Walking in Gumshoes

As my Time of War PBeM enters its end phase, one of the players has graciously offered to run a campaign of Mutant City Blues by Pelgrane Press. I have been quite impressed by the elegance and quality of the releases for the various Gumshoe corebooks and product lines so this opportunity to explore the system in play is very welcome. I have to say, however, that the editing of some of these books -MCB in particular- has been surprisingly negligent considering the excellent authors and level of attention involved.

As is evident in other posts for this blog, I am not the target audience for Gumshoe. I do not think that building a system to obviate rather than address missed clues is either necessary nor desirable. That said, the level of dedication, creativity, and atmosphere brought to the products makes very compelling arguments to keep looking them over and following developments. In an effort to address my bias in this matter, and to give myself a chance to explore some narrative-heavy gaming after running a very simulation-heavy campaign, I was one of the leading proponents pitching this system to the GM who is now sequestered away learning how to run it.

As this experience develops, I will be posting impressions and commentary on how the system, and the GM’s interpretation of it, play out for me, and inviting others to share in their own experiences with using Gumshoe. I have an open mind going in, but like any good ‘old man in training’ am prepared to slam it shut again at the least provocation…  Just kidding~

In all seriousness, however, there are a lot of hurdles to be faced in such a radical change from my expected RPG experience:

  • I expect to earn all successes and have to deal with all failures. Gumshoe primes players to expect success in Investigations and focus solely on using the information gleaned, using the system to expand on it. Will this challenge be enough to satisfy me? If not, how much of that will be the system, how much the mystery in question, and how much the skill of the GM?
  • I expect the story to develop naturally from play. Gumshoe tries very hard to empower the GM and players to produce a very specific and time-honored arc for the story. Will these mechanics drive my similarly aligned GM to distraction? Will they make me feel the whole exercise is pointless and send me plunging headlong into fiction writing? Will this assumption of willful beat-mongering kill the game before it ever gets off the ground?
  • I expect the system to bolster and work in synch with the mood, pace, and intent of the game. From everything I see, Gumshoe does an awful lot to reinforce and support the settings to which it has been attached. Before the race begins, I believe I will see this feeling reinforced regularly in play.

The game will be set in Montreal in 2022. Many of the initial conceits of the game will be taken in order to give them a fair shake and to free up the GM for more important flights of creativity. There will be three players, a wide range of NPCs, and initial indications have the squad being singled out for the duly reported and registered presence of Article 18 abilities coupled with exemplary service records. We may have more to chew on than crimes and mysteries with this set up. With the entrenched gang activity in the city, and with the wonderful hooks for conspiracy, bureaucracy, and paranoia we are giving the GM, it will be a wonder if we don’t end up taping Xs to our windows.

I hope you will come along for this journey of belated discovery, and talk with me as we go~

5 Responses to “Walking in Gumshoes”
  1. anarkeith says:

    Looking forward to it. My initial response to Gumshoe was enthusiastic, but after I’d delved lightly into the mechanics I was a bit daunted. My players don’t fit the target audience very well either. Still, I’m curious.

  2. morrisonmp says:

    I picked up Gumshoe a little while ago on a recommendation. I wasn’t the target audience either it seems. I found the actual mechanics to be odd and (speaking only for myself) off-putting. It was one of those games where as I was reading it I kept thinking — there has to be an easier way to get what the designer wanted…

    I’m curious to read about your experiences with the system though. It’s always nice to get another perspective. And the campaign sounds fun.

    • Runeslinger says:

      I think the campaign will be a blast, both for the awesome story I know to expect from the GM, but also for purely meta-reasons wherein the GM’s head might explode from arguing with the printed word.

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