[Gumshoe] Against the Unknown

edited April 2014 in Story Games

This is my rules-light Gumshoe game, Against the Unknown. I'd be interested in any feedback people might have.

It's designed to work with existing scenarios written for other Gumshoe games (and other games in general) and to get everyone set up with their own customised Investigators nice and quickly, within a framework suitable for the scenario they're going to play. There are also a number of other parings-down and twists on the system, while retaining the central investigative mechanism of Gumshoe.
That's the theory, at least.

It was inspired to some extent by Cthulhu Dark - and it is similarly geared more towards short-term play than for long campaigns. Sadly, I was not able to get the job done quite so concisely and elegantly as that excellent game. Future revisions will, perhaps, be rather slimmer.


  • I like the use of cards to build characters. I've done something similar with Ashen Stars for convention games and it works pretty well. I'm planning something similar for Night's Black Agents. The fighting rules are nice and simple, although I think the combination of 'winner achieves intent' plus 'winner inflicts damage' may cause problems in conflicts where the intent is to kill but the damage isn't sufficient. I note the rule where the winner can spend points to add to damage, but that makes it seem like murdering a defeated opponent--to me, anyway. I would take out the provision stating, 'if you lose the contest, in addition to your enemy achieving their goal…' and just leave it as losing a round of a fight causes damage. The fight is over when one side suffers enough damage that the risk of continued fighting is worse than the cost of surrender or flight. Doing damage in a fight is the goal.
    There are other neat things, too, whose impact on the game I would like to see. Specifically, the spend rules allowing points to be paid before or after the die roll, and the ability to spend one point for an automatic 6.
  • Interesting. I'll download it and take a look.
  • I rather enjoyed this - subtly concise. You could probably cut back the number of abilities.
  • The cards are really neat, and I like what you did with spends. I'll have to have another read to tease out more details; I really like the unified spend points, which is something I'd independently brainstormed for a small project I'm working on.
  • edited April 2014
    Thanks for your feedback, guys. (Proper reply later - I'm writing football previews to a deadline right now!)

    If you've requested to share the Google Doc, as a few people have, and not heard back, it's because I updated the file a bit - please use this link instead: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YiEksDV9zPWxjF7QoWF-YXilPGV4PpOAEC6Fy8y1slA/edit?usp=sharing

    (I also edited the link in the original post.)
  • I rather enjoyed this - subtly concise. You could probably cut back the number of abilities.
    Yes, the ability list is a bit much.
    I think the next step there is to fire up the proper layout software and present a number of example Background Cards qua cards in the character creation section - and keep the ability list to the reference pages.

    And probably axe a couple from the list. I don't mind having abilities that seem less widely useful, because when someone picks them, it's showing what they want the game to be about. Spend a point of Riding to impress everyone with your polo skills.
    However, they can easily be given as examples for player-created abilities, rather than carved in stone as part of some definitive skill list.
  • I really like the unified spend points, which is something I'd independently brainstormed for a small project I'm working on.
    I like them too! Obviously.
    However, there is a slight drawback to them, which is that you're loading a lot of options onto one thing.

    When you play Trail for the first time, you have these skills, which can do this, and those skills, which can do that. Simple.

    Whereas in Against the Unknown, you only have one lot of skills, but each of them can do this and this and that and - oh, don't forget that thing!

    I think that if you're familiar with GUMSHOE, AtU will be easy to pick up. Once you realise that Medicine and First Aid have been smooshed together, for example, you've pretty much got the idea of how the abilities work.

    But if you don't know GUMSHOE, it may not be so simple. That's something I will go back and look at, and try to improve the text from a non-GUMSHOE perspective.
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