=)))
funny, but not exactly what I meant.

I suggested something like:
if you have a skill (in BRP, for example) - you get the main clue automatically.
After it you may roll to get additional information. I only meant that ANY game system can use such mechanics, not only GUMSHOE, but when the question arises - GUMSHOE is always positioned as a nearly unique game system "not about getting clues but about interpreting them" and that's what usually annoys me. =)

Mograg

I've come to love the Cthulhu Dark rpg, which with its uber-stripped-down rules, gives the players great agency without getting tangled up in the weeds.


I like it too, but it looks too universal and stripped down to me. )) "run or die" approach is not something many players can accept. =)

And, by the way, how do you deal with giving the clues to the players using CD?

The_Tatterdemalion_King
 

See also minor, significant and major skill checks in Unknown Armies.


Mmmm... sorry, what exactly do you mean?

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Aviatrix

Perhaps. But when I run Gumshoe (as I noted above), I tend to let the players come up with ideas and then I may price them as an Investigative spend. And sometimes this can have interesting results because of people's skill sets.

 

For example, in my Tatters of the King remix, the PCs were in an alleyway with a couple of thugs and a guy who was a pretty callous and brutal killer. One PC pulled out her gun and fired a warning shot in the air. In such situations, a lot of time I let an Intimidate spend get rid of lower-morale opposition--in this case, the two thugs might run away.

 

Me: Okay, you have Intimidation?

Player: ...no.

 

So what happened is: the thugs called her bluff; they could tell she didn't really have it in her to start gunning them down if they didn't run, so one fired back at her. At which point the PC who had 2 points of Intimidation spent them to tell them to scram with a growl he had brought back from Africa with him. They scampered :-)

 

That's not a world-beating example, but it does show a certain flow: Player initiates idea; I check to see if a relevant Investigative ability might make said Idea happen; I offer the price, and maybe they can pay it, or maybe they come up with something else. I do also use the regular bonus spend, but a lot of times when I'm writing up my own material they definitely fall more into the "here's a way to make what you find even more effective" than "cut scene if you click on the blinking red dot."

 

When I ever get around to formalizing my ideas about Gumshoe, I'll probably build things with the assumption that just using an Investigative ability is basically "success with a cost"; in Apocalypse World terms, a 7-9 result. That is, you get what you want--the clue--but something in the narrative will change. Like, Library Use, the obvious result is "you find it, but it takes a long time" whereas with a spend you get the clue with little time lost. This will nest nicely with my existing ideas about margin of success benefits for General skills, but are beyond the scope of this thread :)

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Tony Williams

I understand it pretty well, although to me it looks more like "Spending points is all about the KEEPER telling you how bright and clever your investigator is. 

 

What Aviatrix described above is what I would say GUMSHOE calls a Benefit (one proposed by the player, not the Keeper). A Benefit is where the player says how the narrative will change and pays a pool point in a relevant Investigative ability. As long as the proposed narrative twist will not break anything (fictional reality, suspension of disbelief or the logistics of the scenario) then the Keeper should be disposed to grant the Benefit. I would say that is very much the PLAYER saying how cool they are (not the Keeper) when spending an Investigative pool point.

 

Another example from Pelgrane's The Dance in the Blood scenario: a sacrificial knife is an element in the plot - the players knew it had gone through Sotheby's at one time. A player proposed that they had a reliable acquaintance working at Sotheby's by paying a point in Art History. They then wired their friend and the Sotheby's employee traced the knife to the buyer in the scenario for them.

 

Benefits proposed by the players are what I really like about GUMSHOE and the concept is not talked up as much as it should be. It allows them real agency in the game. I think it's one of the things that really need to be stressed to those players that come to ToC from CoC as they tend not to be used to having that much ability to twist the plot in CoC.

 

I suggested something like:

if you have a skill (in BRP, for example) - you get the main clue automatically.

After it you may roll to get additional information. I only meant that ANY game system can use such mechanics, not only GUMSHOE, but when the question arises - GUMSHOE is always positioned as a nearly unique game system "not about getting clues but about interpreting them" and that's what usually annoys me. =)

 

But then that is not how the CoC rulebook is written - I think it's a bit of a logical tautology to say, "You could play CoC like GUMSHOE so why bother to write GUMSHOE ?" If GUMSHOE wasn't written/published in the first place how would anyone know to play CoC like GUMSHOE ?

 

To make this more positive - what I like about GUMSHOE are:

 

i. Player proposed Benefits - gives players real agency and is a real wake up call to the Keeper that this player wants something and will enjoy the game if you give it to them.

ii. The fact that GUMSHOE wrote down in black and white that investigative RPGs need a solid path through the adventure that won't break ( by codifying what GUMSHOE calls Core Clues ). It makes scenario writers think properly about scenario design. It also allows Keepers to analyse and follow the flow of a pre-written GUMSHOE scenario more easily than a CoC scenario (generally).

 

I'm not hung up whether clues are given out by purchase rather than %roll. (In fact if I play CoC and miss my %roll for a clue I just feel pissed off and DON'T enjoy my time at the table - I put points into that BRP skill but the dice still made me miss the clue).

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Mograg

Hi Vincent (and all),

 

Handling clues in Cthulhu Dark, I try to follow the advice given in the rules: rolling a 6-sided die, on a one or two the investigators get the minimum information to move the investigation forward;a 3 or 4 result is a solid if unspectacular success;a 5 is a complete success and maybe a bit of an unanticipated boon or perk;a 6 is an almost preternatural success and maybe a glimpse into the hidden side of reality (often requiring a roll of the Insanity/Insight die).

 

If there's a risk of failure, a roll of the Fail die can be introduced, unless the clue is absolutely essential for the scenario to proceed, in which case the Fail die cannot be invoked that time. Even with failures, investigators can retry for success by including their Insanity/Insight die on successive attempts, risking madness to succeed at all costs.

 

Directly fighting a supernatural beast does equal character death. However there are lots of ways to defeat (or at least temporarily thwart) supernatural foes besides a slugfest or blazing away with a Chicago typewriter. And when fighting mundane opponents, sure, let fists fly and guns cough fire...you may put down the cultist or stomp the junkyard dog that way.

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JustinAlexander

I understand it pretty well, although to me it looks more like "Spending points is all about the KEEPER telling you how bright and clever your investigator is. Something like playing a console game: you press the button O or X and then enjoy the cut-scene of your character doing cool things, not doing cool things yourself. =(

 

 

There's a lot of different ways to use point spends in play. There are two ways to avoid what you're describing here:

 

1. Encourage the players to propose point spends with specific point spends (rather than just asking for generic point spends).

 

2. Use Matroyshka search techniques to frame point spends that set up advantageous situations while still allowing the players to carry the ball across the finish line and score the touchdown.

 

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vincentVV

Looks like I'm too tough with theory. Can we imitate an abstract example of play?

 

Say, one of the players has a drug store. The Keeper desides that cultists are in need of Liao drug, so they break into the shop and steal all the necessary ingredients.

 

Then the PCs arrive. How will it look like? I see it this way:

 

Keeper: You enter the shop. The door is forced, everything is upside down. Anybody has Crime Scene Analysis skill?

Player 1: I do

Keeper: Ok, with your trained eye you notice that nothing valuable is taken - money, drugs, some rare equipment, everything is in place. From your previous experience you know that buglary is usually committed at night  with little to no witnesses and money is usually the prime aim. Anybody got Chemistry?

Player 2: Me.

Keeper: As you look closer to the disoder you remember how the shop looked like before. You also see some empty places among the bottles and a little powder around it. Looks like one portion of mandrake powder, two portions of dried blood and some chalk have ben taken. A really strange combination.

Player 2: Can I spend Chemistry?

Keeper: sure. For 2 points you vaguely remember that all these ingredients are needed to create an arcane drug...

Player 1: Can I spend Mythos Knowledge?

Keeper: Yeah. It's Liao Drug.

Player 1 & 2: Wow...

 

Is it like that? If so than it looks no different than QTE for me. A Keeper's monologue with some corrections from players.

 

Besides, the benefit mechanics creates the need for the Keeper to write down 1 main clue and at least 2 or 3 additional clues for EVERY scene in case the players would like to make a spend. I don't remember anything like that in any official ToC adventures I've read. So I'm seriously confused as to how to create a ToC adventure that will suit the spend mechanics and how to keep such an adventure so that it doesn't look like I'm just telling a story alone.

 

Oh, well, ok, there can be an option of course:

 

Player 2: Can I spend 2 points of Police Talk? I have an idea.

Keeper: well... try.

Player 2: I suddenly remember I have a friend in Police. I'm calling him and ask to tell me about all the crimes concerning drug stores for the last month.

Keeper: Errr.. welll... ok, he tells you that.. hm.. there was only one such crime - a junkie stole some aspirine. (because in Keeper's plot there is no mass drugstorelifting and no logical need for it to be)

Player 2: Uh... hm.. ok then.

 

It all looks rather strange to me, honestly.

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Tony Williams

Vincent, it shouldn't play like that at all - download the Enchiridion of Elucidation PDF from the link in my signature and read pages 3, 4, 22 and 23. You might get a clearer idea of how it should be going.

---

Your first example should play like this:

Keeper: You enter the shop. The door is forced, someone has definitely been snooping.

Player 1: Damn, nobody disturb anything, I'll work the crime scene.

Keeper: In what way ?

Player 1: With my Evidence Collection ability.

Keeper: Ok, with your trained eye you notice that nothing valuable is taken - money, drugs, some rare equipment, everything is in place. From your previous experience you know that burglary is usually committed at night with little to no witnesses and money is usually the prime aim. The only thing disturbed is some bottles on a shelf, there's also some powder around the disturbed bottles.

Player 2: What's the powder ? I've got Chemistry ability.

Keeper: Looks like one portion of mandrake powder, two portions of dried blood and some chalk have been taken. A really strange combination. Do you want to spend a Chemistry point or an Occult point ?

Player 2: I haven't got Occult but I'll spend a Chemistry point.

Keeper: You remember that all these ingredients are needed to create an arcane drug called "Liao" but you don't know what it does, you read it was something occult, weird, or mystical. You thought it was nonsense at the time, but now...

Player 1: Can I use Cthulhu Mythos or Occult to know what Liao is used for ?

Keeper: Yeah, but you'll have to pay a Cthulhu Mythos point.

Player 1: OK.

Keeper: Liao is said to be used for "blah, blah, blah..."

Player 1 and 2: Wow...

---

In general in GUMSHOE it is the player that has to say they are bringing a specific ability to bear on a specific object/person/scene in order to get information/clues.

Only the most novice (or very tired or dopey) GUMSHOE players should need the Keeper to say "Who wants to use ability X now ?"

---

And your second example:

Player 2: Can I spend 1 point of Cop Talk for a Benefit ?

Keeper: OK, what is it ?

Player 2: I suddenly remember I have a friend in the police. I'm calling him and ask to tell me about all the crimes concerning drug stores for the last month.

Keeper: Ok, he tells you that.. several pharmacies have been broken into in the last month with the same pattern as your break in. No money stolen and only small quantities of very specific drugs stolen. The cops aren't placing a high priority on investigating because not much damage was done but he can tell you that all the break-ins are in the north west quarter of the city. He can give you the addresses and owners names if you want.
( Just because your scenario doesn't cope with the fact the players might want to call the police shouldn't stop you from giving them useful information if they do, especially if they spend a point for a Benefit. They can now go on from here to talk to other pharmacy owners who can possibly help them pin-point where the burglars are holed-up ).

---

Benefits don't require Keepers to pre-write extra spends for every scene - they are generally things proposed on the wing by the players and the Keeper works them into the plot. Literally the players think them up - not the Keeper at all. A Keeper only has to pre-write clues into their scenarios (Core Clues, Zero-Point Clues, Point-Spend Clues, Inconspicuous Clues and Simple-Search Clues).

However, that doesn't stop Keepers from pre-writing some proposed Benefits for the players to purchase into their scenarios if they want to.

Generally if a Keeper isn't happy improvising and only likes to stick to the written plot of the scenario then the Benefit mechanic will probably freak them out and they are best not playing GUMSHOE.

But, in my experience, those Keepers that aren't happy improvising are best going back to running dungeon crawls and steering clear of investigative RPGs.

===

And my final say on this as I don't think I can defend GUMSHOE much more... here is the first example rewritten as if played by CoC players...

Keeper: You enter the shop. The door is forced, someone has definitely been snooping.

Player 1: Damn, nobody disturb anything, I'll work the crime scene.

Keeper: Give me a Spot Hidden roll.

Player 1: Success!

Keeper: Ok, with your trained eye you notice that nothing valuable is taken - money, drugs, some rare equipment, everything is in place. From your previous experience you know that burglary is usually committed at night with little to no witnesses and money is usually the prime aim. The only thing disturbed is some bottles on a shelf, there's also some powder around the disturbed bottles.

Player 2: What's the powder ?

Keeper: Give me a Chemistry roll.

Player 2: Success!

Keeper: Looks like one portion of mandrake powder, two portions of dried blood and some chalk have been taken. A really strange combination. Give me another Chemistry roll or an Occult roll.

Player 2: Chemistry is better for me - Success!

Keeper: You remember that all these ingredients are needed to create an arcane drug called "Liao" but you don't know what it does, you read it was something occult, weird, or mystical. You thought it was nonsense at the time, but now...

Player 1: Can I use Cthulhu Mythos or Occult to know what Liao is used for ?

Keeper: Yeah, but you'll have to roll Cthulhu Mythos.

Player 1: Success!

Keeper: Liao is said to be used for "blah, blah, blah..."

Player 1 and 2: Wow...

There is little to zero difference in the input/output from the players and the Keeper in the examples above run under ToC rules as run under CoC so if you think that seems like a "A Keeper's monologue with some corrections from players" under ToC then it must seem the same way for you under CoC surely ?

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The_Tatterdemalion_King

if you have a skill (in BRP, for example) - you get the main clue automatically.

After it you may roll to get additional information. I only meant that ANY game system can use such mechanics, not only GUMSHOE, but when the question arises - GUMSHOE is always positioned as a nearly unique game system "not about getting clues but about interpreting them" and that's what usually annoys me. =)

Putting aside the fact that General Abilities are themselves different mechanics than you get in many games, the big thing that GUMSHOE does is make the split clear at character generation into binary skills and graded skills and differentiating the values of choosing one over another, instead of making you choose Forensics %s from the same pool of pts as your Firearms %s. As I've said before in this thread, the closest thing to GUMSHOE investigation processes (where it's a question-and-answer enframed by your character's areas of expertise) are OSR-style room explorations (where your character sheet has nothing on it to do with your ability to investigate the room, but it's a process of interrogating the environment through conversation sans rolling). 

 

Mmmm... sorry, what exactly do you mean?

Look at Unknown Armies 2e, pgs. 7 and 38. Minor skill checks are just comparing your % to 15. Significant checks are under your associated stat. Major skill checks are under your skill itself. 

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vincentVV

Tony Williams weeelll... I take off my hat in gratefulness. That was very detailed and clered much to me.

I think I have to take some time and reveiw my approach to ToC as well as the basic ToC rules.

 

As you put it out - the difference between ToC play and CoC is not so big. "I have Chemistry!" and "Roll Chemistry" affects gameplay very little - both don't distract players from the game (I thought all those "I spend points! I have Chemstry!" turn players away from the atmosphere a little more then rolling dice, but looks like I was wrong), both give out the same information in the same amount, so... yes. I will rethink my approach.

 

Thank you all very much for this discussion! =)

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JustinAlexander

1. As Tony pointed out, I would virtually never ask, "Does anyone have X?" and then just assume that their character took the requisite action. The GUMSHOE rulebooks are pretty explicit on this, too: You have to have the skill you need, but you also need to DO THE ACTION. So:

GM: The door has been forced open.

Player: I'm going to work the scene.

GM (seeing they have Evidence Collection on the Investigator tracking sheet): You find...

 

Not:

 

GM: The door has been forced open. Do you have Evidence Collection?
Player: Yes.
GM: Okay, so you work the scene and find...

 

2. In this scenario, I might require a point spend to figure out that it's specifically Liao Drug without a trip to the library or laboratory. (The spend would be saving time. Or maybe providing optional information if the identity of the drug is not actually important in the scenario.) You've got them spending 3 points to get what appears to be really basic information.

3. If the suggested spend can't actually pan out for whatever reason, the points aren't actually spent.

4. Although, again, I can't imagine making them spend ANY points on that use of Cop Talk even if it DID pan out. It doesn't seem like they're getting unusual information for the spend. Things that might merit spending Cop Talk points in that situation:

- A list of possible suspects to check out. (Gaining information otherwise only available elsewhere.)
- Getting a couple cops assigned to watch the store for them. (Non-investigatory application with beneficial effect.)
- Specifically having the cops spell out that the break-ins are to gain access to rare chemical supplies. (Making a conclusion for the PCs that they're struggling to make.)


 

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