Score type: investigating a mystery

If you listen to the Magpies podcast, you know that their most recent operation was an investigation into an attempted murder, when a crime boss hired the crew to find out who in his gang had made an attempt on his life.

The person running the game was candid about the fact that Blades isn’t optimally designed to handle investigations. The scoundrels crisscrossed the city, making a series of gather information rolls as they interviewed people, the investigation culminating in an engagement roll for a (very brief) social score. Meanwhile, a clock was ticking to represent the suspicions of the perpetrators.

While the system sufficed for the story, I was still left wondering if it could have been better adapted to the mystery genre. The actual “score”, when it happened, was pretty superfluous, but I’m not sure what I would do differently. Does anyone have thoughts you want to share about how you would run a mystery in Blades?

I would probably do it so the crew’s given a list of suspects and an event, such as a party, where all of them would be together. Give it more of a And Then There Were None feel, with the crew trying to get the truth out of the suspects, possibly with flashbacks to the investigation.

1 Like

The Bluecoats of the Watch playset has a particular approach for this. It essentially has a crew sheet for each investigation. This mandate has a goal for the investigation, an incident, a special ability, and a claims-like map to represent building the investigation: pursue evidence and witnesses and flipping or charging witnesses.

It’s a stretch goal from the kickstrater and still in playtest, so not widely available.

But you can catch several playtests on the Actual Play youtube channel. For example, check out a version of the rules from the Flame Without Shadow on Actual Play. Here’s where they start building out the mandate https://youtu.be/5jRCwN-JPTk?t=9145 and where they explain the warrant map https://youtu.be/5jRCwN-JPTk?t=12114.

3 Likes

I’ve usually just used clocks for these things. IMO, there’s no reason, ever, to use the players’ competency for something like this rather than the characters’. Some people really love actually being the person to do the puzzle and using their player-brain to figure things out, but i would much rather treat it like any other action in the game. You make a roll to see what your character can figure out, or if it’s more than one we set a clock for the obstacle. the obstacle might be the Hive’s ability to cover up a crime, it might be a “who dunnit” clock, it could be a “strength of the case” clock to get into courtroom drama… and so forth.

2 Likes

I haven’t listed to the podcast in question, but I’d have made the the gather information rolls part of the score itself. Often gather information rolls are just Fortune rolls, but in this case they’d be Action rolls since there’d be a possibility for consequences. So Engagement roll, then a series of gather information rolls, then the culminating social encounter. I’d probably have some form of mission clock going that, when filled, means the suspect gets away, the killer strikes again, the clue is lost, Something Bad Happens ™, etc. If you want to quantify the progress of the PCs, you could also have a clock going that, when filled, means the PCs figure out what they need to. So it’d be sort of like a racing clock.

3 Likes