Paranormal Investigation Tool – Follow the Bread Crumbs


I’ve been working hard on a new aid for Paranormal Investigation games this week, and haven’t got a chance to make a new post. So, to kill two birds with one stone, I’m giving you a sneak peak of the work in the progress. Presenting:


researcher discovery


The goal of the “Bread Crumbs” system is not to create a full adventure for you- like any Fate Core game, it requires some creativity of your group’s part. Rather, it’s here to help generate clues and ideas. It’s really up to you, the gm and the players, to string together the relevant bits into a narrative.

Will this fashion a masterpiece of mystery, the likes of Agatha Christie? Nope. But it’s great for your average, “villain of the week” style one shot adventure.


The Bread Crumbs system uses a principle called Apophenia, which Wikipedia defines as: “is the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.” In essence, we start the group with a crime scene. At the scene is a murder victim, killed in a specific way, an item, and a few random sensations. Let’s say you get “a bullet to the chest,” “a banana,” and “a strange sense of well-being.” What’s the connection between them?

At the start, absolutely nothing. However, as you question witnesses, follow hot leads, and uncover more clues, (ex. More bananas, and a huge pile of cash), your group can now start putting it all together.

Maybe they discover a ring is smuggling street by magically transforming them into bananas. Maybe a Love God / Goddess from a Tropical nation is luring greedy banana-republic salesmen to their death. Maybe the banana’s a red herring, planted there to by the NecroCats to frame their worst enemies, the Were-Gorilla gang!

But how do I come up with the connections? Hopefully the players will provide connections on their own, but if not, we recommend some source books on the symbolism of various objects. It also helps to brush up on your mythological beasts: if the random chart generates feathers and talon-marks, you might decide to make the monster a cockatrice and drop a few cockatrice-themed clues along the way (ex. County fair with a rooster that lays eggs.) Most importantly, keep an open-minded. Don’t pick the weirdest theory for the villains, pick ALL of the weird theories!

This also combos well with the Brainstorm system introduced in “Atomic Robo RPG.” We will be releasing a similar, Investigation based system in the near future.


Before you start, make sure you create characters

Create Urban Legends – have each player and the GM create at least one each (although, if a player’s feeling creative, don’t put a maximum.) Some of these (or all of them) may not show in the story, but it’s nice to get ideas before you start.

Generate a Mystery (see below)

Go to the scene of the crime and Investigate. Generate a Location

As soon as you get there, start making supporting characters. Make sure you include a Face character or two for every organization and location. Don’t just have a random cop, have Carl the Chubby Meterman. If the murder’s in a back alley, have the owner of the restaurant Greasy Ginny, already answering questions to one of the detectives. These people seem incidental now, but could end up your suspects, eye witnesses, allies, enemies, and potentially future victims.

The team then gets to scan the scene for clues. Each character may attempt to use an appropriate skill to survey the scene. Investigate is the best skill, but Sixth Sense can be used to pick up Sensory Clues, and certain and situations allow characters to use other skills (ex. A stunt that lets a mad scientist investigate with Science!; a smooth talker using Rapports to question witnesses; Connections to dredge up rumors from your network.)

Successes: For each Success, the group gains one clue. You can only have a total of three Evidence or Corpse clues, so any further clues must be Sensory Clues.

Succeed with Style: If a character succeeds with style, you can gain a boost to aid another player with their search, or may take an additional aspect about the crime scene- this likely not a full clue, but rather a “hunch” about the nature of incident.

Fail / Succeed At Cost: No matter how many characters you fail, you always gain at least one Clue. Alternatively, don’t forget that, with Fate, you can always Succeed at a Cost.

Example “Success at Cost”: Finding a bit of evidence by tripping over it (giving you a Consequence to show your hurt leg or hurt pride); getting contradictory eye-witness testimonials; discovering an important bit of evidence and accidentally destroying it before it can be examined closer.

Clue chart:

If your group rolls on the same twice in a row, roll twice in a row, to assure a mix of the three.

Corpse Clue – Roll on the Corpse Clue Chart
0 Evidence Clue – Roll on the Evidence Clue Chart
+ Sensory Clue – Roll on the Evidence Clue Chart

Whenever they search, they always find SOMETHING, even if it doesn’t seem important. A bent fender. A phone message from Crystal. A bar napkin. Even if they lead no where now, some player might make a connection you never thought of.

Once the crime scene and all witnesses are exhausted, try to follow the clues. Maybe a forensic scientist can analyze the mud sample, or a guest lecturer can tell you more about an ancient symbol. Dig into the victim’s past, stake out similar locations in case it happens again. Reward player proactivity with more information.

When providing answers, draw connections threads between the events and aspects that are proposed (including the Urban Myths). If the trail grows cold, have the crime reoccur, or introduce someone who knows more than you (a hired assassin coming for you; a new witness; a rival to the enemy; the critically injured victim regains consciousness with vague memories.)

The Twist – Just when everything’s going smoothly, add in a plot twist. This can be something of your own devising, or roll on your adventure’s Twist table. When in doubt, remember the Urban Legends… maybe your Mexican Standoff with the Romanian Mafia gets interrupted by Elvis and his Alien abductors.

The Reveal – The mystery is exposed. Maybe it was a creature you still know very little about, or maybe it was really Carl the Chubby Cop the whole time.



The _sense__ is __(category), a bit like __example.__

This means you roll for the sense chart, then on the matching description chart, and then your group picks one of the examples in it. This gives you a definite fact (ex. It IS sweet), and less concrete suggestion (ex. “it reminds you of jasmine”). This lets you alter it slightly later if need be! Make sure you let the group in on picking the description. Ex. You can read the full list and let them pick; you pick “fruit” and let them throw ideas of which fruit it is.

For example, a roll might include “The smell is sweet, a bit like almonds.”

Which Sense?: If a character has no particular focus, roll on the following chart. However, if a player has an aspect that suggests that one sense is stronger / more appropriate than the next, allow the character to pick which one. (Ex. A psychic picking up the Sixth Sense Clue; a werewolf with the aspect “Follow Your Nose!” getting a Smell Clue.)

Sensory Clue – Sub-Chart
0 +
Another player picks one! Smell Touch
0 Sight The GM picks one! Sixth Sense
+ Taste Hearing Pick one!


The location itself appears to you be ______, much like a _______

Sensory Clue – Sub-Chart
0 +
Disarray Neat Phony
0 Hidden / Blind spots In Full View Secrets Revealed
+ Snap Shot All in the Details Seen This Before

Disarray – The location is in shambles. You might mean: there was a great struggle; someone was looking frantically for something; the attack was made in hot blood; the attacker was a beastlike in its savagery.

Neat – The location is startlingly neat and tidy. You might mean: the victim was subdued without a fight; the murderer was someone the victim knew; the murderer is a master of stealth (vampire, ghost, ninja); attack was calculated and made in cold-blood; the attacker wasn’t looking for something / wasn’t a robbery.

Phony – You can’t prove it yet, but your gut tells you something about the placement of the body and articles feels fake, altered, or unnatural. This might be: a phony suicide letter or “dying message”; a half-hearted robbery; objects / evidence that looks planted; a “random” attack with perfect timing; an assailing “stranger” who knew too much.

Hidden / Blind spots – The murder occurred in a spot that is secluded, dark, or obscured from others. This might mean: the murderer is a creature of the night / has night vision; the murderer is hurt by sunlight; the murderer is an ambush hunter; the murderer lured the victim into the location; the victim agreed to go into the secluded place (trusted murderer, doing a shady activity.)

In Full View – The murder happened in spot that was well light, exposed to the elements, and where others could easily see it. They might mean: there are witnesses to the d

Secrets Revealed – upon investigation, you find a secret way in, possibly utilized by the murderer. This might be: a hidden door; a grate leading to the sewer; a passage behind a portrait.

Snap Shot – Something in the area let you catch a blurry picture of an unknown person at the scene, possibly the murderer. This might be from: the victim’s last selfie; traffic camera; ATM camera; satellite image.

All in the Details – You find a near microscopic piece of evidence that other eyes would miss. Roll on the Sensory table to see what you find (reroll any Sixth Sense or additional Sight results). It’s not much now beyond a simple smell or touch, but it’ll be more defined when the lab gets to analyze it.

Seen This Before – The sight seems strangely familiar to you. This might be: you have been to this spot before; you’ve seen an identical before (perhaps an unsolved case!); you recognize the victim from somewhere (maybe searching the mug shots will help).


The smell is ______, a bit like _________.

Sensory Clue – Sub-Chart
0 +
Floral Caustic Common Chemical
0 Metallic Foul Sweet
+ Smokey Earthy Spicy

Floral – perfume, cologne, lotion, flowers, green tea, violets (turpentine), fruit

Caustic – acidic (hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, vinegar, ammonia, lemon), basic (rubbing alcohol, methanol, quicklime, paint thinner, hydrogen peroxide), cleaning agents (bleach, detergent, soap, disinfectant, chlorine, “pine-fresh”), poisonous (bug spray, pesticide)

Common Chemical – Shoe polish, aerosol, hair spray, soap, new car, alcohol

Metallic – ozone, copper, burnt oil, melted plastic, ammonia (ex. Smokeless powder ammo)

Foul – rotten (flesh, wood, milk), bodily fluids, rotten eggs (sulfur, brimstone, gas), B.O., poo gas, fish (nickel tetracarbonate)

Sweet – fudge, vanilla, almond (cyanide, marzipan), cookies, rotting fruit

Smoky – candles, tobacco, gunpowder, fuel, wood, burnt meat / flesh, incense, burnt rope, gasoline, burnt hair, black tea, coffee

Earthy – damp leaves, mud, sea breeze, minerals, rust, grass

Spicy – pepper, garlicky (onions, phosphorous, arsenic), mustard (mustard gas), mint / menthol


The touch is ______, a bit like _________.

Sensory Clue – Sub-Chart
0 +
Gooey Slick Rough
0 Sharp Soft / Smooth Rubbery
+ Cool Hot Unearthly

Gooey – mucus, goo, adhesive, glue, tar, syrup (honey, maple, soda), plant sap, insect / spider silk, congealed blood

Slick – oil (gun oil, lighter fluid, cooking oil), grease, makeup, butter, snot, sweat, scales, ice, mold, lubricants

Rough – grit, sand, salt, dust, wool, sandpaper, sharkskin, bark, hair stubble, plaster

Sharp – fragments (glass, porcelain, metal shavings), splinters, shrapnel, shark skin, thorns / prickles

Soft / Smooth– moss / mold, wax, fabric (silk, cotton, satin), petals, natural (fur, suede, down), dirt / clay, marshmallow

Rubbery – rubber, skin (leather, skin), plastic, mummified / jerked flesh, leaves, latex (prosthetics / make-up, rubber gloves), dried goo (see Gooey)

Cool – Ice, Liquid (water, rain, alcohol), metal, long dead, from cold place (freezer, ground, teleport), balms / anesthetics

Hot – burnt (fire, electricity, steam, acid, magic), recently used machine (gun, engine, phone), living or recently dead human/animal, burned rubber, hot drinks (coffee, tea, cider), from hot place (indoors, oven, shower, teleport)

Unearthly – The substance of something at the scene seems unearthly, like it was made for unknown materials. Whenever you touch the surface with your bare skin, you get a strange feeling or impulse. Roll on the Sixth Sense chart for the sensation (if it doesn’t fit, reroll).


5 thoughts on “Paranormal Investigation Tool – Follow the Bread Crumbs

    • Working on the finishing touches now. Will likely put the fine-tuned version up for sale on DriveThruRpg in the far distant future. However, if you’re interested in being a play-tester, send us your email and we’ll send you a free copy when we’re done!

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