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In the near future I will, hopefully, be running a Strands of Fate game where the players will be investigating a town to figure out what happened to a missing agent and what's going on with the town itself. I will be modeling the town itself as an organization and things will get progressively worse as it takes more stress (more/stronger monsters, more reticent inhabitants, ect).

What I'm wondering is if I should show the players the town's stress track and consequences. On the one hand, it could act as something of a doom counter and add to the tension as it fills up. This also lets them better gauge what effects their actions are having. On the other hand, this completely takes the mystery out of the state of the town and this is meant to be, in part, an investigation/mystery game.

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I recommend conveying consequences, rather than foreknowledge:

I don't recommend giving the characters foreknowledge of "if the town becomes this stressed, then X event will occur", but you could let particularly intelligent or perceptive characters become aware that X event has occurred because the town is becoming more stressed. After the first one or two such events, the players should be aware of the general idea of large-scale consequences if they take too much time.

My reasoning for this is that you'd want your players to respond to the story that you're telling and the world you're creating, and the last thing you'd want is for them to look at the stress track and say "ooh, if we stress the town out this much, then this cool thing will happen!". This could push them to meta-game to aim for certain results that they wouldn't try for otherwise.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That makes some sense, though there might be two problems in this case. First, the town taking consequences doesn't result in specific events. It results in types of events becoming possible and enemies becoming tougher. Second, the characters would know this type of progression occurs, it part of the reason their organization exists in the first place, they just don't have in character progress bars for it. \$\endgroup\$ – Epsilon Rose Sep 24 '15 at 20:03
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You can also ask for checks to notice the changes (organization's secrecy rating vs Contacts for example) to reveal new aspects from consequences (Reinforcements are coming, Release the Biobots, Empty streets after dark)

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