Monday, October 29, 2012

Bits & Bobs & Voyeurism

So I was reading yet another fantastic article on Ephemera and the blogger started talking about the urges players get to poke into the various corners of the locations they find themselves in.  So true.  Especially of me.  I very much do that.  The article went on to say that normally the Keeper doesn't have the extra information to make all that searching worthwhile.  Oh, there's clues, potentially, but what about the general voyeuristic impulse to peek through someone's drawers to see if they hide pornography, jewellery, or snack bars?  Hmm?  Is that sated?

Generally, no.

There's a lot that can be learned about a person from the stuff they keep about them and there's certainly much to be said for letting players find it out if they have a mind to.  True, it's probably best to keep everything in a murder victim's home rather consistent with the clues so players don't run off on too many red herrings (videogames, flash PC, console machines, gaming posters looks far less like a vital clue than a single Super Mario Brothers cassette hidden behind the sofa).  But why not give it a bit more meat to the description other than 'ordinary apartment with wooden furniture from IKEA'?

Yes, it's a pain in the behind to have to come up with yet another thing on the fly but if you can take a minute to think about the NPCs it shouldn't be too difficult to think of something.  Anywho, read the Ephemera article to learn more.


  1. I think part of the impulse to dig through every last drawer and cabinet comes from video-gaming.

    There was an old episode of the web-comic Adventurers! in which the mage is baffled by the fighter breaking into a house and opening up the grandfather clock. The fighter responds "Where else would they keep their elixirs?"

    Video game RPGs tend to reward poking around every corner of the room to find hidden secrets. Newer ones may not have such specific or impressive rewards, but the level of details available reward that visceral curiousity of digging through someone else's stuff. It goes back, for me, to Neverwinter Nights, to some extent, but Morrowind really pushed things to a new level. There would be shelves, chests, drawers, cabinets and all sorts of things to dig around in, even in the humblest of homes. It wouldn't always be great stuff, rather the same bundles of shabby clothes, snack foods, nick-nacks and reading materials, but simply because it WAS there and there WAS a chance that you'd find something cool and valuable (or valuable to the player), there was no reason, other than time, NOT to dig through every last burlap sack in a home.

    Unfortunately, DMs don't have the luxury to stuff every room full of odd assortments to be found by the klepto or voyeur types. Sure, there are charts, but it's not quite the same. Really, it depends on knowing your players, what they'd look for and what they'd expect to find, and try to meet some of those expectations. Unless you want to discourage such voyeurism, in which case traps and scant rewards may dissuade such players from slowing down the game too much by looking for loose change in every straw mattress.

    1. Deus Ex was pretty up there as well. Oh, all the computers I hacked just to read people's emails.

  2. This phenomenon reminds of playing Ultima 7 Part 2: Serpent Isle. In both Ultima 7s (and many other games) I would always poke around in every drawer, chest, cabinet, etc. and move stuff around to check if anything was hidden underneath. At one point in this game, your character (the Avatar) is arrested and put on trial for something you didn't do. Witnesses are called to testify against you, and one of them reports having seen you going through drawers, chests, and the like!