Investigative Face-Punching

We might get Gar to write about the GUMSHOE and Fear Itself implications of the great Netflix series "Stranger Things" soon. Before that happens I’d like to sneak in to highlight one particular moment.  Without delving too far into spoilers for those who have yet to binge, a point comes where rumpled police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) needs to get information on the other side of a guarded door.  As seasoned GUMSHOE hands know, if you have the Locksmith ability and a locked door stands between the PC and that info, the PC gets the info, no spend required. Here we have a classic example of that setup, except that it’s a uniformed stooge of the evil conspiracy and not a lock. What does our hero do? He knocks the guy out with a surprise shot to the jaw, opens the door, and heads on in.

This brings us to an obvious extrapolation: in GUMSHOE, you ought to be able to do the same.

I’d restrict this to characters the tactic feels right for. If your investigator has the investigative ability Intimidation and at least 4 points in Scuffling (or the equivalent, depending on which GUMSHOE iteration you’re using), you can KO a guard to get a core clue. In certain GUMSHOE games you could describe this in different ways: using a stun pistol in Ashen Stars, a Concussion blast in Mutant City Blues.

Hopper suffers no direct repercussions for knocking out the guard. It never gets mentioned again, in fact. We must assume then that he spent a point of Intimidation to ensure that he not only got the clue but did not suffer any blowback for resorting to the rough stuff.

When building or improvising scenarios where punching your way to information, you might include the opportunity to stave off later consequences with a spend of Intimidation, Bureaucracy, Cop Talk, Credit Rating or whatever else seems appropriate to the setting. This might cost 1 point or even 2, if it would otherwise seem unlikely for the investigator to get away with this entirely.

Since you can’t count on a player to think of this fun but extreme solution, or for the punch-enthusiast among the party to be the one that shows up at the door, also allow a more typical alternate way of getting past the guard.

5 Responses to “Investigative Face-Punching”

  1. committed hero says:

    I allow pistol-brandishing PCs an Intimidation spend to prevent firefights from starting in target-rich environments – resulting in the John Woo scene of characters negotiating at gunpoint.

  2. SunlessNick says:

    This so should have been illustrated by a picture of Peggy Carter. :)

  3. SunlessNick says:

    More seriously, what about Investigative sucker-punching or Investigative sneaking past? The former might be Intimidation and 4 points between Scuffling and Stealth; the latter might need 4 points in Stealth, but I’m not sure what Investigative ability would go with it.

    • gdave says:

      It would depend on who or what you’re trying to sneak past, where you’re trying to sneak, and how you’re trying to do it.

      For example, with TimeWatch (the GUMSHOE book I have handy):

      + Anthropology: study of primate band behavior gives insight into patrol patterns and activity (humans are most alert at dawn and dusk, and at the beginning and end of shifts).

      + Architecture: using knowledge of the building you’re sneaking into to find blind spots and areas with a lot of cover.

      + Authority, Bureaucracy, or Military Tactics: for organized guards, you leverage your knowledge of likely patrol schedules, checkpoint locations, and the like.

      + Hacking: you hack the surveillance systems to cover your escapades (the old camera on a loop trick).

      + High Society: if you’re sneaking into someplace posh, or, even better, slipping out of a party in a tux or evening gown to get access to the villains private office, you know how to slip away without anyone immediately noticing your absence, and where the low-status guards of high status people are likely to be, and likely to not be.

      + History (specialty): you know from historical documents how the folks you’re trying to sneak past typically set up their security systems and procedures – heck, in TimeWatch, you might know how you’ve already successfully snuck in!

      + Notice: you see the guards (or security systems) before they see you.

      + Outdoor Survival: for sneaking around in the outdoors.

      + Research: you look up blueprints of the building, get schematics of the security systems, and the like.

      + Spying: you’re a spy.

      + Streetwise: if you’re trying to sneak past criminals, thugs, or other low-life types, you have insight into how they operate and where, when, and how you’re most likely to succeed in sneaking past them.

  4. Jeb says:

    Another classic bit of investigative face-punching is in Hammet. He sees a guy in city hall that he wants to talk to and grabs him by the lapels. Hammet mixs verbal and physical intimidation until the guy squirms out of his jacket and scurries off down the stairs. Hammet then removes the document that he was looking for from the guy’s jacket.

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