Investigator Cheat Sheet If you’re stuck and don’t know what to do next, gathering a little more information might help. And if you’re stuck for where to get that information, consider these sources: Scene of the crime Where the investigation starts and––often––ends. Go to any relevant locations and look around. If you’ve already done so, go back, look again, and see if anything has changed. Go CSI on the place (as best you can with your available resources). Look for footprints, blood (or other fluids), residues, scratches, broken items, unusual writing, and anything else out of place. People • Your Characters––all those knowledge skills are there for a reason. Use them. • Witnesses––people who might have seen or heard something important, who know someone else who might have, or who know the history of an area, family, individual, organization, etc. Listen to rumors, gossip, and so on. • Experts––professionals in the field. This is where Contacts come in handy. Many professionals and academics are willing to share their knowledge and answer questions. Questions can also be asked through appropriate forums, newsgroups, and e–mail lists. Mythos investigators are often a little paranoid (clinically and otherwise) and might require prompting or assurance before sharing their knowledge. Personal “Papers” If you can gain access to them, people’s personal papers can reveal all sorts of things about their finances, interests, and activities. Of course nowadays much of this information can be found on people’s personal computers, making it even easier to access. • Journals/Diaries/Scrapbooks––often contain marriage/birth/death certificates and other family history information. Great for finding out about past relationships and things people don’t want anyone else to know. • Checkbook/Account statements (bank, credit card, credit union) • E–mail/Chat logs/Internet history • Letters • Date book/Address book • Receipts/Bills • Garbage––don’t be squeamish about dumpster diving Libraries • Public––broad, general collection; usually not very useful for obscure or specialized research, but most public libraries have newspaper and clipping files which are good for researching local history and recent events • Academic––every college has a library. The collection is usually more specialized, technical, and obscure than a public library’s, focusing on the major fields studied at the institution. Usually, the bigger the school, the better the collection. Most academic libraries also subscribe to databases through which you can find journal articles, theses, and other obscure, specialized, academic materials • Specialty libraries––law, historical, genealogical, medical, et. al.. Some are public, some are privately owned but open to the public, others are restricted to members of a certain profession or organization • Special Collections––found in most libraries. Rare, old, or irreplaceable materials. Sometimes an individual’s private collection, donated after his/her death. Often historical but (particularly in academic and specialty libraries) can include rare materials related to other fields • Private collections––the best place to find rare, obscure, and unusual materials (such as Mythos tomes); often very specialized; the biggest problem is usually convincing the person to let you rummage through his prized books Computer • Internet––the Internet is a diverse and dodgy source of information. You can find all sorts of weird shit (perfect for Mythos investigations), but the information is often incomplete or flat–out wrong. Also, the Internet is poorly organized, requiring a good deal of time and effort to sort through and find anything relevant. • Forums/Newsgroups/E–mail lists––specialized by topic and field of interest, which is good, but posts tend to be short and simple, lacking the depth and specificity of other sources. Very handy for contacting experts and witnesses, though. • Subscription Databases––excellent sources of documentary information (public records, obscure academic articles, etc.), but very expensive. Try to find a library that provides access. Specialty and academic libraries are your best bet. • Hacking––if it’s out there (and it’s connected to a network to which you can gain access) a skilled computer geek can get it. Wireless networking makes this even easier. Records People love to keep records. Governments, businesses, private organizations, and individuals all keep records of activities they consider important––particularly the exchange of money and goods. Some records are relatively easy to acquire; others (usually ones containing private information) are restricted. Many are available or can be requested through the Internet, and some libraries have subscriptions to public record services. Also remember: clerks and secretaries run the world. Be nice, and you’ll probably get the information you need. Some types of records that might be useful: • Financial/Business/Credit––Many corporate annual reports are available online. Most other financial records are closely protected and require consent for release (or bribery, lying, theft, hacking, etc.). If you can get your hands on them, credit card and bank/ATM records are great for tracking people’s movements. • Research––experts and specialists are always doing research in one form or another, scientific, economic, sociological. Some results are published. You might be able to get a researcher to discuss his research, or if you’re particularly careful, clever, or sneaky, you might be able to gain access to his notes. Many researchers work in universities through which you can get in touch with them or members of their teams. Businesses and private organizations are much more secretive about their research. • DMV––generally hard to get hold of due to privacy issues but can be accessed through certain public record databases available to libraries. Another good use for Contacts. • Meeting Minutes––minutes of public meetings (local government) are usually open to everyone. Many private organizations post their minutes online. For more private private organizations, secretaries can often be persuaded. • Police/Investigative/Autopsy––Very hard to get hold of records for ongoing investigations (though the police do make some info available through the media) . You’ll have to go through police contacts, hack the police department’s network, or break in. Inactive investigation records might be released. Death certificates are readily available but are less detailed than autopsy reports. Full autopsy reports might be made available to the public or restricted, depending on state and local laws. (In Idaho, most county coroners treat autopsy reports as public records; however, some law enforcement agencies have classified them as investigative records and therefore not open to public review.) • Court Records (civil, criminal, and bankruptcy cases)––These are public records. Just go to the clerk of the appropriate court and request the case by party name. • Deeds/Liens/Transfers of property––track the purchase history and/or find the current owner of a piece of land or building. Public records in the county assessor’s or clerk’s office. • Employment/Military/Education/Prison––Can request location of active military personnel and conviction records for prison inmates. All others require signed permission from the individual to whom the records pertain. • Medical––Released only to the person to whom the records pertain or with his signed consent. Of course medical professionals can gain access. • Marriage/Divorce/Birth/Death––Recent records available from vital statistics. Older records available from county or court clerks. Certificates provide only basic info: who, when, what county/court, and in the case of death certificates how. Requires ID and in some cases proof of purpose. Very old information can be found in church/parish records.
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