Thursday, May 10, 2018

Start of the Summer Update 2018

Hey everyone!
We hope you're having a great month of May(King of Months). We wanted to get you an update on all parts of the project.

1. We're gonna start with the big one. We know the project is running 4 years behind. We aren't upset about reminders from you, but please don't believe for a second that we are somehow able to forget about this. It is a constant weight on our mind. There is rarely a week we aren't planning scheduling and working. I wanted to make sure we started with that because we know its on your mind. Please don't think we're ever able to push this to the side and stop working as hard as we possibly can on it.

2. With Anne waylayed the team has been helping me with getting the Call to Adventure out. Its going to have pregenerated characters, a short digestible version of the rules, and a prepared one game Saga. We have a complete draft of everything at the moment. Royce is currently working on mock-ups of one shot character sheets and I'm finishing up the final draft of the Saga. Its been looking fantastic so far, but I'd be hesitant to talk about a timeline of completion(even though it seems soon). Both royce and I have some business travel at the end of May, and I'll be able to talk to you specifically about our timetable for that in June.

3. For those of you who don't keep up with the blog on our website, we've been concurrently running three playtest games. They each have about 20 games under them and I have two notebooks full of playtest notes. Its been exhausting, but I've gotten a lot of great feedback and fixed some problem areas in the game(and gotten some good ideas about where additional fixes are needed). They're all winding down soon so that I can use that weekly time on making the changes. As our playtests wind down the Call to Adventure should be out. And I'm sure many of you will have feedback for me from your games.

4. When is the game done? I wish I had any real answer for you. We're working as hard as we can, but I'm just terrible at reasonable estimates. If I were you, I'd probably take any estimate given with a HUGE grain of salt anyway. Everything feels a lot closer. I've been having a blast playing this game so far. I want so badly for it to be done and for others to have fun with it.

5. Anne's Health: Without getting too specific, Anne's health is something we'll be dealing with for the foreseeable future. We're doing the best we can with it. Our move to Miami last year was partly because they offered her AMAZING health insurance. She's in for tests every month and she's an absolute trooper. Its not something that is curable, but hopefully with the right treatment she can be back to a fairly normal life. For now though, the amount of time she can work on things is very limited, but she writes and works on HJ whenever she can. We're always hoping that will change soon, but we don't know when.


That's all for the update. Feel free to hit me with any questions you have. I'll do my best to answer them.

If you would like more frequent updates on how the project is going, please follow us over at our blog. http://herosjourneyrpg.blogspot.com/
If you need a quicker or more direct answer to a question, please feel free to email me John@herosjourneyrpg.com

Thank you,
John

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Mechanics Talk: Explain to Me How to Warrior

And so we finally come to the last of the Aspects that we haven't yet covered - the indomitable Warriors, who are out there punching the bad guys and jumping off of tall structures. They're about fighting, true, and nobody's better at it than they are, but they're also about physical championship and skill, feats of strength, and pushing past the barriers that normally constrain peoples' bodies. With style, of course.

What do you do on your adventures and for your group when you have Warrior?


Running, Jumping, and Climbing Trees: Warriors are badasses at sports of all kinds - competing, sure, but also just everyday adventuring stuff. They climb cliffs and trees, they jump over and through things, they throw things distances or catch them when they're coming in, the lift heavy things and move them around and they hurl their companions piggy-back and run them personally out of danger. They can succeed in athletic pursuits even if they've never been athletes themselves - or if they are, they're really, really good ones. People who climb the roofs and jump between cars are usually Warriors, or at least they probably wish they were when it comes time for that roll.

Good Old Fashioned Beatdowns: Some problems just have to be solved with violence when all else fails, and Warriors are the people who are good at that. They have a lot of different options for subduing or succeeding in a violent situation - of course, they can just punch enemies into submission, but they also have a nice selection of Blessings to let them take other semi-violent physical actions, including wrestling and restraining people physically, crippling people with physical injuries that slow or stop them without hurting them too much, or just knocking them down with nonlethal force so they can think about their decision to pursue this line of anti-Hero misbehavior. Of course, they get kicked around a lot in the process, too, but they're good at tilting the odds in their favor so that they stay up longer than the other guy.

Murder Time: Every Hero has the option for the most final of solutions, but Warriors are the best when it comes to literally killing enemies. They usually do so with weapons, which they can use with deadly skill and force, although they can go the slow bare-knuckles route, too; other Aspects have their dangerous moments, but nobody is just a literal menace to life without needing any extra skills or powers like a Warrior is. Of course, lots of groups like to try to solve their problems in ways that don't involve murder, but sometimes, when the giant monster piranha wants to eat you, there just isn't any other way of discouraging it.


What Are Warriors Effortless At? Warriors are the pinnacle of physical awesomeness, which means that whatever physical pursuits they're pursuing, they're generally better at them. They lift heavy things more easily, jump and climb and flex more naturally, throw things farther, hit things harder. They don't even know they're doing it, or if they do, they just know they can bring their force to bear when they need it, and they're better at it by far than people who don't have their physical skill. Anybody can pick up a little physical force buffing in the web, but Warriors have access to more of it just by virtue of being themselves. When you need someone to strain a muscle or two, they're the best bet.

What Are the Downsides of Warriors? Warriors are incredible at what they do, but their skillset is one of the more limited ones in the game. They are great at problems that can be thrashed into submission, jumped over, or hurled missiles at, but after that point they kind of run out of problem-solving skills. Warriors also rely on non-Aspect stats - Defense and health boxes - more than do some of the other Aspects, just as a function of how often they're in combat or otherwise doing things that might bash them around a little, so they tend to feel more pressure to make sure they shore those things up via the webs.


Warriors in the playtests are, of course, busy punching the bad guys and attempting to save the day as a result, but they've also done some awesome other things lately, too, including dragging struggling mortal bystanders out of magical whirlpools, wrestling reptiles into submission for magical breeding programs, jumping from roof to roof in order to escape pursuing motorcyclists, and destroying invading monsters before they can continue to injure people in the local area. So many points of Brawn have been sent off into the aether, never to return.

The Talents under the Warrior umbrella are Athleticism, Brawn, Unarmed, and Weaponry; Unarmed and Weaponry can at first glance seem similar since they're both concerned with visiting mayhem on an opponent's face as necessary, but they mechanically result in different kinds of injuries and have very different options for Blessings underneath them, so Warriors have specialization options even within the realm of beating people up!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Mechanics Talk: Explain to Me How to Trickster

Here come the Tricksters, who are one of the most popular Aspects by far! Is it their unique problem-solving, their self-preservation, their skill at manipulating things to use them for unintended purposes, or their ridiculous refusal to let anyone stop them from doing whatever stupid idea they have in their heads that makes everyone enjoy them so much? Let's find out!

What do you do on your adventures and for your group when you have Trickster?


Sneaking Around: Tricksters are sneaky by nature, at least when they're in environments that they can use to their advantage. They're good at hiding, good at disappearing, good at disguising themselves as inconspicuous bystanders and good at impersonating people when it's most helpful to them. They're masters of covert ops, allowing them to get access to places they shouldn't and plant things there, take things out with them again, or sneak right past people looking for them without anyone noticing. They also have access to Blessings that sometimes let them help other people out with those things, too, which can be useful when they don't want their cover blown by their friend who is behind them singing their own sneaking theme music.

Using Machinery: Tricksters are in many ways the representatives of civilization; they are great at things that humanity and its divine creators put into place in much the same way Hunters are great at the natural world and Leaders and Lovers are great at people. They're excellent at figuring out how to operate human-made (or other intelligent races, but Mortals don't get to see that kind of tech as much!) things on the fly based on the general principles of How Stuff Works, so they can figure out how to navigate computers, start up and shut down machines and systems, and operate mechanical vehicles, making them badass off-the-cuff helicopter pilots and security system defusers in crunch moments.


Navigating Cities: Just like they're good at navigating human-made things, Tricksters are good at human-made environments, too. They can find their way in cities and buildings even when they shouldn't by rights know the layout, and they can blend in with the people and situations there as if they were always there, disappearing into different places like they were born for it. Groups who need to find their way to places and deal with local features in cities need a Trickster to help show them the way (at least, if they don't want to end up wandering around or falling down manholes now and then).

Thievery and Villainy: Tricksters are above all good at doing things they aren't supposed to (which doesn't always win them friends, but they're not in it for friends), and that includes general crime - simple and doable, and audacious and difficult, too. They're good at picking pockets and grabbing things without being caught, at sleight of hand and quick distractions, at identity theft and at hacking. That might mean that some people judge them, but Heroes with Trickster have access to all these skills in order to come up with unorthodox answers to problems - sometimes, for the greater good, you just might have to steal a priceless artifact and then run like hell before you get caught by the unscrupulous magical forces that were going to use it for Evil.


What Are Tricksters Effortless At? Tricksters, no matter what their shenanigans of choice, all have one thing in common: nobody tells them what to do. They have an advantage against any power that tries to boss them around - mind control, alcohol, people trying to intimidate them, they're resistant to all of them, even if the person in question is trying to help them out by taking over. Other Heroes can of course also resist these sorts of things, but Tricksters are almost always better, just by virtue of being the badasses they are; they're independently minded and can't be just rolled over by the first person who comes along with a better idea.

What Are the Downsides of Trickster? Tricksters traditionally shoot themselves in the foot once in a while, and HJ Tricksters are not immune to this effect. Even past the usual issues of getting caught if their sneakery and stealing is noticed - and even the best Tricksters do get caught at least once in a blue moon - many of their powers have a small percentage chance of backfiring, usually because the rewards are great but there has to be some risk to balance them out. Tricksters are also often very self-directed and self-involved; some of their powers and skills help them but don't take the entire group into account, and as a result sometimes they squeak out of a bad place but leave some very bad-tempered companions behind, or have to explain themselves after the fact when they do something without full group approval.


In playtest groups, Tricksters have recently been amazing at disguising themselves and others as unnoticeable street folks for the purposes of burglary, using clothing and makeup design to pull off sneaking their whole group into a party much too fancy for them in pursuit of a suspect, hotwiring a series of cars with only minor electrocution injuries, and performing stunt driving that would make a Hollywood executive turn green with envy.

The Talents under the Trickster umbrella are Determination, Disguise, Legerdemain, and Streetwise; they have fancy names that basically all boil down to "I do what I want and your rules are not about to stop me", and that's the Trickster in a nutshell!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Mechanics Talk: Explain to Me How to Sage

Welcome back to our Aspects of Awesomeness series, where it's time for the Sage! Sages are the smartypantses, of course, and it's easy to sometimes discount them as being "support staff" for the people who actually get things done. But that would be a mistake - Sages do plenty of heroic things on their own and are more than capable of being the movers and shakers, and are all about finding and leveraging knowledge, affecting the structure of the greater Saga, and being wizardly. They are the embodiements of the concept of knowledge as power.

What do you do on your adventures and for your group when you have Hunter?


Noticing the Details: Sages are great at noticing things, which means that it's hard for things to slip past them. They notice clues that are lying around when they enter a room, hiding places and details about what's happening when they arrive, and exactly what small yet crucial changes have occurred since the last time they were here. They even notice things that they have no business noticing - sometimes Sages see or hear or just instinctively recognize thing that human beings normally can't, leading to them being considered psychic by their fellows. The veils are thin to Sages, and while anybody can tell a house is haunted when blood runs down the walls, the Sage is sometimes about to point directly at the offending spirit, not to mention notice what's upsetting it and exactly which creepy doll they probably need to break to slow it down.

Finding Information: Sages are the best combination tech-guru/librarians there are; when the group needs information about something, not only do they know where to go to get it, but they know how to navigate indexes, figure out organization schemes, and find exactly where the crucial facts are buried in whatever database, shelf, or vault full of disorganized paper they need to dig through. They're also often databases in and of themselves, and can retrieve information that seemed unimportant at the time they learned it at just the right moment.


Interacting with the Magical: Sages are great at figuring out and manipulating things that aren't strictly mundane - spiritual energies, magic spells, enchantments and runes, you name it. They don't always figure it all out at once, but they stand a better chance than the average person of noticing magic afoot and then figuring out where it's coming from and what it's trying to do. Many of their Blessings allow them to specialize in certain types of magic, just as their Warrior friends might specialize in certain types of combat; and other Blessings may let them cast spells of their own, although there's always more in the big bad magical world than they (at least as Mortals) can quite manage.

Structuring the Story: Because they have a mystical attunement to the greater world of magic, fate, and other things normal people aren't usually privy to, Sages can also mess with the Saga a little on their own - just tweaks, here and there, to the hem of the garment Destiny is weaving. Some of their Blessings let them discover the roles in the story people are meant to play, or even help nudge them toward ones that are especially beneficial; others let them recognize events to come at least in some small part, forearming them and their allies for the moments when they will be tested most critically. Of course, they can't really redirect the entire story, but they can certainly learn enough to try to make things turn out a little more in their favor within the confines Destiny has set out!

Figuring Out Puzzles: Lots of heroic stories hang on a puzzle: a lock, a riddle, a code, things left behind to guard places or just beyond the understanding of Heroes who really need to find out what's going on right now and don't have centuries to marshal a team to slowly churn through all the possibilities. Sages are the go-to people for puzzle-solving, capable of turning their big beautiful brains into code-cracking supercenters with a much better shot at putting things together than the average person. Anyone can take a shot at solving a riddle, but the Sage is always the one you want to try first (especially if there are, for example, Sphinx-related consequences to getting it wrong!).


What are Sages Effortless At? It is incredibly hard to pull the wool over a Sage's eyes - whether you're trying to lie to them, disguise yourself from them, hoodwink them with an illusion, or in any other way hide what's really going on from them, they're by far the most likely to see through you. Sages are automatically better at seeing the truth than everyone else, sometimes without even really noticing it - where everyone else can invest in the webs to do their best, the Sage just does it. The world is full of information, and they may not even understand why so many other people seem to be so darn blind to it.

What are the Drawbacks of Sages? Sages are awesome at finding things out... but they're not always great rhetoricians or persuaders if they don't have other Aspects to help them, which means that sometimes they have the worst time just getting everyone else, who can't see what they see or understand what they understand, to believe them when they explain what's going on and how they only have nine minutes to handle it before the building explodes. Many Sages have figured out exactly what to do hours in advance, only to spend half of their limited time on desperately trying to get their (perhaps, gently put, not too bright) friends to take them seriously and actually do it. Sages are also sometimes afflicted with the regret of knowing about things they can't actually affect; while figuring out where they stand in the Saga, what role they're meant to play, or exactly what hideous power their enemies have are all extremely useful pieces of information to have, sometimes they can make someone who understands exactly how bad the odds are despair (or even cause their friends to blame them, as if it's the Sage's fault they just happened to notice that the omens say bad things are coming!).


In recent playtesting, Sages have distinguished themselves by inventing a ritual that was able to interfere with an enemy's magical support spell; cracking a security code to let their group break into a building that otherwise couldn't be beaten by the best heisters among them; discovering the last lost scroll of a dead civilization in a library vault that contained the key to finding a royal descendant; and not only recognizing a companion's role as an action hero in the greater story, but mystically supporting them so that they became even better at it when they needed to most.

The Talents under the Sage umbrella are Enlightenment, Knowledge, Mysticism, and Sight; they know, they see, they experience, and then they use those tools to kick the Saga's butt. Stay tuned for Tricksters next!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Mechanics Talk: Explain to Me How to Lover

Lovers are up next, and we're talking about them back to back with the Leaders because they're related - both groups are about interacting with other people and making the world change through them. Lovers are all about making connections, changing perceptions, and whirlpooling events in their direction by being so darn amazing. (And of course, obligatory reminder: no one is only a Lover, and not all Lovers have the exact same Talents!)

What do you do on your adventures and for your group when you have Lover?


Being Noticed: Lovers are noticeable - whether they're dazzlingly beautiful, incredibly charismatic, unbelievably interesting, or just very, very loud. When they want to make a splash or get involved in something, that's a considerable asset, and people are likely to listen to what they have to say and pay attention to what they want (that doesn't always mean they oblige, but at least they're listening!). Lovers can grab attention for distractions or make sure the right people pay attention to their cause, getting their group past doors that otherwise would remain closed to them. Some of their Blessings make them so noticeable that the world warps around them, bringing people into their orbit of their own free will or setting events in motion from the sheer wow factor of the Hero just being near other people.

Manipulating Emotions: Getting noticed is great and being liked is even better - and everybody likes the Lover, at least if the Lover wants them to. Lovers can mess with the emotional landscape of those they interact with, and their range is extensive - they can make enemies too sad to function or too angry to think clearly, friends feel excitement and inspiration that allows them to continue on even when they should despair, or engender feelings of affection and even love to convince other people to help and support them. Their Blessings cover a lot of different emotions, and even without using them they're still experts in recognizing how someone feels and pushing them a little this way or that, which makes them ideal puppetmasters (benevolent or otherwise) who can twist situations in their favor even when they're in a lot of trouble.


Changing Minds: There's no better liar than a Lover - they have the power of persuasion, which means that whether they're trying to convince someone to do something, attempting to change someone's mind on a subject that they feel passionately about, or outright fibbing about something but really need someone to swallow the lie, they can get people on board with them. Social situations where everyone is not being strictly truthful - which is a lot of them when you're, say, sneaking into places you're not supposed to be or bold-facedly talking to an enemy who doesn't recognize you - go sideways very quickly without a Lover there to smooth the path with a few well-placed alterations to truthfulness.

Collecting Allies: As is probably pretty easy to guess for a Hero who is good at being noticed and good at manipulating emotions, Lovers are also really, really, really good at making friends. They're removing thorns from paws, knowing just the right thing to say to comfort someone in a crisis, kicking ass at social maneuvering, and breaking up fights to make peace - and all of that adds up to collecting a lot of people who just plain like or at least respect them, even if it's just because their personalities clicked. Heroes with Lover tend to build up stables of NPCs who are positively inclined toward them, which is a considerable boon when their missions need help from outside, and if they have the Lover Endowment of a Faithful Ally, they have such steadfastly devoted companions that they literally always have extra help and resources when they need it, no matter how scary the situation gets.


What is the Lover Effortless At? Lovers are just awesome to be around, no matter what they're doing or why; other people literally can't help but be glad they're there, even if they're being a pain in the ass in some way. The Lover gets to literally inspire other people to try harder and do better just to impress them; they give out the ability to reroll bad rolls to their allies, who either can't abide the thought of disappointing them or are trying really hard to impress them with their success. Just like the Leader, the Lover just believes that their friends are the best friends, and that everything goes great all the time no matter what they might otherwise think; that's just the way it is in the extra-charmed universe they live in.

What are the Drawbacks of the Lover? Lovers polarize events in their direction, which always makes good stories and exciting events, but isn't always positive - sometimes, the events they put in motion get out of control, and then everyone's yelling and people have called up reserves and suddenly the Trojan War is in full swing. Lovers get noticed, often whether they want to or not, so while this makes for lots of friends and positive benefits, it inevitably also attracts bad elements once in a while. Lovers also, just like Leaders, really need other people to be most effective, so when they are isolated or unable to call for backup, they find a lot of their skills aren't as useful when they have to try to operate in a vacuum.


In recent playtest groups, Lovers have kicked ass for their teams by making friends with NPCs so that they can later call them in as shock troops; charming government officials into letting them sneak into restricted areas and steal important information from them; give them multiple chances to right wrongs after upsetting dangerous enemies, even though they should really have been harshly punished or even killed the first couple of times; and so upset their enemies that many of them withdrew without even carrying on the fight, preferring to go recuperate elsewhere while the Heroes went about their business.

The Talents under the Lover umbrella are Beauty, Empathy, Inspiration, and Persuasion, with Inspiration as the second of the "buff others" stats along with Leader's Purpose. The Lover affects every game differently, depending on what the group's goals are, but they definitely do affect all of them, strongly, with emotional intent!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Mechanics Talk: Explain to Me How to Leader

On we rumble, into the Aspect of bosses and Serious Business - Leader! Leaders are all about being in charge, which means more than just looking important (although they do definitely do that); it also means being able to wrangle large groups of people, make rules (and make them stick), and inspire people to not only do what they want but really, really try hard at it.

What do you do on your adventures and for your group when you have Leader?


Being the Boss: Leaders are the boss, which is pretty obvious from their name - seriously, thoroughly the boss. They get to make rules, demand things of people, and intimidate dissenters into submission (which, depending on the Hero's personality, could be something they do patiently and comfortably, or something they just brute force without caring much about the feelings of the people involved). Obviously, every Hero can make demands or try to intimidate someone, but the Leader can really make it stick - when they do those things, they change how people behave and what they think, even if they really didn't want to back down to the Hero, which lets them get around a lot of obstacles and head off a lot of potential enemies before they even get started. Being large and in charge is a concrete skillset for the Leader, who has lots of Blessings that leverage it into action. (And, if Leader is one of their main Aspects and they have the Sway Endowment, they can literally just call up underlings to boss around when they need to!)

Managing a Crowd: One-on-one intimidation is one thing, but commanding a group or subduing a mob is also one of the Leader's abilities. They can sway the hearts and minds of huge numbers of people at once with speeches, demonstrations, and other giant social actions (unlike the Lover, who usually only affects a few people at the time more strongly, they get to affect a lot of people but with less intensity). Some Leader Blessings let them not only affect a large group but actually shape them into a living weapon or useful item, although what they can use them for varies depending on their specific stats - to attack people, or set up defenses, or start new trends, whatever they might need.


Resolving Conflicts: It's not all do-what-I-tell-you when you're a Leader; they're also in charge of keeping the peace and making things easier for everyone under their command, including their fellow Heroes. They get to create compromises and enforce fellowship among people - very literally, they have skills to help people stop fighting and start cooperating, helping the whole group do better. These things often provide the people they mediate for with extra powers or resources as a result of working together - it's not just that everyone feels better, they literally are better as a result of the Leader's influence.

Directing a Battlefield: Leaders are also the tacticians; they make combats better for their own side, which includes themself and any other Heroes as well as friendly NPCs. They can read the battlefield and make good plans, of course, which is half the battle right there, but their Blessings let them move people around the battlefield, mess with how effective enemy attacks and friendly defenses can be, give people additional opportunities to help, and so on and so forth. Heroes can always fight without a Leader, but having one makes them so much more effective, especially as a group, that it's always that much more awesome to have one on the team.


What is the Leader Effortless At? Leaders are motivating as all hell. Just being near other people encourages those people to do more than they ever would have thought possible otherwise. Unlike the Creators and Hunters we just looked at, Leaders effortlessly influence everyone besides themselves - they literally give out Labors to other people, illustrating that those people just can't bear to let them down, or are willing to try that much harder to do great things when their Leader is around to see them. To the Leader themself, people are just being effective due to their expert guidance; it seems to them like they just always have the best team. To everyone else, the Leader is a literal Godsend of encouragement.

What are the Leader's Drawbacks? Leaders need other people to be their best, obviously, so they're not as good at solo missions and issues wherein they get separated from their companions, which is how you end up with King Richard the Lionheart sitting in jail for a while while his people try to raise enough money to ransom him back. They also control a lot of situations with social acumen and power - many fights are stopped before they ever begin and obstacles are avoided before they ever become a problem due to the Leader dealing with them in advance - but when an emergency comes up that they didn't previously handle, sometimes they're out of options and have to let the other Aspects take center stage.


In playtest groups, Leaders have been awesome recently by muscling their way into private events by being too important to ignore; redesigning the operating procedure of a crime syndicate by coming up with new rules and strongarming leadership into accepting them; making tactical assessments that allowed them to plan ahead for how to depower their enemies before ever engaging directly with them; and ending combats by intimidating entire groups of enemies into feeling bad for attacking them in the first place.

The Talents under the Leader umbrella are Diplomacy, Purpose, Sovereignty, and Tactics, with Purpose being the first of the stats that is used on the rest of the group instead of yourself (although there are powers that use it as fuel, so you do have opportunities to spend it selfishly if you want to!). Next time: Lovers, the other powerhouses of affecting other people!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Storytelling Corner: Detective Mysteries

After we recently talked about the Hunter Aspect and the Heroes with it who are natural detectives with Tracking last Sunday, we got a couple questions from the question box - or really, more like complaints. The common theme was that detective mysteries are really hard to design in roleplaying games, and they were right! Detective mysteries can be a pain in the ass to design in RPGs. Your pain is felt here at HJ headquarters.


Mysteries - really compelling ones that last more than five minutes - are hard in RPGs, no joke. For one thing, you have to come up with a mystery that the players won't figure out OOC before the characters do IC; nothing is going to bore and frustrate them more than knowing the answer but not being allowed to act like they do because they couldn't make a roll. Of course, sometimes it's fun to throw up your hands and say, "My character has lard where their brains should be, sorry, they're going to hilariously Scooby Doo their way through this situation because they don't have any prayer of figuring it out," but that's not fun every time, and it's especially not fun sometimes for players whose characters are designed to be good at a mystery and just failed their roll this time. If the players and their characters both haven't figured out the solution to the mystery yet, they can continue to try to find out together, which can be exhilarating; and if the character finds out first, and Destiny imparts their knowledge to the player, they get the glow of learning the answer because their character is great; but the character roadblocking their own player usually doesn't feel very good.

So the first hurdle, as a GM, is coming up with a mystery that is clever and difficult enough that the players won't figure it out before you're ready for them to - they have to be interested and want to find the answer, but not be able to just find the answer within the first ten minutes of your session.


And speaking of rolls, where do you call for them? There are a lot of ways clues could be gathered that might tell the Heroes something about the answer, and you as the GM have to know which ones they're good at and what clues will add to the big picture without giving the whole mystery away. Maybe there are NPCs who know some things who the Heroes might get information out of with Lover or Leader rolls; maybe there's evidence lying around that a Hero with Hunter might be able to collect, or maybe there's some nonsense a Hero with Sage could perform to pull enough contextual information out of thin air to help them out, and of course they might be the best at putting all the pieces together later. Since HJ has a puzzle subsystem for figuring out obtuse codes and riddles, you could sprinkle some of those around for the Sages as well. But these are the easy parts of designing a mystery, honestly - things that might give clues that lead toward the answer, hopefully not all at once or too easy, and that hopefully give a few different possibilities before the final hour.

So you have a mystery you think is compelling, and you know what rolls your Heroes could make to try to find out about it. But somehow, even though those are theoretically the only things you need, half the mystery attempts in RPGs fall flat anyway. So what's missing?


In a world like HJ, part of the problem is that this is a mythic world full of magic and possibilities that don't normally occur in the real world - and that interferes with one of the basic rules of mysteries. When you're writing a mystery, whether for fiction, film, or an RPG, one of the basic rules is that you have to provide the readers/viewers/players with all the information they could need to solve the mystery on their own; if they figure it out, it should be because it was logical rather than because they were guessing, and if they don't, they should see how it made sense after it's explained to them. But this depends on the players knowing the "rules" of the world - things like, for example in a traditional detective mystery, the fact that touching things with bare fingers leaves fingerprints, or that a camera pointed in a window will record what happened in there, or that firing a gun leaves powder behind. They can use this knowledge about the world to follow to useful clues like "someone must have stolen the tape, who would have done that" or "there's a powder burn on this person's sleeve, which is incriminating". If your mystery did a right turn and said "oh, it was really this other person, and there were no fingerprints because they have a rare genetic disorder where they don't secrete oil and this was never mentioned or hinted at before the end", your readers would be annoyed, because you broke the rule that they should be able to depend on the rules of the world to find the answer - they never really had a chance, so the mystery is unsatisfying and feels like the author springing a "gotcha" that the reader could never have seen coming.

So you can see the problem in a setting like HJ - the players by default don't know the rules of the world. Magic and divine energy and enchantment are running rampant. They can't be sure if the security footage doesn't show anything because there was nothing to show, or because something happened that doesn't show up on camera Because Magic. They can't be sure if the murder was committed by something with hands at all Because Magic, so they can't be sure the lack of fingerprints means anything. Because Magic is messing up that whole relying-on-the-rules-of-the-world basic rule of mysteries.


So one of the first things you have to do is give the characters (and through them their players) those basic rules, and then stick to them. If the culprits are vampires and can't be seen in mirrors, and this is relevant because a witness who was looking into a mirror thinks they were alone, make sure they know that rule - Sages are great conduits for this sort of thing, because you can call for Knowledge rolls and hand off details when the subject comes up, illustrating them remembering or having previously researched something that might help shed some light on the situation. If the mystery revolves around a magical door they can't figure out how to open, and some of the rules include that certain people were required to do a ritual, let the Hunter find clues about how many people have been there or what they were like, or let your more socially-oriented Heroes ask around and get a picture of who was in the area so they learn these things. And above all, don't change your mind mid-stream - if suddenly one vampire shows up who does have a reflection for , the players will rightfully be mad at you for changing the rules on them and making it impossible for them to figure this out.

The exception to this rule is if the players are beating you at your own Destiny game (which doesn't happen often, but it's awesome when it does, so be excited about it!). Sometimes a character comes up with a theory that is wrong, but both plausible and amazing - maybe they completely missed a clue about the actual culprit, a local dwarf who stole something from the museum for their own forging purposes, but they instead put together a bunch of clues, some of which were just incidental information, to come up with a brilliant theory about how this particular artifact, which was from a now-lost site in the Fertile Crescent, was used as a focus for a summoning ritual for the ancient demon Pazuzu and my gods, team, there's no time to lose! As a GM, it's not just okay but actually important sometimes to recognize when the players are writing a better story than the one you had planned, and decide to go with it. If you find yourself thinking, "Wow, I wish that were true, that's way more interesting/epic/complex than what I planned out," the great news is that you don't have to wish it; you're the metaplot boss, so you can just declare that true and weave it into the larger story of the Saga however you like. Now that dwarf stole the relic for the cult, who paid him to do so, and if you don't find them in time to stop them, there are going to be so many more hurricane problems in the area than anyone planned for.


So there's your setup for an RPG mystery: 1) Write the mystery, 2) Figure out how the players can solve it, 3) Make sure you give them the "rules" of how things work so they can participate, 4) Be ready to hand out clues as rolls dictate, and 5) Be flexible if the story takes off without you.

By the way, all this design stuff is really talking about the "whodunnit" style of mystery, where X thing happened and everyone has to find out who did it and/or why, usually while the perpetrator is trying to stop them or at the very least avoid notice. But the whodunnit's related cousin, the howcatchem, is the style of mystery where the Heroes know who did it, but have to instead figure out how to find or trap them, or even know right where they are but need proof or information about how they did what they did before they can bring them to whatever form of justice is appropriate. If the whodunnit is being difficult, due to relying so much on clues and information and figuring out a secret at a possibly inopportune moment, howcatchems can be a useful alternative that sometimes works better in an RPG setting, since it gives the players very clear action-oriented goals but still allows them to do investigative detective work to achieve them. (And if the whodunnit collapses early because someone figured something out at the wrong time or the clues didn't line up, you can always segue right into a howcatchem instead to keep that mystery feel rolling!)

A lot of the crafting rules of RPG stories closely mirror those of writing a story for page or screen; after all, those stories are familiar to your players, too, and HJ is a game where they are literally envisioning themselves as part of stories like that. Often, if you're just feeling your way through, asking, "Would this work in a book/TV show?" can get you pointed in the right direction.