Book Piles and Gumshoes

I have been reading like a demon of late. In the last couple of weeks I have finished reading three books – Life in a Medieval Village, FlashForward and The Esoterrorists. Admittedly, I had reached the halfway point in one and another amounted to only 88 pages; but, I’m impressed even if no one else is.

I have reasonably good cause to read each of these volumes. I have far too many books lying around the house not to have considered long and hard, before coming up with a plan. If I don’t channel my reading activities, I’ll get no where. I need to read with purpose to get through the backlog and to fulfil associated commitments.

For example, I’m reading historical texts at the moment with the aim to write one or more supplements for Maelstrom. I have a very brief outline in mind for a supplement relating to travel in olden times; and, I also have a couple of adventures simmering on the sort of heat that would make getting a hard boiled egg sorted before lunchtime something of a hassle.

In the wisdom of the TV executives, FlashForward – the series – got cancelled. While the series suffered from a dip or two because of the comings and goings of the crew and direction behind the scenes, it ended triumphantly, in my opinion, with an excellent cliffhanger. Indeed, the cliffhanger galled no end in the knowledge that nothing would follow. So, I read the novel that inspired the series in the hope of getting something back. I warn you – no matter how entertaining a read the novel might be, it has very little in common with the TV series. Or, more correctly, the TV series took the principle of the novel along with a few names, then wove a completely different cloth from the small wraparound shawl created by Robert Sawyer.

Finally, I read ‘The Esoterrorists‘ because I needed something else to take on my trip to Oxford. I have already read the excellent ‘Trail of Cthulhu‘ and wanted to see the Gumshoe system from another angle. I also started to read the futuristic version of the Gumshoe (still in playtest); but, I’ve been struggling a little (probably for want of an iPad!). Overall, I’m thoroughly enjoying the investigation-always-works-because-it-has-to angle of the system. I have read a lot of adventures and campaigns that all too easily ground to a halt because they depending on something happening that sometimes didn’t. Yes, as a gamemaster you could steer the characters in the right direction or drop hints to the players; but, Gumshoe gives you a system to support this within the structure of the game.

You don’t bend the rules with Gumshoe to make an adventure work. The experience and skill of the team allow them to find out what they need to know simply by looking for it. And, just in case you didn’t include every skill amongst the characters in the team, they can each have a build point or three held back to use in a “Oh, I haven’t read Sumerian since my Ancient Cultures course at the University…” moment.

Now, I want to use the Gumshoe system for everything with an investigative bent. ‘Doctor Who’, for example, could be a perfect fit, because finding out what’s happening always means more to each episode than any scuffling that might happen – and the General skills of Gumshoe can handle chases when they happen with the roll of a few dice.

Anyway… I must get back to reading. Writing blog entries takes up valuable page-turning time.


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