Investigation Game - Myth-Weavers


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Investigation Game

   
Investigation Game

It's been a long time since I last tried to GM a PBP game, but a few months ago I came up with an idea that I really like. I've been working on it ever since, but I'm at a point that I could use some help from folks with experience. The game is supposed to be heavy on exploration and investigation. I've never done the investigation angle, so I'm hoping to call upon some of the wisdom of the other MW GMs.

Let me add some tags for the game: Shadowrun 4e, 2050 Campaign setting, Once-off Module, Investigation Heavy, Combat lite.

If any of those appeal to you as a player, I ask that you not read further. I'll also view anyone posting in this thread as not intending to play. Since this is an investigation module, it goes without saying that spoilers will absolutely ruin things for you.

I'm going to go ahead and put up this post, then go into some details below in a second.

Alright, some nitty gritty: the game takes place in the Confederation, and the team will have been together for some time (in fluff, anyway). I'm going to insist of a balanced party with 4-6 members, and they'll either be built on the prime runner model, or I'll give them free knowledge points to spend in creation. Probably the latter. Starting location is Atlanta. I have two scenarios for the team's origin; a group with ties to the Extraterritorial Registry and Liaison Agency, or a free company motivated by more personal goals.

First snag: This game will move slow, at least in terms of how much pressure is on at any given time. Therefore I need to really ground them in the game. I've written out two fast runs that would offer some minor insight into later parts of the adventure, though not anything that I can't leave out. I don't want to do both of those at all, since I'm avoiding a "campaign" mentality with this game; i.e. I want a clear, finite ending, and pbp campaigns don't usually get to those. It's my hope that the game itself will consist of about one or two months of prep, then six months for the actual game.

My second idea for the pre-game is to open up RP threads for each individual, then engage in some rules-light personal stuff. Ideally this would help each player find and embrace who they are and what's around them so that the game isn't a vacuum in regards to backstory.

Second Snag: The actual investigation. There are limits to what I can convey through words, and there are things that I will need to bring to the players' attention. And then there are the things that I want to keep hidden, but which need to be accessible enough for them to discover on their own, but won't pop up on a random perception roll.

The only idea I have here is to pop up pictures whenever they enter a new area and add minimum text with it. Since the pictures would portray their environment, they could explore it a bit more as if they were there.

Downside: I have no idea where to find pictures like that. Google image has a finite amount of intelligence when it comes to that sort thing.

The games that inspired this run are Resident Evil, Parasite Eve, Dark Corners of the Earth, and the like. I hope that helps convey what I'm wanting to do there.

And... yeah. I think that's about enough to begin with. Questions, comments are all appreciated, of course.

@T_Zero
So over the years, I've learned that Shadowrun tends to die fast and hard here, usually during the legwork section of the run. When the majority of the run is legwork, well, it bogs down to super dead in a heart beat.

However, to have any shot whatsoever to make this work, you need 1) player buy-in (gotta have people who are interested in the legwork/investigation aspect of SR), 2) a well thought out scenario (can't help you there without details), and 3) Borrowing concepts a completely different ruleset.

#1 is easy - make it obvious what your run is going to be about, use Discord to keep tabs on the players, and hope to Ghost that people actually move with some degree of purpose. Also, be prepared to run with a much smaller group: investigation-focused SR is going to be rather niche for most of the SR fanbase.

#2 Well, I got nothing there. Partially because investigation stuff is boring to me (GIMME EXPLOSIONS!!!), but also no idea what kind of investigation this might be.

However, #3 is where I have ideas. It's called GUMSHOE - a fantastic rules-lite detective system. There's a variation of it called Trails of Cthulhu, designed for horror stories. What makes it work is this: the key clues are just given to the players when they show up in the scene and start investigating the correct things (talking to NPCs, checking this or that), while more information is simply locked behind having a skill or two (still no rolls, though). The importance here is that the key information the players need are not locked behind a dice roll.

The other bit about GUMSHOE is that it has fantastic advice for running mysteries/investigation games. I can't tell you more because while I thought it was nifty, my eyes glossed over reading it, which meant it wasn't for me to GM (again, I need a decent bit of action).

I'll summon @Actana to help out a bit more, since I think this is something he might have some knowledge of. Or at least a bit of advice.

Good Luck!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yamazaki View Post
I'll summon @Actana to help out a bit more, since I think this is something he might have some knowledge of. Or at least a bit of advice.
Probably do, but I'll keep it brief: Read GUMSHOE. If you like it, adapt its principles to your game. Night's Black Agents is an excellent sourcebook for running conspiracies, as it provides tools to creating and running a conspiracy in a nice and clean manner.

If acquiring NBA is out of the question, GUMSHOE still has an SRD that should provide what you need. It might seem weird at first, but it works very well to facilitate an investigative mindset from players, as they can actually rely on their skills instead of hoping they roll well.

And if you find any other games that deal in mystery, like InSpectres, give them a lookover as well. Lots of good ideas to adopt out there.

I'll give a +1 to adapting some of the Gumshoe principles to any investigation game. If you'll keep a few important investigative gaming principles in mind, you don't really need the Gumshoe system (though it is awesome). We do a lot of investigative gaming, and here is what works for me (and I'm pretty sure I got these principles from Gumshoe or just listening to Robin and Ken's podcast!).

Principle 1 - It is never fun to not get information in an investigative game. "I search the room." *rolls a 1* "You find nothing." is soooo boring, and kinda dumb. If they risked danger to enter the room (see #2 below), then the reward should be information. If you just love rolling the dice, then make the search roll (or whatever) not be about getting the information but about how much trouble the information is to get. For example, instead of "A successful search check = you get the clue" make it, "A successful search check means you get the clue quickly. A failed search check means you get the clue slowly . . . slowly enough to be discovered!"

Principle 2 - You enter into danger to get information, and that information should lead you to more danger and consequently more information. Rinse and repeat until the mystery is solved. Figure out which clues are "core" enough to lead the players into the heart of the mystery and thus into greater danger and build your scenario around those. The rest of the "non-core" clues are mostly a waste of time, especially in PbP.

I've read around this subject a little and B has the best principles down pat, though I'd add...

Principle 3 - Red Herrings are terrible in adventures. Whilst it might look really easy for you players aren't mind readers (and if they are you have a different problem ), your obvious fake clue will look just as real as the others and might take day (pbp wise) of frustrating effort. Whilst falase leads are intersting in TV and book thay just work in adventures so don't use them.

TK nailed it. You have to keep it reeeeeeaaaaally simple. Obvious clues aren't so obvious when they found them 6 months ago real time, because PbP is soooooo painfully slow.

@Yamazaki:
Quote:
So over the years, I've learned that Shadowrun tends to die fast and hard here, usually during the legwork section of the run. When the majority of the run is legwork, well, it bogs down to super dead in a heart beat.
Yeah, SR games die quick on MW. There are some SR boards out there, but the good ones few, in all honesty. Besides, MW is my favorite : )

1.) Yeah, I figured this one would be difficult. As above, my plan was to recruit slowly, and have personal threads, really small, quick missions, to find people who are as in to the world as they are to the system.

2.) I mentioned pictures above. That's actually because as I was writing the module up, I couldn't find something that really clicked. I want to impart atmosphere and a scene that is largely interactable. However, this would mean lots of shots of areas. Basically, I wanted to try and replicate the feel of RE and PE.

I know it's not practical. That's one of the reasons for this thread; to help me find something that is.

3.) Wow, yes! I've found the books you mentioned, and am reading through them now. I like what I've seen so far! : )


Quote:
Originally Posted by Actana View Post
...but it works very well to facilitate an investigative mindset from players, as they can actually rely on their skills instead of hoping they roll well.
Yeah, one of the first things I thought of was to exclude perception rolls, none of the important bits that might offer some juicy insight down the road.

Knowledge skills might provide useful context or additional information, but none are absolutely integral to finding out what's going on. Though they might save some bloodshed down the road ; )



Quote:
Originally Posted by Butchern View Post
Principle 1 - It is never fun to not get information in an investigative game.

Principle 2 - You enter into danger to get information, and that information should lead you to more danger and consequently more information. Rinse and repeat until the mystery is solved. Figure out which clues are "core" enough to lead the players into the heart of the mystery and thus into greater danger and build your scenario around those. The rest of the "non-core" clues are mostly a waste of time, especially in PbP.
1.) My thoughts were running the same way : )

2.) +

Quote:
Originally Posted by TiffanyKorta View Post
I've read around this subject a little and B has the best principles down pat, though I'd add...

Principle 3 - Red Herrings are terrible in adventures. Whilst it might look really easy for you players aren't mind readers (and if they are you have a different problem ), your obvious fake clue will look just as real as the others and might take day (pbp wise) of frustrating effort. Whilst falase leads are intersting in TV and book thay just work in adventures so don't use them.
3.) Hm. I didn't really plan anything that would be an out-and-out red herring, but had a few lines that would route the group the "hard way." So I may just cut those out.

How about atmosphere? Anyone found any techniques that help create tension that the players can respond to?

In PbP, no. You can give them good descriptions and you can continually put the characters in terrible danger, but it is almost entirely up to the players to create, muster, and feel their own tension. PbP is a medium where people create characters and then abandon the game. People ghost on games, forget they should even be posting, and pay so little attention that they have to be constantly reminded of what is happening. Tension is created when people care for their characters and don't want to see them suffer. Getting PbPers to care for their characters is purely an act of will on their part.

You can make it worse by not keeping a regular posting schedule, letting the game get bogged down, and not working to keep the stakes high, so I guess that would be a place to start.







 

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