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


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1 minute ago, klecser said:

I'm not referring to rules. I'm referring to narrative structure. Narrative structure is system-agnostic, in my eyes.

And to clarify what I meant, some may take the system over narrative, and that's just the way they want to roll:)

 

2 minutes ago, klecser said:

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.

I actually did not know that, that's a very interesting profession, study of learning. 

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3 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

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.

Harkens back to a previous conversation we all had awhile ago actually. 

I believe if the Keeper decided information is vital, then they should give it to the players regardless of success or failure. As the examples I mentioned previously tell, the difference is how they get the information, not whether they get it. At least to me:)

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11 minutes ago, Dethstrok9 said:

Harkens back to a previous conversation we all had awhile ago actually. 

Yes it does, in a way. It's much like Fudging die rolls, except in this case everyone knows the GM is doing it.

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I believe if the Keeper decided information is vital, then they should give it to the players regardless of success or failure. As the examples I mentioned previously tell, the difference is how they get the information, not whether they get it. At least to me:)

And I agree with you, to some extent. Much like I won't put my players in an adventure where they have to fly an airplane or defuse a bomb if no one has the skills to do so. But, the trick is for the GM to somehow do it without the players getting clued in and either exploiting it (i.e. no one ever learns to fly so that situation will never happen), or come to expect the GM will fudge things when they get difficult (there are always parachutes, or an NPC who can fly when needed). It's a tough tightrope to walk, and there are many ways to do it. I don't think there is one best solution,only that we all have our own preferred solution or solutions.

In Gumshoe's defense, it doesn't just give the clues away for free but also shifts the emphasis from finding the clues to figuring out what the mean. 

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On 7/15/2020 at 6:42 PM, Dethstrok9 said:

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?

Gumshoe is several games by different writers, so the sell for the system is expressed somewhat differently.  Trail of Cthulhu is written by Kenneth Hite, who in the introduction outright calls Call of Cthulhu the greatest roleplaying game of all time - so the way he puts it is milder than what's being described here.  Hite's version is in short that scenarios have a risk of stalling if a critical information-gathering roll is failed - some people have their own workarounds for that, while others actually want to have that chance of failure - but Trail is there for people who want a workaround to be put into the core of the system. When Robin Laws is doing the writing he depicts it as a much more intractible problem for all investigative games (he doesn't specify Call of Cthulhu, even in coy allusions).

 

As regard the question in the OP, I've personally never had the problem that Trail of Cthulhu, or Gumshoe more generally, purports to solve.  But I don't know if I can swear with certainty that it's because I've been good or I've been lucky.  I have seen more than a few people say it's influenced how they approach designing investigative scenarios, so it's certainly struck at least that much of a chord.

 

On 7/15/2020 at 7:56 PM, klecser said:

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.

At the moment, it's a common practice in game design to base mechanics around narrative structure. That's also a factor in Gumshoe, and clue aquisition isn't the only way it does it.

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4 minutes ago, SunlessNick said:

Gumshoe is several games by different writers, so the sell for the system is expressed somewhat differently.

Very good point.

4 minutes ago, SunlessNick said:

When Robin Laws is doing the writing he depicts it as a much more intractible problem for all investigative games (he doesn't specify Call of Cthulhu, even in coy allusions).

And it is probably worth noting where Robin is coming from as far as his overall RPG goals. Robin is firmly committed to narrative play over other forms. So much so that he advises against using battle maps and such as he believes that if players start thinking tactically then they aren't role playing the scene anymore. I see his point but I don't completely agree with it, much like with most claims of "metagaming". If I were in some sort of firefight, things like how far an am to cover, and how long it would take me to reach the opposition and if he could shoot at me would all factor into my decision, and IMO, factor into the thinking of the characters in a similar situation. 

One agrument against the Gumsho approach is that invetigation is not the only area where the adventure can stall. Should a GM step in whenever the players get stalled? 

4 minutes ago, SunlessNick said:

As regard the question in the OP, I've personally never had the problem that Trail of Cthulhu, or Gumshoe more generally, purports to solve. 

I think the debates tend to be between followers of certain styles of play rather than the the actual game rules. I suspect that people who don't like Robin Laws other RPGs, probably won't like the Gumshoe approach, and those who do will love it. I see pros and cons to both sides. One the one hand, a stalled adventure is a bad thing, on the other hand if the players are going to get the critical information regardless of their character's abilities, then those abilities and to some extent the player's actions are diminished.  Over the years I've seen both situation crop up more than once, and ideally, I think we want to avoid either situation. 

Ultimately I think it is a inherent dichotomy of RPGs. On the one hand we all want to see the players succeed. That is what makes for a good story and happy players. On the other hand we want a element of risk, and a chance of failure to make their successes meaningful. It's quite a juggling act. Typically GMs try to minimize the chance of failure while simultaneously playing it up.

 

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1 hour ago, SunlessNick said:

At the moment, it's a common practice in game design to base mechanics around narrative structure. That's also a factor in Gumshoe, and clue aquisition isn't the only way it does it.

"Scene type" being the clearest example, I'd say. I personally find that labeling a scene a certain type from the start doesn't help me to manage encounters any better than I did before. But if it helps other people, more power to them.

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