I’ve talked briefly before that we’ve got two Gumshoe system projects in the works at Evil Hat.
The second (previously unnamed) one is under the working (and possibly final) title of Bubblegumshoe, with the project team helmed by Kenneth Hite, who will join forces with Lisa Steele (of GURPS Mysteries and others) and Emily Care Boss (of Breaking the Ice and others) to bring you a game of teen girl detectives in the vein of Veronica Mars.
As mentioned in that earlier post, I’m damned excited about the opportunity to rough Gumshoe up a bit and take it in some new directions inspired by the best of the story-game set, but it’s hard not to get positively geeked by the talents working on both of these projects.
But today I want to talk, briefly, about the long term themes I see (potentially) at work in these two games. In olden times, this might be where I talk about the games’ metaplots, but really, so much of the story of each of these games will grow straight from the characters themselves. So, instead, I’m focusing on the themes that tell us how the long-term stories of the games will grow out of these characters. These long-term themes are likely to color the campaign, while the PCs will “day to day” be dealing with mysteries both episodic and sequential; but even in one shot scenarios they should see some relevance.
In Revengers, the long-term theme I see at work is “You are the mystery.” PCs are ghosts, and the reasons they remain as ghosts instead of Moving On are opaque even to them (most of the time, at least). Moreover, they don’t (necessarily) want to solve it. Moving On holds as much mystery for them as death does for us. Regardless, those hidden reasons will color who they are, and how their long term story plays out. Naturally, that’s going to see some support in the mechanics as well, though Will and I are still sorting out the details.
In Bubblegumshoe, the long-term theme I see at work is “The town is the mystery.” Everything points inward; the fabric of relationships in the town makes the town; and long-term, the big mysteries that play out will occur wholly within that contained environment. Outside factors may come into play, but what’s going to matter long term is what the town does with it, and the town is the home base, the whole world for our teen girl detectives. We’ll almost certainly see some kind of relationship map mechanic brought to bear here (the story-game version of the Quade Diagram, perhaps). Important game mechanics will focus on defining, revealing, and occasionally reshaping the town by way of its relationship map (and not all connections of that map will be immediately “visible” either).
Hacker’s note: In Bubblegumshoe, the “town” ends up being a fairly portable concept, for folks who want to drift the game. Maybe it’s a college campus. Maybe it’s the backwoods of Eastern Kentucky — a recent epiphany: BGS will probably drift nicely for a Justified game. For that matter it might work great for something with a Twin Peaks vibe too, and so on. We’re already planning on a chapter that explores and discusses drifting the game through a variety of genres and applications.
Designer’s note: Folks familiar with my blather about how — in Fate — “everything is a character” might notice a similar principle at work in both of these long term themes. Each takes the notion that Gumshoe is a mystery game and decides to locate some of that mystery in the characters themselves, directly or indirectly. In Revengers, it’s the characters and their history — their murders — that got them to where they are in the afterlife. In Bubblegumshoe, it’s the relationships the characters have with the authority figures and movers and shakers of the town they’re “stuck” in, growing up, that will hide layers of mystery and backstory that the adults haven’t told — or are straight up hiding from — the kids. Sometimes design is about looking at what you already have established in a system and simply applying it to a different context. That’s a lot of what we’re looking to do with Evil Hat’s takes.