A Lazy Sequence

Gumshoe’s sense trouble ability

Keen perceptions allow you to spot signs of potential danger to yourself and others. Information gained from this ability might save your skins but doesn’t directly advance the central mystery.

Adjudicating sense trouble is easy when used passively: The GM just asks for a test when appropriate as per the rules in the ability description. When used actively by the players there is more nuance, and it isn’t really covered in the rules.

Active use arises when a player asks a question like “Are we being followed?”. There are three ways that the GM can respond: yes (or the related evidence collection/notice ability), no, or make a sense trouble test. I use the follow heuristic to decide which:

  • Is there time for a digression? If not then no.
  • Do they need a clue? If so, then either yes or if appropiate evidence collection/notice (for games that use those abilities), and the source of trouble has a clue.
  • Would a chase and/or fight be a useful change of pace? If so, make a sense trouble test.
  • Otherwise no.

Finally, when you ask the player to make a sense trouble test, remember that it’s a constrained resource, and make it worth their while spending. If you can’t think of an exciting result for succeeding, don’t make them test.

Thanks to Jason Martinez for his thoughts, particularly around turtling players.

29 March 2019