Jere ran some more Gumshoe for us over the last couple of weeks; it was once more a bunch of fun. The scenario was more Cthulhoid this time around, not so much from a villain perspective but definitely so in terms of locale and threat.
The PCs (a retired cop, a linguist, a spirit photographer, a stage manager, and an NSA analyst) were a motley crew attending a Shakespeare festival in New Hampshire. At a party a couple of days before Opening Night, the actress slated to play Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra killed her understudy under suspicious circumstances. By virtue of our collective failure to run away screaming, the local sheriff deputized us to solve the murder.
Over the next few days, we found out that two of the directors, the local patron family, a suspicious sculptor, and a 70s cult rock band were all involved in a plot to open the way and allow Horus to run rampant. The phrase “crack the shell of the world” was bandied about more casually than we found pleasing. Once we had a reasonably firm picture of what was intended, questions of history (how this group of cultists came together, who perverted and corrupted who, and whether or not the Lost Folio was real Shakespeare) went by the wayside and stopping the various Opening Night performances became paramount. Said performances being the components of the way-opening ritual.
I felt more or less completely outclassed by the cult at most points, which was fairly satisfying. See my opening comment regarding the Cthulhoid nature of the game. I like the sensation that the Outer Darkness is imminent with little hope of total success. In this case, the cult will be back in 17 or 33 years, and it’s not as if we made any real dent in the infrastructure of the town. We had a ton of freedom to determine the best way to stop the performances, and all we managed was to convince the actors to go home. No actual cultists were harmed.
Jere removed the combat system entirely; we just ranked our physical skills like investigative skills. I’m not sure if we got any clues via physical skills — Jere, did we? In theory we might have been able to; in practice we were a very non-violent lot.
As I noted after the game, there was far less feedback on which skills were producing which clues than we got in the first game, which left me feeling a little bit more at loose ends. I suspect that any given group is going to get to about where we were in terms of that feedback; it’s a trust relationship built up between GM and players. In this case it didn’t bug me per se, but I’d yellow flag it: much of the value of Gumshoe for me is getting rid of the “guess the clue” mechanism. This is a group issue, by the by: players are as much responsible for pushing their skills as GMs are.
I am pensive about my roleplay. It’s pretty easy for me to slip back into humor. In this case I was deliberately going for a slightly goofy approach, which in retrospect may have been wrong. I’m not sure. I pulled off my usual arc with such characters, which depicts them as mostly ineffectual with a core of resilience; said core manifested this time in Edward’s purchase of a gun “just in case.” This satisfies me but I worry that it hampers immersion for others.
I’m finding myself tempted to open up a Web site for Gumshoe in the tradition of my old Shadowfist and Feng Shui sites. I don’t know if there’d be enough interest, but I like the game a lot and I think there’s good scope for fan-created scenarios and rules, which I’ve always felt have something to do with the success of a game. Pelgrane has some pretty good forums. Hm.