Friday, September 30, 2011

Helping players out with Hard Mode Investigation

Investigation-based games are hard. You can't just run up to the enemy and roll dice at them until they go away. No, you have to find the clues, understand the clues, locate more clues, understand them, then put together a picture and figure out what to do about it. Add a horror element and it becomes all the more brutal as mistakes can be lethal if the players don't adequately search for clues before busting down that locked door to the room containing that shoggoth.

Its frustrating for players and it's frustrating for the Storyteller.

Introducing the Clue Token.

This handy little device can be rewarded for playing within the genre. Looking before leaping, exhaustively searching the crime scene, making a point to interview witnesses in a productive manner, using ingenuity to solve problems, using teamwork to surmount obstacles, avoiding pain the way real people do, exercising caution rather than just trying to roll dice at a monster until it goes away, showing the strain of the horror situation in character, retaining excellent in-game focus, or anything else that really helps the game.

They can collect up to three of these little babies and they can use them to get free hints of the Storyteller's choice that is to do with the situation at hand. The hints could be pointing out a connection between clues that went unnoticed. It could be negating a bad roll that meant they overlooked an important clue. It could mean creating new clues such as a witness that steps forward or having the password to that computer written down on a post-it note tacked to the side. It could even be letting them notice a particularly spacious closet they can hide in when they're being stalked through a building. Things like that.

I'm going to trial it in my game tonight using the clue tokens from the Arkham Horror Board Game to represent them. I'm going to give them a free Clue Token at the start of the session and tell them that this freebie will disappear at the end of the night in order to encourage them to use them rather than hoard them. Players sometimes never learn the value of new tricks like these because they save them for a rainy day and then forget about them.

Later ones they earn will carry on between sessions.

I'll tell you how it goes. If any of you guys choose to use this trick, let me know how it works out.


  1. Niiiice. It strikes me as similar to the Call of Cthulhu Idea roll, only you have to earn the wretched thing rather than just asking for it. I'll have to try this, maybe sitting alongside or folded into Savage World style bennies.

  2. hehe, it worked a treat! At the moment it's functioning as an Idea Roll the players can control but they automatically succeed at it. It also functions as BRP's Luck Roll as it may actually spawn new witnesses and clues. The players were thrilled and also really enjoyed earning them. I'm certainly going to keep on with them.