Monday, August 31, 2015

Investigation Skills for the Cypher System: Chatter

The response to my post on knowledge/investigation skills in the Cypher System got quite a response.  In that spirit, I will spend a few post elaborating on options for investigation/knowledge skills for Cypher system games (with special attention to The Strange -- since, well, that is what I want to focus on).  Today, I will present an example of a broad investigation skill -- chatter.

"those are strong words for such a weak person" S Packwood (flikr)
I have complained before about some skills that seemed overly broad (read: overpowered) -- particularly the combat skills and perception.  One solution is to restrict access or use of these skills.  This is the approach in the core of the Cypher System in which combat skills are strictly limited.  

There is another approach, though.  One can provide similarly attractive options for knowledge/investigation skills.  This is the approach I want to experiment with over the next few blog posts.  I want to define several knowledge/investigation skills that may be just as attractive as any others -- and that can serve as a spring board for character development and investigative/knowledge based challenges in your games.  

The first example is "chatter."  Again, the goal is to provide a skill of a similar level of generality as "perception" or "positive social interaction."  Chatter involves the ability to gather local information from street-level discussion, underground sources, and other informal sources.  This can involve the RPG standby of seeking rumors at the local inn to working contacts in the local gangs/guilds to find out if anything unusual is going on.  The skill is intended to be useful wherever the character finds herself.  This is beyond access to a specific location's underground network -- that would be a better fit for a 2xp spend for a short-term benefit.  This represents a characters ability to walk into a new town and immediately begin gathering information.

One can describe the use of this skill in a variety of ways.  One character may describe this as having a charming or disarming attitude.  He may be a person that people just like to open up to.  He skips into conversations easily and raises few alarms as an outsider in a conversation.  He is the person everyone remembers at the bar and just assumed someone else knew -- and trusted.

Alternatively, one can play this as a background-style skill (a subject I wrote on quite awhile ago).  In this approach the character has a background that provides specific access to a pervasive underground network.  She may be a member of a surprisingly broad guild (remember -- if the guild is only present in one or a few cities, it should be a 2xp benefit rather than a skill) or other organization to which she can often turn for information.  In this case, the skills does not represent a personality characteristic or social skill -- it represents a valuable membership.  With this approach, a GM should be willing to let a group contact be about anywhere and use the group as a source of story inspiration.  Membership has its benefits -- and its complications.

Games in The Strange call for some specific consideration.  The personality approach would allow the character to use the skill in any recursion he visits.  He can pall around with crowes or trick-or-treaters in Halloween.  The skills travel and therefore becomes much more valuable than the often neglected (for good reason, I argue) "lore" skills.  The membership approach calls for there to be some organization to which the character can turn in most recursions.  She should be able to find a contact just about all of the time or the skill loses its value and becomes something more akin to a lore skill or a 2xp benefit.  This could either be a strong network of Estate operatives, OSR plants, or members of some other organization that you create for your campaign.

Either approach lets you use skill selection as a method for defining character -- a win in character creation.

1 comment:

  1. A more evocative name for this skill would be Streetwise.