The Problem: A sometimes overheard complaint about the venerable Call of Cthulhu role-playing game is that the players might collectively fail their test to spot a vital clue. Consequently, the party might get stuck in their investigations indefinitely – which is no fun! The role-playing game Trail of Cthulhu set out to solve the above Call of Cthulhu problem by creating game rules that ensure that so-called core clues can never be missed. This, however, replaces the Call of Cthulhu problem with the Trail of Cthulhu problem: people do like egghunts (that’s why there is an annual, literal egghunt every Easter Sunday), so how do we ensure that there is something at stake for your players in finding the clues and at the same time prevent them from getting stuck indefinitely?
Our Solution: Every time your players miss a core clue, you have the option of providing them the missed information in a different way – at a cost in Fortune Points. For example, if the players fail to decypher the decrypted letter of a conspiratorial guild dedicated to the god of Lith, the party’s rogue might meet by chance an old colleague in a tavern who has sufficient familiarity with the code. Such heroes’ luck in Knights of the Black Lily will be at the price of 1 Fortune Point (or more), which comes out of the player’s Fortune Point pool and goes right into the GM’s. An event that surely will come back to bite your players much later, when they reach the Trial of the Gods, as the adventure draws to a close. (Remember: Each Fortune Point lost to the GM may cause you trouble later, when the GM gets to buy Twists of Fate with them at the adventure’s highpoint.)
This way we accomplish what we set out to do: we provide tension by putting things at stake for the players while at the same time we avoid boring, agonizing lulls due to being stuck seemingly forever.
But wait! That’s not all, it gets even better! Remember the 1980s classic boardgame Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective? In this game, the players are cooperating to solve cases in the vein of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. At the end of the case, they are getting asked questions about the case and receive points for answering them correctly. More importantly, they get positive or negative bonus points for completing the case in less/more steps than a certain number of them. With Fortune Points, it is now entirely possible to replicate such a ticking clock in RPGs with ease!
For example, you could assign a Challenge Pool of 5 for a given investigation and deduct 1 point from the pool for each missed core clue, as before. But, additionally, you could also deduct 1 point for each location visited or per day in in-game time passed, thus putting extra-pressure on your players – ratcheting up the tension! This example just goes on to demonstrate how the Fortune Point rules in Knights of the Black Lily enable you, the GM, to be creative in coming up with ever new and clever ways to challenge your players. All of this is only possible, of course, due to first defining secondary stakes centrally through the Twists of Fate and the Trial of the Gods – and then tying these stakes to the challenges as they occur through the course of the adventure via the various matching Challenge Pools.
This post was just the first in our brand new series of blogposts, called Spotlight, which highlights various elements of the game design of Knights of the Black Lily and demonstrating how it can be put to great use in YOUR games. Spotlight will initially focus on the Fortune point rules, as a companion piece to the upcoming release of the game’s Fortune rules as an excerpt chapter. To recieve this excerpt chapter as early access content, make sure to SUBSCRIBE to our NEWSLETTER at its highest level (“I’m a huge fan…”). Check it out!