Wednesday, 8 June 2016

An Introduction to Reach (and the Investigator background!)

Whew, been a while since I updated here, but now that various home projects have wrapped up, I can get back to doing what I enjoy, creating RPG content. Of all the things I'm excited to be working on in the future, the biggest project on my plate is Reach, so now seems like as good a time as any to introduce Reach and explain what it's about.

Reach was originally conceived of as a campaign setting that blended heroic fantasy and the wild west, throwing together tropes from classic western movies and blending them with the trappings of fantasy that we've come to know and love. Sorcerous cowboys taking on goblin bandits from horseback, Elemental-powered locomotive robberies, Protecting the farm from dragon attacks while trying to make it through the winter. These were the kind of scenarios I wanted to run in Reach.

However, the more I thought about it, the more narrow the appeal seemed to be for a basic campaign setting, and the further it seemed to be from what I want from my games. Setting backdrops make for a good start, but what I focus on with my writing is trying to give others the tools to create what they want, and a premade campaign setting didn't quite seem to gel with that.

So Reach evolved into its current iteration, a toolkit to dwarf all other toolkits I've created, with the tools you need to create a frontier campaign, not just a setting, but a campaign uniquely suited to you and your group, with bits and pieces you can drop right into your own setting, or assemble to create a brand new world. There'll be player options and other content, but at its heart, Reach is intended to empower you to make a campaign thats personal to you, and a setting to frame it in.

Over the next few months Reach is going to be my primary focus, and what I'd like to do here is share my ongoing work. I thought I'd start with a custom background I've been working on: the Investigator. Taking inspiration from classic detective dramas such as Sherlock Holmes and Murder She Wrote, the investigator presents the player with a way to influence the story through their background feature, as well as make important statements about the campaign setting and the way their characters fits into it. As it's a first draft, I expect it'll change over time, but here's the current iteration. Enjoy!


You love a good conundrum, or at least the triumph feeling of unlocking a tangled web of lies and secrets and seeing the truth laid bare. Whether you work for a government, a powerful individual, a society or on behalf of the common folk, you use your not-inconsiderable talents to pierce the veil of mystery. You see right to the heart of matters, identifying salient clues and piecing them together to find the guilty culprit, the hidden truth or the individual conspiring to stymie you and the authorities.

Skill Proficiencies: Investigation, Insight
Tool Proficiencies: Disguise kit, forgery kit
Equipment: A token of rank or jurisdiction (a magistrate's writ, a sheriff's badge, a scholar's ring, etc), a set of traveller's clothes, a trophy gained in a recent investigation (a medal bestowed by a local authority, a small gift from a grateful client, a letter from an enemy declaring vengeance), and a belt pouch containing 15gp.


No investigator has unlimited jurisdiction, though some have a longer reach than others, and not all have the same focus. Some might be focussed on criminal justice (perhaps within a specific arena of crime, such as fraud, theft or murder), others might search for lost items or people, or be intent upon uncovering truth in order to present their findings, reporting scandals or unlocking historical mysteries. Work with your GM to determine your area of focus and jurisdiction. You can select a premade jurisdiction from the table below or roll randomly.

Feature: Eye For Detail
As an experienced investigator, you can draw on your skills to identify key elements (such as an important clue that might lead to the next piece of the puzzle, or a contact that might have the information you need to progress further) of a mystery within your area of focus. If you are part of a larger organisation, you can requisition equipment and gain food or lodging, but you can expect this organisation to call on your skills to aid them from time to time. An investigator who works for personal profit can expect paying clients to cover reasonable expenses (equipment purchases, lodging) as part of their pay. You can also expect some leeway from local authority figures in the course of your investigation (enabling you to arrest criminals, seize assets or be forgiven for minor misdemeanours), but abusing this leeway might mark you as corrupt or criminal.

[Sidebar: A note for the GM
What does an investigator PC mean for your campaign? Your player is giving you a signal to throw the occasional mystery your way, and the “Eye For Detail” feature is linked firmly within that. By no means should you consider this feature a means for the player to instantly solve mysteries, they still need to do the legwork, work out what the clues mean, and how several clues fit together to reveal the truth behind the puzzle. However, this feature enables players to avoid derailing the mystery because they failed to spot a vital clue (by failing an Investigation or Perception skill check). Feel free to throw in the occasional red herring from time to time, or to make finding the clue the least difficult part of the challenge (perhaps solving the clue will require an adventure in itself, or earning favours from various contacts) in order to spice up the mystery while not letting it grind to a halt.]

Suggested Characteristics
With power over the truth, some investigators can become deeply corrupt, putting a price to their version of the truth and twisting it to suit their own purpose. Those that remain virtuous are dedicated to the ideals of truth and justice, and might strive to be honest and good in all their dealing, though they are just as likely to judge the world by the worst examples they've seen.

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