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An Eye for an Eye: Building (And Solving) The Mystery


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#1 Steve (of the Red Fez)

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 02:42 AM

Lately, I've been running Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay for my friendly local game store here in New Orleans (Go 4 Games). Part of what I've done is design custom components to make the game easier to explain and understand for both new and veteran players. When I chose to run "An Eye for an Eye" I decided to apply a few of my own techniques on how to handle investigative mysteries to that adventure. One of these techniques involved creating a deck of 39 "clue cards" that are unique to "An Eye for an Eye". Since I thought you might be interested I thought I'd share one of them here.

Here is the back of one card. The letter "A" denotes which series of clues this card belongs to. There are currently nine such series (A through I). These cards are left in stacks right in front of me and in plain view of the players. This lets them see how extensive the mystery is and how well they're progressing.

ClueAback.jpg

This is the front of the same card. This one tells the player the details of the clue that was found. It also tells them how many clues are left in the series. This is extremely important as it tells them when they've found all there is to find (at least in that series). This gives them a real feeling of accomplishment. They feel as though they're making real progress. It also keeps the game focused since players won't suffer through long periods of looking for things that aren't there.

ClueA1.jpg

So you might be asking yourself, "Why have the clues on cards? I'll just tell them what they find". That's fine if it works for your players, but the clue cards provide two things that verbal-only clues do not. First, thanks to the fact that it's on a printed card that says CLUE, the player knows that they have indeed found a solid lead and what exactly that lead is. Second, the players can look through the clues to try and see what's really going on. This is critical because I promise you, after an hour and a half (much less a session and a half) your players will not be thinking about the vague footprint they found on the moors that looked like a size 12 boot with an oddly shaped heel.

Seriously, a lot of GMs feel that ambiguity and smokescreens are the best way to handle a mystery. It's not. For the player, it's usually just frustrating and that's not much fun. Investigative mysteries are honestly one of the toughest types of adventures to run well simply because the GM rarely realizes that the players are hovering somewhere between mostly and entirely lost. It's hard to see things from the other side of the table. After all, to the GM everything seems so obvious, but your players probably don't feel this way. Having my mysteries set up in this fashion generally avoids any such issue.

I've also made other material for An Eye for an Eye as well as a super-quick character creation tool pack. If anyone is interested, or if you want to know more about how these clue cards are used, let me know. 

--Steve, Both The Savior And Destroyer of all Martians, Which Has Admittedly Caused A Great Deal Of Confusion Amongst The Martian People-- 


Edited by Steve (of the Red Fez), 09 January 2014 - 04:04 PM.


#2 Safe

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 03:35 AM

Great stuff,

i would really like to see more of this.



#3 arapinha

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 05:40 AM

 Great material!

I run E4aE thrice now, and had great results, but I would really like to see the whole bunch of clue cards...

 



#4 arapinha

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 05:41 AM

 bad grammar! sorry...



#5 Enfid

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 06:14 PM

If you can share your work with us, it'll be much appreciated.



#6 New Zombie

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 07:49 AM

 brilliant. i do something similar with rumours, mostly with regard to warhammer fluff.

do you have red herrings in your deck of clues too?



#7 Steve (of the Red Fez)

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 12:19 PM

The Short answer is "no". I purposely avoid red herrings because of the impact they have on pacing and player frustration. Red herrings might be fun for a game master, but they possess too many negative traits. They ultimately do not pass the one question I ask of all game and story elements: "would my players find this to be enough fun to make it worthwhile?" 

For those who are unfamiliar, the concept of a red herring is to give a false clue to potentially muddy the investigative waters. The idea is that the player will have a great time figuring out which clues are real and which are fake. In a book or film this is pulled off splendidly because the writer/director will lead us to an exciting moment when the true facts are revealed to a passive audience... in other words, the audience doesn't need to figure anything out because they are given all of the necessary answers. Under those circumstances red herrings can be great. However, our players are not so lucky. We, as game masters, cannot expect to be masterful orators with an audience that is 100% engaged and aware of all of the facts of the mystery at every moment. When we give players one or more red herrings to deal with they will either end up incredibly frustrated with the tangled mess or, if they choose to go to the necessary lengths to vet that clue, the process will waste time and slow the pace of the game. There may be a handful of players and game masters who so dearly love the literary device that the red herring represents that it will make them feel that its lack will hurt the game, but they will almost never feel this way as they play the game. After all, would you think it was great fun to find out that the clue you've been basing your investigation around was a red herring?

That said, does this mean red herrings can't be done well? No, absolutely not. I just haven't seen a good enough reason to add them (mostly due to the pacing issue). If I were to include them on the clue cards I would make sure they are eventually vetted out by other clue cards. This would allow the players to feel that they have, through their own investigations, learned what's really going on. Since investigations are long enough as it is this ends up being cut out.

--Steve, Both The Savior And Destroyer of all Martians, Which Has Admittedly Caused A Great Deal Of Confusion Amongst The Martian People--



#8 New Zombie

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 12:47 PM

 so is allocation of a card as a result of a dice roll?

your example card is that gained after a successful observation dice pool result? if they had a particularly successful one would they get another card from the 'A' series?



#9 Steve (of the Red Fez)

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 01:51 PM

Clue cards are not awarded due to a card-specific mechanic. They are awarded through actual in-game investigation. In the case of An Eye for an Eye, there is a "clue key" sheet that tells me where and how each card is gotten. For example, the "trigger" for gaining some clues could be just by being in the right location (i.e. automatic), while another clue might be gotten by making an observation check at a specific place or time (or if you merely have a certain skill trained, depending on the clue's importance and the circumstances). Yet another method is to give a clue after multiple clues and/or locations have been explored. In my expanded "An Eye for an Eye" clue set, for example, I have a clue regarding Andreas von Bruner that is gained when the characters find a sample of his hand writing (found in a couple of locations). If they later find a piece of a mysterious journal (a different clue for something unrelated), the presence of the two clues unlock a third clue, identifying the journal as belonging to Andreas.

An extremely important point to bear in mind is that some clues must be gotten automatically just to get the ball rolling. Other important clues must have no more than a token die roll involved in getting them (and a backup plan in case the players fail). Remember, the fun of an investigation is not the struggle to get the clue (i.e. mechanical rolls). The fun is in actually collecting as many of them as you can and then assembling them correctly. This is a puzzle, not a tavern brawl. The revelation of the mystery is what pulls the player in, not how often or how successfully they roll the dice. Besides, once you resort to the dice you're effectively saying that the story will not stop if they roll poorly. If that's not true then you've got to set the dice aside and find a better way to resolve the situation.

--Steve, Both The Savior And Destroyer of all Martians, Which Has Admittedly Caused A Great Deal Of Confusion Amongst The Martian People--



#10 Steve (of the Red Fez)

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 02:11 PM

Hmmm... After reading my previous post I feel I should give you more direct answers to your questions. Here goes...

          so is allocation of a card as a result of a dice roll?

They can be. It depends on the clue and whether or not it must be given out for the adventure to work.

          your example card is that gained after a successful observation dice pool result?

No, that event is gained upon meeting any of the affected staff. It is gained automatically. 

          if they had a particularly successful one would they get another card from the 'A' series?

Not generally, though there are sometimes "support cards" that give enhanced information on a given subject. There is, for example, a card in one adventure that is given to a player that passes a 2 challenge die folklore check. It is gives a brief summary of an old folk tale that relates to the mystery of that adventure. Once given to the player he or she can choose to either roleplay out the imparting of that story (embellishing it if he or she wishes) or just let the other players read the card for themselves. In that instance the folk tale won't directly solve the mystery, but offers some background.

In An Eye for an Eye, something like this happens regarding the painting. If a player gets it, they get a brief, gossipy version of the history of the painting (which I wrote).

--Steve--



#11 New Zombie

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 03:33 PM

 you have a well thought out process in there. with my rumours i have some that are critical for the players to hear.

when the players roll the default failure is that they get the rumour, if they succeed they get additional non critical information. if the players don't specify that they are attempting to gather information i'll have them come across it in some other fashion, a third party will come in and blurt the info, or they will over hear npc conversations, an agitator or herald is screaming it from the street.

i'd be fascinated to see your key and full list of clues for ae4ae. i'd likely use it as a template for other adventures especially EoN (my players have already completed ae4ae).

would you care to dropbox it? or pm me here so you can email it directly.



#12 InfectiousZombie

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 08:45 PM

 A very awesome Idea! I ran into the problems this solves a lot recently with the boxed adventures. Some of the "clues" are just to subtle for some players or are easily looked over and forgotten. Great job, I will be doppleganging your idea mwahahah :)



#13 Steve (of the Red Fez)

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 07:22 AM

I have no problem making my work available to everyone if that's what you guys would want. Right now I'm doing a second draft (I needed to add a new series of cards pertaining to the doctor), but once it's ready I'll send it right along. As for the key, I'm rewriting that too so that it is fit for public consumption. Right now it's written for me, which means I paid little heed to making it usable to anyone else (i.e. grammatical errors, lots of abbreviations, etc).

--Steve--



#14 crimsonsun

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 05:57 AM

This is a very good idea, I think this will really help my players out, and keep my games flowing. As sometimes it can be impossible even with a boat load of hints to get the players thinking in the right direction. I will be looking to implement this scheme into my on adventures. Hopefully getting my old group back together for a new campaign of home brew and boxed adventures mixed. I will be making some clues for said adventures and printing them off as pretty laminated handouts.

thanks crimsonsun


The Question of Khaine

    "A God named Khaine, A God of Murder and death and bloodshed, only the willfully blind could not see this is none other than the Blood Lord Himself, cloaked in one of his many guises to beguile and trick those who might otherwise repel him!"

-The Liber Chaotica


#15 Ralzar

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 11:34 PM

This is a great idea.

I've run several investigative adventures for WFRP and the players usually get frustratingly stuck having no idea where to go.

I recently introduced a rule where the players can use a Fortune point each to buy a clue from me, or for me to in some way point them in the right direction.
I introduced this after I realized I was sometimes giving the stuck players more and more obvious hints and asking them increasingly leading questions in order for them to progress in the adventure.

Way too many adventures are written with the assumptions that things will go like this:

1: "Players Find Clue"
2: "Players understands that this is a clue"
3: "Players realize what the clue means and uses is to go to the next place there is a clue"

Where in reality, it goes like this:

1: "Players do not find clue."
2: ?

Or this:

1: "Players Find Clue"
2: "Players ignores clue and concentrates on something irrelevant."
3: "?"

 

Eidt: Speaking of investigative adventures: I've noticed a tendency to write the adventures so the investigation is pretty much pointless.
Often it seems like the investigation is just there to give the players a reason to learn about the NPCs and see the sights while they're waiting for the timed event that brings the adventure to its conclusion.

SPOILER

Like in the adventure "Sing For Your Supper" (Plundered Vaults WFRP2e) where the players are led by the nose through an investigation that goes nowhere until at the end some street urchins come up to the players and goes "There's the guy who did it. And incidentally, the kidnapped girl is over in that shed."
 



#16 ezradenney

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 06:37 AM

This idea has inspired me for Power Behind the Throne. I think I will do a deck for each person the party can influence, and as they get better with that person they will gain another card from that deck. The final card in each deck will be the person agreeing to offer their influence to help the PCs.



#17 Tuempelritter

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 07:19 AM

Hi Steve (of the Red Fez),

I think your idea is really great. I'm hoping to DM "Eye for an Eye" as a stand-alone at the days either side of Easter, and I would really like to use your "clue"-cards. Would you mind sharing them with me, or just write down a list of your clue-cards in a spoiler, so I can translate and use them? 

I just joined this forum to ask for the cards.

 

 



#18 Krisstoff

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 02:36 AM

 Steve, 

Good day sir 

 

Very interested in seeing your clue cards and other eye for an eye elements, I am running a character creation evening this week and looking to start EfaE in about 2-3 weeks time

 

Would it be possible to get a copy of these as I am sure it would enhance the players enjoyment of the game.

 

Kind regards

Krisstoff



#19 Xewordin

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 09:28 PM

 Steve!

Great work! This was very inspiring!

Would it be possible to get a copy of your clue cards?

 

Best regards



#20 Cabello

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 07:08 AM

 I second that! Awesome stuff, and I would love to get a copy of those cards as well!






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