Saturday, October 19, 2013

30 Days of GameMastery--Day 16!

Past the halfway mark and heading home on Lindevi's "30 Days of GameMastering" challenge!  Let's do it!

Investigation and mysteries:  how do you use foreshadowing, red herrings, and keep the tension rising?

I'm actually going to defer a little bit on this one to my baby--Cold Steel Wardens--as I included an entire chapter on how to structure investigations to facilitate superheroic roleplaying in the Iron Age of Comics.  While I don't quite yet want to provide a full-text example from the book itself, I can give you a glimpse into my mindset.

A sample concept-map investigation from Cold Steel Wardens.
In essence, CSW divides investigations into three primary types:  pyramidal, concept-map, and timeline-based investigations.  Pyramidal investigations focus on the "piecing together of clues" to accrue ever-greater understanding of a given situation.  Concept map investigations focus on links between various NPCs, using conflicting and contrasting testimony to achieve an understanding of truth.  Timeline investigations occur in sequence, assuming that no interference takes place on the villain's part--naturally, this will be interrupted and interfered with by the PCs.

These three investigation types aren't the be-all or end-all of investigations, but provide a suitable framework which can serve as an outline for any aspiring investigative GM.  Each framework, as well, works best with a specific type of evidence used within that investigation.  Pyramidal investigations, for instance, work best with a preponderance of physical evidence, which PCs can use to 'ascend' the pyramid towards their goal.  Concept map investigations work best with eyewitness or testimonial evidence, as PCs can play one NPC against others in learning the truth.

The key thing to remember in terms of any investigative story arc is that your players cannot possibly achieve the understanding and mastery of their in-game personas.  A high-Intellect investigative vigilante specializing in forensic evidence will obviously find more information than their real-life counterparts.  While that vigilante may fail in his investigation, it's always best to give your players the benefit of the doubt, providing them additional clues to keep the scenario moving ever-forward.  After all, it's easy enough to throw in an additional challenge if the heroes get too close to the truth; it's much harder to do the inverse!

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