'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Monday, February 25, 2019

Conan 2d20: Playing the Investigation

Most of my articles have been about how to GM certain aspect of Conan 2d20 RPG, or at most overviews of how the basic mechanics work. I haven't played as a player, but my group has run for a couple of years, playing once a month or so, and I have noticed a few things.

As I have mentioned numerous times, I really like the idea of succeeding by a measure of success vs a simply black & white success metric of many RPGs, especially d20 based systems. Unfortunately I think this idea gets forgotten outside of combat by players as there is no real chart of spends to use your momentum on when you succeed in an amazing way. As you may have guessed from the title we are going to look at how players can get the most out of an investigation.

Generally, as I have outlined in my investigation post players should be able to simply say, "I search the area" or something similar to gain the most basic clue about where they should go next.

GM: Your party enters the room to find the dead body of your contact sprawled on the floor. Furniture and belongings are strewn about as though there was a struggle.
GM: What do you do?

As the player you decide you want to search the body.

Player: I would like to search the body
GM: Ok. This will be a D1 Observation test?
Player: I roll 2d20 and gain 2 successes!
GM: Alright, you gain a point of momentum.
GM: As you search the body you find, clutched in his hand, the emblem of the royal guard, apparently torn from his attacker during the struggle.

As a player from a more traditional system with a pass/fail mechanic you will be tempted to think that is that and try and find who the emblem was torn from, but this is Conan2d20 and it contains a measure of success, you as the player rolled 2 successes, you received a point of momentum. Not only did you succeed, but you succeeded well. You could certainly drop the momentum into the group pool for the next player to use, or you could spend it right away.

Page 103-104 of the core rulebook discusses basic types of momentum spends, some of these are broken out into a series of momentum spends. For example: Improve Quality of Success is described as a an often repeatable spend that may cause extra damage, and Increase Scope of Success is described as being able to affect more targets, or increase areas of effects. Both of these we see as combat spends as well, but we shouldn't limit these to the arena of combat.

So you have searched the body but gained momentum in doing so. Why don't we use that to "Increase the Quality of Success"

Player: With my point of momentum I would like to see if there is anything else interesting about the body
GM: As your search is especially thorough, you move the body slightly and discover, scrawled in blood, the name, "Cromlach". The name was previously hidden by the way the body was laying suggesting your contact was left for dead.

Now you have even more to go on, which can be nothing but beneficial. Keep this in mind as you choose how many d20s to roll. It may well be beneficial to roll 5d20 as well as assistance dice from your party to search that body and generate as much momentum as possible so you can be sure to find every last detail you can about it.

This can also be helpful if you don't actually know what you are looking for yet. This past weekend my players did a cursory search of a room and succeeded. They found a shipping manifest for supplies that came out of a nearby city. They didn't know it was relevant and so it was glossed over and largely ignored for several hours as they tried to workout their next move.

As a player use everything in your power to let the GM help you along to the next point in the investigation or story and remember they are not at odds to you, they want you to learn what is next, they want you to continue and be successful, but they also don't want to simply hand it to you on a silver platter or railroad you down a given path.

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