Using Pushes in Standard GUMSHOE

Game Moderators seeing the Push rules in The Yellow King Roleplaying Game and now second edition Mutant City Blues sometimes ask how to import them into previous GUMSHOE games.

To recap how Pushes work, players get two of them per scenario. They can spend Pushes to gain non-informational benefits from their investigative abilities. For example:

  • A Painting Push lets you say that you had a work accepted to the group show at the haunted gallery.
  • A Reassurance Push allows you to calm a terrified witness, so that he follows your instructions and stays out of harm’s way.
  • With a Chemistry Push, you can synthesize an antidote to the venom of the snake that just bit your comrade.

Previous GUMSHOE games have you allocate a number of points to each ability. This gives you a pool of points, which you can spend to gain the same sorts of benefits. The GM decides whether a benefit costs 1, 2, or sometimes even 3 points.

To use Pushes in a GUMSHOE iteration with investigative points, convert scenarios as follows:

  • Some scenarios charge you for non-core clues—information that doesn’t lead you directly to another scene. Never require a Push for this. (In fact, I’d personally drop this entirely in any version of GUMSHOE, and always provide all information for free.)
  • When a benefit costs 1 point, provide it at no cost if the player suggests it unprompted.
  • Otherwise, when you see a 1-point spend listed in any scenario, and you think it would be useful or cool or otherwise gratifying enough to suggest to the player as a possibility, it costs 1 Push. If it seems marginally useful and not worth a Push, ignore it entirely.
  • Any benefits costing more than 1 point cost 1 Push.
  • If you think your players will find the benefit of a 2+ point spend overpriced, provide it for free (if asked) or let it go unmentioned.

A very small number of abilities in the crunchier GUMSHOE games, such as Ashen Stars, call for point spends to power particular effects. These probably require case-by-case design work to adapt to the Push rules. As a rule of thumb, a clearly useful special benefit either costs a Push or can be used at no cost, but only once per session.

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6 Responses to “Using Pushes in Standard GUMSHOE”

  1. Stefano Gaburri says:

    This is great. Personally I think the whole mechanism of point spends is a little too convoluted in the old GUMSHOE products — I’m all for a quasi-freeform play, in which the only real resource to hoard/manage is Pushes (big, dramatic advantages) and all the rest is just given away for free (or for good RPing).
    C. Confidential does this perfectly: after a while you end up forgetting about investigative Abilities as well and just… playing. My ideal situation.

  2. Lisa Padol says:

    How does one earn extra Pushes during the scenario in Standard GUMSHOE?

  3. Andy says:

    My group would be all over a new edition of Trail of Cthulhu that used the Quickshock and push rules.

  4. Timothy John Daly says:


    Question: this article states you get 2 pushes per scenario (as it states in TYK) but in Mutant City Blues Second Edition is says that a player gets 2 pushes per SESSION. Is this an error? or is this a deliberate design choice between the games?

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi Timothy. This is a deliberate distinction. Always go with the rules in a specific game when it conflicts with the general advice in this post. Thanks, Becky.

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