Sunday, February 16, 2014

More Gumshoeness: Bubblegumshoe Beta Playtest (and Why Teen Detectives Are Awesome!)

I've been raving a bit about Pelgrane Press' Gumshoe system lately (more among friends than on this blog, admittedly), mainly because of the Timewatch Kickstarter I'm currently backing. But there's another Gumshoe project in the works that I just found out about, and was so excited by the idea that I immediately got on the GUGS Facebook page, found myself a group of people who would also be interested in trying it out, and then signed up for the beta playtest. The name of the project: Bubblegumshoe.

Bubblegumshoe is a hack of the Gumshoe system being produced by Evil Hat, who brought us the amazing Fate system and Don't Rest Your Head. The premise is that players will take on the roles of teen detectives solving mysteries...that's pretty much all I needed to know to sell me on the concept, because I fricking LOVE teen detective stories. From watching shows like Scooby Doo and The Adventures of Shirley Holmes in my own childhood and teenage years (and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in a manner of speaking), to reading manga series like Case Closed/Detective Conan (who's technically more of a kid detective, really) and the Kindaichi Case Files, to more recent and grittier takes on the genre like Brick, Veronica Mars and Chuck Wendig's Atlanta Burns stories, I'm a long-term fan of the teen detective genre and just love the idea of a roleplaying game based on these stories. (Remember Kaito Yamada, the teen detective OC I played as in an Evangelion RPG channel?)

Why, after so long out of high school, do these stories still appeal to me? I guess it's because I love underdogs. And when it comes to detective fiction, teen detectives are the ultimate underdogs because, well, they're teenagers. It's hard for a teenager to get themselves taken seriously by witnesses or authorities when they're trying to gather clues and solve crimes. This isn't a job for them, it's a hobby; they still have to go to school and do chores, and all the other stuff teen life entails. And they have no real authority of their own; one wrong step in an investigation could land them in detention, or even jail. That's not even to mention the danger they face when confronting adult bad guys, who are bigger and tougher than they are, and have more resources at their disposal.

And yet, their weaknesses can also be their strengths. People underestimate teen detectives because of their youth, and they usually end up regretting it when their plans are foiled by some meddling kids. And when it comes to some cases, the teenager might be able to blend in and investigate in places where adults can't (at least not discretely), particularly on a high school campus. And because of their disadvantages, teenagers often have to be even more cunning than adult detectives, finding more creative ways to bring down the bad guy. One of my favorite scenes from Veronica Mars is in the first episode, where Veronica engineers an elaborate scheme to switch a videotape held in the Sheriff's evidence locker for a different one, in order to get a friend out of trouble and also take the corrupt Sheriff down a peg or two.

My love of the teen detective genre aside, it also seems that Evil Hat are going to be doing some interesting things with the Gumshoe system, and I'm excited to see what they've got in store. The little info I've heard so far indicates more of a 'story game' element, and a focus on character interactions and relationships. There was talk on Fred Hicks' blog of the possibility of some sort of relationship map mechanic which sounds kinda Smallville-esque; I like the sound of that, because the relationship map was one of the coolest elements of the Smallville RPG for me. It also sounds like they'll be tweaking the core resolution mechanic, or at least applying it in interesting new ways.

I just received the e-mail welcoming me to the playtest on Friday and, as you can probably tell by now, I'm super excited to be a part of it. The playtest period begins Friday 21st and will be lasting for a couple of months. I've got five players ready and willing to do regular playtest sessions; all we need to is settle on a day/time/place for those. I'll probably also run a one-shot of the game at the GUGS Big Geekend, which is happening on March 1st. In accordance with my disclosure pledge, I'll make an effort to post about my experiences with the game as we go ahead with the playtests, so I'll set aside a day of the week (maybe two, sometimes) for posting thoughts and feelings on Bubblegumshoe here on the blog.

That's all for now, folks! Be seeing you...

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