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[CofD] Investigation and No Hard Answers

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  • [CofD] Investigation and No Hard Answers

    I've started a new Chronicles of Darkness game and generally love the changes made to 2e. Love the beats, love the conditions and tilts, xp costs, overall I feel everything changed for the better.
    My group follows the standard trope of occult private investigators ala "X-Files" so investigation, finding clues, and solving mysteries is at the heart of the game. This sounds pretty standard from what I've read.
    I tried to forgo planning out my crime scenes to the letter and give a more free form approach to clues as advised in the "No Hard Answers" section (p.77) which I think is a great concept... but hard to implement correctly. I was able to improvise clues as my characters did their investigation, which I think is a great way for the characters to control what they find and not just roll against a pre-made list, which is rather boring. However, I find it hard for the clues to "come together" so there is the grand "ah ha!" moment. I think my characters felt a little uncertain and generally have trouble stringing together clues, to no fault of their own. I have a hard time finding a balance between being cryptic and being blatant.
    I also don't fully understand clues being equipment and the elements and tags section. Perhaps I don't understand what a "clue" is. Is a clue something a character expends? Or aids in their rolls for further investigations? Does it mean I choose a number of clues and then they roll and I narrate their internal monologue piecing the clues together?
    Anyone have any advice or experience with the new investigation system?

  • #2
    I never liked the No Hard Answers approach. "Ah ha" moments tend to come from the fact that clues are smaller reflections of bigger picture. And if there is no pre existing truth, no "answer", there is no reason for clues to be there or make sense. I personaly detest this and would not want to play in a game where it's a standard procedure, because for me it's not investigating, no guess work, but simply making stuff up. But it's my pet issue.

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    • #3
      Thanks, WHW, for the feedback.

      So when you run investigation scenes, do you make a certain amount of clues to find; i.e. a list. Do X successes reveal X number of clues? Or do your descriptions become more direct?
      I am really trying to make an effort to not railroad my stories and scenes and trying to adapt to a more sandbox/free form play style (not yet successfully to my standards, ha). I am trying to adapt to the new rules and do like the approach of failures not being "You don't find any clues" since the clues move the story forward.

      I guess I'm looking for examples of how people run investigation scenes and how they prepare them. Sharing is caring!

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      • #4
        For me, most important thing is to "know" what happened beforehand. While I do plan out clues because I project certain expectations of what my players will find based on their skills, the fact that I have the whole "thing that is investigated" figured out in my mind allows me to give clues organically.

        Anyway, in order to use Clues rules, you need to understand Equipment rules first. In CofD, equipment is basically a fancy name for everything that can be arranged in order to penalize or help effort of characters towards certain specific tasks. Having a cute dress is equipment in an attempt to seduce someone; bad hygiene is negative equipment in the same thing. Arranging a mob to help you lynch a witch is building equipment.
        With that in mind, look at Clues as a equipment procured through use of investigative skills. They are pieces of information that can be used to help you achieve certain tasks. You can use them in two ways: either trade them as a +1 bonus to related roll, or to "solve" the Mystery by figuring it out.
        ...actually, I have a better idea.

        http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/m...ystem-question

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        • #5
          In general, Charlaquin offers a lot of great explanations on topics of CofD Core mechanics. I kinda wish she would do the Crafting and Chase system explanation and post a sticky "Babies First CofD Subsystem " with all these neat posts in one place.

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          • #6
            As ST, I also do not like, well... at least wording of 'No Hard Answers'. I go, myself, with 'limited sandbox' on Investigation system. And that means:
            1. As ST, I know what happened. I know who the killer is. I know how he killed victim. I know what the book read in the end needs to revel. Basically, I, as ST, know the end of Mystery investigated.
            2. Players can make any attempt on getting Clues that seems plausible. Talking to street homeless? Check. Getting 'rough' with one of witness that do not want to talk about matter? Check. Asking bird spirits how to view this wicked Grimoire? Check. Any means that will work in the game world can lead to getting Clues. Any dicepool that seems semi-logical can be used for getting Clues.
            3. For collected by PCs Clues I use myself prepared Clues Sheet - it nicely organised all you need on subject and you can easily fill up each Clue when PCs get them.

            With Clues being Equipment for PCs, I'm not shy to give them left and right, all session long - I just need to know where Investigation, in the end, need to go.
            Last edited by wyrdhamster; 03-11-2017, 02:58 AM.


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            • #7
              Originally posted by WHW View Post
              In general, Charlaquin offers a lot of great explanations on topics of CofD Core mechanics. I kinda wish she would do the Crafting and Chase system explanation and post a sticky "Babies First CofD Subsystem " with all these neat posts in one place.
              Thank you very much! That's not a bad idea, though it seems a bit self-aggrandizing to sticky such a thread myself. Also I tend to get into the specific mechanics to the point where, for example, you could probably run Investigations using that explanation without needing to own the book. Which might get weird featured as prominently as a sticky. But maybe I should collect them all in one place and link to them in my signature or something.


              Onyx Path Forum Moderator

              My mod voice is red. I use it so you know when I'm speaking in an official capacity, not as an indication of tone.

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              • #8
                As for the No Hard Answers bit... I have mixed feelings about it. It's not good for if you're trying to use the Investigation system as a tool for players to solve an already-written mystery. What it is good for is improvising mysteries on the fly, which is not everyone's cup of tea. It's not mine, for sure, but neither is the Investigation system in general, and I'm glad the tool is there for those who do like it.


                Onyx Path Forum Moderator

                My mod voice is red. I use it so you know when I'm speaking in an official capacity, not as an indication of tone.

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                • #9
                  Investigation system is still worth trying out, though. Even if not for actual mystery solving and building, it's a great and interesting way to reward characters for investigating stuff. I kinda ditched the whole "Mystery Solving" aspect and turned it into a specific kind of equipment that can be sometimes exchanged for non-dice measured benefits, like confirming or denying an information or enabling an action. Even when using it as written, it's better to have more Clues than needed to solve it - one, to allow a margin of error, and two, to allow people to spend their Clues for other benefits which potentially retards the action a little bit allowing it to flesh out.
                  One of reasons why I stopped using it for it's original purpose is because it's really hard to have a proper expectation on how much Clues you need to solve a Mystery and build a tempo around that. Six Elements worth Mystery might take a whopping six sessions to solve if no one in the party has any Investigation related merits, but Investigation related merits DESTROY Mysteries, possibly eating your Six Elements Mystery in two rolls. I assume the number of Clues people with these Merits get was supposed to allow them to have some room for spending the Elements for something other than solving the Mystery and still get enough to do so...but because difference in Clues-Generation between "no merits" and "even a tiny bit of merits" is so gigantic [your standard character can generate one Clue with one Element, period. Even generating two Clues per instance of Clue generation mens that you literally investigate twice as fast as other people] that you either setup a Mystery for non-merit people which will end up totally whacked by a person who has a merit or two, or you setup a Mystery for Meritable People which is so demanding that other people won't even bother participating.

                  Oh, and be prepared for the fact that a properly specced Investigation character can throw ridiculous dicepools. Character can spend an Element from a Clue for +1 bonus on a roll. You can spend any number of Elements from a number of Clues equal to your Investigation, and you can pierce the +5 barrier with these. It's pretty easy to generate Clues with at least two Elements, so Investigation 3 character can pretty reasonably expect to burn their stuff in order to add +6 to a roll. I actually like this as a Hunter mechanic.

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                  • #10
                    Re-read today No Hard Answers section in final CoD Rulebook and it's not this hard hitting like others pointed it ( probably was worded other way in pre-errata version of book ). Let's talk on the direct quote then:

                    Originally posted by CoD Rulebook, p. 77
                    Don’t settle on hard answers up front. As Storyteller, don’t devote too much energy to coming up with all the potential Clues and answers ahead of time. This could put you in a position where you’re railroading the players, and forcing them to go along with your plans. Or worse, they could get frustrated as the puzzle pieces aren’t coming together in a way they expect. Improvisation is your best tool in investigation.

                    Let the players have some say in the Clues they establish, and work with them to bring together the results in a way that makes sense for everyone. This will give them an investment in the story, and will take some responsibility off your shoulders. It will also help to cater the story to their specific interests and biases. When they succeed, ask them, “What do you find?” and let their answers inform the direction of your story. If you have a culprit in mind, that’s fine. However, let the players help guide the path to that culprit if at all possible.
                    On reading this all, especially bolded part - I can AGREE with almost everything. Improvisation is important. Players input on what they were doing to getting Clue is central. More organic showing of Clue in context of story is also important.

                    The only one thing I strongly oppose is 'What do you find?' question - it's asking players on solving the Mystery on their own. 'Just write the story we are all playing, I'm as ST just wait here when you will all the work.' ST know the end of Mystery - let him just spill Clues in the way your PCs are working for it.


                    My Hubs - MtAw 2E Legacies and System Hacks & WtF 2E Lodges and System Hacks
                    MtAw 2E - History of Awakened - (almost) canonical game timeline of events
                    WtF 2E - Alternative werewolves myths from around the world

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                    • #11
                      I feel like asking "what did you find" takes the mystery out of the mystery. You can have open ended clues without letting players decide what the clues are. If you didn't think a player would decide to check for fingerprints they now find some fingerprints. I think an open ended investigation is better described as "players don't pursue dead ends" rather than "players have input into the actual clues themselves."

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                      • #12
                        This is exactly why I say the sidebar doesn't work for trying to use the Investigation system to run players through a pre-planned mystery. What it does work for is collaboratively building a mystery from scratch as you go. If you as Storyteller already know the identity of the murderer (or whatever), asking "what do you find" doesn't work - you'll get players saying they find things that in no way point to the solution you had in mind, and it won't end up making any sense. What asking the players what they find can do, however, is allow them to participate in the writing of a procedural investigation story.

                        Think of it like asking the players in a 13th age game to each describe something interesting about the town they're visiting. If you already had a town mapped and its points of interest fleshed out, the players additions will only throw a wrench in your design. If, on the other hand, you started with only a few notes about the town like its name, rough size, and a general idea of what the adventurers are there to do, then the players' input will help develop the town even as it is being explored. Likewise, No Hard Answers will only throw a wrench in your mystery if you have a Hard Answer for it, but it can allow you and the players to write the mystery together even as it is being solved.


                        Onyx Path Forum Moderator

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                        • #13
                          Thanks for chiming in everyone and thanks for clarifying the equipment mechanic. Makes sense. I think I was over complicating things.

                          Yeah, I didn't really vibe with the "What do you find?" mechanic. I think that is a different kind of game where players make the story and STs are just "refs". I think WoD lends itself for more open ended play unlike D&D and others, but I like to try and paint within the lines as best I can mechanically.

                          Does anyone have general way that they lay out scenes?
                          i.e. in a generic murder mystery you have a killer and a victim. There is a crime scene with "3" clues - point on entry, murder weapon, and the body. So that it isn't railroaded you don't define how characters should go about investigating these but you do define what info they get from them. Point of entry was the front door without any sign of struggle implying that the killer knew the victim. Murder weapon could have forensic evidence, a serial number, or some sort of residue leading the characters to investigate another location. The victim could have defensive wounds, some signs of the supernatural, have a business card in their pocket, etc. The characters can basically find 3 "clues" which act as equipment for future related investigations and also give information in identifying and tracing down the killer. Does that make sense or am I way off?

                          I guess I'm trying to find a formula to build off of. I didn't find one in the core book (unless I glazed over it) and would like to find a structure to build off of. I did see the section that talks about a certain number of clue required before the mysteries are solved, but I'm not sure how heavy handed than implementation is. If the characters get 5 of the 5 required clues, do I blatantly read out what is going on? Am I their internal monologue? Or do my clues stand on their own and I allow the characters to piece it together themselves? A bit of both maybe? I find that my brain just works differently from my characters and often things that I feel are blatant don't come across to my players. I want them to feel empowered since their characters have strong investigative chops.

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                          • #14
                            If you are going to pre-plant Clues, plant more than needed. If you expect your players to find 5 Clues, plant 9. This has following effects:
                            - It's always smart to assume your players will miss certain percentage of prepared content and Clues. If you prepared exactly five clues and they need all five, it's very easy to hit a roadblock. Having more allows you to create multiple paths toward success, AND works as a security net for "derp we didn't think to check under the carpet". All Clues are obvious to the person who creates them.

                            - Having ten clues ready means that you can easily extrapolate a "new" Clue that still fits the bigger picture, so if a player approaches the scene from an angle you didn't expect, you probably had enough THINKING HARD about the scene to look at the clues, think a moment and be all like "yeah, you find this".

                            Also, ask your players what they expect from investigation scenes. No, seriously. Some players expect to do their brain work alone, others don't really want to do detective work themselves but want to play detectives and get their result narrated to them on silver plate. It's important to know what they want to so you can give it to them. Though in a lot of cases, they will say I WANT X, while really wanting Z. People often don't know what they want :P.

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                            • #15
                              The Alexandrian has some excellent concepts about clue design/placement, as well as modular scenes so you can keep a sandbox feel to a world isolated mostly to scenes and locations relevant to your ideal investigation path.
                              The Three Clue Rule
                              Don't Prep Plots
                              Node-Based Scenario Design pt1, pt2, pt3
                              Each set of concepts continues, as well.

                              They have a great number of excellent articles and points about narrative and scenario design, both from a Game perspective and a Story perspective.
                              Last edited by Necrophear; 03-16-2017, 09:04 PM.

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