When you’re facing down ancient powers and creatures of unholy folklore, the best approach is to investigate — rather than charge in where Angels might not fear to tread, but at least they’re transcendent immortal entities of pure essence rather than common heretics saved from the gallows.
The Better Part of Valour
Like The Cthulhu Hack, The Dee Sanction has the business of investigation at its heart. It might not always be the way, but generally, if you plan on surviving it needs to form part of your approach. Whether you’re facing the mortal forces of some short-tempered King or the preternatural allies of a Fae noble, knowing what you’re up against and how you might weaken it matters a great deal. Sometimes only the former information might come to hand but forewarned it still forearmed. If you know that the forces mustered against you are considerable, you might just choose subterfuge over a direct assault.
I have found that happens a lot when playing Lost in Translation, for example. Slowly, but surely, the characters — and their players — begin to piece together the situation and realise that something awful has happened. In The Gong-scourer’s Baby, the revelations not only suggest how to stop an immediate threat but also lead the Agents toward a possible means to apprehend the antagonists.
Sometimes it helps to know a little about history and personalities, other times it can get in the way. When Agents sought The Lost on the outskirts of Moldavia they might have been distracted by the immediate presence, front and centre, of a young Elizabeth Báthory. How can you uncover the fate of a missing girl when the easy answer is your host?
I enjoy the process; listening to players discussing the facts they have to hand and trying to fit them together is fascinating. In a one-shot or convention game, that sort of discourse needs to be monitored for the time expended, but it’s well worth having. As GM, I have sometimes uncovered a more satisfying conclusion to an adventure in the ruminations of the players than the ones I might have had in mind. Improvisation makes the GMs job so much easier, feeding the fuel of the players’ imagination into the fires of invention.
The means to investigate does require that the GM provides detailed, colourful and consistent information. Without that, it would be like putting together a jigsaw with the picture on the pieces face down. You can still solve the puzzle, but it will take much longer and is more likely to frustrate and infuriate than entertain. Consistency means that the GM needs to monitor the narrative bloom at the table; it’s good to allow the players to contribute to the descriptions of the environment, but essential that doing so doesn’t muddy the clues.
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.