A Theme Takes Shape… Stupid Brain…

Last night was the worst night’s sleep I’ve had in a very long time. I tossed and turned all night while having terrible GenCon dreams. I’m talking grade school dreams here:

I took the wrong types of shirts
Forgot my badge
Went out without my hat
Forgot to buy a game and it sold out before I remembered

Seriously folks, these are the things that keep me up at night. I didn’t have dreams of bad pitch sessions or rejection from publishers. I didn’t have dreams about falling apart socially and being a recluse. I dreamt that I had the wrong clothes.

Anyways… something good did come of this. At some point between the 20(ish) times I was awake and asleep, I thought up a back story for the noir game. Not only did I think up a back story, it actually works and I took a mechanic from it!


Philadelphia, 1942

Shots rang out. A scream followed. Lights flicked on nearby. Residents of the quiet neighborhood trickled outside in the chilly pre-dawn to find a body in the street. Blood was pooled on the ground beneath. This was not just any body. This was the corpse of Joey “Sweets” Angelo son of ¬†John Angelo, Don of the Angelo crime family.

Mitch O’Malley, ex-detective turned professor just happened to be nearby, enjoying a cup of coffee at the corner news stand. He was first on the scene. Just his luck. Mitch quit the force because of corruption, but this one was close to home. He couldn’t let it go.

Philadelphia PD assigned their top investigator, Peter “Ace” Johnson to the case. The murder of such a pivotal figure in the Philly crime scene had the city in a panic. The PD couldn’t afford to lose face.

Hank “Two Scoops” Jones got the assignment from his editor only minutes after the police radios started. He was on scene well before the coroner, nudging and prying the cops for any information related to the case. He was a hardened investigative reporter who had a knack for getting in the way.

Margaret Williams was especially grievous. Not only had she lost her boyfriend, she had lost the comfort and security provided her by the Angelo family. The Angelos didn’t approve of her but allowed her around because Sweets insisted. She wasn’t going to sit idly by and let the man who ruined her future walk off clean.

Tony “Fats” Angelo, was a capo and cousin. He was the smoothest crew member the Angelos had. He could swindle his way out of anything or into anywhere and he was the family’s best chance at figuring out just what went down that night.


So, the scene is set. A murder in the streets. Each player takes on the role of one of these characters trying to solve the crime. During the course of the investigation, we all encounter the same clues and leads. Maybe we gain some information from them, maybe we don’t. Maybe I do, because I’ve got a good Charisma stat, but you… well, you’re the nerdy Science type and you couldn’t get this guy to sing. Sometimes, through pure chance, we all end up somewhere together, taking on the same clue at the same time. Maybe we help each other, or maybe one of us skips out and leaves us all at a loss.

You see, in this game, no one really “solves” the crime. There isn’t some sort of magical answer that we have to deduce like Clue. You simply have to gain enough evidence which is represented by Investigation Points (seeking a better name. Please comment with suggestions.) Pass a check on a clue, you earn some Investigation Points. Fail, and you might lose some. If you hit zero, your trail goes cold and you’re off the case. If you make it to X (I’ll figure this out through testing), you have enough evidence to point fingers, and you win the game.


So, the game makes sense in my head now… and I’m actually excited for it! Amazing, what 24 hours and lack of sleep can do!¬†But wait, there’s more!


I actually derived a mechanic from this theme! So, yesterday I whined about how much the theme wasn’t helping me with this game… this little back story made it all click. Now that I know what we are doing in the game, I can envision how we are doing it in my head. Let’s go back to the previous brute we’re canvasing for information. I’m the greasy swindler type and I can talk him out of his dope easily… but you’re still that nerdy guy that’s awkward in social situations. So, maybe you make me an offer if I help you out. Maybe you throw me that revolver you’ve got if I can get the guy to squeal for you.


Just like that, stuff starts to happen. I’ve told people many times over the past years to never give up… sometimes I need to heed my own advice and just exercise a bit of patience.

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