Free stuff, Hunter: the Vigil, and investigation in RPGs

July 11, 2008 at 10:52 pm
filed under Roleplaying
Tagged ,

I bought some books today, blog. They are new World of Darkness books. I did this despite being behind on reading many other books that I already have. I also got something for free!

I love books way too much

I bought Lords of Summer and The Silver Ladder. I am actually dangerously tempted by the latter. So far, I’ve really enjoyed all of the Mage splatbooks, and I don’t expect this to be an exception. I bought the Changeling book partly out of principle and partly because I will run a Changeling game someday.

But this isn’t why I’m posting.


I’m posting because I got the Hunter: the Vigil quickstart. Unlike the other quickstarts, this one is actually book sized. It turns out the size actually makes it feel more substantial, even though the other quickstarts, such as Gloria Mundi, were actually really good. (Well, really good to read, at any rate— I haven’t gotten around to running any of them. I may’ve mentioned this before, but it’s somewhat ironic that by this point I’ve run many more sessions of D&D than I have of all of the new World of Darkness games put together.)

Anyway, this quickstart is pretty awesome, and I kind of want to play or run it. This is partially because I really like lightweight, free stuff. It’s also a game I know very little about which is liberating in some ways.


Another intriguing bit is the investigation aspect to it. I’ve got a few thoughts about investigation in RPGs after having read The Esoterrorists. In brief, I agree that the PCs should find what’s necessary to the plot. From there, you have some options if you want to bring dice into it. You can use success or failure to gate how much you tell the party; they essentially enhance success. Alternately, you can use them create failure that is interesting as opposed to game-stopping.

For instance, if you fail your extended roll to interrogate the witness, he still tells you what you need to know, but maybe he leaves out a few important details, like the fact that if they go to search his house, they’ll likely run into his neighbor, a paranoid and also armed drug dealer.

One way or the other, though, the plot needs to keep moving. D&D 4th Edition has a good phrase for this: “searching for the fun.” If you have a dungeon you’ve prepared for the PCs to explore, you probably shouldn’t map success on the roll to finding the dungeon. You want them to find the dungeon. Instead of not finding the dungeon, deplete resources on a failure (time, health via an ambush) or grant a benefit for good rolls (secret entrance, ambush the ambushers).

I bring this up mainly because I’m curious to see how this works out and what their strategy is with regard to PC failure. At first glance, it seems like the plot keeps moving regardless, and success or failure at various rolls has a fairly granular effect on the plot. Like, maybe you can find out clues X and Y, but maybe you’ll be piece Z, which could’ve been a bargaining chip or leverage when you confront an NPC in scene 3.

I’d actually have a hard time building this kind of structure in my own games, I’m sad to say. I’m having enough trouble trying to think of things people with varying skills could make checks to find out. I like it when there are DCs of varying difficulty, and that if you roll well, you get an edge.

What I’m not good at right now is coming up with ideas that have actual gameplay hooks rather than serve as additional flavor. After all, if I’m going to create flavor, why not just give it to them? And in general I would rather give people more clues than fewer clues. So what’s the right balance? What kind of clues, tasks, or knowledge do you make them roll for?

Obviously the mapping isn’t 1:1 because Hunter: the Vigil is a modern game. I’m currently running a D&D game. This stuff seems widely applicable enough, though, that I’m curious to see how they do this. Also, I really like examples.

If only!

If only I had some way of finding out more about this! If only I had the booklet right next to me. If only I could read!

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