I have been running a solo game for a friend in a system I created several years ago.
I have encountered a GMing problem that I have not previously had to deal with, because real-life time constraints have rarely been as pressing on our longer campaigns as in this game. We play for ~2-3 hours every 2-3 weeks and the player is moving away in 6 months.
- The PC is a human-ish recruit in the Templar, an international
political / religious / military organization sprung from the fall of
the organization of the modern Church Catholic, and to a lesser
extant various other major religious organizations, alongside the
rest of the world in the setting's founding apocalypse. He is
undergoing his mandatory two years of formal training in Jerusalem,
which is the world headquarters for said organization.
- The PC uses Metalworking (especially swordsmithing and die-casting) and as a form of meditation, drawing from a background involving child labor in a non-industrial Foundry.
There are four factions relevant to the example situation:
The PCs extensive pen pal network in his hometown, a burgeoning, melting-pot-type metropolis in Southeast Asia;
the generally elderly contemplative, always strongly religious, cultually isolationist, highly theologically competent portion of the Templar who bear more likeness to the Orthodox Churches (especially the Coptic Orthodox Church and/or the Eastern Orthodox Church) then the Western ones;
the usually younger, strongly politically involved, social justice proponing, charismatic, always-chipper, intensely manipulative, liberation-theology leaning portion of the Templar, who bear more resemblance to Orders of the Western Church ( especially the Jesuits and/or the actual historical Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon circa 1100-1200 AD) than those of the East;
- and the Darkwings, a surprisingly insular extra-territorial nation of giant sentient crows who control a disproportionately vast share of the world economy.
The PC has been on friendly terms with a number of Darkwings for some time. Recently, one particular Darkwing which the PC is close friends with came out about converting to Christianity, and joined the Templar. This is very much unacceptable in Darkwing society, which has Rules about How We Treat Outsiders and Things We Don't Tell People Ever No Matter What.
As a result, said friend was lynched and left for dead, to the surprise of the PC but not the lynchee (nor the actual non-trainee Templars, who know about such things because they come up pretty regularly). The PC is now preparing to have dinner with the parents of this friend. The PC is friends with the partnes, but the parents were at least involved with (and perhaps solely responsible for) the lynching.
The player wants the character to have info on "what to do" in terms of what is culturally appropriate, etc. Because of time constraints, the player doesn't really want to have this information themselves except inasmuch as is necessary for the game to progress. The PC is acquiring this information in 5 ways:
- Talking to their lynchee friend in the hospital (who grew up in Darkwing Culture)
- Talking to their other friends in what is effectively their dorm hall (who are other trainee Templar, with the young Templar culture, but less actual knowledge)
- Talking to their Priest (who is in the older Templar group)
- Talking to their teachers (who are mostly younger Templar culture, though there is one older Templar culture)
- Complaining to one of their pen pals (who is super not equipped to answer this at all but will definitely give advice anyways)
The problem is that the player wants to know the answers to questions like "what gift would be culturally appropriate to give to your friend who just lynched your other friend who is also their child, which you disapprove of the lynching of, but, like, you're not being uncivil about it.",
I am unable to answer. Why? The answer is different for each of the four different factions, and ambiguous even within a faction.
We slowly resort via a multistep process to my normal method of resolving this, which is to explain what each and every NPC contacted thinks about the matter. This takes a very long time.
What can I do to ensure this, and other similar questions-- like "I found out John is cheating on Sarah! What should I do?" -- where different people in the same faction might parse the question differently and arrive at different results-- are answerable within a short amount of time?