Actual Play – Red, White, and Blue (4/3/2009)

GM: Kevan Forbes
System: Mutant City Blues

Kevan Forbes play-tested his Mutant City Blues game last Friday for us. As this is a game he’s running at KublaCon, I’m not giving any spoilers but I highly recommend anyone attending check this game out, I had a blast.

Mutant City Blues, written by Robin Laws uses the Gumshoe system to create a cop drama investigation game… with superpowers. While I liked the super powers, they certainly didn’t dominate the game. In fact I’m pretty sure the game could have not had them at all and been just fine. But powers are the schtick of this game and I like me some mutant DNA so no complaints here.

What rocked

Kevan really set up the characters for fun interplay. He wanted a game that played like an episode of NCIS and I think he got it. We had lots and lots of antics all night long. Some that were borrowed from other shows but most that were made up. Twinkie obsessions and using the bathroom of the bad guy’s house without flushing were some of the more memorable one liners.

Just the right amount of character direction. Kevan gave us all three tidbits of information about our character and then one great wish. It was just the right amount of info to get us going without bogging us down with details. It was also short enough that we could share it with the other players so they knew what kind of things to bring up. Very cool.

The investigation scenes were great. During the entire game a single die was rolled once. That’s it. The rest was really exciting investigation. How do you have excitement without chances? Well the answer is that you still have chance even when a die isn’t rolled. The clock was ticking in this game and decisions we made affected the final outcome. Throughout the entire game we never knew all the answers, just fragments that we pieced together. That kept us excited all along.

Very cool characters. As always Kevan does a great job of coming up with an interesting and compelling cast.

What could have been improved

There were some story elements that we worked on after the play test but I don’t want to mention them now as they would be spoilers. These were minor and Kevan will adjust as best suits the story.

We only had three of the six players we wanted. While this wasn’t a problem in the game (quite the opposite, we had a blast) I’m not sure how much longer the game would take if we had all six. This could be problematic for pacing in the actual con game.

The “spend a point for flavor” mechanic in investigation really didn’t have a material effect. I think it is the weakest part of the game. This is something that I will look at and try to find ways to improve for when I run Gumshoe, but I wonder if anyone else has found some alternatives that work better.

Kevan is a great GM and this system really scratched an itch for me of a more cerebral game full of antics, investigation and character drama rather than ass whooping. Great game!