Social Conflict in GUMSHOE

Hello! I am a relatively new GM/Keeper/Director/Whatever for the GUMSHOE system, and I'm wondering if anyone has developed rules for social/mental conflicts. What I mean is a system where you "attack" and "defend" with arguments, damage represents stress or influence, and "losing" means the winner gets what he/she wants (e.g. their point is proven, the audience approves, etc.) 

I know the system's been around for awhile, so I was wondering if Ken or Robin or someone in the community has taken this idea on yet, whether in a See XX column or in a sourcebook or whatever. It seems like a no-brainer to me if you wanted to emulate courtroom dramas, political games, etc. 


  • I'm not aware of any rules like this as I can't really think of a situation it would arise in the existing games. However, the idea of a court room drama game is very interesting. You could play out a Law & Order type game where the investigation takes place and the arrest is made and then the trial is played out but with entirely different lawyer characters. I'm not sure this would work with more than 2 players though. There aren't usually a team of prosecutors.

    I actually think the ship combat rules for Ashen Stars would work perfectly for this. In AS, there are 4 new General Abilities, each a difference tactic for ship combat. When you choose a tactic to use, there is a showdown roll between the two abilities. If you win the roll, you get a certain number of points towards victory. You could come up with 4 new General Abilities that represent different ways of arguing.

    Also in AS, the ships have advantages and disadvantages based on the four tactics and whether they are on offense or defense. I guess you could map this to an argument style for each character but in Ashen Stars, each PC is supposed to specialize in 1 of the 4 General Abilities so I'm not sure that works. Maybe you could just cut the ship part out.
  • I have used the normal contest rules for a court case with the exception that losing the argument required three failed rolls. The base pool was Law, and the characters gained additional points to spend based on evidence collected during the adventure, and interactions with NPCs. This works pretty well to allow some back and forth as in a debate or oral arguments. In my game the audience was a panel of five judges, so the case would be lost if three of the judges were convinced by the other side.
  • In Vendetta Run, which is a recent Ken Writes About Stuff pdf, he uses one. He made a sort of flowchart in which two combatants reveal the skill they want to use, and whichever one trumps the other in the chart is the victor. It's set up sort of like rock-paper-scissors so no one ability is better overall than the others.
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