The investigation phase of discovery does not involve any die rolls. Instead, the players describe how the persona is investigating the subject, and describe something of what she finds. This is tied to the game mechanics by elements.
The elements of this phase describe things that the persona does to investigate. Each element has two statistics: a cost, and a number of dice. A player may only incorporate elements with a total cost equal to or less than her persona’s score in the investigation ability. That is, if she has a score of 4, the total cost of the elements used to describe the investigation must be 4 or less. In addition, because the elements describe how the persona investigates, each can only be used once. It isn’t a single action; it represents the application of a certain approach to the persona’s investigation of the subject.
The higher the number of dice, the better, because these are the dice that the player gets to keep when rolling for the next stage of the discovery, when the persona puts together what she has discovered to provide information that will be useful in developing a theory. However, the default investigation elements, available to any persona, will have a higher cost than the number of dice that they provide. The simplest benefit of a higher score in the investigation ability is that it allows a persona to use more of them, and thus have more dice to keep. However, a high score may also allow access to a limited number of more effective elements. Personae might also gain access to effective elements in play, as mentioned earlier. For example, if a character gave the personae her diary in play, the element “Read her diary”, which might cost 1 point and give 4 dice, would become available to all the personae. For general elements, personae might learn effective investigation techniques.
While the persona’s player describes how she is investigating, the other players describe what she finds. This is important, to keep all the players involved, and also because the investigation might involve the persona talking to characters. In such a case, the other players take on the roles of the characters. If the persona is investigating something that is not alive, the other players just describe what she finds. The players introduce elements when saying what the persona uncovers.
These elements do not interpret the findings, because that is the job of the next stage. They simply describe the immediate results of the investigation. For some things, these elements will be defined by the game, and there will be suggestions for everything, but for many topics the players can make them up. If the personae are trying to find out what a character likes, for example, the players can just say things that are plausible things for a person to say in those circumstances. They do need to define the element, however, because that will be important in the next stage, when the persona works out what she has discovered.
Every element must be played out, the players describing what the personae and characters do. The investigation ends when the persona’s player has described how she is applying every element, and the other players have described what she finds. At this point, there should be two or three elements on the table, giving a superficial description of the evidence that the persona has found. (I find that I’m tending towards thinking of the elements as cards, in which case they might literally be on the table.)
Next, the persona describes what she has discovered, but that is the next stage, and will have its own post.