Thoughts on Gumshoe for MU*?
Has anyone run a MU* based on Gumshoe? So far, I'm considering some hacks/variants of it like "The Fall of Delta Green" and "Night's Black Agents" for the RPG basis of Section 14. It has an online free PDF/SRD available for the base rules, too, which is what is making me lean more towards it than other systems I've been researching. Anyway, thoughts?
ZombieGenesis last edited by
I almost did a game based on Trail of Cthulhu once. Almost. I think it could work from what I remember. I'd be interested in it anyway.
Easy access to the rules/system is awesome!! I think if you are excited about it you should go for it!!
I like Gumshoe but my experience is limited to one session with it. It was run RAW for Trail of Cthulhu, and I wasn't the GM, so I have no idea how hackable it is.
So I read through the SRD's PDF over this weekend and ran some simulations to get more familiar with it all.
It turns out to be a sort of fill-in-the-blank document for creating your own game, with mashups of the various Gumshoe-derived rulesets as some examples (especially TimeWatch and Esoterrorists). So, the intent is to be very hackable, but that does mean nothing is really fully standardized, some assembly required, etc.
It is definitely a narrative-focused ruleset, but it does have a couple of odd, overly-complex details here and there that I will probably just defenestrate. And it has a couple of large omissions, such as Players-as-magic-users or Player cybernetics, that are just entirely left as an exercise for the reader to build themselves (there may be setting-specific rules in the non-free/PRD supplements, but nothing hinted at so far).
So all told, for Section 14, I will probably have to write my own setting-specific rules or choose something else.
Misadventure last edited by
Any thoughts on tracking the autosuccesses across concurrent plotlines?
@Misadventure Well, the central conceit of the system is to always give the players the information they need to advance the plot when they need it, preferably allowing every player their chance to partake of the spotlight. This means the rest of the mechanics are secondary (and in some cases completely arbitrary). I'm not sure it makes sense to do anything other than try to track who's had a chance to shine and who hasn't per "episode" plotline.
One of those oddly complex rules does apply to this topic, though: determining how many Investigative autosuccess build points to hand out to each player based on a formula/table involving the number of players that are expected to attend every session. Some extra points then get thrown in for the number of expected "drop ins" for players that don't make all sessions... It is weird and seems likely to be fudged even for TableTop groups but definitely seems awkward for online games.
Investigative Abilities, I'll call these ISkills(IS) for short, have "pools" that only seem to matter when the player wants to try to buy Special Benefits from their use of their ISkill. But there is nothing that says special benefits are mandatory. By skipping them, I think you can reduce record keeping and steer clear of edge cases like the "parade of newbies keep walking into the scenario just long enough to buy a group Benefit and then never be heard from again".
General Abilities (GSkills) would still have pools as normal, since those don't have "whole game" benefits when used. Eliminating ISkill Spends also means that there isn't really any need to put more than 1 point into each ISkill, so then it becomes something you can just parcel out to all characters..."Everybody picks 5 Investigative Skills during Chargen" and can spend XP to buy more later.
I am going to type some stream of consciousness thoughts about this and the game you want to make to try to help you come up with some ideas, so apologies for the word vomit.
The problem you are trying to solve is the issue of players not stumbling across an important clue due to a bad die roll. Retro-D&D can have this problem and bloggers have come up with some solutions. The easiest solution - don't hide plot essentials behind secret doors - is not applicable, because the style of game you are aiming for is all about mysteries and puzzle solving. Finding the secret doors is the plot essential. However, there are other options.
First is the Three Clue Rule by The Alexandrian, which is a bit self-evident from the title - every chokepoint should have at least three clues that point to the solution. (He also talks about GUMSHOE in the article and isn't a fan.)
Second is avoiding "pixel bitching" with your descriptions. If there is something important in a room or scene, give some hints when describing the room or scene. For a secret door in D&D, you would describe the size of the room, a few objects in the room, and note the worn scratches in the floor next to a nondescript wall, hinting at the door that swings out from there.
The third, and probably the one I would recommend the most, is relying on the in-built resource management of the game. I have no problem with a player in my D&D game taking the action of "I will search the entire room exhaustively" and I will let them definitively know the locations of every secret door, item, etc. without a roll. However, I run a strict Retro-D&D game, which is a game about exploration, looting treasure, and managing resources. It's Indiana Jones. Exhaustively searching a room takes 1 hour, so all the torches that were lit at the beginning of the search are now burned out and I make two wandering monster checks - one for the hour, and one for the noise of the heavy-handed searching (I'm assuming the PCs are banging on the walls with abandon trying to find hollow spots, throwing furniture and fixtures around as they check underneath them or in them, etc.)
How does the third option help you? From the description in your advertisement of the game, it sounded like the PCs would always be in a time crunch during their missions. You can combine all three of those options - put three clues in a mission, make sure that the potential clues are in the descriptions of the scene, and the PCs can always "take a 20" to be guaranteed a clue but it's going to eat up precious time. Thus, the PCs must decide whether it is worth wasting the time and resources and risking up to two fights (old-school D&D is particularly lethal) just to have a guaranteed success on finding anything, assuming there is anything to find.
So for example, the players enter a private library in a mansion. You describe the room as being 30 feet be 20 feet with numerous shelves of books occupying most of the floor space. While most books are mundane, one whole shelf is dedicated to esoteric and arcane tomes including a large black one that stands out from the others. In one corner of the room sits a leather chair and a table with an open letter sitting on it as though it had been set down in a hurry after being read. The book is the Necronomicon. The letter is some other clue that leads in another direction. If they grab the Necronomicon and a player has the "Language: Aramaic" they can translate it. They can roll to see if they can translate it in a few minutes for the clue/magic spell/whatever it is the scenario leads to them finding. If they don't want to roll for it, they botch the roll, or no one has that skill, they can send it off to headquarters and get a translation back in a few hours.
If you really like what The Alexandrian had, I recommend further reading. He praises Masks of Nyarlathotep for how it handles finding clues. For handling mystery adventures and campaigns, he recommends what he calls Node Based Scenario Design.
Hopefully my rambling and those articles I linked to helps you come to some insight that works for you.
@Ominous After giving this a day to percolate, I will start out by backtracking a little bit and explain what I am actually looking for and then how Gumshoe does and doesn't fit the bill.
First and foremost, I am looking for a system that players are either already familiar with or has enough free information online that I won't have to write everything from scratch. Barely second place in criteria is that it be a simple enough system to where I can build the chargen bits in python in just a couple of days and not have tons of edge/special cases or simulation code that I have to write to make it work for day-to-day gaming...this rules out most off-the-shelf systems (Nearly all D20 derived, level/class-based games, Shadowrun, etc). And 3rd, I'd like the system to have enough elements that it fits the modern-day+near future tech+magic+horror themes of the game, with bonus points going to systems that would have example pre-gen/vaguely balanced stats for Mages/Shogoths/Cyborgs/Tentacle-Monster-Of-The-Week/etc. This leaves (that I know enough about to guess): Fate, Gumshoe, BRP/d100, BESM, and Savage Worlds.
I tend to dislike Fate's dice pool mechanics, couldn't find much in the way of free resources online for BRP, and I've already GM'd enough BESM and Savage Worlds to know what I'm up against. That left Gumshoe as an unknown. I was barely familiar with Gumshoe before this past weekends dive, so that is what started this thread.
Overall, I'd say there is enough free stuff online that Gumshoe checks that box. It has very simple and consistent dice mechanics (baring a few oddball, probably-nuke-able edge cases), so that checks the second requirement, and it has several expansions/derivatives directly involved with the theme elements.
The "Clue discovery" split between the auto-success Investigative abilities and the test-oriented General abilities isn't really something that I care much about, at this stage. It is mostly just a system quirk, and the spends to get Special Benefits seem to be basically the same idea as Fate Points in Fate or Bennies in Savage Worlds. And as you point out, there are plenty of ways to avoid the "game grinds to a halt due to lack of Clues" problem.
The real question for me, now, is "Is there enough of a game inside of Gumshoe to actually work with and enjoy?" and I'm not convinced, yet. There are only two combat skills in the base rules, scuffling and shooting, and the damages seem to be mostly "nothing happened worth mentioning" or "oh, you win". My gut says it's just something I'll have to GM for a few sessions before I really know.
@friarzen Might I interest you in Mythras, once known as Runequest 6, and one of my favorite BRP games? It comes with a free ruleset that anyone can download to get the basics, which would meet criteria #1. It is a bit like GURPS in that it is flexible enough that it can be used for almost any setting, and they have a free download for handling firearms. Additionally, it has five different magic systems, allowing you to pick and choose which one works best for the setting, or use all five to make for magic being alien, so players never know what's exactly going on. That should meet criteria #3. The only issue is that the rules aren't exactly the quick and dirty sort. Combat is very precise and tactical with action points and special effects, etc, and intentionally so, as the designers are members of ARMA and wanted gritty, realistic combat. So your criteria #2 might not be met.
@Ominous Hmmm, I am not familiar with it, specifically, so I will check it out! I have a little knowledge of Runequest and other BRP-based titles, so if these PDF's work out, I can see it being a contender. Thanks!
@friarzen It is GURPS level heavy, so I'm not joking when I say your criteria #2 probably won't be met, but have a look. I really like the magic systems.
@Ominous Yeah, after looking through the PDF, it is definitely more crunchy than what I can handle for this game, especially given that more than half of every character will be a "normal human" Host, pregenerated by a coded system on the server side. Multiple Hosts will need to be generated and then presented as options to pick from for each Player, so by necessity, the game system has to be pretty crunch-lite.