Impractical Applications (Points of Influence)

When my group went through the mystery I ran for them, it was pretty straightforward, and it might almost have seemed as if I’d only planned for what ended up happening. That wasn’t quite true, though; I’d had several contingencies in play based on a number of factors, and there were a few completely unexpected (at least from my end) tangents in the investigation.

A lot of it came from my culprit’s motivation, and what exactly she was doing. See, my group isn’t too good at looking past the immediate consequences of their actions, and they’d had an idea that was going to have serious ripples. Kiara, my perpetrator, had been looking at outcomes for this idea and how to avoid them, and didn’t want the group giving up before she could figure out all the issues. On the other hand, she also didn’t want anyone to get in trouble, and that colored many of her actions. One was the Oath itself: the wording definitely kept the other participants from sharing with her friends, but they were permitted to share if they were questioned by someone with bureaucratic need to know who could make their lives miserable if they refused. Another was who she chose as her oathsealer, since she’d had two options. On first glance, you’d think that the one whom she knew perfectly well had an old enemy of hers hanging around his head and capable of acting through him would be a suboptimal choice. But on the other hand, her other choice was closer to the group—and should one of the other people have to break the oath, ones the other one had sealed would be far more dangerous to break than ones the sealer she chose sealed.

The ability to cover tracks was also meant to be a clue, though in the beginning it could have pointed just as well to my red herring as to my actual perpetrator. Everyone knew intelligence, particularly wording and bureaucracy, was one of her strong suits, and the conversations they had before they heard the oath itself strongly implied that it was well-worded and mostly leakproof. She was a gifted detective, familiar with various magical means of investigation and how to squelch them—but if the group had brought in an outsider to use the effects she had contingencies against, said outsider would have noted that it was blocked, and what kind of effect by, which would have narrowed down the suspect list further (probably eliminating the red herring in the process, had he not already been removed).

Then there was characters taking alternate means of looking for clues. I’d expected, for instance, Luath to use his mind-reading and lie detection; I’d been a little more surprised by Tooth trying to track the people involved by scent, though I shouldn’t have been. One whole session worth of material was actually prompted by player investigation ideas, as someone pointed out “There are gods of everything around here, and they know their domains. Why not go talk to the god of magically binding oaths?” It was a perfectly reasonable conclusion to make, they had the resources to follow up on it, so I told them yes—and then I gave it the twist that it wasn’t one god but several, and cobbled together the Oathkeepers between sessions.

And of course, unreliable witnesses were everywhere. Kes was perpetually confused; this is normal for Kes. Kiara was hiding something. Nandin, the oathsealer, didn’t know the local culture too well and as a result was missing half the context. All three of them were oathsealed, further limiting what they could say. Irayo, Nandin’s housemate, wasn’t oathsealed, but she wasn’t there either, and she had memory issues regarding the rest of the participants. Jalil, the voice in Nandin’s head, wasn’t oathsealed either, but he was a former antagonist and already known for his manipulative tendencies, so it wasn’t clear how much of what he said could be believed.

And yes, we’re almost finished. Next week: Old mistakes, and what I learned from them.

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