Behind the Screen: Get a clue!

2007 December 9
by Dante

Due to the (somewhat surprising) success of the investigation series, I’m decided to give it a holdover for a few more posts as I discuss a few items of interest. Today, we’ll be discussing how to drop a clue in an enthralling way.

Make it obvious

As I mentioned last week, the key to getting characters to really pick up on your clues is to make them obvious. Allow them to overhear a conversation describing the exact location of Leopold the Dancing Plot Point, and let them know when he’s showing up. Allow your roleplay and the interactions that take place to be where you choose to give them information or let them fumble around, but don’t make the information drop itself obscured.

The characters don’t know your plan, neither do most of the players. Make clues and plot points easy to come by while you gauge your players ability to decipher what you’re laying down.

Make the obvious clues tantalizing

A murder was committed. Now, it could’ve been done at the coaching of some big bad, or at the command of a guild of evildoers… it doesn’t much matter. At lower levels (and with certain players), you need to make the clue a little more tangible or at very least motivate them to follow your trail.

The best way to do that is to commit the murder with a +5 vorpal longsword. Maybe the cleanly severed heads everywhere is a clue! I guarantee you that it will take only nanoseconds before the fighter of the group mentally says “if I find the killer, that weapon can be mine!”

Once engagement is achieved, then you can get a little more mundane and subtle with the clues as you unravel the tale of how the murderer came to his vocation, and for what greater nefarious plot. They’ll follow the trail until the fighter gets a chance to lay hands around that sweet, sweet blade.

Pre-load your clues

If you have the breadth to assist your players with their character creation, you have the opportunity to pre-load the clues with your player. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve used the fact that a player didn’t want to write a backstory to my favor… I simply would weave a part of their past for them that would give them Something Important, be that a direct clue to the investigation or a means of deriving the clues a bit easier.

If your players are agreeable to this type of interaction it can serve you as a DM for a very long time in these types of campaigns.

It seems we really struck a chord with discussion on this topic last week. As always, please feel free to request further topics of discussion like our good buddy Phil did last week! I really enjoy the discourse that comes from covering topics of specific interest, so keep ’em coming!

One Response leave one →
  1. ChattyDM permalink
    December 10, 2007

    As usual, a good post!

    This makes me think that I might not hate investigations so much as badly written/inflexibly DMed investigations.

    Hey I got a French ad on your page! Woot! Clicky for money!

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