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Is or was the investigatives skills problem real in your games?


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I do no know whether I am beating a dead horse, or touching a taboo topic, please feel free to close the thread if this is the case.

Recently I have recconnected with a friend with whom I played lots of rpgs back in the day, including CoC. 

Now, he says he wouldn't play CoC anymore because of the investigative skills problem, which Gumshoe solves.

I have nothing against Gumshoe: my friend is running me through a game of Cthulhu Confidential and I am having great fun. But I do not recall that investigative skills were such a problem in our games back in the day.

Were/ are they a problem in your games?

I see that CoC 7 provides more tools for playing with skill failure (pushing rolls) and embraces a fail forward mentality. Personally, I find it very satisfying from a narrative viewpoint. Do you see that as a "solution" to the investigative skills problem?

I'd be particularly intrigued by hearing actual play experiences.

 

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The skill fail and follow up investigation stall was a problem in some games but not all. I think this really depended almost entirely upon the type of Keeper you had and I have heard some horror stories of sheer bloody mindedness by Keepers/GMs that led to the game stalling completely and them deriving a perverse pleasure from that. Fortunately, my experiences of this are limited to maybe two occasions and for the most part Keepers have facilitated forward movement either through fail forward style options and/or good scenario design with multiple scene entrances. It probably only takes one really bad experience to turn someone off.

Gumshoe fixed a problem if you had that problem, for me it's just a good system on its own.

Edited by ragr
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3 hours ago, smiorgan said:

I do no know whether I am beating a dead horse, or touching a taboo topic, please feel free to close the thread if this is the case.

Recently I have recconnected with a friend with whom I played lots of rpgs back in the day, including CoC. 

Now, he says he wouldn't play CoC anymore because of the investigative skills problem, which Gumshoe solves.

*grinds teeth*

Gumshoes PR has been spectacular, given how widely this fabrication has been disseminated.

3 hours ago, smiorgan said:

I have nothing against Gumshoe: my friend is running me through a game of Cthulhu Confidential and I am having great fun. But I do not recall that investigative skills were such a problem in our games back in the day.

Were/ are they a problem in your games?

I see that CoC 7 provides more tools for playing with skill failure (pushing rolls) and embraces a fail forward mentality. Personally, I find it very satisfying from a narrative viewpoint. Do you see that as a "solution" to the investigative skills problem?

I'd be particularly intrigued by hearing actual play experiences.

Gumshoe explicitly spells out, and pretends (or at least, some of its fans pretend)  it is an utterly new, unique revelation exclusive to Gumshoe, something that has been part of basic competent scenario design and GM prep for most gamers I know since about 1980...

Read the scenario, consider the information flows. If the only way to chapter 2 is the characters identifying where the kidnappers went, part of ones GM prep of Chapter 1 should include a note to ensure that, whatever happens, by the end of playing through that material, the characters be in possession of the relevant address... Yes, in an ideal world, the scenario writer / editors should spot this and flag it themselves, and early on not all did; equally, it has always been the case the GM / Keeper is expected to familiarise themselves with the scenario in advance of running and adapt what is written to create a workable game at their table.

And lets be clear, just because a lot of early CoC scenarios were poorly written, does not mean the system is at fault, nor that every sceanrio made these mistakes, despite Gumshoes claims to the contrary. Perhaps if more early Keepers and writers had paid more attention to the sample scenario in the core book... Because getting Corbitt's diaries, or a  number of other clues,  in the Haunted House do not require any skill rolls... And there is NO "Search" skill in Call of Cthulhu.

Gumshoe is perfectly fine system - it has some genuinely interesting innovations (and some serious issues, at least in its early incarnations) - the whole "CoC was SHIT at investigations but we have discovered the secret divine revelation of how to fix it that no one else had" is just annoying hyperbole - combined with Trail of Cthulhu's inability to explain its core mechanics for fifty pages however rather soured me on the game, despite liking some of the settings (esp Ashen Stars and Mutant City Blues).

 

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56 minutes ago, NickMiddleton said:

Gumshoes PR has been spectacular, given how widely this fabrication has been disseminated.

My reaction to the "problem" when it was first exposed to me was exactly that Gumshoes largely created a problem for themselves to solve - which is probably the oldest trick in the marketer's book. 

I would tend to agree that, to the extent that this problem exists, it's a "bad Keeper problem". Not just because a good GM can work around the limitations of the system, but because a good GM can make the features of the system shine. And I do think that rolling skills and failing can be a feature and part of the fun and tension of the game, if properly handled. So, in the end, the point where I disagree is the core idea that "randomly failing to get information is never fun". Letting the players face setbacks - even random and "unfair" ones - is not the same as grinding the game to a halt.

But, probably, that shows my age and my old school aesthetic!

     

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1 hour ago, NickMiddleton said:

*grinds teeth*

Gumshoes PR has been spectacular, given how widely this fabrication has been disseminated.

Gumshoe explicitly spells out, and pretends (or at least, some of its fans pretend)  it is an utterly new, unique revelation exclusive to Gumshoe, something that has been part of basic competent scenario design and GM prep for most gamers I know since about 1980...

Read the scenario, consider the information flows. If the only way to chapter 2 is the characters identifying where the kidnappers went, part of ones GM prep of Chapter 1 should include a note to ensure that, whatever happens, by the end of playing through that material, the characters be in possession of the relevant address... Yes, in an ideal world, the scenario writer / editors should spot this and flag it themselves, and early on not all did; equally, it has always been the case the GM / Keeper is expected to familiarise themselves with the scenario in advance of running and adapt what is written to create a workable game at their table.

And lets be clear, just because a lot of early CoC scenarios were poorly written, does not mean the system is at fault, nor that every sceanrio made these mistakes, despite Gumshoes claims to the contrary. Perhaps if more early Keepers and writers had paid more attention to the sample scenario in the core book... Because getting Corbitt's diaries, or a  number of other clues,  in the Haunted House do not require any skill rolls... And there is NO "Search" skill in Call of Cthulhu.

Gumshoe is perfectly fine system - it has some genuinely interesting innovations (and some serious issues, at least in its early incarnations) - the whole "CoC was SHIT at investigations but we have discovered the secret divine revelation of how to fix it that no one else had" is just annoying hyperbole - combined with Trail of Cthulhu's inability to explain its core mechanics for fifty pages however rather soured me on the game, despite liking some of the settings (esp Ashen Stars and Mutant City Blues).

 

This. Exactly all this. If GUMSHOE is "solving" any problem, it isn't systemic. It is a GM skill/psychology issue. GUMSHOE's central premise is that you, as a GM, are unadaptable, terrible at what you do, and incapable of learning.

I own a lot of Trail products. And they are a great source of inspiration for scenario ideas. But there is this haughty undercurrent in the material that says to me "We've figured out what no one else has about investigative gaming! Buy our walls of text with no art!"

Its just really off-putting.

And no, it isn't a problem to manage clues in games. It starts by viewing a dice check as being far more versatile than "you discover something, or you don't."

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I don't want to start a war, and I do acknowledge that the "problem" with CoC is Keeper-centric, but it does/did happen and I'd argue that it needed addressing.

CoC didn't start addressing it specifically until its 7th edition rulebook with Keeper advice and "fail-forward" etc. So prior to 7th ed any new, inexperienced ( or just minutiae obsessed ) Keeper could fall into this trap insisting this or that skill-roll be successful in order for the players to find the next scene.

I don't think GUMSHOE is the be-all and end-all of investigative systems ( and the Trail rulebook isn't great at explaining the system - there is plenty of theory but no actual round the table examples of how it should play ) but what GUMSHOE did put down in black and white for the first time is how any investigative scenario ( and this applies to ANY system in ANY milieu ) has to have a core set of clues to which the GM must somehow "give" to the players to get them from the start, to the end of the scenario.

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1 hour ago, smiorgan said:

So, in the end, the point where I disagree is the core idea that "randomly failing to get information is never fun". Letting the players face setbacks - even random and "unfair" ones - is not the same as grinding the game to a halt.

But, probably, that shows my age and my old school aesthetic!

     

Dear smiorgan,

I agree. I think failing to get information is in principle not less fun than getting information, so there is really no problem whatsoever. The problem is whether the GM is prepared for the failure or not. If investigators miss a clue they might not reach the conclusion of the adventure. So the job of GM is to: either provide the same clue in a different place/ time, or make sure no single clue is crucial to solve the mystery, or lead the story in such a way, that even if they missed all the clues, they would still reach the end of the scenario, but the end that is different from the case where they find all the clues. I prefer the last option, but all of them work. Certainly, not allowing players to fail does not make the game more interesting.

Indeed, a failure can still make the development of the story interesting, it just heavily depends on your imagination. Let me explain using a very simple example:

  • An owner of a mansion was killed during the night and his golden clock was stolen. No one has seen the murderer. Investigators are called to solve the mystery.
  • They arrive and start searching the house for some clues. A letter with the name of the perpetrator—John Smith—is hidden under a bed in one of the rooms.
  • They make it to the bedroom, and roll for, let us say, Spot Hidden. Everyone fails, they do not find the letter. This is a failure.
  • I do not say: "you have not found anything". Also, I do not give them this letter later, because this would be very artificial. Instead, because they failed, I give them a wrong clue, that leads them in a completely wrong direction. This makes things interesting.
  • For example, I say: "You found a Teddy Bear with initials T.G. and blood stains on it." My players start thinking T.G. must have something to do with the killing. This is not true. T.G. are initials of the owner's friend Thomas Gamemaster and "blood stain" is a random red stain without any relevance.
  • They start asking about T.G. and find out who he is and where does he live. They follow him, they investigate his habits, life etc. They might learn some interesting things (like that he is cheating on his wife, or sells drugs, or that during nights he turns into a secret agent killing communists but during days he is a Methodist pastor) but generally it is a waste of time and eventually they meet with him. During the conversation he suggests who might have wanted the death of his friend. Along other names, the name "John Smith" is mentioned, not necessarily in a bad fashion.
  • John Smith has already escaped to Japan. They will not be able to catch him, because they failed the Spot Hidden roll. But it does not mean that they will not reach the end of the story. They will, but now the story is different. 
  • When, after some time, investigators arrive to his house they find out it is empty. They roll for Spot Hidden.
  • If they succeed they find a copy of a ship ticket to Japan, and an offer of buying a golden clock.
  • If they fail, they just find the ticket. This looks like a dead end, so they start investigating other options.
  • After some time, someone from the mansion calls, saying "Dear Dr. Klooperschticker, we found this letter under the bed. It says John Smith!"
  • Investigators prepare for trip to Japan. What a satisfying end of the story!

However, I do not understand all the complaints about the GUMSHOE system. I really like it, I do not think it is in any respect better or worse than CoC 7e system. It stresses different aspects of the game, and makes some of them more enjoyable, some of them more vague and annoying. Of course, everything depends on the GM, but it is also obvious that different systems are... different, and can make some thing better or worse. Moreover, I have never had any impression that it is sold as a "brilliant solution to problems, no one has ever thought about." I think you need at least a bit of a bad will, to see it this way.

22 minutes ago, klecser said:

GUMSHOE's central premise is that you, as a GM, are unadaptable, terrible at what you do, and incapable of learning.

(...)

But there is this haughty undercurrent in the material that says to me "We've figured out what no one else has about investigative gaming! Buy our walls of text with no art!"

Dear klecser,

I also own some GUMSHOE products and never felt that way. Actually, I think what you said here could be equally true about CoC 7ed system. I can find many places in any system rulebook that could be interpreted the same way. Thus, it is not a problem of the system, rather of the interpreter. "Buy our walls of text with no art!" And what is wrong with that? Have you read any older CoC supplement? Or even Nameless Horrors? The text is the essence of any RPG product, art is just a pleasant addition. Is this thread about "investigation problems" or just an opportunity for some people to attack other "Cthulhu" games without good reasons?

 

Edited by Tranquillitas Ordinis
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31 minutes ago, Tranquillitas Ordinis said:

Dear klecser,

I also own some GUMSHOE products and never felt that way. Actually, I think what you said here could be equally true about CoC 7ed system. I can find many places in any system rulebook that could be interpreted the same way. Thus, it is not a problem of the system, rather of the interpreter. "Buy our walls of text with no art!" And what is wrong with that? Have you read any older CoC supplement? Or even Nameless Horrors? The text is the essence of any RPG product, art is just a pleasant addition. Is this thread about "investigation problems" or just an opportunity for some people to attack other "Cthulhu" games without good reasons?

 

"A problem of the interpretor" Just...wow. 

You can't tell someone how to feel about something Tranquillitas.

You like GUMSHOE. Fine. I don't. Me not liking GUMSHOE doesn't mean that I don't see faults in CoC. It doesn't mean that the problems I see in GUMSHOE are illogical. It doesn't mean that "Cthulhu" games are "owed" loyalty just because they're of the same genre.

You seem to be taking my opinion personally.

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I think it really isn't a skill system/mechanics problem but an approach problem. Some blame can fall on the authors of an adventure, some of the GM, with a bit left over for the players.

Yes, there is always the possibility of a character failing a "vital" skill roll, but  there should be alternate ways to acquire the same information. For example if the investigators were supposed to discover some clue in the head cultists manor house, but instead caugh the Pan Am Clipper to follow the head cultist to Singapore, then the GM should probably relocate the clue to the head cultists hotel room in Singapore or find some other way for the players to acquire the clue. 

That said, I don't believe that it's a good idea to create adventures that rely on one key piece of information to solve. That's kinda designing the adventure so the players fail. In most cases, if not all cases there probably shouldn't be anything one thing that is absolutely necessary to solve a mystery, but instead multiple clues that point in the right direction. If the investigators fail to find the murder weapon, then maybe they can find a spent shell casing instead? 

And the GUMSHOE approach doesn't completely avoid the problem either. Just because the players get the vital clue automatically doesn't mean they know what to do with the clue. I've seen players stumble even when they had the vital info and either failed to recognize it for what it was, or continued looking for more information in the hopes of finding something that spelled it all out for them, or filled in some final trivial bit of information. Giving the players too much information can also take away from the enjoyment of solving whatever mystery the players are working on - it like telling people the plot to a movie. 

The thing is in fiction, the detectives discover whatever clues the writer wishes them to, and figures out whatever needs to be figured out for the story to work. With a RPG we don't have that, but instead have players who may or may not pick up on whatever clues the GM provides for them. There is no guarantee that the players will work it all out, and no chance of the players noticing anything that the GM, their eyes and ears, doesn't let them notice. So investigation style adventures have to be written with "looser tolerances" to allow for the fact the players aren't going to pick up on things and act the way a fictional character is written to. 

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31 minutes ago, groovyclam said:

I don't want to start a war, and I do acknowledge that the "problem" with CoC is Keeper-centric, but it does/did happen and I'd argue that it needed addressing.

CoC didn't start addressing it specifically until its 7th edition rulebook with Keeper advice and "fail-forward" etc. So prior to 7th ed any new, inexperienced ( or just minutiae obsessed ) Keeper could fall into this trap insisting this or that skill-roll be successful in order for the players to find the next scene.

Absolutely. No war. Let us keep it relaxed.

True.  CoC 7 introduced explicit Keeper advice on this issue, which I do not remember reading in earlier editions. Also the pushing rolls mechanic addresses a related issue: the possibility of re-rolling a failed skill check.

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30 minutes ago, smiorgan said:

Ehm... Can we all keep it relaxed? I don't want to feel bad for raising this issue 😁.

 

Yeah, no worries. Move your clues around. View checks as a continuum. Ask yourself if you even need a check. GMs were doing this before GUMSHOE or CoC 7 existed, whether it was written into published scenarios or not. Making these techniques explicit in published materials was a good thing. But the timing at which they were made explicit, and who published it explicitly "first," also doesn't mean that they never existed before then.

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45 minutes ago, klecser said:

Yeah, no worries. Move your clues around. View checks as a continuum. Ask yourself if you even need a check. GMs were doing this before GUMSHOE or CoC 7 existed, whether it was written into published scenarios or not. Making these techniques explicit in published materials was a good thing. But the timing at which they were made explicit, and who published it explicitly "first," also doesn't mean that they never existed before then.

It was explicitly mentioned long before Gumshoe too. The old Bond RPG actually mentioned moving clues around in the Gamemaster's section. It also had some stuff to help put the players back on track wen they went off to the wrong location. I suspect that it didn't get mentioned in most of the older RPGs because few of them were geared specifically towards investigation. IN most games, the players ussually knew who the bad guys were and where to find them. 

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Hmm... Perhaps my knowledge on the topic is too limited to add much to the conversation (in fact I'm likely just going to be asking questions) but here it goes.

What does gumshoe claim to be able to solve differently than CoC? I've never played Gumshoe, and I know next to nothing about it. Am I correct in my assumption that it tries to tell the reader that CoC specifically uses a "You must succeed to obtain the clues" mentality, where they tell you to do something other than skill checks to get clues?

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GUMSHOE basically says that "if you fail a skill check to obtain a clue in that other game, then your investigation is dead in the water. You're helpless. Powerless. Cash in your chips. [I'm imagining a melodramatic Snagglepuss: "Heavens to mergatroid!" That'll date me. LOL] And our way is better because we just give you those clues so that you aren't forced to waste your entire evening of role-playing that ground to a halt because *gasp* someone failed a skill check."

There is hyperbole there. And I'm using it because I really dislike the way GUMSHOE coyly assumes a lack of adaptability by GMs and players as the push for it's marketing. As NickMiddleton describes, they're purposely acting like it's a bigger deal than it is to have a gimmick to market their system. And you can interpret that as shrewd marketing. Or, like some of us, you can interpret it as smacking of a used car salesperson that is telling you what you need to hear, even if it isn't the whole truth.

People were altering clue acquisition, whether actually advised in earlier CoC scenarios or not, before Trail was published.

None of this makes Trail inherently bad or wrong. Kudos to them for engaging on an issue in investigative role-playing. But the tone of that engagement is snide, IMO. It makes inaccurate assumptions about table execution. In short, their marketing gimmick is based upon a deliberately cherry-picked lie that does not accurately reflect system-agnostic, experienced investigative Keeping. 

Edited by klecser
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With Gumshoe, when you use an Investigative Ability you automatically get any clue that is considered "core" and there is no dice roll involved. For instance, your character walks into a crime scene and you as a player announce that the character is using Evidence Collection to search the scene. No dice roll, you automatically find that bullet casing that the amateur killer left behind. Or was he a professional hitman that was disturbed and had to rush? Did the casing roll out of sight and into a vent? With Gumshoe you get the clue but interpreting it is up to you. What the "core" clue does is get you to the next scene - presumably the ballistics lab or maybe the local firing range if you have an established contact.

You can Spend a point of Evidence Collection for additional information but this isn't the core clue it's the cherry on top - maybe your idea about the killer being hurried is confirmed because there's additional tell tale signs of a rushed search for the casing.

In some other games, possibly including Coc, the Keeper might have you make a Spot Hidden roll to get that information. What this is a debate about is what if that roll fails and how do you handle it in a game like CoC.  Core clue? It's not too difficult if you give it some thought and never was.

Not as easy as slating other games, of course. 

 

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6 minutes ago, klecser said:

There is hyperbole there. And I'm using it because I really dislike the way GUMSHOE coyly assumes a lack of adaptability by GMs and players as the push for it's marketing. As NickMiddleton describes, they're purposely acting like it's a bigger deal than it is to have a gimmick to market their system. And you can interpret that as shrewd marketing. Or, like some of us, you can interpret it as smacking of a used car salesperson that is telling you what you need to hear, even if it isn't the whole truth.

People were altering clue acquisition, whether actually advised in earlier CoC scenarios or not, before Trail was published.

None of this makes Trail inherently bad or wrong. Kudos to them for engaging on an issue in investigative role-playing. But the tone of that engagement is snide, IMO. It makes inaccurate assumptions about table execution. In short, their marketing gimmick is based upon a deliberately cherry-picked lie that does not accurately reflect experienced investigative Keeping. 

Heheh, like my first attempt at creating a scenario:)

 

But all that aside, I think it is a good marketing move to play up what you have to offer, and that just sounds like they have an approach to try and change Keeper perspective, which is good. If they are doing it in an extremely offensive or as you put it a "We know everything" snide way, that would be grating to me.

It sounds as though any Keeper could just use what they propose and integrate it into Call of Cthulhu.

7 minutes ago, ragr said:

With Gumshoe, when you use an Investigative Ability you automatically get any clue that is considered "core" and there is no dice roll involved. For instance, your character walks into a crime scene and you as a player announce that the character is using Evidence Collection to search the scene. No dice roll, you automatically find that bullet casing that the amateur killer left behind. Or was he a professional hitman that was disturbed and had to rush? Did the casing roll out of sight and into a vent? With Gumshoe you get the clue but interpreting it is up to you. What the "core" clue does is get you to the next scene - presumably the ballistics lab or maybe the local firing range if you have an established contact.

You can Spend a point of Evidence Collection for additional information but this isn't the core clue it's the cherry on top - maybe you're idea about the killer being hurried is confirmed because there's additional tell tale signs of a rushed search for the casing.

In some other games, possibly including Coc, the Keeper might have you make a Spot Hidden roll to get that information. What this is a debate about is what if that roll fails and how do you handle it in a game like CoC.  Core clue? It's not too difficult. 

That actually makes a ton of sense, but only if you think of failure as a block or end to an activity. If my players fail spot hidden, they still find stuff, just maybe not all the stuff. So they still progress and get the clues they need, but they have only part of the information which leads to assumptions and more horror in the end. If they fumble, they still get the necessary information, only they take too long and the cultists find them, or something similar.

 Idk, to me personally it seems like a moot point since in my eyes you can do the same thing in both systems. Gumshoe (if I've interpreted correctly) just tries to build it into the system itself and really let the Keepers know its there.

 So my answer to the OPs question (keeping in mind that I'm going by what's been said thus far) your friend must have simply had a bad experience. They played with the a different kind of Keeper not suited for their own playstyle (one who did not use the technique of failing forward and allowing failure to move the story forward) then read Gumshoe and their message and it stuck with them. Perhaps try to tell them how it's more of a Game Master mentality difference as opposed to a system difference? Or just let it be, if they love Gumshoe then great for them:)

And ideally one should just try both and see which one they enjoy more.

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I don't want @smiorgan to feel like I'm trying to hijack the thread, so here is an on-topic example of ways to do this without the need for any particular game system:

You have clues in any game. Some of those clues are linchpins, and some aren't.  Some provide critical details, some are mere fluff, some are red herrings and some enrich an aspect of a character or situation.

As a Keeper, think about what the purpose is for each of your clues. Then, think of ways that you can alter and adapt clues to be available in flexible ways. The players don't know in advance what you intend. So what you intend with your clues is irrelevant. Role-playing is adaptation. If we are serious about our games being truly player-driven, we have to be able to alter our original clue plan to adapt to the choices players make. That means that a letter available in Location A maybe needs to shift to Location B. It means that maybe a clue that was intended to be a telegram, now needs to switch to something an NPC says.

Adaptation is key. And I'm not saying that is easy. It is a skill that becomes easier and easier the longer you run games, and the more work you do in advance of a session to understand the nature of the clues in that session.

There is this strange psychology in the hobby that "if it is in the text, it is sacred." And that attitude is hamstringing the ability of Keepers to be better.

  

7 minutes ago, Dethstrok9 said:

That actually makes a ton of sense, but only if you think of failure as a block or end to an activity. If my players fail spot hidden, they still find stuff, just maybe not all the stuff. So they still progress and get the clues they need, but they have only part of the information which leads to assumptions and more horror in the end. If they fumble, they still get the necessary information, only they take too long and the cultists find them, or something similar.

More good examples of how to do it from Dethstrok9! "It takes more time." and "You get clues on a sliding continuum."

Edited by klecser
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Dear Dethstrok9,

I do not agree at all with klecser in his description of the GUMSHOE, so let me give you a different view. To be as precise as possible, I will just write here, what I find in my "Cthulhu Confidential" book on page 7:

"Your character solves the mystery driving the scenario by moving from scene to scene gathering information. You, the player, solve the mystery by figuring out what the information means. As you piece together the narrative and sort relevant facts from evocative side detail, you work out who did what to whom, and why. (...)

When a scene starts the GM describes what your character can sense about it right off the bat. What does the place look like? What mood does it conjure? What objects or furnishings does it contain, and what do they tell you? Who, if anyone, is present, and what do they do or say in response to your arrival?

You then respond by posing questions. You might ask them directly to the GM, or, through in-character dialogue, to the supporting characters present at the scene. (...)

Some facts appear in plain sight, right in front of you. (...) In key instances, tough, you'll have to ask about the scene in a particular way to get the clues you need. Describe how you're gathering information and what Investigative Abilities, if any, you're using to get it. (...) If your character looks for the information in the right place, and has a credible way to get it, you get the clue, simple as that.

Some roleplayers might be used to games where they have to roll dice, scoring a successful result of some kind, to get information. GUMSHOE works exactly like that, except without the roll, removing the chance of failure that doesn't advance the story.

In order to obtain clues, you always have to describe your character interacting with the contents of the scene. You never just read the names of your abilities off your character card and wait for more description. (...)"

I think ragr explained it well. From the practical point of view, for me the main difference is not about providing the clues/ avoiding failure in getting the clues. It is about forcing players to think for themselves, rather than relying on their skills and luck. They have all the tools they need, it is only up to them if they make a proper use of them. For example, if they find a weird drawing, they must realize that it is not the picture that is suspicious (using "Art" skill or something similar) but its smell (using "Biology" or "Pharmacy") and that the poison that killed the mansion owner was in the painting. This also makes "clues" multi-dimensional, i.e. every clue might contain very different information, and it is up to the players to find the substantial ones.

It does not mean that you can not do the same thing in CoC, you can, and it usually makes the game even better. But in GUMSHOE it is a rule, and in CoC it is not. That makes them different, not worse/ better. 

2 hours ago, klecser said:

"A problem of the interpretor" Just...wow. 

You can't tell someone how to feel about something Tranquillitas.

You like GUMSHOE. Fine. I don't. Me not liking GUMSHOE doesn't mean that I don't see faults in CoC. It doesn't mean that the problems I see in GUMSHOE are illogical. It doesn't mean that "Cthulhu" games are "owed" loyalty just because they're of the same genre.

You seem to be taking my opinion personally.

Dear klecser,

I need to respond to your post. I do not understand it. I do not tell anyone how to feel. Where do I told you how to feel? I am not taking your opinion personally. Again, why do you think so? You simply said:

Quote

GUMSHOE's central premise is that you, as a GM, are unadaptable, terrible at what you do, and incapable of learning.

This is not a statement about your feelings, this is your statement about objective reality, about GUMSHOE in particular. And it is wrong. This is my claim, which also can be wrong. Moreover, I said that one can say the same thing as you about any RPG system, if one has enough bad will. I also said, that I do not understand this attack on GUMSHOE. I have just reread first 70 pages of "Cthulhu Confidential" and it is not the game you are talking about.

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4 minutes ago, klecser said:

There is this strange psychology in the hobby that "if it is in the text, it is sacred." And that attitude is hamstringing the ability of Keepers to be better.

This right here is (at least to me) simple a different playstyle. Those who play RAW often enjoy learning systems, powergaming or maxing characters, wargaming style play, or just the challenge of mastering a system. Then if someone else comes along who doesn't care to learn the rules like they do, or completely disregards them, then they (rightly in their own playstyle) get bothered or feel like what they love is being blatantly pushed aside ect.

 I personally do not play RAW ever, and even my first game of D&D after the first hour of combat we changed some stuff up to move it along faster. I (and I'm assuming you as well) take the games rules as suggestions and the plot is the main thing aside from everybody having fun. So in essence, the "if it's in the text it's sacred" mindset is just a different playstyle, and that's alright (I could go on about this for awhile, but this topic is not on topic so I'll leave it at that. Also, everything I just said (and pretty much everything I say) is simply my opinion, take as thou wilt:))

 

9 minutes ago, Tranquillitas Ordinis said:

Dear Dethstrok9,

I do not agree at all with klecser in his description of the GUMSHOE, so let me give you a different view. To be as precise as possible, I will just write here, what I find in my "Cthulhu Confidential" book on page 7:

"Your character solves the mystery driving the scenario by moving from scene to scene gathering information. You, the player, solve the mystery by figuring out what the information means. As you piece together the narrative and sort relevant facts from evocative side detail, you work out who did what to whom, and why. (...)

When a scene starts the GM describes what your character can sense about it right off the bat. What does the place look like? What mood does it conjure? What objects or furnishings does it contain, and what do they tell you? Who, if anyone, is present, and what do they do or say in response to your arrival?

You then respond by posing questions. You might ask them directly to the GM, or, through in-character dialogue, to the supporting characters present at the scene. (...)

Some facts appear in plain sight, right in front of you. (...) In key instances, tough, you'll have to ask about the scene in a particular way to get the clues you need. Describe how you're gathering information and what Investigative Abilities, if any, you're using to get it. (...) If your character looks for the information in the right place, and has a credible way to get it, you get the clue, simple as that.

Some roleplayers might be used to games where they have to roll dice, scoring a successful result of some kind, to get information. GUMSHOE works exactly like that, except without the roll, removing the chance of failure that doesn't advance the story.

In order to obtain clues, you always have to describe your character interacting with the contents of the scene. You never just read the names of your abilities off your character card and wait for more description. (...)"

I think ragr explained it well. From the practical point of view, for me the main difference is not about providing the clues/ avoiding failure in getting the clues. It is about forcing players to think for themselves, rather than relying on their skills and luck. They have all the tools they need, it is only up to them if they make a proper use of them. For example, if they find a weird drawing, they must realize that it is not the picture that is suspicious (using "Art" skill or something similar) but its smell (using "Biology" or "Pharmacy") and that the poison that killed the mansion owner was in the painting. This also makes "clues" multi-dimensional, i.e. every clue might contain very different information, and it is up to the players to find the substantial ones.

It does not mean that you can not do the same thing in CoC, you can, and it usually makes the game even better. But in GUMSHOE it is a rule, and in CoC it is not. That makes them different, not worse/ better. 

I definitely like the idea of clues being up to interpretation, and while I may have unwittingly used it in the past, I am going to make an effort to integrate this crucial idea into my own games.

 And yes that is the main difference, in Gumshoe (as I understand it) that is the rule where in CoC it is not (likely why I've started mixing systems sometimes, there's just so many cool concepts to try out and see how they work together, although my own preference is rules-light and the things I end up using are always to streamline it more until eventually aeons down the line I ascend and just LARP all the time:)

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10 minutes ago, Dethstrok9 said:

This right here is (at least to me) simple a different playstyle. Those who play RAW often enjoy learning systems, powergaming or maxing characters, wargaming style play, or just the challenge of mastering a system. Then if someone else comes along who doesn't care to learn the rules like they do, or completely disregards them, then they (rightly in their own playstyle) get bothered or feel like what they love is being blatantly pushed aside ect.

Clarifying what I'm saying. I'm not referring to rules. I'm referring to narrative structure. Narrative structure is system-agnostic, in my eyes. Clues are narrative tools. not mechanics. Mechanics may define the acquisition of those tools. I see a lot of Keepers struggle for a wide variety of reasons. And one of those reasons that is very common is that they treat the narrative elements presented in published adventures as immutable. If these scenes happen in this order in the text, I have to do it in this order in execution. If this character first appears in the text in this place, that is where they must appear. There is a rigidity to how they view the story-telling components provided for them. That doesn't make them a bad Keeper or a bad person. Part of it may be associated with their level (lack) of preparation. We're all busy. But it also seems to me to serve as a barrier to them becoming more comfortable with adaptation. That has nothing to do with the RAW.

Now, remember, I study learning and the psychology of learning for a living. I recognize that things that jump out to me like this might not be things that others spend time considering. Through no fault of their own. We all have lenses informed by our training and experience.

Edited by klecser
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23 minutes ago, klecser said:

More good examples of how to do it from Dethstrok9! "It takes more time." and "You get clues on a sliding continuum."

I appreciate it, but those are (I think) taken from the Keeper Rulebook (or at least the take more time one is). Which is my point that, CoC does not in any way tell readers that the built in mechanic of the game is that of "If you fail, nothing happens." 

With the exception of the Grand Grimoire which actually does mention stuff about if you fail nothing happens, which might server the plot 1% of the time, but in the majority of situations would be a pretty lackluster and boring outcome (imo). Far better to instead say the purple lighting you call down does not (as you intended) hit the cultists, but instead hits you and lighting shoot from your finger tips as you body is electrocuted. Make a pow role (or luck role, whichever is higher) to see if you manage to point your fingers at the cultist. In this way, you take a bunch of damage from the lighting, but you still could hit and maybe kill the cultist with the lightning, and never a dull moment as never did "nothing" happen from failure.

 (Then you factor in the other players action and reactions, the cultists curse on them which is passed onto the one who kills them, the enviroment of being on a hilltop in the middle of the night in the pouring rain, and you've got yourself a memorable and likely scary scene. Then, you could also make it so if you fail the pow or luck role, the lighting coming out of your fingertips hits a fellow investigator...) ect ect ect.

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1 hour ago, Dethstrok9 said:

Hmm... Perhaps my knowledge on the topic is too limited to add much to the conversation (in fact I'm likely just going to be asking questions) but here it goes.

What does gumshoe claim to be able to solve differently than CoC? I've never played Gumshoe, and I know next to nothing about it. Am I correct in my assumption that it tries to tell the reader that CoC specifically uses a "You must succeed to obtain the clues" mentality, where they tell you to do something other than skill checks to get clues?

Just to give you a somewhat different take on it...

GUMSHOE goes with the premise that if a particular bit of information or item is absolutely vital to the players being able to solve an adventure, then they shouldn't roll for it. That way they can't blow the whole thing due to something outside of their control, one bad die roll. 

It can be a somewhat polarizing view, as it can make the actual abilities of the player characters less important. If a player knows that they will get that vital clue no matter what they do or hoe well they do it, there is less incentive to improve in the areas that improve information gathering.

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1 minute ago, Dethstrok9 said:

Which is my point that, CoC does not in any way tell readers that the built in mechanic of the game is that of "If you fail, nothing happens." 

I agree, it does not. But GUMSHOE pretends like it does. 'Cause marketing. ;) 

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