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Any advice for a CSI-style campaign?


cyst13

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As per Steven Long's suggestion, I am re-posting this advice request on this board. It was originally on the Other Genres board.

 

I'd like advice from anyone with experience at running a campaign in the style of the TV show, CSI: crime scene investigations.

 

How do you design the adventures? How do you keep the players on track without railroading them or resorting to deus ex machinas?

 

Also, I'd like to know how to verbally describe crime scenes in order to give the players all the necessary info and clues without creating an infodump which gives away the game at the start. How much detail should I offer when the PCs arrive on the scene? How much should I make them work for? How should perception rolls be used? How should PS: CSI skill be used? When would it be necessary to make rolls?

 

The show relies heavily on indirection; the CSI guys often misinterpret the facts early in the investigation and have to reformulate their ideas as they proceed. Any advice on how to achieve this effect with players?

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Re: Any advice for a CSI-style campaign?

 

As per Steven Long's suggestion' date=' I am re-posting this advice request on this board. It was originally on the Other Genres board.[/i']

 

I'd like advice from anyone with experience at running a campaign in the style of the TV show, CSI: crime scene investigations.

 

How do you design the adventures? How do you keep the players on track without railroading them or resorting to deus ex machinas?

 

Also, I'd like to know how to verbally describe crime scenes in order to give the players all the necessary info and clues without creating an infodump which gives away the game at the start. How much detail should I offer when the PCs arrive on the scene? How much should I make them work for? How should perception rolls be used? How should PS: CSI skill be used? When would it be necessary to make rolls?

 

The show relies heavily on indirection; the CSI guys often misinterpret the facts early in the investigation and have to reformulate their ideas as they proceed. Any advice on how to achieve this effect with players?

 

First question. Do you have Dark Champions? (The forensics skills get a really beafy treatment in this book, with losts of info on using them in a forensics heavy game).

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Re: Any advice for a CSI-style campaign?

 

A lot of the time in CSI you get some clues that eliminate one suspect, then later (at about the 38-minute mark!) something comes in that negates the elimination.

 

If you're doing CSI: Miami, it's always the first person they talk to :)

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Re: Any advice for a CSI-style campaign?

 

How sustainable is this concept for a long term campaign? Seems like the "CSI" shtick would be good as part of a broader spectrum of crime drama, but I can't see showing up at a table every week just to pretend to look for clues, question broadly brushed NPC's, and make a lot of Forensics rolls.

 

What other elements are you going to incorporate?

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Re: Any advice for a CSI-style campaign?

 

Looking (again) at CSI:Miami, it's more of an action cop show with a forensics theme than a full-on forensics show like CSI:Classic. You can have initial forensic investigations that begin different styles of adventure. Or the other way around - start a more standard "cop" adventure and then hit them with a crime scene in the middle to mix things up.

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Re: Any advice for a CSI-style campaign?

 

The Ultimate Skill is a great resource for this kind of campaign.

 

With the number of C.S.I. shows out there I do not believe you will run out of ideas any time soon.

 

Finding players with the RIGHT STUFF to play in said campaign is another matter.

 

As for misdirection you can always apply Negative Modifiers to their Dice Rolls with out informing them and then feed them the misinformation.

 

Time Limits, just because they are gaming does not mean there is no sense of urgency. Establish this at the beginning. A second Murder, another Body, a Toxic Substance in the water cooler. Urgency is the hardest thing to instill in a game.

 

Random Dice Rolling and making notes on your behind your GM sheet. Lot of hmmms.. ahhhs and head nodding... Regular Intelligence/Perceptions Rolls.

 

Deduction and Criminology/Psychology(Profiling). Make stuff up, but back it up a little...

 

There is no such thing as coincidences... except when GMing ;)

 

QM

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Re: Any advice for a CSI-style campaign?

 

Steal heavily from true crime books. There are a lot of books out there about tracking down serial killers or kidnappers or what have you. Just change up names and places.

 

4th Ed Dark Champions had a serial killer case that I kind of liked, with red herrings and all. I'm sure there are a lot of adventures like this out there, although you'll probably have to convert most of them from d20 or something.

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Re: Any advice for a CSI-style campaign?

 

I'd generally avoid rolling dice, giving information mainly based on player ingenuity with some influence from the skills on the sheet. Keep it fast and loose. Award extra information if a player uses a new or creative method to examine evidence. Push players to solve the crimes instead of characters. Require players to build characters that are distinct from each other so they depend on each other (ballistics expert, DNA expert, etc.)

 

You might also spend some time defining CSI skills, since they don't always correspond very well to real-life technology (I love CSI - but I consider it science-fiction and judge it accordingly.) On the show, it seems like if an idea is cool enough, it can trump scientfic reality ("Look, if you magnify the store surveillance tape enough, you can read the sign reflected in the eyes of the guy standing in the doorway!"). I think that this is an excellent thing to keep in the game - it allows players to think a bit more outside the box and exercise some cleverness without being restrained by what they themselves actually know (or don't know) about technology. It also helps pull away from a situation in which a tech-minded player serves as the gatekeeper for what other players can do.

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Re: Any advice for a CSI-style campaign?

 

Many good suggestions, thanx.

 

I don't believe anyone has yet addressed the question of how to describe the crime scene to the players, though. Let's say the crime scene is a family murdered in a home. How should I describe this to my players?

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Re: Any advice for a CSI-style campaign?

 

Many good suggestions, thanx.

 

I don't believe anyone has yet addressed the question of how to describe the crime scene to the players, though. Let's say the crime scene is a family murdered in a home. How should I describe this to my players?

 

In very clinical terms. Unless you're really trying to spook the players.

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Re: Any advice for a CSI-style campaign?

 

I'd be pretty general on the initial description. Don't front-load too much information or people won't be able to properly process it. Give them just the basics and let them get the rest through questions - they're more likely to be able to grasp the import of new clues if they come individually as the answers to questions instead of as part of a long sequential list. One of the biggest challenges of a game like this is going to be getting the information to the players in a way that they can understand and use.

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Re: Any advice for a CSI-style campaign?

 

How about a special Serial Killer task force? It adds the element of persistent danger.

 

Also, IRL, the crime lab techs rarely go to the actual scenes, the evidence tech guys are police officiers who also get to carry crime kits in their cars. And the crime lab scientists work with a lot more lighting than seen on CSI. And the answer is never as easy as loading a GC-autosampler and getting immediate results. Plus their treatment of PCR is a joke. Having a degree in Crime Lab makes the shows less fun for me.

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Re: Any advice for a CSI-style campaign?

 

Many good suggestions, thanx.

 

I don't believe anyone has yet addressed the question of how to describe the crime scene to the players, though. Let's say the crime scene is a family murdered in a home. How should I describe this to my players?

 

There are a few great books on the subject of 'How to Write a Crime Novel'. I have one at home but I'd have to dig it out to see who the author is. These books are usually instant gratification since they tend to be short in chapters and long on dramatic info.

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Re: Any advice for a CSI-style campaign?

 

Many good suggestions, thanx.

 

I don't believe anyone has yet addressed the question of how to describe the crime scene to the players, though. Let's say the crime scene is a family murdered in a home. How should I describe this to my players?

 

Start with only describing the painfully obvious (which limits the number of detail you throw out in the initial description). Make the PCs drill down for specifics.

 

When I design scense like this I usuaully make a list of everything that discoverable and what skill (and modifiers if applicable) I expect to be able to be able to discover it. You'll need to kind of keep track of the various odd knowledge/science skill the PCs have on you own though. You don't want to bog things down too much with extraneous dice rolls, but someone with SS: Entomology is going to notice the odd bug behaviour that someone without it is not going to notice - even though the only dice roll you'll probably want from them is Perception.

 

(Conceptually I love the idea of complimentary skills, I just don't want to bother with rolling the dice for them).

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