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Avoiding Investigation

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  • Avoiding Investigation

    Looking back at the two Vampire chronicles I've run, it seems to me like I have a consistent problem. Namely, I can't shake off a tendency to make the first stage of a story about a "whodunnit" investigation. I always put a mystery there, and have the PCs chase it for a while. Which is fine in general, but in Vampire it presents problems. Namely, it favours some skills over others - last time, I had an Ordo Dracul academic dominate the investigation, compared to an Invictus power-player and a minor criminal who had been Embraced literal days ago. Second, some vampiric powers make it very easy to obtain information - Dominate, for one thing. Or blood sympathy, in some cases. Which is as it should be, but it shuts down plots I seem to gravitate towards for some reason.

    I don't know why my planning gravitates towards this sort of thing, and I'm not sure how to change it in the event I run another Vampire chronicle. What sort of challenges have you provided to your players, and how have you made sure they allow for a wide variety of solutions?

  • #2
    At the risk of being obvious, to avoid that you could just make it very clear who did it in the first act.

    Some police procedurals do the same thing to show how the cops do their bit, but in a vampire game it can show the problem with cliques, misplaced loyalty, and the fear inspired by an elder with a lot of political sway and secret allies.

    Of course in that case, the players could just shrug it off. What could they do about it anyways? Is it really their job?

    In that case you might try to make a more road trip-like game. The Nomads book still has a lot of ideas usable in second edition, and you could avoid a final act whodunnit by making it more about the immediate problems. The Prince of this town won't let us leave until we find his ghoul, who disappeared the same night we arrived. Someone stole our car, and the shifty gangrel said it was a pack of werewolves. The sire of one of our coterie lives in this town and has sent us an invitation to his bicentennial Feast of a Thousand Frights. We woke up in the trunk with our car abandoned, the ghoul driver gone, and someone cut off Jim's hands, and he won't stop screaming about how he can feel what's being done to them.

    That last one may be a whodunnit.


    • #3
      Also, a whoddunit can be only the first stage of a mystery story. Imagine a story where they KNOW whodunnit, but not HOWdunnit, or WHYdunnit. Auspex can tell them So and So is a murderer, maybe they don't even know who it was dunto?
      Additionally, simply knowing someone is guilty is very different from bringing them to justice. If the Ordo Dracul academic dominates figuring out who did it, the Invictus politician can leads the charge on convincing the primogen and prince that one of their peers should be punished. Evidence can disappear. You turned the story from a private-eye story to a police-procedural or lawyer show. You know who needs taking down, you know why, now you need to present the evidence in such a manner as to get the result you need. This is a wholly different thing than merely discovering things.
      How To Get Away With Murder is a great show that can give you some ideas about this second idea, about how what matters isn't always finding out whodunnit, but twisting facts so that Who ends up dun themselves. At least the first season. It starts off by showing you exactly whodunnit, and over the first half of the season, you discover how, why, and who they dunnit to, while watching other gripping court scenes, and then the second half of the season deals with the fallout of the act, with just as much drama and influence.


      • #4
        Good points all. The obvious answer is to give players a clear situation that they have motivation to change, instead of having them find out what it's all about first. I guess I just sort of automatically slot into a mystery plot when I start working.