When I originally wrote The Cthulhu Hack and considered how best to evoke the character expertise found in other games without the need for an endless listing of skills, I chose to focus on how a group of investigators meet and interact. The resilience of those who fight the Mythos lies in their ability to work as a team and meet somewhere in the middle of their competencies. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
In terms of dwindling resources—Flashlights, Smokes, Sanity and Hit Points—the secret comes in the readiness to support the other members of the team. The fist-focussed bruiser in the team might only have a D4 in Flashlights, but that doesn’t mean that they stop investigating when they throw a 1 or 2; they continue to support the team and the team does the same in return. Group benefit comes from the meeting of resources in the middle.
It does mean that the group cannot split up; the expertise envisaged within Flashlights and Smokes has far greater flexibility than that. Players have the opportunity to flex their narrative muscles and come up with reasonable explanations as to how they can read an obscure language or bring to the fore expertise in niche studies. There’s no need to scatter skill points like bird seed on the off-chance that you might need to read Sumerian in the next adventure or unravel some devious accounting; the story prevails and the investigation progresses. You roll your Resources after the fact to show how these newly revealed truths impact you.
The Dee Sanction is similar; the same meeting of purpose and skill matter more than the individual. As much as in stories of the Mythos, the Agents of Dee are expendable and they faces forces they cannot hope to defeat or expel alone. They depend on the knowledge of their associates, their exposure to strange rituals and curious cults. Each cannot carry the investigation on their own, but neither will the group ever finding themselves deadended or irrevocably thwarted. The Dee Sanction embraces the notion of failing forward, so that even when the Agents falter they do not totally lose their momentum. They stumble on, wounded, exposed or burdened, but never without options. They have the means to meet their adversaries head on, if only their hearts and souls can hold out against the onslaught ranged against them.
Every day during August, I’ll be writing something new on The Dee Sanction and aim to connect the word prompt of the day with the development of the game. Check out the concept, the list and the graphics over at AUTOCRATIK.