Investigative Game Prep
I will say, investigation games take a lot more prep than I’m used to. Do some more research into how these types of RPGs are planned and try to work that into your prep. What I can give you here is more of an atmosphere or setting, as well as an outline that could be a short session, or a side adventure B Plot to your normal game. This follows a generic Three Act Structure and should be loose enough to work into your prep. Obviously no plan survives first contact with the players so you will likely need to tweak this as appropriate.
An up and coming scholar is trying to do some research on ancient sexuality for an upcoming conference and has decided to investigate Niankhkhnum & Khnumhotep. However, he is barred from entering the tomb itself because his boyfriend is currently in prison and he himself has been flagged by a watchdog organization. He reaches out to the PCs to provide some more interesting evidence, or to go to the tomb on his behalf.
Upon reaching the tomb (or upon returning home) the PCs find that the scholar’s work has been challenged by a conservative organization, and his spot has been pulled from the conference. The scholar asks the PCs to look into what happened. It turns out that the scholar has an academic rival who tipped off the hate group and stole the scholar’s conference spot. If investigated, the PCs discover many artifacts in the rivals study that could be traced back to the Saqqara burial plots.
As the date of the conference approaches, the scholar’s boyfriend is released from prison and the two men again call the PCs for help. Desperate, the scholar tells the PCs that he may not have much time in the country left and this conference was his chance to make a name for himself before he has to return home. Later, if the PCs stay with the scholar they are privy to these events, but if not, the rival shows up at the PC’s home and recounts a tale: the scholar and his boyfriend confront the rival either because of, or despite the PC’s advice, but get in over their heads. A small artefact, a plate taken from the tomb and on loan from a museum in Egypt, is damaged in the scuffle. The scholar & his boyfriend double over in pain and shrivel over before crumbling to dust. The rival admits to sabotaging the scholar but has no clue what happened and is in a state of panic. If the PCs go to the conference, or see any promotional material, the two faces of Niankhkhnum & Khnumhotep stare out from a flyer, eerily similar to those of the scholar and his boyfriend.
YA-Fiction Style Game
Heru & Seth have been an off-again-on-again item for the past four months. Now, as the Halloween Dance approaches, the local art history museum in which the dance is to be held receives a last-minute addition to their Ancient Egypt wing: duplicates of Niankhkhnum & Khnumhotep’s burial engravings. With this addition came a wave of anti-gay protesters and historical “purists” who malign these relics’ inclusion. Now it seems like Heru & Seth’s relationship is rockier than ever before, and as committee members on the Dance Planning Committee, their split may cause the whole production to fall apart. (Catch this third-party skin for Monsterhearts, The Mummy)
Heru – Junior & part time lifeguard who loves sunbathing & eyeliner. Comes from a rich family & likes to go falconing in his spare time.
Seth – Senior & amateur storm-chaser, Seth is a key figure on the school’s rowing team and loves to tell the story of how he rowed a race with a frantic garter snake who had stowed aboard.
Ambrosia Tun – Museum Curator who is a little too excited about Ancient Egypt, and a little “doesn’t quite get it” when it comes to relationships.
Gerred Gere – Evangelist & self proclaimed “historical purist” who’s in town protesting the “gaywashing” of ancient history.
Menace: The Looming Halloween Dance
Stakes: Will the Dance Planning Committee reconvene in time to save the Halloween dance? Will the PCs find dates? Will Heru & Seth get back together or are they better off split up?
Threat: Heru & Seth were the backbone of the Dance Planning Committee.
Craving: Intimacy (Isolate them)
Offerings: Sex (Seclude them & seek promises)
Capacity: Cold Betrayal (Turn their friends against them)
When you make plans for a date to the dance, roll with Hot. On a 10+ you have what you need to see the date through. On a 7-9 you’ll
When you try to get the planning committee together, tell the MC if you go to Heru or Seth first. They’ll remember your choice later.
Menace: A Charged Exhibit
Stakes: As “moral panic” spreads over a modern reading of ancient relics, will the discussion remain academic? To what lengths will the protesters go to shut down the museum? How does the town see the role of ancient art in modern lives?
Threat: Gere’s right wing protesters rail against a modern view of Niankhkhnum & Khnumhotep as lovers.
Craving: Ownership (Viciously protect coveted things)
Offerings: Inclusion (Show them what they’re missing)
Capacity: Sudden Violence (Outright kill someone they love)
When you try to deescalate a bigoted mob, roll with Volatile. On a 10+ choose two from the following list. On a 7-9 choose one.
- The media is on your side
- You don’t get hurt
- The mob disperses
You have some connection to the museum. When you first visit the new exhibit, choose one from the list below and work with the MC to flesh out its inclusion in your game:
- A Friendly Face: You know someone who works in the museum who could sneak you in whenever you want
- Research Skills: You know your way around the museum’s research systems, providing you with special access to their records
- Cultural Ambassador: You spent some time as a neighborhood liaison for the museum & have cultural connections on its behalf
For a chance to explore the space during a dungeon crawl or more traditional hack & slash RPG feel. The PCs stumble across a tomb while exploring ancient burial grounds. The debate on the ethics of grave robbing is better left for other folks, and the party ventures inside.
Agenda: Make the world fantastic. Fill the character’s lives with adventure. Play to find out what happens.
Goals: Establish details, describe. Use what they give you. Ask questions. Leave blanks. Look for interesting facts. Help the players understand the moves. Give each character a chance to shine. Introduce NPCs. Fill out your worksheet.
Dungeon Moves: Change the environment. Point to a looming threat. Introduce a new faction or type of creature. Use a threat from an existing faction or type of creature. Make them backtrack. Present riches at a price. Present a challenge to one of the characters.
- When did you realize you were lost in the burial grounds?
- Whose tomb were you originally looking for, and what treasures did you hope to find?
- What curse did the locals threaten you with to try and keep you out?
- Why did you venture forth anyway?
- How thick was the layer of dust outside the tomb, and how thick is the dust inside?
- A cracked stone door, impossibly old
- Shattered remains of a beautiful fresco
- A noise, just down that dark stone hallway
- The grinding of sand between two stone objects
- A large statue of two men holding hands
- Darkness, total and complete darkness
- A plaque, declaring this tomb to be the burial site for Niankhkhnum & Khnumhotep, royal manicurists of the great pharaoh
- A room full of inexplicably labeled containers
- An empty burial chamber where two bodies once lay together for eternity
- Footsteps in the dust that may be weeks old, or centuries old
- Dozens of images of the two men holding or supporting one another in various poses
- A cool breeze as if from outside air
- A scene where the men enjoy the outdoors together, spearing fish and bird hunting
- The sound of competing grave robbers, hopelessly lost but unaware of your presence
- The entrance to their offering chamber, where Niankhkhnum & Khnumhotep are shown nose to nose, kissing as their belt buckles touch, joining them at the waist
- A hallway nearly blocked by debris, or the wreckage of a cave in
- In some hieroglyphs, their names are joined in a wordplay that could suggest that they are now joined in death as they were in life
- Some creature that’s made its life down here
- One inscription featuring a musician calling for a song about The Two Divine Lovers
- Sand, so much sand . . .
When you enter a new room, roll +Str. On a 10+ you enter unimpeded. On a 7-9 you are winded from clearing debris and must take a moment to breathe & look around you.
When you closely examine the art, roll +Wis. On a hit, you learn a new detail of the lives of these two men. On a 10+ you take +1 forward when acting on this information.
The silence of the grave is complete. Take -1 ongoing when you try to discern reality based on your hearing.
When you open an ancient container, roll +Con as a cloud of arcane dust fills your senses. On a 10+ the dust grants you a vision. On a 7-9 you still receive the vision, but the dust Sickens you.
When you sleep in the tomb, you are visited in your dreams by one of the people from the decorations who will speak with you for a time but will not answer any questions.
When you inadvertently wake a mummy, roll +Cha. On a 10+ you can parley with it and it may even be friendly. On a 7-9 you can choose either to parley or to have it be friendly, but not both.
When you think you’ve found a way out of this room, roll + the amount of dreams you’ve had while in the tomb. On a 10+ you’ve found an exit. On a 7-9 you can see the other side but there’s no way you can reach it. On a 6- the mirage clears and you’re left once again in the darkness.
Well, that’s our show!
As we wrap up here, I’d like to do one small plug for this list of queer/LGBT+ gaming resources I curate over at my site, RiverhouseGames.com. Like I said in the first installment, I don’t quite know how to answer my question of where I want queerness in tabletop to go. That said, reading others’ work, playing queer games, and working through some creative processes has given me some great enrichment in this area. How about you? I’m only one person and I’m limited to my own experiences. What would you like to see in the future of this series?