Episode 355 – the three clue rule

* (0:29) John and the definition of “stealing”.

* (1:41) How GMs can inadvertently train their players to view the game world in certain ways.  The importance of players separating the NPC from the GM.

* (23:27) The Three Clue Rule, pointed out to us by forum user, Concise Locket, for keeping PCs from missing vital points in the plot.

Hosts: Brodeur, Chad, Dan, Pat

Comments (5)

JoeOctober 25th, 2014 at 8:51 am

When it comers to clues that are critical for the group to get, I tend not to make it something that a failed roll will not get, but on the other hand, I don’t just “give it to them” either. I tend to base the usefulness of the clue on their roll.

For example. Say the group is investigating a murder scene. I know that the murderer unknowingly dropped a book of matches, with say his hotel printed on them, as well as a cigar left in an ashtray. Regardless of what they roll, they will find those clues, but if they roll poorly, then stuff will have happened by the time they check on that clue. Consider two possible results below.

On a good roll – the group can arrive at the hotel, and have a decent chance of catching their murderer (or whatever you want to happen). They noticed the clue quickly, they got to the hotel quickly, and maybe bribed the recoptionist, or whatever.

On a poor roll – the group arrives to the hotel, but the murderer has just checked out, and now there’s another series of clues they need to investigate to find out where he might be going.. or, maybe he hasn’t checked out, but as a consequence of the group’s low investigation roll, he’s ready for them, and has an ambush waiting in his room. Maybe a distraction in his room, while he’s hiding in a room across the hall or whatnot.

So regardless what their initial investigation roll was, they get the clue. They just get some sort of advantage in the next scene if they rolled well, and they lose that advantage if they rolled okay, and they have a disadvantage if they rolled poorly.

And, you can also downgrade the category based on Character actions. Maybe they rolled real well, and should have had that advantage, but then they spent the next hour dicking around, checking out red herrings, whatever. You might give them the disadvantageous situation, despite a good roll, because their actions caused their advantage to degrade.

Lasse Rosenkilde OlsenOctober 26th, 2014 at 5:16 pm

One thing I have noticed in the discussion about putting clues in a scene, not just here but in general, is that there is always a talk about the clues being too obvious or too obscured but very little in terms of the reason why despite specific scenarios being presented. I too have had this problem from time to time and while I do think the idea behind “three clues” leading to the same point is a good one the real solution is not in looking at your own scenario first and exclusively but rather the clues should be placed based on the players in the game let me explain by going through through the Sherlock Holmes scenario:

The Sherlock Holmes crime scene encounter consists of a single murder scene were a single clue (the cigar) is presented.

Sherlock Holmes enters and after being presented with several details goes to examine the cigar and immediately discovers that it is a specific cigar that isn’t local and through a small series of other details figures out that the spy is the murderer.

It is easy to dismiss this as merely the author having full control, but that belies the fact that it isn’t by accident that Sherlock Holmes finds this exact clue. The author knows that Sherlock Holmes happen to be a expert on cigars and cigar ashes in fact Sherlock Holmes wrote a monograph on this particular subject “Upon the Distinction Between the Ashes of the Various Tobaccos”, so presenting such a clue before the Detective is in fact planting an obvious clue.
What the author actually does is place a clue that is in fact one of the things he knows Sherlock Holmes specifically checks for, meaning the clue is placed there not because it makes sense in terms of the scene but rather it is placed there because it makes sense based on what the character normally does had this been a Pathfinder game this scene could have been broken down to:

1: Scene description
2: Easy/Average Skill Check (on the skill that Sherlock Holmes is best at where his trait also gives him a bonus).
3: The player has several other “discovered” clues and then goes “The Spy is the murderer!”

That’s about all that happens, however say we did that to our regular team of players which consists of a Wizard, Cleric, Rogue and Fighter type character:

1) Scene Description
2) Search the body
3) Search the room
4) question the investigator
5) questions the staff to see if anyone saw anything
6+) goes off on a tangent not having put any significance in the cigar.

However if we placed the clue(s) in accordance with the party whom might be pretty standard but each have their own unique quirk.

The Fighter is an expert on the subject of Ale.
The Rogue always searches for valuables.
The Cleric a linguist and is specifically fascinated with different forms of handwriting.
The Wizard searches all libraries for arcane writing.

Then the scene might be more like a dead body and 4 clues (1 tankard of rare Brussels Beer, the golden pin with the city coat of arms of Brussels, a last testament by the deceased written with an erroneous grammar, but would be correct for people from Brussels and finally there would be a hidden letter detailing a debt or threat between the spy and the diseased in a arcane book on Thassilon Virtues).

These are all clues that goes straight to the character of the investigators rather than into a finely crafted mystery scene where the players have to think like the players. I think that the real issue is that the game master must think like the players and not vice versa.

Anyway just a random thought.

Lasse Rosenkilde OlsenOctober 26th, 2014 at 5:24 pm

ups that last part should be:

These are all clues that goes straight to the character of the investigators rather than into a finely crafted mystery scene where the players have to think like the game master.

There are probably several more hope it is readable anyway.

Blue BogleOctober 28th, 2014 at 1:51 pm

The only extra option I wish Wasteland 2 would give us early on is to split your team, and do both Ag and Highpool with 2 person teams. It would be way harder, but hey, if you can do it, it would be awesome.

Michael PhillipsNovember 7th, 2014 at 6:50 pm

One thing I see in people talking about Gumshoe (and people running it) is under use of the investigative skill points.
If you have points in an investigative skill, you get any relevant clue just for being in the scene. Then you can spend points to gather more information about that clue. Having the skill gets you “There is a cigar in the ash tray, half smoked,and you don’t recognize the brand.
1 Point spend might get you “None of the local cigar shops carry this sort of Cigar. It is an import from Brussels.”
a 2 point spend gives you the name of the member of the Brussles delegation who smokes this brand of cigar.
The player can gather the other pieces of information leading from the cigar in other ways if they don’t want to spend the points or if they have spend all of their points in that skill. Your point allocation does matter in gumshoe (and for physical skills they directly modify dice rolls.)

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