Can you folks please help me to not overthink GUMSHOE scenario creation?

Hi, everybody! Help.

It's a classic thing for me to do: I start a project (in this case, a ToC or NBA one-shot scenario) and I immediately assume that there's some sort of trick to it that I'm just not getting, that I'm totally missing and thus I stall.

Sometimes, for weeks.

At this point, I've kind of come up with a Hook and a Horrible Truth for my ToC one-shot, along with a Victory Condition. My next step is to...what, connect the Hook to the Horrible Truth via a Trail of Clues, right? It seems like that's all I need to do BUT, because I'm Dr Rotwang!, of course I assume that I'm overlooking something or that I don't know what I'm doing or that I'm not going to do it right or that I suck.

So...halp? Thanks.

Comments

  • One way of designing the scenario is to do the same as you would for any other game, and then when you run it, instead of rolling for information, you give it to the characters.

    Otherwise your plan seems solid. It's about finding something that works for you rather than there being one true way.

    I like to always have several clues available for the characters to follow up, which might also consider. Some of them could be free-floating and available for use at any point in the scenario.

    There are also several articles in See Page XX that you might consider:
    - Robin Laws' That Elusive Choice Point.
    - Tony Williams' The Keeper of Cluse.
    - Graham Walmsley's How should I publish my setting?
    and probably others I can't remember.
  • One extremely time-consuming but rewarding strategy I've been using in writing up Ashen Stars episodes is to make a list of all the Investigative and General abilities, and, once I have the premise somewhat fleshed out in a couple paragraphs or so, make lists under each ability describing when or how it might be used, either for clue-finding or for a spend. This has jump-started my imagination, sending pretty bland adventures premises off into much more interesting directions.
  • edited January 2014
    First, get a list of the places or people you want the group to encounter. If you concentrate on the latter, think about generic locations where the people will be found (if you have The Armitage Files, look at the stock footage locations for an idea of what to prepare. If you don't have The Armitage Files, click on the Shop link for goodness' sake).

    Get a sense of how these are linked by considering what information from one scene/person will lead to the others. It can be a chain or a network, whatever works for you - although owing to player resourcefulness, be prepared to add to even a tightly designed chain. To use a quick example, if the scientist suspect/victim is close to his sister, her likely knowledge of his proclivities is the link to the bookshop no one else knows he frequents.

    Finally, think about the form of clues that the linking information may come in. A character with Forensic Accounting (which, more importantly, means a player who added this ability to her character) will be thinking of finding charges for drinks at a nightclub on a credit card statement. A detective with Notice will look for a matchbook from the club in a coat pocket. Both clues impart the same information: that a visit to the nightclub is a good idea.

    The beauty about the last step is that it lets the players come up with the clues by asking if they exist. All you have to do, if it fits your ideas, is say yes.
  • I'm guilty of this as well.

    Here's some "Gumshoe 101" tips for players and GMs, by Kevin Kulp:
    http://www.pelgranepress.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/GUMSHOE-101-for-Players-and-GMs.pdf


    As well as a formerly "internal only" Esoterrorist scenario design document:
    http://www.pelgranepress.com/gumshoe/esoterrorists/files/design.pdf

    I'm still over-thinking, but those made me feel better.

    I think the "system agnostic" scenario Revelations by Caleb of RPPR "fame" was the breakthrough I needed:
    http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/117615/Revelations

    I think things made for Gumshoe, like Invasive Procedures, or system agnostic stuff help me stress what's important, cause you want a collaborative story
  • rhesusmonkeyboy, those documents are the bee's knees, and I thank you for pointing me to them.
  • The Good Friends of Jackson Elias also discuss different methods of scenario creation in their latest podcast. You may have heard that they are writing a big Trail of Cthulhu scenario called A Poison Tree.
  • edited June 2015
    DrRotwang said:

    Hi, everybody! Help.



    It's a classic thing for me to do: I start a project (in this case, a ToC or NBA one-shot scenario) and I immediately assume that there's some sort of trick to it that I'm just not getting, that I'm totally missing and thus I stall.



    Sometimes, for weeks.



    At this point, I've kind of come up with a Hook and a Horrible Truth for my ToC one-shot, along with a Victory Condition. My next step is to...what, connect the Hook to the Horrible Truth via a Trail of Clues, right? It seems like that's all I need to do BUT, because I'm Dr Rotwang!, of course I assume that I'm overlooking something or that I don't know what I'm doing or that I'm not going to do it right or that I suck.



    So...halp? Thanks.

    --------------------------

    I've found sometimes it works best to write out the "spine" of the scenario or the basic details first. The Who, the When, the What, the Where, etc. Then work backwards. Well, so we know Big Bad Guy #1 is going to break into the museum and steal the artifact and that he's going to activate the artifact under the Full Moon and enact the Big Dirty (just giving you some basic examples). So no crime is completely without clues, and if it is - that's a clue in of itself (Forensics - There is no trace evidence, who cleaned this place?), so when Big Bad Guy #1 broke into the museum what did he leave behind? Maybe he hired a couple Mooks (Mook 1 & 2) to do the snatching. They, being down on their luck normal criminals, didn't think much about smashing in the place (A Evidence Gathering discovers they were not skilled, using a crowbar on a cellar door), setting off the alarms after smashing the glass around the artifact (Electronic Repair or maybe even Cop Talk from the cops on the scene?), attacking a guard (a witness who remembers seeing their face in dim light before being knocked out - but can you use Reassurance to get him to overcome his trauma and give a positive ID?). 

    Characters can discover with a positive ID on the Mooks or maybe a stray fingerprint, that Mook 1 is a repeat offender - he's done robberies before - usually stealing art from rich manors, but his undelicate style is why he often got caught. Mook 2 is just a down on his luck drunk who is looking to make quick cash. Both of them frequent a underworld bar (Using Streetwise), which is where the players may be able to find them meeting with Big Bad Guy #1

    This gives the villain time to shine, execute his accomplices in some horrible manner and flee the characters. Maybe he leaves behind a notebook about the ritual he plans to enact in his haste and they can use (Archaeology, Occult or Library Use to know that the Artifact he stole from the museum only works under the full moon in a graveyard where the oldest dead must be at least 101 years before passing). So now they can search all graveyards in the city and narrow down which ones don't have anyone buried there of 101+ years at age of death, etc. 

    This is just a rough brainstorm, hope its helpful Dr. Rotwang. By the way, I've read your blog and attend your monthly GM Roundtable when I can, hopefully we can do some Gumshoe again soon. :P
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