This post has an expiration date, which is approximately three days from publication. Reading it after 9/28? You missed out.

The current Bundle of Holding is for a bunch of GUMSHOE games and it seemed worth going over what you get. It might appear that there’s a lot of duplication in the bundle, since all four of the full RPGs are based on the same ruleset. Not so!

Night’s Black Agents is the easy sell: technothrillers meet vampires. Spy action, bloodsuckers, Ronin and Alias and so on. You get the basic GUMSHOE rules tuned for action, which had not been a particular strength until this point. Also you get The Zalozhniy Quartet which is probably a solid 8-12 sessions of play, at a guess. Maybe more.

So why do you also want Mutant City Blues and the associated Hard Helix adventure? Not for the superpower rules. (Sorry.) They are a bit idiosyncratic and highly world specific. You do, however, really want the detailed description of running a GUMSHOE game as a police procedural: interrogation scenes, what a police station is like, all that good stuff. Mutant City Blues is the GUMSHOE game you’d use to run Criminal Minds or CSI.

Fear Itself is a sweet minimal GUMSHOE implementation that does a decent job on slasher films. All the other versions of GUMSHOE in this bundle deliver competent characters. Fear Itself delivers teenagers.

Finally, Ashen Stars is a cool extension of the investigative procedural engine to cover episodic SF. The included setting is solid, but you could also use this to run Star Trek (of course) or Firefly. Or anything where there’s a spaceship, or a set of portals leading to strange worlds, or some kind of time machine masquerading as a common street object, and the player characters travel around dealing with mysterious problems.

In other words, there’s plenty of overlap but there’s also plenty of unique content and you will absolutely learn something about the system from each of the four games. Since you also get a bunch of Robin Laws columns, this is a no-brainer. You also get the Ken Hite subscription but come on, that’s an evil trap. Half of that stuff is Trail of Cthulhu oriented which will make you want to buy that game too. (You should buy that game too.)