Investigative Games part 1

We’re back, and we’re polishing our magnifying glasses, scraping the gum off our shoes and hunting for clues. This is the first of two episodes delving into the appeal of investigative games. A big topic such as this demands extra resources, so we have brought in Mike Mason, line editor for Call of Cthulhu, to help us with our enquiries.

“Give us five minutes with him and we’ll make him sing.” “Uh oh. That never ends well.”

Our discussion this episode focuses on defining what we mean by an investigative game and providing some tips and techniques for approaching investigations as a player. Because of the amount of time these topics took, we have separated our discussion about running investigative games into a second episode, which will be along in two weeks or as soon as we can follow its trail to the end.

We’ll get back on the trail once naptime is over.

It was harder than you may think to pin down exactly what an investigative game is. Investigation has arguably been part of roleplaying for as long as RPGs have been around, an element, like horror, that you can add to pretty well any setting or genre. Call of Cthulhu was the first game to place investigation at the forefront, creating a style of play now seen in a great variety of RPGs. But are only games with such a focus investigative? Is investigation a matter for mechanics or roleplaying?

“I rolled 00 on my Spot Hidden. Is that a problem?” “No, don’t worry. There’s nothing to see here.”

Speaking of inexplicable occurrences that lead to madness and horror, we sing again in this episode. In my opinion, Paul has outdone himself with the mixes of these two audio nightmares. If you are puzzled by why we would do such a thing to your ears, this is our way of thanking those generous Patreon backers who pledge $5 an episode. This was supposed to be the episode where we finally caught up with all the outstanding thanks we owe to our wonderful patrons. Before we had a chance to do so, however, we had another $5 backer, so there will be at least one more song in the next episode as well. There is no escape for any of you.

Event Horizon

We’re back and we’re heading out into uncharted space. Where better to talk about horror movies? This time it’s the turn of 1997’s Event Horizon, an ambitious film that blends science fiction, cosmic horror, religious imagery and extreme gore to create something that should have been exceptional. It is blessed with a terrific cast, imaginative production design and special effects that largely stand up 20 years on. So where did it all go wrong?

And why waste expensive special effects on people who are only going to gouge their eyes out?

Event Horizon is not a terrible film, but it is a flawed one. These flaws make it useful to discuss, as they provide some strong counter-examples of the things that make stories and games work. We spend much of the episode teasing out the lessons Event Horizon can teach us and learning how we can avoid making the same mistakes.

Avoiding hull breaches is a good start.

That is not to say that our discussion is entirely negative. We got most of that out of our system in the last episodeEvent Horizon has plenty of redeeming features. There are juicy ideas and images we can steal for our games, some of which are genuinely nightmarish. And any film that gives Sam Neil free rein to chew the scenery can’t be all bad.

Although some of the scenery looks like it could chew back.

Speaking of things that aren’t entirely awful, we sing again in this episode. Yes, I know I’m being generous here. We are gradually working our way through our backlog of $5 Patreon backers, thanking each with a custom soundscape dragged from a Hell dimension through perversions of technology. It is only safe to create two of these per episode, which means that it has taken a while to catch up. We still have two more brave souls to sing to, which means we should be current by episode 103.

In space, no one can hear you sing.

In our news segment, Matt mentions the Kickstarter campaign for the 7th Guest board game. It still has over three weeks to run at the time of posting, so there is plenty of time to back a game full of maddening puzzles with which to vex and alienate your friends. We also discuss some actual play recordings of scenarios we have written, promising to gather links on this very website. Well, here they are. And, of course, we should link to Bret Kramer’s series of articles on August Derleth’s posthumous collaborations with Lovecraft. Thank you for sparing us the task of rereading them ourselves, Bret!