Talking Gumshoe, Part One

Okay. Disclaimer time: of course this is sour grapes. I’d love to be part of the cool kids club and the now seemingly unending tide of Gumshoe products. I’d love to be taking Gumshoe and using it for my own settings as effortlessly as others seem to be able to.  Of course I’d love to work with Robin Laws, whom I admire not just for his work but for the way his work always opens up discussion (case in point) and clarity into design. Heck, at one point I even submitted something for Esoterrorists, but that’s another story. And yes, it frustrates the hell out of me that these games use Gumshoe because their design is so intriguing otherwise. Not just because of their awesome understanding of narrative convention but also because the settings being published are very well written. Check out the races in Ashen Stars – some of the best races ever designed for an RPG.

The point is, don’t bother to accuse me of sour grapes. Of course it is. The second point is, I’m not here to tear down awesome designers and quality games. Or your experiences with them.

Point the third: I have actually played Gumshoe. I’m not imagining things based on my assumptions, we actually had problems executing it. I’ll come to those later. I’ll do theoretical issues first.

Point the fourth: All this said, I think people have good reason to baulk at Gumshoe’s basic philosophy. Obviously, for the sake of ad copy, it makes good sense to – as Mad Men put it – create an itch, then supply your product as the balm. As a result, Gumshoe sells itself as the solution to the problem of all your investigative games which, until now, you have been doing, if not wrong, then inefficiently. If you’re someone – like say the inestimable Chris Slee – who has spent the best part of twenty years running incredible, unrivaled investigative games to perfection, you have the right to get your dander up at this implied slight.

Of course, just finding something better or even different doesn’t have to be an insult (unless you’re on the internet, of course), but in a hilariously crowded marketplace, nobody should be surprised when people react with skepticism when you make such grand claims.

Okay, moving on. We have much to cover.



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