Michael Julius posed a great question over on The Cthulhu Hack Google+ community:
Say there’s an interaction with an NPC who has a negative disposition towards the PCs. For example, Peter Bulgrew in The Keepers of the Woods. Perhaps he has just beat up on a PC.
Is it possible for the players to gain information from him with ‘smokes’?
My response was that if the characters need a clue that the antagonist holds, they should get it whatever his mood if they’ve used an investigative ability to extract it. In this case, if the player rolls Smokes, he should get what he needs.
Of course, this also comes down to the information the antagonist has and the inclination of the GM. If Peter knows something that the characters absolutely must know to proceed, yes – hand it over. Think of all those TV series and movies where the hero and minions share taunts and retorts that, while barbed, also give away snippets of information. It’s a fatal flaw of all villainous types that through ego or aspiration to greater minionhood they let slip information through monologues or cruel sniping.
As you rough the drunk up in the shadows behind the pub, trying to get sense through his inebriation, a great bulk shifts toward you. Peter Mulgrew, all muscle and no neck, barrels you to the floor, his hamfists smacking and thudding into your flesh.
“It’s no use you picking on Old Bill. Once I’m done with you and your friends you’ll be doing nothing ‘cept supping hospital gruel from a bowl.”
You splutter your disbelief through the taste of blood in your mouth, cursing at the brute and defying the plans of his hidden masters.
“No use fighting back. Happened before, happen again. Nothing for it cause it’s in the good grace of God hisself what we do.”
Small as it might be, you see where you should head next, after you’ve dealt with the small matter of your dwindling consciousness…
Yes, the clue uncovered might be coloured by bile and a certainty of the character’s impending failure/doom, but it remains a clue. The same applies to both Flashlights and Smokes – as even a silent minion may have telltale signs of their path or purpose, like dirt, dust, scars, scraps of paper or idle doodles.
A poor negative reaction should absolutely mean a great physical challenge and a threat to life that warrants more than a few Saves to resolve, but it should not be a dead end to your investigations.