Abraham Lincoln

Episode 111: A Rat Eats It and It Explodes

October 17th, 2014 | Robin

We kick off with a Gaming Hut riffed adventure premise, as heavily armed lords come from miles around to claim their share of a holy man’s ashes.

How to Write Good stacks its deck in favor of the protagonists to show you how to avoid Mary Sue syndrome.

Ask Ken and Robin leaves Robin as puzzled as the questioner as we tackle a persistent GUMSHOE fallacy.

Venus flies over the Eliptony Hut as Ken serves up the 101 on Immanuel Velikovsky.

Atlas Games again devotes its coveted anchor sponsor slot with windmill-kicking promotion for Robin’s Hong Kong action movie roleplaying game, Feng Shui 2, which is Kickstarting even as we speak. Worldspinner makes setting construction a breeze, from the map to the themes driving your adventures. Welcome them to the podcast sponsor roster by showing some geographical love to their Kickstarter.

7 Responses to “Episode 111: A Rat Eats It and It Explodes”

  1. Brett Evill says:

    Who murdered the prophet in the first place? What if the Necromancer is offering the resurrect him? How do you deal with yhe rumour that the Abbot substituted the ashes if some insignificant postulant for the precious trophy.

  2. Sam Tyler says:

    Why did Ken alter the timeline to make Chester A. Arther President? Or was it another shadowy organization?

  3. Bret Kramer says:

    A podcast in Boston would be pronounced “pawed-caast”

  4. Phil Masters says:

    The item on Gumshoe and railroading made me understanding, no only do roleplaying mystery scenarios not resemble literary mystery scenarios in crucial ways, but Gumshoe doesn’t actually seek to change that.

    In the stereotypical classical mystery set-up, there is apparently one crucial clue that leads on to the next stage of the story (which may just be the resolution). This is the thing which Sherlock Holmes finds when Scotland Yard and baffled, allowing him to advance the story which has stymied them. If there were other ways out of the scene, Inspector Lestrade would surely find one of them.

    That’s doubtless an over-simplification, but that perception is what leads to trouble in RPG mysteries using older rule-sets. There is just the one clue to find, and just the one way to advance the story, and if the PCs have to succeed on a roll against one specific skill to find it, and they fail, the scenario fails. But really, even if they succeed, the scenario is something of a railroad, albeit hopefully an amusing one.

    The two classic solutions are either to make the clue so obvious, at least to the right PCs, that no roll is required, or to offer an assortment of clues and ways through and out of the scene. The former looks very much like a railroad; the latter just makes the style of story design less like the literature. It still runs the risk that, through very unlucky rolling, the PCs will find none of the clues – but arithmetically, the risk is much reduced, usually to a point which gamers can live with. If there are four clues, and you have a 60% chance of finding each of them, the chance that you’ll find none of them is just 2.5%.

    So the question was apparently predicated on the assumption that Gumshoe permits simulation of the classic stereotype mystery by making the automatic discovery of the single clue mandatory – which would take us back to the railroad. But Robin’s reply seems to be that this is wrong; the GM should still supply multiple clues and routes out of each scene, but the system more or less ensures that the PCs will find all of them. So a Gumshoe mystery scenario will resemble a good traditional-game mystery scenario more than it does the classical stereotype.

    The other issue there is Ken’s line about players being bemused that the system lets them discover the clues automatically, rather than messing about looking for them for far too long. The slight snag with that is that I’m pretty sure that I know some players who like the messing about looking and arguing and chasing red herrings…

  5. […] have talked of stuff – stability rules, a worse WWI, and have a lightning round; they also divvied up a holy man’s ashes, analyized Mary Sues, rail against a Gumshoe hobbyhorse in the […]

  6. nickpheas says:

    I have a bit more sympathy for Jake than you do, and I think there’s an alternative perspective.
    The way you were describing automatic skill success still seems to be dependent on the player saying the magic words “Is there anything I can deduce using my forensic anthropology skill”. There’s no roll involved, but the player is still required to trigger things, which leads directly to the habit of reading out every skill on their character sheet. There’s a parallel with the Thief remembering to say “While they loot the bodies I’ll inspect the room for secret doors” after every fight – if that’s what always needs to be said then the party can get stymied if he’s distracted by the +3 lockpick set and forgets to search.
    At least some of the time surely the clues should come out automatically. They’re part of the scene description – “The room has a door to the north and windows overlooking the bay. The body of a man wearing a green dressing gown lies on a sofa facing the window. Blood soaks his left arm. His face is disfigured by… Bob, as a forensic anthropologist you can see the marks of ringworm… pale white circles. A black dagger lies in front of the sofa… Toby, you’re a geologist, it looks like it’s made of obsiden.”

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