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When is a Clue Not a Clue?

When it's a 0-point spend.

The 0-point spend is the forgotten sibling of the core clue and the Investigative spend. Whereas the core clue is essential to progress through the adventure and the Investigative spend primarily makes the characters look more badass, the 0-point spend is about adding color to the adventure and the setting.

As the name implies, the 0-point spend is free. Like a core clue, you can give your players a 0-point spend if they are in the right place and describe how their character is using an appropriate ability. The effect is a bit of information that someone with that ability would gain in that place, but having that information will not necessarily move them forward in their investigation. Nor will it provide them with any of the concrete benefits of a full Investigative spend.

Basically, the 0-point spend is there if the GM has a really interesting piece of descriptive detail or adventure background that is too good to leave on the page but which may not be obvious to just anyone walking around the scene. Did you stumble on a really interesting fact about restaurant kitchens in the 1930s, and you want to work it into your Trail of Cthulhu adventure? Set a scene in a restaurant kitchen and pepper it with 0-point spends tied to your Investigators' abilities (probably Craft, Credit Rating, or even Chemistry or Pharmacy).

The secret is to keep handing out 0-point spends until your players get bored. As long as they stay interested, you can keep feeding them information. Hopefully, if you build a convincing enough picture, it may even help them solve the mystery quicker. At the very least, you reinforce the value of their Investigative abilities and remind them that they are still highly competent, even if they've spent all of their pool points.

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