Mystery, Scene Economy

A recent thread, Call of Chthulhu for BE, eventually veers into talking about the difficulties of using BE for a mystery setting.

I have my heart set on trying out the BE scene economy, and although we haven’t done any burning yet, several players are asking about doing a mystery game.

I’m not super-fond of doing a whole backstory with a trail of breadcrumbs for the PCs to follow; seems to me BE could work nicely in a setting which revolves around a whodunit, but where the GM FONs are actively obstructing the PCs and pursuing their larger goal.

In other words, mystery is the color, but not the structure - which would be more like a thriller. (All of this I will discuss with them of course.)

Are there any obvious pitfalls I should avoid, or principles I need to follow as we burn this thing up? What I have:

  1. The players and villains need to form identifiable teams with opposed agendas (otherwise the infection mechanics are irrelevant), though those agendas needn’t be known to the players’ characters initially.

  2. There needs to be a ‘larger war’ taking place as context around the players’ battles (same - can’t have the players win just by killing all the GM FONs)

  3. Players need to have relationships with GM FONs, ideally some sympathetic (places the PCs and GM FONs).

  4. GM FONs need motives and the connections to initiate conflict with PCs, otherwise the GM would have to resort to “8 ninjas drop through the skylight!”

Anything else? (There must be tons of things.)

Luke once commented that BE would do BSG nicely, but not Star Wars. I can’t find that thread, but I’d feel more comfortable knowing why that is.

Burning Delta Green?

There’s usually Something Awful, and a group of cultists up to no good.

Kinda sounds like Burning Empires.

Lots of Steel checks?

Get that Something Awful in mind and parcel out the Horror bit by bit?

Building Scene:

“Dr. Bad is in his lab. You can hear a muffled whining coming from the dark of the room. He picks up a bonesaw. “This shouldn’t take long,” he says. He walks to the back of the lab and you see…your wife hogtied on the floor.”

Delta Green’s all about fighting this secret war and trying to stay out of trouble with the law by being part of it and actually above it.

So I don’t know where I’m going with this, but you got me thinking…


How about playing around with wises…like, you can assert facts, (“There’s kidnappings going on in Chicago,”) but those facts can change as the game progresses (“Turns out it’s prostitutes being targeted,”), and even counter-manded, (“OMG, every prostitute was actually an orphan at this certain spooky school, and their brains are being sucked out!”). Although that’s not being countered, is it? Hmm…still thinking out loud.

That’s cool, yes, that’s what I have in mind. In this sort of genre (early on, at least) GM building scenes can really be about establishing mood.

I’m also wondering where the line is as far as communicating partial information.

For example, a GM color scene where you see a motor boat idling in the harbor, a weighted body is pushed overboard - but not revealing who either party is.

(Dumb question… the GM calls for ad hoc tests in BE as necessary, right? For example, if the villains initiate their conflict, warming up with a builder scene Stealth to make it an ambush, that can provoke Steel tests on the part of the players once the conflict starts, right?)

Part of me wonders if you just start with Something Awful. Don’t define it. Kinda like Inspecters. And as the game goes on, build it. Keep it abstract. Something to do with Blood, Little Children, and Something Sucking Brains.

And as the characters play, build it.

Not sure. Just a thought.

Another question. A staple in mystery is exploring a place, like the suspect’s abandoned farm. How does that normally go down in BE? I’m assuming it can be pretty free-form, something like:

The players learned the location of the farm in an Investigation building scene. They journey there (off camera, or maybe interstitial). I describe it, and they decide to make a Builder roll to search it for evidence (or something); that fails, so I decide the suspect is there, and ambushes them with a Conflict.

Does that sort of thing happen, or is there usually more time/space between scenes?

Part of me wonders if this would just play out like a episode of 24 but with lots of blood and Steel tests: you see what the good guys are up to, you cut to the bad guys, etc.

Some elements of 24: Misleading bad guys…turns out to be a bigger bad guy behind them. Traitors. Intricate bad guy plots that turn out to conceal bigger plots.

No the GM has his own scenes just like the players. All the players rolls are from them stating intent and the GM saying roll the dice.

He’s going for his own goals (seeding zombies, finish the summoning, converting cultists, etc). The plays see these things and want to act against them.

The mystery is what the GM comes up with consequences. I would suggest a set of madness conditions to add as consequences -

Player: I try to find out the name of entity they are summoning by reading the old tome we found

GM: okay, make a research roll at an ob 4. If you fail you’ll gain the name and the Obsessed condition.

They would need to use Building scenes to remove conditions. :slight_smile:

How do you mean?

(Incidentally, I kicked this thread down a Cthulhonic direction to start with, but the players are actually talking mundane-world mystery, rather than supernatural mystery.)