Investigation and Detectability

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Joined: Sun Feb 27, 2011 6:36 pm
Player name: Ted
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Investigation and Detectability

Post by Ted »

A perspective I have about Investigations, that will often inform how I reply to downtimes.

There are a few ways to investigate a thing:
1. Talking to people who know about a topic. This is often the best way - lots of information, great opportunities to get context.
2. Going to a place where something happened and looking at physical evidence. This is harder. You can get some interesting information you couldn't get any other way, but it can be conspicuous or dangerous. (And often, it's better for downtime than uptime.)
3. Looking something up online. If the information is online, this is often the safest way to do it.
4. Looking something up in a public archive. Seriously, talk to any librarian and they'll rant about people who look at something online and don't bother to check their public library which is full of reference information that isn't on the Internet yet. Also powerful, but traceable if someone checks those public archives to see who's been asking around there.
5. Looking something up in a private archive. It's pretty rare to get access to one that has information you don't already have, but there are resources for this in game.
6. Analyzing physical evidence you already have. This might require some additional skill, like Science or Occult.
7. Deduction from what you already know. This isn't really investigation so much as sitting there thinking.

Most of these (except 6 and maybe 7) might be covered by the Investigation skill.

The amount of information you'll get from 4 and 7 varies. For some things (like looking up someone with an active Facebook presence and not a lot of privacy settings) you might get an answer.

In most cases, if someone says they're going to "Investigate" something (or "Use Investigation to find out") something, I'm going to assume they mean #1 most of all, since that's seriously the best way to investigate information that's not common knowledge.

This is effective, but traceable!

If someone writes a downtime that says "I'm going to investigate this, but make sure NO ONE CAN TRACE ME" I'm going to assume that they are doing 7, sitting alone and thinking. And I'm going to give them very little information. (If they're willing to risk online discovery, they can do 4.)

If someone says "I'm going to be cautious to be harder to detect", I'll assume that they're talking mostly with friends who they think won't rat them out, looking at stuff online, being inconspicuous when going places to snoop, etc. This means, necessarily, that they'll get less information than they would from being incautious.

If someone says "Here's what I'm doing to be harder to detect", that will go a long way! Then I'll try to think about what they could or couldn't do with what they're describing. It may still be a little detectable, and may give a little less information, but will probably give more information and be more subtle than a generic description.

TL;DR Version: When I'm answering your downtime, investigations are probably detectable. You can make them less detectable, but it will probably make them less effective as well.

Having a higher Investigation score will help do this more effectively, but even at Investigation 5 (or 8!), Investigation is not the skill that lets you sit at home and absorb universal truth from brainwaves. It's an active effort to go out and find information.

(I still encourage Investigation! It's pretty rare that someone will counter-investigate, and often worth it even if they do! But if you're expecting invisible Investigation, you'd probably do best to use magic instead of skills.)
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