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No Clues Without Consequence, GUMSHOE, and Eternal Lies


I’ve been reading Will Hindmarch‘s excellent analysis of the GUMSHOE system, No Clues Without Consequence.

GUMSHOE is an interesting thing, because even though my players and I tend to favor d20 based games like B/X DND or Call of Cthulhu, we seem to return again and again to GUMSHOE.

Point of fact: we’re deep into Eternal Lies, the mega campaign for Trail of Cthulhu. We could have probably converted to Call of Cthulhu but who has time for that? I barely have time to prepare for a session each week.

It has been a learning experience, to be sure. We’d played probably 6-10 hours of GUMSHOE before, but to be frank, it became obvious almost immediately that we weren’t doing it right. Too much rolling – in GUMSHOE, you don’t have to make a check in order to get a clue, something which is nearly impossible to swallow if you’re a Call of Cthulhu player. Not because it is objectionable, but because it is so foreign.

Those will come out as a podcast someday. I wish I had read No Clues Without Consequence a lot earlier than now, though.

There is another reason this is of interest to me: GREAT DETECTIVE, the RPG system my friend Andrew and I are writing, is now moving to a GUMSHOE design. We went back and forth and the usefulness of creating our own system. Eventually, we decided “why?” GUMSHOE is OpenGL. They have a system specifically for investigations. Let’s use it.

So the moral? I have to get better at GUMSHOE.

BONUS: The One Shot podcast recorded a rules explanation with Kenneth Hite, creator of Trail of Cthulhu. A nice, brief, easy intro to GUMSHOE and Night’s Black Agents.

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Sherlock Holmes Role Playing Games

Sherlock Holmes By Sydney paget

I don’t really consider myself a game designer, more like a hacky writer, but I have been having a pretty good time working with my friend Andrew developing a Sherlock Holmes inspired Roleplaying game.

We’re basing the game around the literary trope of “the Great Detective”, with Sherlock Holmes being the obvious choice for an initial offering.

Andrew’s put up a playtest document here, on his website Pizza Pranks (which I designed and built for him*). Please, if you’re interested in such things, download it, play it, read it, let me know. It is still in a very very crude, “pre-alpha” state, so please bear that in mind.

*I'd be happy to create a custom website for you as well, just e-mail me and we can talk about it.
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Sherlock Holmes Crimes and Punishments Gameplay

Sherlock Holmes Crimes and Punishments

Oh man I’m getting pretty excited about this game.¬†Sherlock Holmes Crimes and Punishments, which is coming out for pretty much every system at the end of next month. 23 minutes of gameplay were released a week or two ago, and I just now had the chance to view it. I’m basically a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, and I have to saw, this game looks awesome. I’m also a big fan of the Frogwares series, which I know is a bit more polarizing.

People do speak ill of the Unreal Engine on occasion, but it seems that it is put to good use in this context. I’m also not a big fan of the floaty clue/deduction visual effect that various directors seem obsessed with using to represent Holmes’s thought process, but perhaps it may work better as a video game rather than floating around Benedict Cumberbatch or Robert Downey Jr’s head.

Unfortunately, it seems the classic Frogwares voice actors have been replaced. I suppose I’m one of about fifteen people who’ll miss them.

What seems most impressive in Sherlock Holmes Crimes and Punishments is that increased role of the player in making deductions and taking responsibility for the actual solving of crimes. I may try to stream myself playing this game, let me know in the comments if you’re interested.

Crimes and Punishments: Sherlock Holmes – Out September 30th

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Creating Pulp Call of Cthulhu Characters

Pulp Call of Cthulhu


I’m creating a Pulp Call of Cthulhu campaign, and I’m looking to literally populate it with Pulp action heroes, in the same mode as this. I figured I’d translate a handful of characters to the Call of Cthulhu rules and then present them to my players and let them choose. I’m looking to avoid “superheroes” but pretty much any character is fair game.

I’ve started with the “big three.”

Doc Savage

The hardest to translate to the game: he has no flaws. He’s an exceptional combatant and also knows virtually everything. I decided to make him good at everything but make the others even better at some things.

The Shadow

Former World War One Flying Ace turned vigilante, exceptional driving, flying and shooting skills – also possesses some measure of quasi-mystical stealth and possibly the ability to see the darkness in men’s hearts. Depends on which version exactly you’re consulting. He’s going to have some kind of innate magic, for sure, I haven’t decided how powerful exactly to make him.


Burroughs describes the Apeman as an intelligent, handsome giant. The easiest to make, I think, enormous, physically perfect and quick witted, but with the disadvantage of not knowing much about stuff in general. Good at climbing, and of course, can talk to some jungle animals.

Pulp Call of Cthulhu

The Rest

I’m still thinking about any additional characters, as I’ve said, basically any fictional character “active” in the thirties is fair game. (Perhaps I’ll include Derleth’s Solar Pons as Sherlock Holmes is out, or perhaps someone can play both Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe). The big challenge is definitely going to be FEMALE characters. There is at least one player in my group who seems to favor them. I’d like to include a strong female character.

My knowledge of the genre is practical but limited… help me out! Leave a comment and some suggestions.

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Sherlock Holmes on the Humble Bundle

sherlock holmes

Pay what you want for the new Frogwares Humble Bundle! I’ve actually played all those Sherlock Holmes games already, so I don’t think I’ll be purchasing it.

However, I highly recommend Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, which proves again that HP Lovecraft and Sherlock Holmes are absolutely chocolate and peanut butter for those so inclined.

Can anyone tell me if those Dracula games are any good? They are the only thing tempting me to purchase this?

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Sherlock Holmes in the Public Domain

Sherlock Holmes in the Public Domain

Sherlock Holmes in the Public Domain! After a lengthy copyright battle with the Conan Doyle Estate, Sherlock Holmes is ruled to be in the public domain in the US, which it kind of already was. My understanding is that it is a similar situation to a few of the later HP Lovecraft stories, where given the date of publication, pieces of the canon have remained in a legal grey area. Specifically, the dread German spy Von Bork is now usable by anyone.

Free at last

I’m not a die hard advocate of public domaining everything. I even have mixed feelings about some big ones, Superman and Mickey Mouse. Public domain laws are there to protect the copyright holders and creators. I’ve never really heard a convincing explanation as to why Disney should give up Mickey Mouse. Although I think everyone would find that to be pretty fun, writing whatever Superman stuff we so desire.

Holmes and Gaming

Holmes and gaming, what a wonderful idea. Since Sherlock Holmes is in the Public Domain now, what would you do with him? An RPG? A board game? I have a copy of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective Game that I haven’t had a chance to play yet. Has there been any worthwhile Sherlock Holmes RPGS? Will there be?

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A Review of “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” on GirlMeets Sherlock


A well thought out and well written review of the Billy Wilder classic “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.” It skews negative, calling out the movies tendency to vacillate between serious and comedic. I have to say I enjoy this movie, although much of the criticism levelled against it here is valid. To me, the tonal shift is not so wide that it invalidates either approach. I laugh at the funny parts, and I think they lend richness to the more serious moments later.

It’s also worth mentioning that this movie A) contains Christopher Lee and B) is likely a serious influence on the Gatiss/Moffat BBC show.

A Review of “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” on GirlMeets Sherlock