I want to add a bit more structure to the investigation in Silent Legions. I know there are people who object to reducing things to die rolls, and that’s utterly sensible. Sometimes, however, you want the game to move faster without penalizing the players or characters. If there’s some basic information to get, it’s reasonable to rely on the combination of skill and luck that characterizes a skill roll or saving throw.
So, I’m thinking there are roughly 4 hour blocks (2 to 6 hours) for character activity that the players gloss over. This can be used for research, legwork, or analysis. This investigation point-buy system should not be used if there is danger present.
The skill roll in Silent Legions is 2d6 + attribute modifier + skill modifier. Then there is a difficulty, set at 6 for a basic task, increasing at intervals of 2. Spending a point of expertise grants +6 points. (So that’s a minimum of 8 from the dice, disregarding skill and attribute modifiers, which seems about equivalent to “automatically succeeding” on a skill roll.)
The GM can prepare a pool of facts that could be found, either ahead of time or on the fly, assigning a cost of 1-4 to each piece of information. Every point past the first 4 that a character generates is a spending pool to get information, and the GM picks what to reveal based on the line of inquiry and methods of the player.
The GM can also use those numbers to estimate how much to reveal from what’s going on in the bigger story–including how much stuff to make up that might add wrinkles on the fly.
Example: Some PCs head to a crime scene. Jill is going to use forensics to look the place over, and Jack is going to question potential witnesses. Jill rolls an 8, so she can expect to get 4 points worth of information. Jack rolls a 10, so he can expect 6 points of information.
So back to the example, Jill might find out that the attacker was known to the victim, who let the attacker in and was surprised by the assault (2 points) and that the attacker was about 6 feet tall and very strong, through a composite of details (2 points).
Jack might find out there were sounds of an argument between a man and his victim (2 points) and that the building super probably saw something, because he disappeared right after the crime (2 points) and that’s all the GM can think of. Jack’s player wants to follow up on where the super might have gone, and has 2 points left, so the GM has a building resident tell him the super has talked about how he used to maintain cabins at the campground in the summertime (2 points.)
After all, a 10 is a GREAT result and indicates that he did some high-quality investigating, so he SHOULD get more out of the encounter, since he has time for follow-up questions and finding others in the know.
This is designed for processing masses of paperwork and numerous interviews and research sessions and so on that are boring but yield useful information. If players want to play through stuff, that’s fine too! Ideally there would be a mix, where sometimes they fall back and let their characters be experts, and other times they take point and pursue what interests them by investigating through their characters.
When handing out information, the GM can do so one piece at a time, so the player can direct the character’s inquiry and focus on how far the character can get with answering questions based on the information available.
This is an optional pacing tool, so players can follow up on lots of stuff quickly and refocus on where the fun is, rather than doing due diligence with their characters and going through all the details. Characters have to do work and endure suffering. Players should be having fun.
Other Optional Tools I’ll Be Using
- Assistance. If a character is helping another character, then the acting character can roll 2d6, and the assistant can allow re-rolling 1d6. OR, the assisting character can grant a bonus equal to [relevant skill rating +1] to the roll. The assisting character can decide which after the acting character rolls. If a second character can help (depending on the circumstances) one can add a bonus and the other can allow a rereoll.
- The Hostile City. Once a day the GM can call for a Luck or Evade saving throw for navigating the city streets and/or bureaucracies. On a failure, there is some bad luck, of varying severity. (I was doing this every significant journey through the city, but I will scale it back. Great idea for spice, but let’s not upstage the plot.)
- Combat Feats. Sometimes you want to do something besides damage. To knock a target prone, or disarm a target, roll to hit. Instead of doing damage, you can force the target to make an appropriate saving throw or suffer the effect.