Investigation missions

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« on: <06-02-21/2258:20> »
Iím wondering how people tend to run sessions where the main component is investigating? Specifically from the standpoint of pacing and engagement.

The mission Iím currently prepping involves my players finding either of two persons. One person isnít particularly hidden, but the players will start with very little info about him. The other person is a woman they have info on, but sheís specifically in hiding and trying to cover her tracks.

I have combats and clues and such prepared, but I donít want to shoehorn anything in if itís not appropriate to their actions. I might be over thinking things, but Iím trying to avoid a situation where the players are bored but also failing to drive the investigation forward. And if I just hand stuff to them it would probably feel pretty hollow.

One further nuance. Iím running SR Anarchy and encouraging shared narrative elements. My players are fairly tame in this aspect and I donít think theyíll try to introduce anything thatíll break or circumvent the investigation, but itís something Iím trying to account for. Does anyone have any experience with this in particular, running an investigation with shared narration?


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« Reply #1 on: <06-03-21/0313:24> »

These types of missions can be a real pain for a GM to set up. You really have to know your table, and what your players like to do. If you got a bunch of "meat potatoes" in the party, then you are almost sure that they will be bored and on their phones.

On the other hand, if you got a table filled with people who like puzzles... well, game on!

For me, when I DON'T know the table as well as I like, and I have to do this type of mission (Because hey, it does happen!), I try to plot it out on a sliding scale so I can tone it up or down to suit the interest I am seeing in the players. That way, if the players seem to be enjoying themselves playing "connect the dots" in the investigation I have laid out, then I can stretch it out. But on the other hand, if they seem bored, I can also cut it short.

For this, I usually try to structure the investigation around a NPC contact that can help me speed up or slow down the investigation through information, or action.
The key, as always, is to have to NPC be important enough to make sense for their role in the investigation, while at the same time not being a "Show-up" to the players. Thankfully there is usually a way to squeeze in such a person. (a family member of the missing person, the owner of the object, etc)

with out know exactly what is going on, its hard to help, but some general ideas:

If your group is enjoying themselves, then make sure you can throw in some Red Herrings to keep the investigation going... These can be anything and come from anywhere, so they are great to use, just don't over do it :P

Have a way to keep the players focused, and moving forward... Getting stuck, either through choice paralysis, or player ignorance leads to boredom and frustration. Have a way, to lead your players tot he next clue, even if it IS a giant red blinking arrow. Sometimes its needed.

Never assume a clue you have prepared is an obvious clue to lead to the next clue. some things are just not obvious to everyone. Sadly, I have generally found the knowledge gap between players and GMs to vary a great deal. So while you may think that by leaving shards of black glass at a crime scene is a great way to link Aztec to a crime; To the players, its a broken coke bottle.   Hate to say it, but plan your adventure as if you are leading a 6 year around, and expect to solve your puzzle... That may sound condescending, but its easier to "smarten up" an investigation through removing some hand holds, then it is to "dumb down" an investigation your players a fumbling with (because now you are also fighting boredom and frustration).

Don't be afraid to throw in the towel and say "they went that-a-way!". Yea it sucks that your great investigation idea flopped... But now you have a chase!! Make the most of the situation and change things up. Make some notes of what went wrong, and learn from it for next time!

Keep in mind the general places players are to go for their Info, during an investigation:

The Matrix

Those are the general 3 places most players go for their Info, so be ready for them to do matrix searches, or hound contacts for clues... that's what they are there for (so make sure you have things for those searches!)
Fixers, generally come in when the players just don't have any other ideas... so they look to "buy" answers. Or buy the skills to get the answers. Its good sign your players are either frustrated, bored, or just not into investigation work (They might be those Meat Potatoes I mentioned earlier!). If that's the case, then this is a good sign you need to rethink the clues and speed things up.
Where am I going? And why am I in a hand basket ???

Remember: You can't fix Stupid. But you can beat on it with a 2x4 until it smartens up! Or dies.


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« Reply #2 on: <06-17-21/0833:58> »
General, system-independent advice for any sort of investigative adventure: be super robust. Players will miss half of the clues. Of the ones they do find, they will misinterpret half. Be explicit. Repeat important clues. Rub it in.

You don't want to hand them everything on a platter, but you do need to hand it to them, or they will feel lost. Whatever direction of investigation they decide on, make it the right one. If something is meant to be particularly hard, make their second choice the right one.

It doesn't matter much what that approach is, even. Every clue can be found multiple ways. It's basically legwork. They can get the info from their own skills, their contacts, or a matrix search. It's all fine, as long as they put in some work.

And if they do put in work, make sure they find something important. If they succeed at something that was hard or took a long time, they will attach a lot of value to it. And quite often they will attach the wrong value to it; a random throw-away NPC will become their primary suspect. A vital clue will be considered unimportant or a red herring. Sometimes they have all the right data and will still draw the wrong conclusion.

Their characters may be Sherlock Holmes, but the players themselves aren't. So help them, but help them in a way that makes them think they did it. Be prepared to repeat clues if they miss or misinterpret them. But also allow them to follow the occasional red herring; they'll find plenty of them even without your help, and if you try to steer them away from them, it will feel like you're railroading them. They're allowed to be wrong sometimes, but after that, give them a way to get back on the right path again.

Mr. Black

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« Reply #3 on: <07-04-21/1807:35> »
To paraphrase Raymond Chandler, creator of the most famous ďhard-boiledĒ detective of all time, when things lag, have someone enter with a gun. The hard truth, is that while all those detective movies and TV shows look like they would be cool to run, the premise-a cunning investigator finds all the clues (from the original Sherlock Holmes to Monk to Psych to Murder, She Wrote) they find them because the narrative demands it. There wouldnít be much of a story if half way through, the detective didnít find a clue and said, ďWell, sorry, done all I can, I canít find your long lost relative, end of story!Ē

This is compounded by characters with a lack of investigative skills and contacts (everyone has fixer and armored/talismonger, no one has taxi driver, bartender, police detective, club bouncer, beat reporter, city/county clerk, low level mob boss, etc., you know, people who might know things/people.) Throw a lack of knowledge skills outside of combat (took chemistry to create drugs/explosives, not to analyze soil samples, etc.) and you generally have to spoon feed the crew clues. So build the mystery around your crews contacts and skill sets, not around the story you want to tell.

Chandler knew a few things though, and his disciples followed his successes. Most of their investigators donít look for cigarette ash or out of place antiques, they push peopleís buttons and see where they go. Show up at someoneís office, ask some borderline rude questions, see what happens. If you push a night club owner verbally, and some Yaks or the Sons of Sauron show up and tell you to lay off, (or better yet, BOTH show up and tell you to lay off!) it tells you something. Like you need to find the connection between a human night club owner and an angry pro-meta human policlub...

Though in 2080, the crewís hacker should be able to find LOTS of info on a missing person. The vast majority of people leave a veritable treasure trove of digital information. Every part of their employment history, housing history, health history, purchasing history and entertainment history is someplace in the Matrix. As long as they have a SIN and arenít hiding in the Barrens/Glow City that is. But a good hacker could follow them. Do they have cyberware?  That stuff has wireless connectivity that tracks GPS data. Did they buy a soycaf the day they went hiding? The phone they used to purchase it gives both GPS and purchase history that gives clues. Like the fact that they also purchased new personal respirator filter and a large bottle of Rad-Be-Gone, which might lead to a Glow City hideout. A drek-hot hacker could pull up the many many surveillance cameras, run facial recognition software, bluejack their phone, and much much more. A drek-hot hacker with contacts in social media groups could do it even faster and better. Age of the geek, baby.
So to recap, tie clues to the crews contacts (and not to people they donít know), give them leads to people they can role play with not locations to search, and remind the decker-technomancer to get their crap together and to use their abilities for something other than bricking guns. And if all else fails, have a contact call them ďwith some more info about that thing they were asking about...Ē or just have someone enter the room with a gun...