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Using Investigation Skills to Let Players Build the Setting

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#1 SlamDance



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Posted 16 July 2012 - 12:52 PM

I posted this on my group's chat page a couple of days ago:

Here's another thing that I've been thinking about. Now, it might seem odd, but while I'm cool with getting on the same page in terms of inspiration with everyone, I'm not too worried about making sure what we do matches the Warhammer 40,000 lore or canon.

(This is mainly because I spent hundreds of bucks on supplements for Heavy Gear in order to keep up with their rich universe and compelling meta-story and barely played it.)

I honestly think that the core game ought to provide enough for a gaming group to get a couple of years' worth of play out of, at least.

The other reason is, I think the canon we come up with during play is going to be more interesting and fun for us than a mountain of tie-in novels and splatbooks. And here's a way I reckon we can do it.

Now, you know how when you make a roll for a Knowledge-type skill in most games and the GM tells you what you know if you succeed? Well, here's another crazy idea I'm lifting from another game (okay, games - the aforementioned Burning Empires and also the awesome InSpectres).

Deathwatch has five different "Knowledge" type skills, three of which have specific fields:

  • Common Lore
  • Evaluate
  • Forbidden Lore
  • Inquiry
  • Scholastic Lore

All Deathwatch Marines start with around four Common Lore specialisations plus Forbidden Lore (Xenos). Depending on your Marine's home Chapter and specialisation, you might also have the option to put your starting points toward other branches or even Evaluate or Inquiry.

Now, what I have in mind is this: When you take one of those tests, I want you to actually tell me what he's going to find out if he succeeds.

That's right. You, the player, tell me, the GM, what your character knows or is going to find. Provided that it doesn't contradict or render null and void any already-established facts in the game, roll well and your idea sticks.

I reckon this works in two ways. One, it takes some of the load of building the setting off me and also give you the chance to bring something awesome of your own to the game, customise it further toward you.

Two: You know how normal use of the Lore skills usually requires a Free Action (your character either knows something or not), right? Well, sometimes you may need to take an Extended Test in order to uncover something vital - like information that may give you an advantage in an upcoming battle or an attempt to get someone to do what you want them to.

This takes more time, naturally, time that you as a player mightn't be willing to invest - the bad guys are up to stuff in the background, obviously - but if you've invested some of your character's precious time in the search for knowledge, you ought to get a reward for it.

Therefore, if you succeed in adding something to the world and get at least one Degree of Success, and then find yourself in a situation where that creation works in your favour (subject to GM OK), you can spend each Degree to give yourself a one-off +10 bonus to that future skill check.

So if you know you're going to have to persuade someone to do something, you can do a little preliminary investigation, help build the world and get a better shot at getting your way later on!

Of course, there's a potential downside. If you fail, then it's possible that instead of not remembering / finding what you were looking for, your character remembers / finds what he was looking for - but he / it is wrong. And if you get any Degrees of Failure, I can use them against you or in my NPC's favour when your character attempts to use the information he's remembered / uncovered.

What do you think?

#2 professor_kylan



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Posted 16 July 2012 - 02:40 PM

I quite like it! I think it'd possibly be better for a more sandbox style game (Rogue Trader springs instantly to mind), but it could be quite a cool way of running a game. THe proviso, of course, would be that everyone in the game is cool with it - just need one fluff purist to be part of your group (I'd be guilty of that title) and it'd cause a great deal if problems if anyone else went off the rails.


On the whole though, sounds great :D

#3 SlamDance



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Posted 17 July 2012 - 01:23 AM

I will say that one thing I like about all the 40K Roleplay games released thus far is that every game's default PC concept has the clout to be a detective (at least partway), even the Marines of the Deathwatch, so I think this idea will get used.

Also, I like the idea of using it to do homework before a battle, i.e. gaining intel on a potential battlefield or choke-point for an ambush so that the players can earn a bonus to their Concealment rolls - or even a Techmarine getting a bonus to build cover during a fight.

#4 Gurkhal



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Posted 19 July 2012 - 05:16 PM

Looks like a great deal of fun.

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