Character Benchmarks

edited March 2013 in Mutant City Blues

I came across GUMSHOE when Esoterrorists first came out. I bought the book but, not being into that flavor of horror, I didn't get very far with it.

When I heard about Mutant City Blues, I bought the PDF as soon as I could: I am rather a big fan of the superhero genre. Shortly after, I added the two casebooks to my collection.

I'm looking to get a game going, but I have a hopefully not too difficult question.

Generally, when I go about creating a character, I start with a concept and see how I can make it fit into the system. As part of that, I try to figure out what I guess would be called benchmarks. What values represent the human average and what are the ranges of human capability? How strong is strong? How smart is smart?

I'm having a bit of difficulty discerning what numbers to use in GUMSHOE and MCB in specific. I understand that even a rating of 1 in an investigative ability denotes a professional level at the skill, but what about general abilities? For example, if my character is a black belt at a martial art, what value of Scuffling does that translate to?

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.


  • edited March 2013
    I have actually managed to restrain myself from buying MCB, so this is based on other Gumshoe games.

    8 points is probably a good benchmark for what is considered "really good". This is where Athletics brings your Hit Threshold up from 3 to 4 (it's also where you get access to Cherries in NBA) so there is a benchmark there.

    It might help to ask this question: How many times can I succeed automatically with my rating?

    8 points let you succeed automatically at two tests, and still have 2 points left, assuming standard difficulty of 4.
    In a fight against Joe Average, you could auto-hit him four times with Scuffling 8. Bump yourself up to 12 points, and you'd get four auto-hits on someone who have Athletics 8.

    Assuming that MCB allows three full refreshes after an hour in a safe haven, you'd then be able to do this twice each session. Pretty good.

    In NBA, civilians have Athletics 2, Health 3, Scuffling 1. Scuffling can be raised to 4 in the case of someone with personal defense training, or some low life roughneck.
    Cops have their appropriate abilities in the range of 4-7, so I guess that's a good benchmark for a professional of some sort. A taxi driver with Driving 4-6 doesn't sound crazy to me at least.
    Special Operations Soldiers have combat related abilites at 8-12, so that could be a benchmark for the real experts.

    Does Spec-Ops have black belts in martial arts? I don't know, but lets assume not. They're probably close though, so maybe Scuffling 15 is a good benchmark for a black belt.
  • I'm in the opposite camp in that, other than having looked at Esoterrorists way back when it first came out, the only GUMSHOE system I currently have any familiarity with is MCB.

    In MCB, there are actually no refreshes (except potentially to Health) during a session. So for an adventure, what you have is what you get.

    I hadn't considered the "auto-success" factor, and that is a useful metric, thanks.

    Part of my confusion is looking through the NPCs listed in the books and seeing a lot of 10s and 12s for some of their abilities. It's hard to establish points of reference.

    Again, thanks for your insight. :-)
  • The high amount of 10s and 12s in MCB, compared to NBA, might well be deliberate.

    In NBA, the PC:s are supposed to be Bad Ass (actaull choice of wording from the book ;P) to the level that they are compared to James Bond and Jason Bourne.
    I'm guessing that in MCB the PC:s are on level with ordinairy cops (with the added super powers, of course).
    Having slightly lower stats on the opposition (excluding vampires) would make sense in NBA.
  • Nestor,

    Look at pgs. 102-103 in MCB for refresh rates. Some General Abilities refresh after 24 hours of game time, others like Investigative Abilities, at the end of a case.

    From the two MCB sessions I've run, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of combat in MCB. So 8s signify highly skilled in my mind.
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