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  • Perception Hack

    I've started running a Hunter-type game using Chronicles rules, and one thing that really struck me was how difficult it is to move through scenes if the players spend too long dawdling on minor details, so I've started experimenting with perception and clue-collection. Here is what I've started using:

    Perception is a pool like Willpower. You get a number of dots equal to your Wits + Composure. If there's a basic clue in any given scene, you find it. You can spend Perception like Willpower, but every time you do, you enhance your understanding of the scene or clue in question. For example, you might find a bloody handkerchief in a scene where someone went missing, and spending a point of Perception reveals tracks that vanish into thin air, and another point reveals that the handkerchief is antique, almost a museum piece, and there's only a couple places in town where one of these might have come out of.

    You can spend Perception to ask questions of the storyteller on a one-for-one basis.

    You can also roll Perception; it gives you Perception points to use in the scene on a one-for-one basis.

    Trained Observer gives you one extra point per rank (up to +2 Perception) and lets you do all the stuff the merit already does.

    Perception recovers once a day like Willpower. It also recovers completely when you solve a mystery!

    It's been working pretty well so far.

  • #2
    If I were to hand this to my players, I'd first remove mentions of Willpower. I'd hate for them to think they get extra dice :P

    This seems like a 'hack' to eliminate critical thinking and deductive/inductive reasoning from an investigation scene, please correct me if my interpretation is wrong. The players get a resource pool to skip looking for clues/researching clues and get the answers they're looking for. In an entirely average troupe of four with average attributes, there's 16 perception points floating around at a minimum, allowing for up to 16 free clues, with 4 free clues per day thereafter until the mystery is solved.
    The fluff may be that they worked to get there, but the mechanics say otherwise; again, please correct me if I'm wrong.

    An easy fix to this glut of points (assuming it's there) is having the players have to roll their total perception every day: the total number of successes will be their Perception pool for the day. That way players will have smaller individual pools, and will think twice before expending any.

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    • #3
      "Like Willpower" is only there to explain how it's kept and stored.

      This hack is to eliminate those instances where you roll Perception or Investigate rolls and then fail them, thereby preventing the scene and the story from moving forward.

      "Looking for clues" is an action that can fail, and nothing brings the game to a screeching halt faster than that, and as an ST, you're going to be fudging things around because there's something you want the players to find, but they can't read your mind or the dice hate them. It doesn't provide the answers, it just gives them the clues.

      Players can't read your mind. They don't know what they're supposed to be looking for in any given scene, and hiding clues from them because they forgot to hold the werewolf upside down to see if he could read the words in the mirror on the bottom of the eighth chair to the left is a surefire way to bore them and yourself. By the same token, I can't read the players' minds. This offers a resource that can be exchanged in return for asking and answering questions on both sides of the screen. PCs are also often well educated. If there's a doctor or detective in the party, I don't expect the players know how to be one of those things, but a medical doctor ought to be able to look at a wound and tell you how it was made, and a detective ought to be able to look at a murder and tell you generally what the killer was thinking, typically without a roll.

      Researching clues still works the same way, all this lets you do is find the clues themselves without the "mother may I" game of investigating a scene.

      This mechanic is meant to prevent a group of people going into a room and wasting session time looking at the wrong shit, chasing red herrings, and forgetting to look in the one spot you put something important, and more meant to provide the "Mulder walks into a crime scene and immediately looks for/finds the syringe needle in the pool trap, schools the local cops on cult activity, then we move on to the actual scene of Mulder looking for the vampire to interrogate" experience.

      So, no. It doesn't stop them from having to research what they don't know, but it does prevent dragging the game down with superfluous rolls.

      I'm also running lots of investigative scenes. I'm running non-supernatural murder/espionage/conspiracy stuff and there'd be a lot of instances already where if someone failed a Politics, Perception, Investigate, Occult, or Science roll the entire Chronicle would come to a grinding halt and result in PCs just standing around.

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      • #4
        The solution to that kind of bottleneck is much simpler. Don't have the continuation of the plot hinge on one clue. Don't even have it hinge on three. If the plot is completely incapable of moving forward, either through an unfound clue or a clue too obscure to parse, then you as the ST have created a barrier rather than an intriguing puzzle. It's not fudging things to have the werewolf smell something or have a professor recognize greek lettering without a roll.
        You're right, the players can't read your mind. You shouldn't have a clue so difficult to time or figure out that they can't puzzle it out, nor should you expect them to find it, or the next one.

        As for a medical doctor examining a wound, if you want him to notice something odd just mention it: he has the training, and if it's important why roll for what would reasonably be a rote action? You're expected to remember this during play, and if you need a mechanical reminder that's fine. By no means is this a bad system, but if you remove the risk of failure you remove the value of progress in character/player investment beyond the superficial "look at my new shiney".

        It sounds to me like you're suffering from too much roll-play, asking for too many throws of the dice where the characters should probably just know what's happening. You've taken all the actual investigation out of Investigation Scenes, and given them a jigsaw neatly labelled "Clue 1", "Clue 2", et al., where the players only have to slot things into place.

        If this works for you, great. I mean, homebrew is my jam. However, success should probably just be assumed in many actions through play anyway: rolls are supposed to be for risk of failure or danger only. If a clue carries neither, it's not a clue: it should just be an announced part of the scene anyway.
        Last edited by Necrophear; 03-21-2017, 09:26 PM.

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        • #5
          Because there is a relationship forged between "I succeeded on a roll, I get a important clue that is vital in winning the game and would be otherwise missed, thus I feel rewarded and satisfied about my choices", which also works for "I spent limited resource, I get a important clue that is vital in winning the game and would be otherwise missed, thus I feel rewarded and satisfied about my choices". They are much more visible and easier to put in play than "I made a character generation choice of being a doctor, thus I obtained a clue"; basically, getting info for free often looks cheap and being "softballed" by GM, while spending resources or "winning" a roll is easier to be accepted as a result of you being an active actor who "worked hard" to get it.

          For better or worse, rolling the dice is an important ritual for many players that is vital for making it like they "deserved" whatever the roll unlocked, and thus is tied closely to their satisfaction. It's the ability to make something happen, as opposed to just being given something.
          Last edited by WHW; 03-21-2017, 11:17 PM.

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          • #6
            This is a cool idea, but I do feel like it's trying to fix something that isn't broken. Clues are already impossible to miss by RAW. If you look at the roll results listed for the Uncover Clues action, every possible result ends in the players finding a Clue. The roll is made to determine how many Elements what Tags (if any) the clue has. This also has the knock-on effect of clearly telegraphing to the players when they're barking up the wrong tree, because a roll that results in no Clue being found always means there isn't a Clue to be found and they can focus their efforts elsewhere instead of wasting their time on useless endeavors. Which YMMV, but I consider to be a huge positive.

            This is, by the way, the thing that eventually sold me on the Investigation rules. I like Clues-as-Equipment, and I like the "failing forward" approach the Uncover Clues roll takes (despite hating the term "failing forward"). I don't like that Clues are arbitrarily limited in the number of times they can be used, and I don't like spending Elements to "Uncover the Truth", so I just make up some positive Tags to give to Clues for Exceptional Successes and leave Elements out of the equation entirely. But the core idea behind the system is a good one, and I think addresses what you're trying to do with this hack.
            Last edited by Charlaquin; 03-22-2017, 12:05 AM.


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            • #7
              Meh, I've always preferred a good ol' knowledge board for mysteries.

              But if you're going to borrow mechanics from somewhere, it might as well be Gumshoe.


              I have decided, after some thought, that I don't really feel happy on these forums. I might decide to come back to post. Who knows - but right now, I'm gone.

              So good bye, good luck, and have a nice day.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by WHW View Post
                For better or worse, rolling the dice is an important ritual for many players that is vital for making it like they "deserved" whatever the roll unlocked, and thus is tied closely to their satisfaction. It's the ability to make something happen, as opposed to just being given something.
                And I definitely like giving my players the ability to do things.

                Charlaquin makes some good points - I don't actually have the Chronicles of Darkness core book, I just have the God Machine rules update, and the one I have doesn't go over the Uncover Clues action. If I'd found it first, I'd definitely be using it that way, though.

                I was also thinking I might expand it a little further and allow it to be used to turn successes into exceptional successes on skill rolls (definitely not power rolls, though). Right now I'm passing out actual poker chips at the start of the session (white for willpower and green for perception) and it's made players leery about spending either of them, since there's a physical object they have to pass me, and I'm looking for more ways to drain them, which I see as a good thing. I've also been toying with using Perception and Willpower as bribes in addition to beats for accepting failures and the like.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by amechra View Post
                  Meh, I've always preferred a good ol' knowledge board for mysteries.

                  But if you're going to borrow mechanics from somewhere, it might as well be Gumshoe.
                  Wait this is a mechanic somewhere already?

                  *looks up*

                  I guess I'll go lighten my wallet.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by raygungoth View Post

                    Wait this is a mechanic somewhere already?

                    *looks up*

                    I guess I'll go lighten my wallet.
                    I honestly thought you'd seen it before.

                    Gumshoe has a much more intricate version of your hack - essentially, all the investigation skills act as their own pool of Perception, with different thematic benefits. But otherwise, same key idea - if you're running a mystery or an investigation, finding the clues isn't the interesting part.


                    I have decided, after some thought, that I don't really feel happy on these forums. I might decide to come back to post. Who knows - but right now, I'm gone.

                    So good bye, good luck, and have a nice day.

                    Comment

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