Many abilities and feats allow you to take plot-mediated looks at items, locations, or situations. The most prominent among these are feats of Learning and Perception. Some skills such as craft also grant abilities (Master’s Eye) that have similar effects. In order to use any of these abilities in such a way, the involved character or characters must declare that they are formally Investigating the subject in question, informing staff who will then resolve the investigation.
Investigations are roleplayed as three characters sitting together and discussing the topic at hand with their combined knowledge. Investigations are most assuredly in play, and if anyone involved in the investigation is struck by a weapon, spell, or other effect, even if they successfully defend, the investigation fails. As a result, it is better to conduct investigations in safe, out-of-the-way locations. A professional investigator, such as those at www.bestprivateinvestigator.co.uk, will conduct a far more in-depth inquiry.
Investigations are limited in the following ways:
- Only 3 individuals may participate in a particular Investigation
- A character may only participate in an Investigation once per game day (See Healing and Scholarship, Ch. 5 for exceptions to this).
- A character may only investigate the same target once per event, without exception.
- All Investigations have a minimum threshold of abilities and feats that need to be called before they are successful: failure is possible in an Investigation.
- Investigations are handled much like Encounter Tags: if time/availability constraints are a problem, characters will be asked to wait for an available staff member.
The Flow of an Investigation
Once an investigation is called, the three participants then use whichever abilities they think will be helpful in the investigation. Applicable abilities are as follows:
- Feats (these are expended if bid for the investigation)
- Abilities which produce feats (just call the feats, not the ability name)
- Skill Specialties (these are not expended, and as such, may be bid even if the user does not expect results)
- A Derived Ability, though this usually is limited to Artifice, which is itself limited to investigations on artifacts and places of power. The staff member will inform the group which derived ability applies, if any, before the investigation begins. Note that allowing a derived ability other than Artifice is quite rare.
Even though the above are what are allowed generally, not all abilities used will help the investigation. Feats of Learning and Perception are almost always useful, but other feats may or may not be so, depending upon the target of the investigation itself. Any feat or expendable ability called during an investigation is lost even if it does not apply. Artifice is only of use, obviously, with magical artifacts and locations. In some special cases, derived skills may be a factor in Investigations.
All abilities are cumulative among the participants and add to an investigation, but only the highest Derived Ability value among the 3 participants adds in. After all abilities are called, the staff member will give out information to all involved based on the number, power, and type of the abilities used. They will also answer a set number of questions from each participant, the number of which is based on how successful the Investigation is.
Once the Marshal has started their description, no other abilities may be called for the Investigation. During the investigation, the participants should keep cross-talk to a bare minimum. A participant may pass if they are unable to come up with a question. Further, the Marshal may ask a participant to pass their turn if they are unable to ask a question within a reasonable amount of time or are obviously stalling.
Please remember that investigations are in-play, and are thus subject to the game around them. You may be attacked during an investigation, and doing so will automatically end it, regardless of how many questions have been asked. Leaving the investigation will also end it for all participants.
Some magical items and locations may require staff mediation when they are used in their normal fashion, and this does not count as Investigation. However, any attempt by the character to extract more information out of the subject during such use is, in fact, considered a formal act of Investigation.
Feats In Investigations
Certain feats work in certain investigations, and some don’t, unless the Marshall says otherwise. The following feats will likely not apply in investigation other than the weirdest/rarest of circumstances:
- Physical Feats (Strong, Agile, Tough)
- Feats of Will
- Feats of Charisma
Other feats will situationally apply:
- Feats of Empathy: In matters of people/spirits/souls
- Feats of Attunement: In matters of magic
How To Prepare For Your Investigation
Investigations are a great way to explore the lore of the game, and are sometimes integral to the developing problems and solutions that you will encounter. Investigations that are necessary or very important to the ‘main’ story arc of the event will be given top priority, but other investigations are always welcome. However, because investigations require a plot member to be entirely dedicated for the total extent of that time, these must be accounted for in order to keep the bulk of the players engaged. Below are a few easy tips that you can follow to make sure that your investigation goes off without a hitch!
- Select your specific Target
- Gather your 3 participants
- Find a pen and paper and write down questions to ask
- Inform the Marshal
- Take notes verbatim if possible
Select your team beforehand
Please do not call for a plot member for an investigation, then spend the next fifteen minutes trying to collect three people. Have your team ready to go immediately, just in case the plot member is ready as well.
Know what you can do
Your character sheet (which you should have on you always anyway) will list out all of your specialties, feats, and bonuses that may apply for an investigation. If you are unsure of what you can do, please have this sheet out and ready before the investigation begins. Your plot member will love you more for being well prepared, trust us!
Know what to ask
A great way to keep investigations moving quickly is to prepare some questions ahead of time, and share them with everyone involved. Though new questions will undoubtedly come up during the investigation, having a solid outline is a sure-fire way to get what you need. Keep in mind that you will not be able to talk with your other participants during the investigation itself, so make sure you have your questions prepared ahead of time or be able to think on your feet. Investigations can be challenging, and are a game unto themselves.
Don’t take too long on your turn
Currently, investigations do not have official time limits because we don’t want the player to feel rushed. However, if you don’t have a question ready within 15 seconds of it being your turn, you probably won’t have one at 30. Remember, you can always pass your turn to the next person if you are totally stumped, though this will use up the opportunity. For some investigations, the staff member will allow you to forgo your question in order to get a “general fact” on the subject.
A lot of players find it helpful to write down answers in an investigation, and they should! It’s a great way to make sure you don’t forget anything afterwards, and we very much encourage it. There is a lot of time between games, and it is a great way to recall information. It is best to write down both question and answer fully. However, jotting down a few quick notes to elaborate on later is always preferable to nothing at all, and as always, respect the Marshal’s time.
Respect the plot member
The staff is always hard at work during a game to keep an incredible amount of parts moving. We always try to plan some time for investigations, and if you see a plot member hanging out in the corner of the tavern, it’s always ok to ask if that’s why they are there. However, just because you see one of them get a cup of water or a snack doesn’t mean they have the free time to run your investigation, so please be mindful that they need breaks too! Remember, being polite about requesting an investigation will always have a better reception than demanding one.
Examples of Poor Investigation Questions:
Bad investigation questions are almost always too broad. It is best to ask questions that show some focus and intent. Even if you are wrong about your assumptions, building them into a specific question will likely mean the staff member will correct those wrong assumptions AND give you more information. Here are some questions/formats to avoid:
“What is the best way to…”
“How can I resolve this entity/conflict/issue…”
Questions that start in the above ways tend to be too open ended. Notice that questions like this, if answered, would make the rest of the investigation pointless, and also that these questions could be used on pretty much anything. The best way to do something might be pretty subjective, in any case. Finally, questions like this remove player agency and creativity in solving problems.
Let’s look at a couple of examples. Say you are investigating a broken sword you have found in an old crypt, and you are certain that it once belonged to an entity (let’s say an evil sorcerer) that is currently a serious threat to the players.
“What is the best way to use this sword to defeat X.”
“What sort of investiture did X enchant this with, if any?”
“To what age or epoch of X’s culture does this belong?”
“If we use this item in a divination spell, what would be the spiritual side effects or complications?”
So the bad question above, if answered, will amount to the staff member telling the players exactly what to do with the item, meaning that the players do not have to figure out anything more or come up with creative solutions. The good questions, however, show engagement with the subject and showcases some prior knowledge the players might have. Even if the item did not have an investiture enchantment (see Occult Skill), the director of the investigation will no doubt offer up more information about its nature.
Similarly, with the second good example, it may turn out that the sword did not belong to X’s culture at all, and the investigation director will probably discuss why that is the case, what it might mean, and how the sword is tied to X, even so. Notice how specific the last question is? Specific questions are much more likely to get specific answers. Broad questions get generalized answers which tend to not be as useful. Really broad questions will have the staff give the “you should research this in downtime” response, in fact.
Something else to avoid:
“How is this thing involved with me and my plotlines?”
This is most often a wasted question if it has nothing to do with you specifically, and it is a limited question because the subject might involve all of a race or home world, not just yourself. Frankly, this is usually a bid for plot attention or used as an excuse to take “possession” of the item/plot/subject. Both of these scenarios are obviously self-serving. Players who do this a lot in investigations aren’t likely to be invited to participate in more.
Examples of Good Investigation Questions:
(items or artifacts)
“What are the lingering effects of interacting with X?”
“What is X made from?”
“Can this be reworked into a new item without invoking its curse?”
“Is this candy made from an actual Fairy who is truly dead?”
(conflicts, locations, or upcoming battles)
“Is there a particular sort of magic X is vulnerable to?”
“What powers do X’s minions possess?”
“What tactics can we expect from X during the start of the fight?”
“How many enemies will we be fighting?”
“Are there any traps in the garrison?”
“Why is faction X promoting this ideology?”
“Is the shooting star from the vision related to the creation myth of setting X?”
“Why does the image of a river of blood keep showing up in these divinations?”
“What skills will we need to make our way through the complex?”
“If the artifact breaks during the battle, will the ritual fail?”