Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Investigator

The Investigator is a rare sort of player but one that I think I would absolutely adore, though I think I've only ever ran a game for one once or twice (an American visitor and first time RPer). They're an odd sort of player as they don't possess many of the problems that are generally talked about in ST and DM forums. They doubtless have problems of their own but may be rare enough that there are few complaints about them.

Now then, what exactly is an Investigator?

I guess they're the quintessential Call of Cthulhu players. They adore props, jot down notes, remember timelines, recall names, and due to all of these traits - they solve plots. Readily and easily. They're main trouble for the DM or ST is that you need to keep all of the details straight in your head or get very good at justifying things post-hoc as they will notice logical inconsistencies and plot holes. They don't like bouncing from one plot to the next as they've doubtless already invested a lot of effort in understanding the first one.

They rarely take risks because they can normally think up another way based on information they received a fair while ago. They tend to slow gameplay down as they methodically piece together information but they also speed up plots as they can solve them with admirable speed. The main risk here is that they'll solve the plot as soon as its placed before them so a more Thriller-based approach (you know who and what killed them, so now what?) can really work a treat. They'll also likely get frustrated with more rambunctious players that trash crime scenes, muddy clues, throw off witnesses through eagerness or aggression, and basically make their job harder.

You might prefer the Investigator role if your favourite characters were

  • Easily frustrated by other players rushing ahead and trampling all over clue trails.

  • Geared towards solving problems through skills such as Perception, Tracking, and Investigation.

  • The type who remembered everything so you kept a notebook.

  • The type who could keep timelines straight so you actually drew them.

  • The type who could find connections so you ever did a mindmap of all the information you had.

  • Eager to get their hands on any props so that you could peruse them.

  • Interested in solving puzzles.

  • Liked to take their time to methodically search for clues.

  • Talked to witnesses in a step-by-step way.

  • Similar to characters from police procedurals in the way they spoke or acted.

  • Very good at remembering names, in case they came up later.

  • The sort of person who would return to pick up abandoned plot threads later on to ensure that you finally got to solve them if you were distracted.

  • Bonus points if your character did that after the Storyteller had almost forgotten that plot line.

    They prefer STs who are...

  • Able to keep the timelines straight.

  • Interested in providing a number of clues.

  • Happy to give them time to solve the crime.

  • Willing to provide visible mysteries to solve.

  • Happy to let violence and combat take the back seat.

  • Okay with them solving a plot very quickly.

  • Keen to build actual props of documents.

  • Eager to include some forensic information and brush up on their own knowledge sets.

  • Willing to teach them something, perhaps about the era or the technology used.

  • Enjoy a more episodic format where one major plot line can be attempted at a time.

  • Going to include clue trails.

  • Capable of varying the pace through new clues, sudden revelations, and interesting witnesses.

  • Happy with a more subtle game.

  • Able to keep other players in check so that the Investigator gets the time they need to learn the information before they're sped away to the next scene.

  • Enjoy crafting puzzles.

  • Able to surprise them with the results of the investigation on occasion.

  • Willing to let the Investigator solve the cases if they get it right, however.
Fictional Characters that fit the type:

Sherlock Holmes.

Videogames that support the type:

Any adventure game that is a little clever about it and doesn't rely on simply trying to combine Object A with Object B.
So most of the Sherlock Holmes games.
The Last Express.
The Tex Murphy Series (i.e. Pandora Directive, Overseer).

So what do you think of that? Do you have an elusive Investigator in your party? Are you one yourself? Also, do you know of any other videogames that fit the type because I really enjoy those types of games myself.

You can find the links to all of the five playing styles over here.


  1. That's me! The only game I've ever really enjoyed as a player was Call of Cthulhu, and I recognise those sources of frustration from the last bit of d20 I played (it was Star Wars, I was playing an antique protocol droid who longed for the day when a mission could be concluded without violence, just once, and didn't get on with the shoot-first-ask-questions-later mercs in the party at all).

    I think you covered most of my suggestions with 'any adventure game', although I recall that it's possible to play through, say, Baldur's Gate a bit like that (i.e. not fighting unless you absolutely have to, which tends to mean you only engage with random encounters and set-piece boss fights). Maybe it'd be better said that there's enough plot, sub or otherwise, in games like Baldur's Gate to make an Investigator a happy one.

  2. I just realized that I haven't added the You might enjoy this role if... section. I'll do that tomorrow.

    hehe, yeah, I wish there were a few more Investigators out there. I love my players to pieces but I've just never had much of a shot to run a game for Investigators.