20 Questions Instead of Infodump

Reynard

Legend
I am brainstorming different methods for providing important information to players in a way that is entertaining and consistent with the fiction. Note: this is for my "The Boys" alike but is probably more broadly applicable.

One thought I had --and I really haven't done much more than think it up -- is after the introduction and players picking pregens and explaining whatever rules variants I am using, once the players choose which Champion is their target, we do a "gather information" montage. The way I envision it working is that it plays liek 20 Questions: they get to ask a Yes or No question I have to answer honestly (there is no roll associated with it). In the fiction, it is them asking questions of soldiers that served under the champions, of survivors from the Champion's "heroism", of victims of the Champion's depredations, and so on. The players get to tell ME who they are asking this question of and do so in character. It is intended to be a bit of world building and to get the players into their roles. The goal in the end is for the players to discover the particular weakness of the Champion. Once they have it, we leave that mode of play and go to the part of the game where they acquire the McGuffin that takes advantage of the weakness.

In general, do you think this would work at the table? Do you think it is too loose and would require more procedural structure? Should it be linked to game mechanics? For example, I am considering (since this game in particular is for Savage Worlds) putting a pile of 20 community bennies in front of the players and each question costs one (reducing the size of that community pile) so they are motivated to get the answer efficiently.

What happens if they go through all 20 questions and don't get an answer, or worse come to the wrong conclusion?

Again, this is just me brainstorming an idea so feel free to shoot it full of holes or make radical suggestions. Thanks.
 

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MGibster

Legend
As a player, I don't know if I'd find a 20 questions format to be all that entertaining. When I play/run investigative games, a big part of the fun for me comes from the PCs interacting with their source. I might start by just giving the PCs the information about their subject that's publically available, "Here's what you know..." And then I'd incorporate gathering more information into the adventure itself. Maybe they have to rough up some people to get them to spill the beans? Maybe they have to trade something for the information they want? There's a lot of possibilities.
 

Reynard

Legend
As a player, I don't know if I'd find a 20 questions format to be all that entertaining. When I play/run investigative games, a big part of the fun for me comes from the PCs interacting with their source. I might start by just giving the PCs the information about their subject that's publically available, "Here's what you know..." And then I'd incorporate gathering more information into the adventure itself. Maybe they have to rough up some people to get them to spill the beans? Maybe they have to trade something for the information they want? There's a lot of possibilities.
One important point of note in this specific example is it is a 4 hour con game, so I am trying to minimize amount of time spent finding the path to the fun, while also trying to make it an engaging part of the game.
 

Dioltach

Legend
I like the concept. I think the information will stick in the players' minds more than an info dump.

What I'd do differently is move the 20 Questions phase forward in the campaign creation. That way the players aren't guessing what the DM's world is like - instead, their questions, and the direction of their questions will help to shape the world.

For example, if a player asks about gods, another might about a trickster god, or a god of memory, and being forced to answer will mean that the DM has to add elements that they otherwise hadn't foreseen.
 

Reynard

Legend
I like the concept. I think the information will stick in the players' minds more than an info dump.

What I'd do differently is move the 20 Questions phase forward in the campaign creation. That way the players aren't guessing what the DM's world is like - instead, their questions, and the direction of their questions will help to shape the world.

For example, if a player asks about gods, another might about a trickster god, or a god of memory, and being forced to answer will mean that the DM has to add elements that they otherwise hadn't foreseen.
I like the.idea of letting the world emerge from the questions the players pose, but in a more focused scenario I think that is less viable. The point is to give them an opportunity to investigate a specific threat or situation without bogging the game down.
 

MarkB

Legend
One important point of note in this specific example is it is a 4 hour con game, so I am trying to minimize amount of time spent finding the path to the fun, while also trying to make it an engaging part of the game.
So, what if they ask terrible questions or misinterpret the answers (very easy to do if all you've got to go on is yes/no and your own preconceptions) and wind up not getting the information, or with incorrect information?

Having some form of minigame is fine, but in a con game there needs to be a certainty that the outcome will pave the way to the next event.
 

payn

Legend
I would not do this in a 4 hour con game. Seems a bit time consuming, but I do think it could be fun. I would probably conduct it via discord/VTT/forum so the players have it on record.
 

In general, do you think this would work at the table? Do you think it is too loose and would require more procedural structure? Should it be linked to game mechanics? For example, I am considering (since this game in particular is for Savage Worlds) putting a pile of 20 community bennies in front of the players and each question costs one (reducing the size of that community pile) so they are motivated to get the answer efficiently.

What happens if they go through all 20 questions and don't get an answer, or worse come to the wrong conclusion?

Something I really dislike these days is any amount of time spent at the table that's a whiff of any kind. I think that goes extra for investigative play that leads to a dead end. Those can be interesting in crime procedurals in books, TV, or movies, but I don't think it's satisfying or interesting to chase pointless leads in a game. From a mechanical perspective, that means I'm increasingly drawn to stuff like Brindlewood Bay's investigation rules, but also to any system that really embraces either failing forward, or so much GM improv that the mystery comes into focus for everyone at once, and not as a protracted guessing game (did the PCs find the right hidden clues, ask the right questions, etc., all of which implies an infinite number of "wrong" decisions they can make, that go nowhere and call for railroading to keep things going).

But since you're locked in on SWADE, I'd just suggest that you avoid situations where you have to say "No" to a bunch of investigative questions. For a con game I don't think that element is all that fun anyway. Instead maybe make them have to do or sacrifice something in order to get crucial info. Maybe make the whole game about different kinds of resource management, essentially—how much are they willing to give up or "spend" before the showdown, vs. how much do they want to save for the fight.
 

Reynard

Legend
But since you're locked in on SWADE, I'd just suggest that you avoid situations where you have to say "No" to a bunch of investigative questions. For a con game I don't think that element is all that fun anyway. Instead maybe make them have to do or sacrifice something in order to get crucial info. Maybe make the whole game about different kinds of resource management, essentially—how much are they willing to give up or "spend" before the showdown, vs. how much do they want to save for the fight.
In this case I am literally asking about the difference between gamifying the question "What is the Champion's weakness" and just telling them once they choose one of 4 targets. I am gathering you don't think it is worth gamifying.
 

In this case I am literally asking about the difference between gamifying the question "What is the Champion's weakness" and just telling them once they choose one of 4 targets. I am gathering you don't think it is worth gamifying.
I'm saying if you want to jazz up the business of figuring out the weakness, I'd suggest that the hurdle that they have to play to overcome isn't getting the Macguffin, but finding out what it is. Maybe they need to break into a prison to ask the disgraced noble who knows the secret, or get close to or through the Darkwell to find out from the monsters.

I do like the idea of quick, on-the-fly worldbuilding. I just don't think 20 questions will help all that much there. Some storygames pull off spontaneous worldbuilding by having the GM ask the players establishing questions, which become facts in the narrative. I think that might be more useful here. Maybe each player can state one fact they've discovered about one of the Champions, which can't be their weakness, but anything else you have to incorporate.
 

Reynard

Legend
I'm saying if you want to jazz up the business of figuring out the weakness, I'd suggest that the hurdle that they have to play to overcome isn't getting the Macguffin, but finding out what it is.
I only have so much time. I don't think discovering the definition of the McGuffin is something that is worth a big time investment compared to finding it and utilizing it.
 

MarkB

Legend
I only have so much time. I don't think discovering the definition of the McGuffin is something that is worth a big time investment compared to finding it and utilizing it.
Well, if you can't afford to devote equal time to both, then what it'll basically come down to is either that the weakness is quick and easy to discover, but difficult to obtain, or that it's difficult to discover, but quick and easy to obtain.

So, it's either like Superman, where everyone knows he's vulnerable to Kryptonite but finding some is very difficult, or it's something like a food allergy - a very closely guarded secret, but once you know about it you've basically just got to grab a few gallons of peanut butter.
 

Reynard

Legend
Well, if you can't afford to devote equal time to both, then what it'll basically come down to is either that the weakness is quick and easy to discover, but difficult to obtain, or that it's difficult to discover, but quick and easy to obtain.

So, it's either like Superman, where everyone knows he's vulnerable to Kryptonite but finding some is very difficult, or it's something like a food allergy - a very closely guarded secret, but once you know about it you've basically just got to grab a few gallons of peanut butter.
Knowing that I am running a con game and prefer action over investigation i would opt for the PCs finding out quickly* and then spending their adventuring time acquiring and using it.

*Quickly isn't the same as easily. It is okay if it takes less table time but costs more in the fiction.
 

Buzzqw

Explorer
On my manual i suggest these questions before building the character

  • Imagine what it looks like
  • What is the main personality trait of the character
  • What are his tics, ways of doing, habits
  • What are its primary objectives
  • A curious thing, a funny thing, an embarrassing thing and a typical expression of the character
  • What he's good at, what he's committed to, what he is denied
  • The three main flaws and three main strengths of the character

BHH
p.s. this is the manual
 

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