|A city on a hill, where even the lowliest peasant |
has the calf muscles of Adonis
I think most people would like to run a huge city game like this, but it can be pretty daunting. The sheer amount of available options can cause creative paralysis. Fortunately, I've been experimenting with different ways to handle such an influx of information, and I've landed on a good solution.
Investigation in the Big City
|In fact Arabian Nights are not at all like Arabian Days|
Second, you need some alternate things to find. Use this as a chance to show off some cool areas of the city. Is there a statue, palace, or eccentric citizen that can be showcased? Also, check out your player's skills. Is one of them far better at a skill than others? Stealth and performance lend themselves to certain classes, and it's unlikely you'll have more than one person with a high value in each of those skills. If this is the case, you can put character-specific plot threads into the list as well.
Finally, (and this is going against the Three Clue Rule and conventional wisdom) you can choose to throw in one Red Herring. Just make sure that it clearly contradicts some of the actual evidence, so if the players choose to follow it they would have to ignore other evidence. That will make their choice matter.
|On this search you find... a dead body holding a tin can full of worms|
Here's an example from one of my games for a landmark:
You don’t find anything of importance today, but you do manage to get a good view of the royal palace. It looks like the tower they were building is finally finished. You head back to your base and get drinks with your companions at the nearby tavern.
Note that this particular search happens over the course of a day, This doesn't have to be the case, you could easily do an hour per search. But remember that each item on the list should take about the same amount of time to find.
|If you live here, you can compete in illegal underground sewer-surfing races|
When a player performs a search, they will roll a skill check and try to meet the DC associated with the search. If they pass, give them the slip of paper. They can then read the information and corroborate it with their allies. Depending on the amount of information on each search, you could allow them to discuss after each round, or you could say they are out searching until the end of the scene, and have them discuss their clues all at once.
During the session, you have some options. You could:
- Lay out all your clues and searches face-down on the table, marking on the back what the skill and DC required is
- Assign certain clues to certain city areas, or certain days of searching, and slowly release the clues over several rounds.
- Make several stacks of clues, with the easy searches on top and the difficult searches on bottom, to reflect the players becoming more familiar with the area over several rounds.
|If the city has floating areas, make sure they are home to the prissiest of nobility|
On the subject of failure, I would also prepare a list of common tasks that you can run with players that failed their search while others are reading their clues. Simple things, that require a single roll that the player can choose to make. If they pass, they gain resources (gold, ale, items, whatever). If they fail, they lose resources. Gambling, drinking, shopping, etc could all be reduced to a single roll and used while other players read over their clues. I would use a random tavern name generator for this.
Whichever method you choose, make the scene more interesting by limiting the amount of searches the players have available. This is part of why I prefer to expand the three clue rule to six, at least. If players feel like they are making a choice between investigations, they will be more compelled towards the scene.
Also, putting an in-game time limit on the searches can also help increase the scene tension. Tell the players they hear a tip about an assassination happening this evening, and they only have a few hours of daylight left to figure out where it will be taking place. Have them search for a plot-important NPC who is known to leave town quickly. Or have them try to find the location of a dark ritual before the evil cult completes it.
Results of the Investigation
|See how far you can take this before your players realize you're just running National Treasure|
However, remember to give your players time to discuss and review their information. Each one of them is going to have an incomplete picture, and they will need a chance to figure out how the clues fit together.
Also, feel free to link several searches together: do a couple rounds, play out a scene at the search location, then do a couple more searches. This can help break up the monotony of searching and give the game a more hectic, lead-following feel.
And you will also have shown off your city, advanced character plot, and allowed them to "wander the big city" without having to map out every building and street. If they don't find certain clues, plots, or landmarks, then it's easy to set those scenes aside and put them into later games.
|Also works in Sci Fi, just make sure you include teleporters and laser carriages|
Thanks for reading!