The last investigative RPG I ran was called InSpectres. I'm sure I've written about it on the blog before. It's a fun, light little horror comedy game that I like to run in coffee shops.
This was back in March, right around when the pandemic was picking up steam. But it was Friday the 13th, and it had to be acknowledged in some way. I posted the event on my Meetup group and got two players.
One of the things that I have always appreciated about InSpectres is that players will never get stuck on a mystery or fail to find a clue. Every die roll has a chance of contributing to the ultimate goal. One of the players that I got was actually experienced with the system and helped me see a few more kernels of genius in the design.
Action is always better than inaction. This one is sort of obvious. It's what I've always said about the game, but from a slightly different perspective. Since every roll can contribute to the completion of the story, it is in the players' best interest to make as many rolls as possible. This was highlighted in this particular session, as the other player, who didn't have experience with the system, was generally more passive. I tried to check in with him a few times to make sure that he was engaged.
The other thing is the reason why the players get to generate the clues that they find. On the surface level, it ensures that the clues you discover make sense in the context of where you found them. If the GM constructed the mystery and handed out clues as you made successful die rolls, it would seem very strange if you found the secret love note in the bathroom, or inspired a confession with a pratfall. By letting the players construct the mystery on the fly, you also ensure that every clue is actionable. Rather than discovering a hair sample that they need to take to the lab to have analyzed, or something obscure that has to wait for another clue to emerge to make sense, the players can hand themselves information that pushes the action forward.
My love for that game grew even stronger after that experience.