GUMSHOE One-2-One is a system for designing and playing investigative roleplaying games and adventures for one player and one Game Moderator (GM). Together, you create a story that evokes the classic solo protagonist mystery format.

In a GUMSHOE One-2-One game, the player character discovers something which triggers their investigation, and then the (GM) guides them through a number of scenes, during which they use their Investigative Abilities to gather the core clues they need to move the narrative forward. They must then put the clues together to uncover the secrets behind the mystery.

GUMSHOE One-2-One links and resources

GUMSHOE One-2-One Games

Any RPG which uses the GUMSHOE One-2-One system redefines it for that setting, and so there is no “GUMSHOE One-2-One book”. Each of the RPGs below contains the full GUMSHOE One-2-One rules for creating characters and playing in that world, as well as guidance on designing your own investigations for that particular setting.

Follow the links below to find out about our GUMSHOE One-2-One games:

 

In the Limited Edition of Cthulhu Confidential You Face Madness and Corruption… Alone!

Limited edition with bookplate

Only 100 copies of this faux-leatherbound limited edition Cthulhu Confidential exist in this reality. 50 are available to customers in the U.S. and Canada, and 50 are available to customers outside the U.S. and Canada. The books are faux leather with foil, and each one includes a sticky-backed bookplate signed by the three authors for you to add to the book.

Langston Wright is an African-American war veteran and scholar in WW2-era Washington, D.C. Vivian Sinclair is The New York Herald’s most determined scoop-hound in 1930s NYC. And Dex Raymond is a hard-boiled private detective with a nose for trouble in 1930s Los Angeles.

Each is a lone investigator, equipped with smarts, fists, and just maybe a code of honor, uncovering their town’s secret truths. But what happens when you scratch the veneer of human malfeasance to reveal an eternal evil—the malign, cosmic indifference of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos?

You get the GUMSHOE One-2-One game, Cthulhu Confidential™.

 

 

One Game Master, One Player

GUMSHOE One-2-One retunes, rebuilds and reenvisions the acclaimed GUMSHOE investigative rules set, as seen in such hit roleplaying games as Trail of Cthulhu and Night’s Black Agents, for one player and one GM.
Together you create a story that evokes the classic solo protagonist mystery format.

  • Can’t find an entire game group who can play when you can?
  • Want an intense head-to-head gaming experience?
  • Looking for a game to play online which fits superbly with virtual tabletops?

Cthulhu Confidential includes all the rules you need to play GUMSHOE One-2-One, plus a detailed approach to building your own mysteries.

Horror Goes Hardboiled

Cthulhu ConfidentialTM drops your hero into the noir nightscape of hardboiled-era Los Angeles, New York, or Washington, D.C. Meet powerbrokers and politicians, rub shoulders with Hollywood studio bosses and fiery evangelists. Face narrow-eyed G-Men, bent cops and dangerous crime lords. But beneath it all, under the scrim of all this human endeavour, lives corruption so old and inhuman you’ll need all your courage and resourcefulness to face it.

Cthulhu Confidential features three protagonists each in their own setting, with three fully-featured adventure, which serve as a complete model for further mysteries of your creation.
dex-raymond_300

The Fathomless Sleep

How did fast-living society girl Helen Deakin come down with a case of catatonia? Her sultry sister pays you to find out. As Dex Raymond, you’ll explore a web of blackmail, dirty money, and weird mysticism in the city of fallen angels.

vivian_sinclair_300

Fatal Frequencies

In the offices of the New York Herald, Sadie Cane seeks reporter Vivian Sinclair‘s help. Sadie’s fiancé, George Preston, disappeared three days after a murder in his apartment block. Can Viv uncover the truth about George, and will Sadie like what she finds?

langston-wright_300

Capitol Colour

Lynette Miller was a riveter. A few weeks ago, she got a new job: hush-hush, and highly paid. She’s a clever and resourceful young woman, and now she’s missing, and her father is heartbroken. Can Langston Wright unweave a web of deceit, face down racist cops, and uncover the deeper conspiracy which endangers the war effort?

 

 

 

Buy the limited edition

 

Stock #: PELGOC01L Authors: Robin D. Laws, Chris Spivey, Ruth Tillman
Artists: Stephanie Brown, Jérôme Huguenin, Christian Knutsson, Anthony Moravian, Leonard O’Grady Pages: 328 pages, casebound book

 

The upcoming SOLO rules introduce a new concept – the lone player has a Shadow score that measures how aware and aggressive the supernatural threats are right now. You gain Shadow problems when you attract the attention of vampires and other horrors, and you can suppress your Shadow by taking precautions like staying on holy ground or keeping running water between you and the vampire’s lair. Your Shadow score limits the type of attacks and antagonist reactions the bad guys can deploy against you. If your Shadow score is 2+, then the vampire might sneak into your dreams by night and torment you. If it’s 4+, then the vampire sneaks into your room by night to murder you, or something equally charming.

Think of it as supernatural Heat. As an experienced vampire hunter, the Agent can judge her current Shadow score, just like she has a rough idea of her current Heat. She can sense when there’s a sinister intention behind the chilly wind, or notices bats circling overhead like surveillance drones.

It’s an indicator to the player, letting her know how much danger she’s in without specifying the nature of the threat. It signals when it’s time to lie low or take a subtle approach, or when it’s time to risk everything. In a One2One game, where the player needs all the information she can get, Shadows’s a vital addition to the rules.

It’s less important in a regular multiplayer Night’s Black Agents game, where you’ve got ablative player characters and it’s less important to give the players a warning signal that they’re poking the wrong vampire lair. Still, if your group enjoys playing with Heat, you might get a kick out of Shadow.

Gaining Shadow

You gain Shadow by coming into contact with vampires or their minions, attracting the attention of the Undead, exposing yourself to supernatural influences, trespassing in dark places, and the like. Some sample Shadow gains:

+1 Shadow: Killing a minor minion, Walking alone at night, Spilling blood, Carrying the vampire’s Bane, Failing a Cover test

+2 Shadow: Killing a named minion of the vampire, speaking the vampire’s name aloud, trespassing in the vampire’s territory

+3 Shadow: Killing a supernatural minion of the vampire, psychic contact with the vampire, destroying any of the vampire’s coffins

Effects of Shadow

Once per game session, one player rolls against the Agents’ current Shadow level. If the roll’s under the current Shadow score, then the vampire strikes at the Agents. This may take the form of a suitable Vampyramid reaction (NBA, p. 189) or just using the vampire’s powers or minions to inconvenience them. Assume the vampire’s willing to spend Aberrance equal to the Shadow score x 3 on this attack.

Shadow also affects the occult underworld just like Heat affects the black market. Suddenly, seers and mystics are less willing to deal with the Agents, occultists might decide they’re better off cutting a deal with the devil rather than siding with the hunters, Renfield-esque patients in psychiatric institutions become agitated, sensitive souls dream of fangs and blood.

Losing Shadow

Shadow’s hard to lose – the players lose it over time, or by moving away from the vampire, or by killing the monster. However, they can suppress their Shadow score in various ways, temporarily reducing it by taking various precautions.

-1 Shadow: Always carrying the vampire’s Dread

-2 Shadow: Staying in a location that’s Blocked against vampiric intrusion

For example, the players are hunting Dracula. If their Shadow score hits 4, then Dracula will be able to enter their dreams and learn their secrets, ala Mina Harker. By always taking care to sleep behind a protective shroud of garlic blooms, the Agents give themselves a vital buffer – the garlic suppresses their Shadow score, keeping it under 4. Then, unfortunately, one of the Agents gets separated from the rest in a firefight with some of Dracula’s minions, and can’t make it back to their garlic-girded safehouse. His Shadow score isn’t suppressed – so if the die roll indicates that there’s a potential Shadow response, Dracula finds him… 

SaveSave

GUMSHOE One-2-One retunes, rebuilds and reenvisions the acclaimed GUMSHOE investigative rules set, as seen in such hit roleplaying games as Trail of Cthulhu and Night’s Black Agents, for one player and one GM.  The animating principle behind GUMSHOE states that failing to get key information is never interesting. If you have the right ability and you look in the right place for clues you need to solve the mystery, you will always find the information you seek.

In GUMSHOE One-2-One, you play a protagonist character, who is usually described as part of the setting. Your character attempts actions in the storyline by using abilities, which come in two main types: Investigative and General.

Investigative Abilities allow you to gather information. If you lack the relevant Investigative Ability, your character can talk to a friendly Source – one of your key contacts, who will also provide guidance and assurance as needed.

  • In some situations, you can spend a resource called a Push to gain an additional benefit. This might be information you don’t absolutely need to solve the case; more often it consists of advantages that clear the character’s path through the story, such as favors from witnesses, knowledge that keeps the character safe, or prior relationships to central figures.

General Abilities determine whether you succeed or fail when trying to take actions other than gathering information, usually in an event called a test.

The most important kind of test is the Challenge. At the end of the Challenge, your die roll total may match or exceed that of an Advance (the best result), or a Hold (an okay or middling result). If not, your Outcome is a Setback, which means that something bad happens.

  • On an Advance you will probably gain an Edge: an advantage you can use later in the scenario. As a reminder, you gain an Edge card. The card’s text will tell you how it works. Often, you must discard the card to gain the advantage. If you reached the Advance threshold without rolling all of the dice you were entitled to, you also gain a Push.
  • On a Setback, you often gain a Problem, representing a dilemma that might cause trouble for you later. Again, you receive a card to remember it by — a Problem card. Certain cards might lead to a terrible end for your detective should you fail to get rid of them before the scenario concludes.

Every so often you’ll make a simple roll, called a Quick Test, to see if you succeed or fail, without the possibility of Advances, Edges, Setbacks, or Problems.

Spine-Tingling New York Mythos Noir from the Newsfiles of Vivian Sinclair

You are Vivian Sinclair: a sharp-dressing, straight-talking, New York investigative journalist. Equipped with your smarts, your notebook, and your unerring nose for a good story, your job is to scour the streets of the City of Dreams and dig up its darkest secrets.

A brawl between picketers from the miner’s union and scab laborers working on the Winn Water Tunnel has turned into a riot, and Vivian Sinclair is on the scene reporting. But it seems the scab workers are the least of the miners’ concerns.  Can Viv prevent further injuries and an environmental disaster?

“Ex Astoria” is the fifth adventure for Cthulhu Confidential™. This one-GM, one-player RPG drops your hero into a noir nightscape where, beneath the merely human corruption, an eternal evil lurks: the malign, cosmic indifference of HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos!

 

 

 

Stock #: PELGOC06D Author: Ruth Tillman
Artist: Christian Knutsson Type: 42-page PDF

Buy now

Face Madness and Corruption… Alone!

This beautiful faux-leatherbound version of the first GUMSHOE One-2-One game comes in rich black, embossed with gleaming silver. It includes a limited edition bookplate signed by all three authors.

Langston Wright is an African-American war veteran and scholar in WW2-era Washington, DC. Vivian Sinclair is The New York Herald’s most determined scoop-hound in 1930s NYC. And Dex Raymond is a hard-boiled private detective with a nose for trouble in 1930s Los Angeles.

Each is a lone investigator, equipped with smarts, fists, and just maybe a code of honor, uncovering their town’s secret truths. But what happens when you scratch the veneer of human malfeasance to reveal an eternal evil—the malign, cosmic indifference of HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos?

You get Cthulhu Confidential™.

You get GUMSHOE One-2-One™.

Buy now

Cthulhu Confidential Limited Edition features three protagonists each in their own setting, with three fully-featured adventure, which serve as a complete model for further mysteries of your creation.
dex-raymond_300

The Fathomless Sleep

How did fast-living society girl Helen Deakin come down with a case of catatonia? Her sultry sister pays you to find out. As Dex Raymond, you’ll explore a web of blackmail, dirty money, and weird mysticism in the city of fallen angels.

vivian_sinclair_300

Fatal Frequencies

In the offices of the New York Herald, Sadie Cane seeks reporter Vivian Sinclair‘s help. Sadie’s fiancé, George Preston, disappeared three days after a murder in his apartment block. Can Viv uncover the truth about George, and will Sadie like what she finds?

langston-wright_300

Capitol Colour

Lynette Miller was a riveter. A few weeks ago, she got a new job: hush-hush, and highly paid. She’s a clever and resourceful young woman, and now she’s missing, and her father is heartbroken. Can Langston Wright unweave a web of deceit, face down racist cops, and uncover the deeper conspiracy which endangers the war effort?

 

 

Buy now

Stock #: PELGOC01L Authors: Robin D. Laws, Chris Spivey, Ruth Tillman
Artists: Stephanie Brown, Jérôme Huguenin, Christian Knutsson, Anthony Moravian, Leonard O’Grady Pages: 328 pages, casebound book

 

 

 

 

 

Already got your book, and have a question about page 8? Check out this post.

No backup.

No allies.

You’re all alone in the darkness. Just you… and them.

NBA: Solo Ops

ALONE AGAINST THE UN-DEAD

Written by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan (The Dracula Dossier, The Zalozhniy Quartet) Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops is a stand-alone RPG which applies the GUMSHOE One-2-One rules to the award-winning Night’s Black Agents setting of spies vs. vampires.

One GM, one player – an explosive mix for a high-octane combat, or a cold-blooded chess game between a lone hero and the forces of darkness. Together, you plunge into an occult thriller that pits the gadgets and skills of a clandestine operative against the ancient horror of the vampires.

  • Can’t find an entire game group who can play when you can?
  • Want an intense head-to-head gaming experience?
  • Looking for a game to play online which fits superbly with virtual tabletops?

NBA: Solo Ops adds stunts, Mastery Edges, Shadow Problems and more to the One-2-One system.

Create your own Agent, or play as Leyla Khan – ex-MI6, ex-thrall of the vampires, now committed to hunting down and destroying her former masters before they recapture her. Sift through the ashes of Khan’s former life to find the clues you need to map the vampire conspiracy, then hunt down and slay the Undead.

Three explosive operations:

  • NEVER SAY DEAD
  • NO GRAVE FOR TRAITORS
  • THE DENIABLE WOMAN

Status: In playtesting

Spine-Tingling L.A. Mythos Noir from the Casefiles of Dex Raymond

You are Dex Raymond: a hard-boiled L.A. private eye with a nose for trouble. Equipped with your smarts, fists, and just maybe a code of honor, your job is to walk the streets of this dirty town and uncover its darkest secrets. But when a client asks you to investigate an odd automobile fatality, you quickly find yourself mixed up with sorcerous members of L.A.’s business elite, a wave of rat attacks, and a child’s disappearance. Can you solve the case with your hide—and sanity—intact?

“The House Up in the Hills” is the first adventure for Cthulhu Confidential™. This one-GM, one-player RPG drops your hero into a noir nightscape where, beneath the merely human corruption, an eternal evil lurks: the malign, cosmic indifference of HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos!

 

 

 

Stock #: PELGOC02D Author:Robin D. Laws
Artist: Christian Knutsson, Laura Martin Type: 42-page PDF

Buy now

Cthulhu Confidential and other upcoming One-2-One games recommend using physical cards (or the digital equivalent) in play. Giving a player something to hold onto has several benefits.

  • It’s a reminder. In a multiplayer game, key plot elements get discussed endlessly at the game as players speculate about what’s going on, how they rid themselves of troubles, and how they can take advantage of items or favour acquired. In a solo game, especially a plot-heavily Confidential scenario, it’s good to give the player plenty of reminders of important discoveries and ongoing problems.
  • It’s a call to action. Having “Bleeding Internally” or “Mickey Don’t Like You” weighing down your hand motivates you to look for ways to counter those pesky problems. Similarly, if you’ve got “Charlie Chaplin Owes You” or a “Spare Bomb”, then you’ll itch for ways to play them to your advantage.
  • It’s satisfying. There’s something undeniable fun about handling physical cards, as opposed to scribbling notes on a character sheet. And as there’s only one player, it’s viable to have lots of highly specific cards.

Every published One-2-One scenario includes plenty of Problem and Edge cards, covering every likely eventually – but what about unlikely ones, when the player goes “off-piste”? How to improvise cards on the fly?

Have a bunch of blank cards (index cards are fine) to hand. When you need to write a card on the fly, quickly think about ways to connect it to future events in the scenario. A problem like “Fear of the Dark” is only interesting if there’s a scene later on where the player has to go into a dark place. An Edge like “Colt .45” is only relevant if there’s a good chance of a shootout.

The best Problems are the ones that push the player in interesting directions in the story, or anticipate future dangers. A “Bleeding Neck Wound” that gives the player a penalty is fun, but “Vampire Bite” that doesn’t give a penalty, but hints at a psychic threat can be much more interesting. At the same time, you want a few cards with clear mechanical benefits or penalties for variety, to avoid overloading the player with possibilities.

Edges without a defined benefit leave things open to player input. “Colt .45” obviously benefits Fighting, but “Got The Drop On Them” could be construed as a bonus to anything from Stealth to Shadowing to Fighting, or a Push to Streetwise or Intimidation, to a story benefit where the player gets to arrive at just the right moment to put the bad guys at a disadvantage. Working out what a card actually does when it’s played keeps options open – just stay away from Edges that give the player too much leverage over key figures in the adventure. “Charlie Chaplin owes you” is great; “The Cult Leader owes you” risks derailing your plot again. (And if you’re running a game where Chaplin’s the cult leader, I want to play).  

As a quick list of options:

 Edges

  • A bonus (say, +1 or +2) to a single Challenge
  • A bonus to multiple Challenges, either when a particular condition is met (+2 when sneaking around Budapest) or for a limited time (+2 to your next two Fighting challenges)
  • A bonus to an entire category of General Abilities (Physical, Mental, Manual)
  • A free die on a Challenge (and remember, if the player has any dice left over, he gets a free Push)
  • A free Push in a particular situation (“You know this city like the back of your hand. Discard this Edge for a free Push of Architecture, Cop Talk, or Streetwise while in Prague.”)
  • A free Push when dealing with a particular character or faction
  • A free Push for a particular type of Investigative Ability, usually Interpersonal
  • The ability to Counter a type of Problem
  • A general description of some advantage, giving the player scope for creativity (“The priest blessed you.)

Problems

Injuries: Injuries are a special category of Problem, so include the Injury keyword on any Injury cards. Some abilities (like Medic) give the ability to counter Injuries quickly.

Most injuries give a -1 or -2 penalty to Physical tests; injuries that specifically impede hand-eye Co-ordination might penalise Manual tasks instead.

In GUMSHOE One-2-one, the player doesn’t have ‘hit points’ or a Health score. The penalties from injury cards may stack, but a player may hold any number of injury cards and keep going. Injury only threatens death if the injury card specifically says this (see Dooms, below.).

Light injuries might only last for a scene, or for a few scenes (usually, three scenes, or three Challenges of a particular type), or be automatically Countered when the player Takes Time. More serious injuries might explicitly require the player to Take Time to Counter them, require medical treatment, or both.

Penalties: Penalties make it harder for the player to succeed in tests. Penalties are usually -1 or -2; go to -3 or -4 if you really want to emphasise the adversity and give the player little hope of success without Countering the problem. Penalties apply to one (or more!) of the categories of General Ability:

    • Physical: Most injuries penalise physical abilities; it’s hard to run, climb or fight when you’re been hurt. Drugs or restraints (manacles) also impair physical ability tests.
    • Manual: Injuries to the hands or eyes are the usual cause of manual ability penalties.
    • Mental: Shock, mental trauma, emotional distress or exhaustion can hit mental abilities

Levies: Levies require the player to spend an extra Push in a particular situation. Usually, this refers to Interpersonal pushes and applies to a particular individual or group – if Dr. Tollen doesn’t trust you, you might have to spend an extra Push when trying to persuade her with Reassurance to let you see her notes on blood diseases. Levies can apply to any investigative ability, though – for example, if Cryptography is needed to decode an ancient book, then if the book gets damaged, it could impose a Cryptography levy to get the information.

Blocks: Blocking Problems prevent the player from taking a particular action until the Problem’s resolved. They can be nuisances that prevent the player from tackling bigger issues, like an Injury card (“Blood in your eyes”) that gives no penalty to tests, but has to be Countered before any other injuries can be removed. They can be more serious complications that restrict the player’s actions – for example, if the player’s been disarmed, then she can’t make Shooting tests until she obtains a gun.

Dooms: Doom Problems shape the ending of the story, usually in a negative way. If the player’s still holding the card at the end of the operation, bad things happen. Dooms can result in death (“you’ve been poisoned – if you haven’t found a cure by the end of the adventure, you’re dead”) or other terrible consequences (“The cult has kidnapped Lenny, and will sacrifice him to Cthulhu unless you stop them”). Dooms should always describe how to Counter them.

 

 

 

The scene in which the hero is taken prisoner by adversaries is as deep a staple of adventure fiction as you could ask for. In roleplaying this basic scene has always acted as bugaboo. Players cling vehemently to their characters’ agency. Some would rather have their characters killed than tossed in a cell.

If we think about these sequences in movies and fiction, they always afford the hero a way forward, after a suitable period of frustration. The hero learns something about the antagonist, gleans some other key bit of information, or makes a key alliance that drives the story forward.

While designing The Yellow King Roleplaying Game I’ve found a way to get around the traditional reluctance to play that type of sequence. But we haven’t even Kickstarted that yet. But I can adapt the same principle to GUMSHOE One-2-One, which like YKRPG uses cards to represent ongoing consequences that affect the character over the course of the scenario. (Though the two games implement this differently.)

When you think your player’s Cthulhu Confidential detective ought to be knocked on the head, as happens from time to time to any self-respecting noir hero, offer this Problem card:


When You Regain Consciousness

Problem

You are knocked out and will wake up in the foe’s clutches. When you either escape, or gain a core clue while in custody, discard this card plus any one other non-Continuity Problem card you can justify to the GM.


Tell them that they can accept the card and forgo a Challenge to avoid being knocked out. Or they can take their chances on the Challenge, which might still wind up with imprisonment, plus one if not two worse Problem cards.

This signals to the player that, a) absolutely, there will be a way out of the imprisonment, b) interesting things will happen during the imprisonment and c) here’s a nice extra bribe for you.

This turns a situation in which the player fears loss of agency to one in which she has a choice and can feel in control of a temporary loss of control. As paradoxical as that may sound.

The Armitage Files is Robin D Laws’ groundbreaking adventure of improvised Mythos investigation.

Cthulhu Confidential is Robin D Laws’ groundbreaking game of solo Mythos investigation.

Putting two groundbreaking products together is hazardous for Gamemasters. You run the risk of collapsing the ground beneath you.

However, the risk can be worth it: improvised play supports the deep investigative dives of one-on-one play.

Improvising On The Run

In a Trail of Cthulhu game using the Armitage Files, the Keeper can take advantage of the times when the players are arguing or speculating amongst themselves to plan ahead and decide on what the players might find when they follow the next clue. While the players argue whether or not they can trust Austin Kittrell, the Keeper feverishly reads over the Sinister and Stalwart versions of the Kingsport Yacht Club that Kittrell mentioned and decides which incarnation the players will encounter.

There are few such downtimes in one-on-one play. You can stall the player by giving them a handout such as a new Armitage Letter, but mostly the game will be relentless investigation and action. (There’s a reason that Cthulhu Confidential scenarios tend to be longer and more intricate than regular Trail games.) The best approach is to study the Armitage Files material thoroughly in advance, internalising it as much as possible so you can decide on the fly to connect the Yacht Club to the Nophru-Ka Panel, which of course means a visit to the Anthropologist and he can see invisible horrors clinging to the investigator which means you’ll need to set up an invisible horror encounter before the player gets there…

Sketch out potential plots and connections in advance. Identify (or ask your player) which clues are most likely to come up in the next session, work out two or three follow-ons from each clue and then pick the most appropriate one in response to player decisions. It’s a gamemastering high-wire act.

Where possible, bend the plot around the protagonist. The Armitage Files includes several handouts that reference player characters by name (Document 3, Document 4, Document 6, Document 9) – but is otherwise light on personal connections to the investigators. After all, in a regular Trail of Cthulhu campaign, there’s every chance that one or more investigators will perish before the end. That’s not the case in Cthulhu Confidential, so take advantage of the protagonist’s privileged status to ensure that the mystery revolves around them. (For those fill-in-an-investigator’s-name gaps in the handouts, put the investigator’s name in one of them and fill the others with Sources and compelling GMCs.)

Look For Solid Ground

Cthulhu Confidential uses cards to track Problems and Edges and to give detail and texture to the character’s experiences. Instead of just losing four Health, the investigator might have been Clawed by a Deep One or Punched by Butcher Brown or Fell Down A Hole – each of which causes an injury, but has different consequences and solutions. In a regular scenario, these cards can be designed in advance because the GM knows the likely encounters lying ahead. In an improvised campaign, this approach is reversed –  design the cards, and then improvise encounters that lead to those cards. For example, if you’ve prepared the Fell Down A Hole problem or the Mob Tie edges, then look for ways to push the protagonist into a pit or get a favour from a mobster. Prepare a stack of Problems and Edges in advance and look for ways to bring them in (start with the Mythos Problems articles by Robin, as well as the Generic Edges and Problems in the Cthulhu Confidential appendix and build from there.)

Of course, improvised games always include unexpected events, so have a stack of blank cards to hand that you can fill in when warranted. Mark important plot twists and consequences by turning them into Problems and Edges.

For Problem cards, include specific ways to remove each Problem. For Edge cards, note exactly what benefit it gives and when it can be cashed in. Be as concrete as possible – if that Mob Ties edge gives you a bonus when dealing with mobsters, then that’s a prompt for the Gamemaster to include some mobsters to justify the Edge’s existence. (Improv thrives on constraints and prompts.)

Problems and Edges usually arise as a result of challenges; have a copy of the Challenge Difficulty table on p. 45 of Cthulhu Confidential to hand while running the game.

The Armitage Sources

The various academics and scholars in the Armitage Inquiry make excellent sources for most topics. Between them, they cover virtually every academic investigative ability imaginable, with non-academic assistance provided by the redoubtable Mrs. Pickman and Dr. Sprague. With so many professional abilities available through sources, the obvious route for the protagonist is to concentrate on practical investigative abilities like Streetwise and Evidence (although any of the usual Cthulhu Confidential protagonists could be used in an Armitage Files campaign by transplanting them to Arkham country.)

Dreadful Correlation

To reiterate – running an improvised One-2-One game isn’t easy. Don’t pick up the Armitage Files and assume that you’re good to go. In a conventional improvised campaign with multiple players, the Keeper has a whole group to riff off and steal ideas from. Here, it’s just you and one player, alone in a whirlwind of possibilities. Running this sort of game will be tough and exhausting – but it will also be a genuinely terrifying experience for one lucky player.

 

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