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Step I: Scope
- Goal: The PCs should determine what the Goal of the investigation is, including what the "end game" of that investigation is.
- Clues Required: The Storyteller privately determines the number of Clues necessary to achieve that Goal.
- This usually ranges from one (minor task) to five (consuming task), although investigations intended to extend past a single chapter may require many more than that.
- The Storyteller does not reveal this number to the players.
Step II: Interval
- Time: The interval determines how much time is consumed for each investigation check.
- This is largely determined by the scope of the Goal, and where the characters are searching.
- Investigating a single-room crime scene is different from trying to track down the serial killer operating in a major metropolitan area.
Step III: Dice Pool
- Skills: Determine the method of investigation, and what Attribute + Skill combination should cover that method.
- Restrictions: Some investigations may indicate they can only be discovered via certain Skills: tracking a hacker might only be done with Computers and Streetwise, while attempting to uncover a blackmailer in the governor's office may require Politics and Socialize.
- Investigation: Investigation is often a useful Skill, but not always the appropriate one for the job. It will always apply in Step IV, however (see below).
- Exhausting Possibilities: Each time the same Skill is used in an investigation, it inflicts a cumulative –1 penalty to additional checks with that Skill.
Step IV: Uncovering Clues
- The actual attempt to uncover a Clue is a Skill check, with the following Results.
- Clues & Elements: Clues function as "equipment" for an investigation, granting a +1 bonus to subsequent investigation checks that use them. Each such use is referred to as an "element."
- Using a clue's investigation equipment bonus expends one element from that clue.
- A basic clue has a single element when uncovered.
- A clue found using an exceptional success has an additional element.
- A clue found by a Specialist has an additional element. A Specialist is a character who uses a Skill of ••••+ to uncover the clue, or who uses a Skill with an applicable Specialty.
- Clue elements can also be spent to gain an equipment bonus on any other type of applicable Skill test, beyond normal Uncovering Clues tests.
- Using Clues: When making an Uncovering Clues test, an investigator may use a single clue, though if a clue has multiple elements, they may use as many of them as they like.
- An investigator with the Investigation Skill can use a number of clues equal to their rating in that Skill.
- Clue Tags: Some clues function differently from others:
- Incomplete Clues: This Clue's element(s) can be used to gain equipment bonuses on Uncovering Clues tests. They do not, however, grant bonuses to other checks, and cannot be spent to Uncover the Truth.
- Tainted Clues: This Clue's element(s) actually impose a -2 equipment modifier instead of the normal +1. As long as the investigation has any Tainted Clues, all investigation checks lose their first success; this is cumulative for multiple Tainted Clues. Once a Tainted Clue's elements are all spent, they no longer count for the purpose of losing successes. As long as there are unspent Tainted Clues, an investigation cannot Uncover the Truth. Tainted Clues cannot be spent as clues for Uncovering the Truth.
- Dramatic Failure: In addition to imposing a negative Condition, one Clue from the investigation is a Tainted Clue.
- Failure: The investigator finds a Clue, but it is an Incomplete Clue.
- Success: The investigator finds a Clue. It has a single element, or two elements if the investigator is a Specialist.
- Exceptional Success: The investigator finds a Clue. It has two elements, or three elements if the investigator is a Specialist. The investigator also gains a Condition relevant to the clue or investigation.
Step V: Uncovering the Truth
- At any time after uncovering at least one Clue, the investigators may attempt an Uncover the Truth action.
- They do this by "spending" Clues. Spent Clues no longer provide Elements for non-investigation Skill checks.
- If the Clues spent equal or exceed the number required, the investigators achieve their Goal.
- If the Clues spent are insufficient, the Goal is partially achieved, with a single complication for each Clue they are missing. Complications include:
- The culprit has plausible deniability.
- The culprit has a viable escape plan.
- The culprit has a hostage.
- The investigators risk legal consequences if they pursue the culprit.
- The investigators risk professional or personal consequences if they pursue the culprit.
- The crime in question was a smokescreen for a greater conspiracy.