Special Investigations: Nightshift (Home brew setting)

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Special Investigations: Nightshift (Home brew setting)

#1 Postby BlackJaw » Tue Aug 07, 2012 12:01 pm

Update 4/2/2013:
A Playtest Version is Available Here

The rest of this post and the thread is preserved below.

Special Investigations: Nightshift (SINS) is a 90s supernatural cop tv-show setting I'm trying to make using Savage Worlds (Deluxe). Think of it as Homicide: Life on the Street crossed with Supernatural, and set in New Orleans.

I played in a (bastardized) WoD game for a few years that was essentially 1980s Cop shows (Miami Vice) crossed with supernatural monster hunting shows (Supernatural or X-Files). It was called "Special Investigations," and was based around TV cop show tropes. We had episodes, seasons, montages, and guest stars. I'm now 3 time zones away from that game, but I liked it enough to think about making a "spin-off."

The New Series
Set in the 1990s, SINS will be a darker show with a bit more verisimilitude when showing life as a police officer. Most player will be detectives in the Special Investigations Unit, although interesting other characters (K-9 unit, or Lieutenant) will be allowed. The often mocked and under funded Special Investigations Unit tends to be a dumping ground for officers no longer wanted in other units, sort of like the first season of the Wire.

Setting Rules
Unless otherwise noted, all episodes and events take place at night. Note that day & night has an impact on Fear Levels.

Two Case Structure
Most episodes will feature the two case structure. There will be two active cases assigned to the group to handle at the same time, such as through splitting up. One is quick and easy, while the other will turn into the main plot of the episode and likely require the whole unit to handle. Completing the easy case gains the unit a Favor Token. Oh, and it's never clear which case is which at game start.

Defining Interests
I'll be using the Defining Interests rules like in Agents of Oblivion. They provide an extra bonus on related common knowledge type checks, as well as an easy way to pickup a bit of another language. Best of all they can be selected on the fly to help flesh out backstory in play.

The Case Board
The Special Investigation Unit has a Case Board where they track their active case load. Much like on the tv shows Homicide or The Wire, cases in red are open, cases in black and closed. At the start of each episode, every detective has to make Investigation or Streetwise check, their choice, to see if they are staying on top of their case load. Non-detective characters can attempt to aid the check of one detective. Failure means they are getting buried in red, and the unit pickups a negative modifier towards the Reputation check. Success means they are on top of the case load, with no negative or beneficial effect. A raise means they've earned a Favor Token for the unit to use that episode, but helping out the clearance rating with other units.

I'm intending to use a modified version of the Reputation rules from Gum Shoe game Ashen Stars. Essentially, the Unit has a reputation within the department and the community. It's similar to charisma but effects the whole unit, and changes as the players do well or poorly, or at least cover their tracks. Over the course of an episode they earn bonuses and penalties depending on actions, and at the end of the episode they make a reputation check with these modifiers to see if their actions have improved or worsened their reputation.

Department Favors
Because the Special Investigations Unit has a nebulously described jurisdiction, other units often drop troublesome cases in their lap. By getting through these cases, they earn favors within the department they can call in when it's important. These are represented as Favor Tokens, and they belong to the group as a whole. Each Departmental Favor token can be cashed in during an episode in order to get some boon from elsewhere in the police department. Immediate back-up, dibs on the crime lab's time, a loan of better gear, another vehicle from the motor pool, more time on a case from the chief, etc. No check is needed to use a token, although the GM has final say on what boons are allowed. Unspent tokens are lost at the end of an episode.

Fear Levels
Still modifying this from the Deadlands rules. The veil between this world and the next is weak in New Orleans, and fear only makes it easier for bad things to cross over. Each area of New Orleans has a fear level, often worsened by the presence of a supernatural monster. The fear level applies a penalty to Fear related checks in the area. Ending a supernatural threat, and then covering up the evidence of monsters, can reduce the fear level in an area. Doing so requires skill check to spin doctor (Persuasion mostly). Success reduce the level by 1, a raise by 2.
Fear levels are always one worse in the dark, and one better in day light. Night tends to increase the fear level anywhere without bright lighting, which is a lot of the city.
I may include a Deadlands like Grit rule as well, to provide a +1 bonus to Fear checks for every rank a character has.

Character Creation Rules
All player characters are Human police officers. Detectives by default, although other options might be allowed with GM approval.

Players get some extras at character creation as a result of having all gone through police training.
Before buying skills, characters start with a d4 in Driving, Fighting, Shooting, and Streetwise. Players are also saddled with an additional major hindrance: Serve and Protect without gaining extra points for it.

Starting Gear
In addition to their starting funds, the NOLA Police Department issues each character a S&W .357 Revolver, a Kevlar Vest, and Police Badge.

Banned Hindrances
  • Blind
  • Bloodthirsty
  • One Arm
  • One Eye
  • One Leg
  • Wanted
  • Young

New Hindrance
  • Crooked Cop [Minor/Major] (Your in organized crime's pocket)
  • F-ing New Guy [Minor] (Penalties due to being new guy, easy buy off.)
  • Rookie Partner [Major] (Your partner is more trouble than he''s worth)
  • Uniformed Officer [Major] (You're not a Detective)

Banned Edges:
  • Arcane Background
  • Noble
  • All Power Edges
  • Adept
  • Assassin
  • Champion
  • Gadgeteer
  • Holy/Unholy Warrior
  • Mentalist
  • Mr. Fix It
  • Wizard
  • Power Surge
  • Beast Bond
  • Beast Master

New Edges
  • Bomb Squad (+2 working with explosives)
  • Grizzled Special Investigator (You've been with SI for a while. Gain 20xp, draw card for bad event in your history.)
  • Neopotism (You can take a few Edges without meeting their requirements, bonus favor, but charisma penalty)
  • K-9 Unit (You get a dog for a partner)
  • Lieutenant Rank (You're in charge of the Nightshift, rank bonuses)
  • Spin Doctor (Bonus to Reputation Test and Lowering Fear levels)
  • SWAT Unit (Replaces Assassin, also get swat armor)

Character Sheet
I've been working to make a custom character sheet for the game, and have posted my most recent versions in this thread. Please scroll down to find the latest version (which is Version 3 as of this posting.)
Last edited by BlackJaw on Tue Apr 02, 2013 9:58 am, edited 7 times in total.

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#2 Postby Takeda » Tue Aug 07, 2012 3:13 pm

Dude! It looks REALLY COOL! :-) :-) :-)
Dean: "Ya' know she could be faking."
Sam: "Yeah, what do you wanna do, poke her with a stick?"
[Dean nods]
Sam: "Dude, you're not gonna poke her with a stick?"
Supernatural Quotes

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#3 Postby Boldfist » Wed Aug 08, 2012 1:15 pm

This sounds fantastic! Where do you live and are you looking for players!! :-D

I run a lot of my campaigns as TV shows (episodes, seasons, montages ect) and this one sounds very good. Have you been watching Grimm? Or ever seen a little know show called Forever Knight?

Anyway, love the setting idea and the SINS name!
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#4 Postby SavageGamerGirl » Wed Aug 08, 2012 1:38 pm

It also sounds like a non-comedic version of Special Unit 2.


Cool idea!
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'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'we're all mad here.'
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#5 Postby BlackJaw » Wed Aug 08, 2012 3:01 pm

@Boldfist: I'm in Ann Arbor, MI... and I am looking for a group. I've seen a fair amount of Forever Knight and Grimm as well, although I don't intend to have superhuman PCs or vampire in the game. Grimm is a lot closer to SI, although it still has a sort of Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Chosen Champion" with "Super Natural Side Kicks" thing going on.

@SavageGamerGirl: I'm familiar with Special Unit 2, and I actually intend to crib some of it's minor features. For example, there are no vampires in SINS (which is funny, because the original Special Investigation game I was in played using World of Darkness rules, yet no Vampires.) I actually have plans for an episode involving bodies with stakes through their hearts turning up around town. Also, one of the possible side effects of the Grizzled Special Investigator Background Edge is having a petrified hand.
I'm also obviously borrowing form the Special Investigations Unit in the Dresden Files books... minus the whole wizard on call thing.
In the character sheet thread, I've got a lot of people telling me to read Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia. I've also watched some Poltergeist: the Legacy.

More Details & Background
One major point about SINS is that the Unit hunts monsters, magicians, and ghosts... but it doesn't do so openly or with much support. Only a handful of police brass know the truth about magic and monsters, and they struggle to keep the unit active... to everyone else in the department it's a joke of a unit. No one wants to get transferred to it, and no one wants to fund it. Other units transfer their least desirable officers to it... like the mayor's nephew that shouldn't have made it out of the academy or that once good cop that cracked under the pressure and swears he saw a wolfman.

The Unit ostensibly exists to handle cases requiring special knowledge and or cultural sensitivity... which is vague enough the Brass can yank high profile murder cases from Homicide to SI when voodoo or monsters start to be indicated. It's also broad enough that Unit Captains all over the police department can easily find an excuse to dump their unwanted cases on SI. Most of the police department has heard rumors of the kinds of cases SI gets stuck with, ghosts and voodoo, but it's not believed. The Unit's official reports never mention magic or monsters, although at least one past reporter has noticed that the Unit's reports claim a lot more bear escapes than the zoo has reported.

The Unit was founded in 1986 after a city councilman running for mayor claimed someone attempted to assassinate him, and it's gotten involved in smuggling, drugs, murder, theft, gambling, etc. Various officials have tried to shut the unit down as a waste of tax payer dollars, but a few key politicians owe their lives to the unit, and thus protect it as best they can without ruining their chances at re-election. Unit Captain Isadora Decoudreau does her best to stay on the good side of the other Unit Captains by taking their unwanted cases, and to keep the unit's clearance rates high in order to keep the unit off the budgetary chopping block... but it's hard for an already under funded unit to get buy when they have unlisted expenses for silver bullets, holy water, and obscure ancient grimoires, let alone being saddled with the least disable officers from across the department. As two former members of the unit once said: "You don't get on to Special Investigations by believing in coincidences or accidents." ... "Or procedures."

Supernatural entities in the SI universe are largely spirits from the world beyond "The veil." Ghosts and Nature spirits are native to this world, although ghosts are supposed to pass beyond the veil instead of lingering. Demons, fiends, and other stranger things are natives from beyond the veil, and are very disruptive if they manage to cross over into the mortal world. Some of these spiritual entities require hosts to interact with the mortal world, although others, especially demons, seem able to build form their own bodies from spiritual energy. Either way, the result is about the same: monsters killed tend to either dissolve or leave behind their human host bodies. Proof of monsters is hard to come by. Magic, mostly of the ritual kind, is also an aspect of the setting, although it's rare. Some humans seem to be able to manipulate magic on their own, but most practitioners have gained their powers through a bargain with some supernatural entity... often an unpleasant one.
Last edited by BlackJaw on Fri Aug 10, 2012 6:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#6 Postby ValhallaGH » Wed Aug 08, 2012 3:08 pm

Very cool.

I'd been contemplating a similar-style campaign, starting at Legendary, and being slightly more Federal. And allowing wizards.
But I'm liking the "heroes struggling against the system as much as against the monsters" vibe you've got. I may be tweaking that idea before it ever gets played.

Thank you for sharing!
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#7 Postby Sadric » Thu Aug 09, 2012 2:25 am

sounds cool, too.

I hope you make a PDF of the setting info/Rules. ;-)

I really like the reputation/department Favors aspect and the Case board, but not sure how this play out.

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#8 Postby BlackJaw » Thu Aug 09, 2012 3:53 pm

I'm really happy with the case board, reputation, and favors concept. I think it will help make the players feel like a down on their luck detective unit. What might need to happen is for the systems to get tweaked a bit after they've been in play and tried out.

Here's my current implementation thoughts:

Favor Tokens
Favor Tokens represent favors owed to the Special Investigations unit by other police department units. Rather than track which units or officers owe what favors to which players, the each token is a generic one time favor that can be cashed in with anyone else in the department, from motor pool up to the brass, and even lab techs and coroners. The most common way to earn tokens is by clearing unwanted cases from other units, helping their clearance rates while making the Special Investigations Unit look good. This is handled off-screen between episodes via the Case Board check at the start of an episode.

The two case structure common to episodes also provides an opportunity to pickup a Favor Token in the middle of game-play. Closing the secondary case during an episode earns a Token. If a group does poorly on their Case Board check at the start of an episode, this might be their only Token for the episode.

Lastly, doing especially well on the Unit's reputation can earn the unit a single token at the start of the next episode.

Favor Tokens belong to the entire unit. Any player can cash one in for any GM approved favor, but they can only be cashed in within the police department, including crime labs and similar. The GM has final approval one how much a token can accomplish, but it is generally similar to the Connected Edge. You might get some backup, some information, a loan of gear, someone's car towed, or cut to the front of a line on lab work.

Unused favor tokens are lost at the end of an episode.

Design Considerations
Favor Tokens are one of the things I'm most comfortable with. We had a similar system in play through the original WoD Special Investigation game, and they worked well. Players can get by with out them, and they aren't very applicable toward direct conflict with monsters so much as aid in the investigation portion of an episode. They system for earning them caps out at 6, and it's likely that most groups will average 3-4 or less with novice characters. Because the tokens are only useful within the police department, it still makes the Connected edge useful for dealing with other groups, like criminals, voodoo priests, and reporters.

Unit Reputation
The Special Investigations is not well respected by the other officers in the New Orleans Police Department. Unit Reputation is essentially a measure of just how little respect the Unit gets. It acts like a charisma modifier that applies to everyone in the unit when interacting with other police officers. More than that, it also keeps track of how much you can get away with before the Internal Affairs starts digging around, and for a unit that secretly buys silver bullets to hunt werewolves, IA is not someone you want snooping around.
At the start of a season, the Unit has a modifier of -1, as they generally don't have much respect from other units. This modifier can change at the end of each episode depending on the events of the episode and how many good and bad PR Events the players accumulated.

PR Events are picked-up from any activity that makes the unit look good or bad. For example, an innocent by stander getting hit in a shoot-out, regardless of who did the shooting, is a negative event. Heroically saving a mayoral candidate from an assassination attempt on the steps of the court house is a good event. Given the nature of SINS episodes, it more likely for players to build up negative events over the course of an episode. For example, there are a lot more ways a car chase with a demonically possessed big rig can generate negative events than positive ones. This is essentially the classic problem of heroic TV and Film cops: they may have stopped the bad guys, but a gas station blew up and a car smashed through a department store window along the way... and now the brass is coming down on them for being loose cannons and getting the department's name dragged through the mud on the nightly news, or city council is pissed off that they have to pay for all the repairs, etc.

Each event is worth one or two draws at Reputation Test at the end of the episode. Negative events are draws for the GM, good events are draws for the players. The nature and publicity of an event determines if it's a single or double draw. Saving a mayoral candidate on the steps of the court house is both heroic and public, so it's worth two. A child being hit in the crossfire of a bust gone bad counts as two because it's the kind of bad news that makes news headlines. Similarly, starting a fight in a seedy bar doesn't look good, but won't hurt your reputation it doesn't make the news or anger anyone with power. Starting a fight in a 5 star restaurant full of politically connected rich people is bad enough for a single draw, assuming no one got hurt that shouldn't have.

Players can attempt to take steps to change the impact of various events by spin doctoring; attempting to explain away issues, shift blame, etc. A Persuasion check may improve a modifier one step, but critically failing such a check may make things worse, not better. A raise improves an event two steps, but a negative event can never become a positive event, and no event is ever worth two draws. Alternatively, players could spend a Favor Token to have the department's public relations officers handle the spin for them, and automatically alter the event one step. Players must actively attempt to fix situations, they are not entitled to a check, and nothing is going to help once the footage of the gas station exploding is on the nightly news. GMs should tally these events as they occur, possibly using some sort of tokens to represent the counts.

Reputation is also effected by how well the Unit is doing on it's case load. Players can earn negative draws by failing their Case Board check.

At the end of the episode, the GM Shuffles the action deck, then draws a number of cards equal to the negative PR Events acquired that episode. The GM then deals to the players, as a group, one card for each positive event. They then compare cards to see who has the highest. If the GM has the highest card, the reputation drops by one. If the Players have the highest card, their reputation improves by one. Ignoring suits, if both sides are tied, the reputation remains unchanged. If one side wins with a Joker, then the reputation improves or drops by two. Reputation can not drop below -2, nor can it rise above 0. If something would case the reputation to drop below -2, it instead becomes -2 and the unit has come under investigation for some activity during the episode. If the reputation would increase above 0, the group instead starts with one extra Favor Token at the start of next Episode.

Design Consideration
The system as I just described it is based loosely on a reputation system Gum Shoes system game Ashen Stars.

The system only provides negative penalties, or no penalty at best, because no mater how good a job the unit does, it's still full of trouble makers hunt monsters, and there isn't much you can do to help that. It's also against the feel of the game if the department is well loved by all. The penalty is caped at -2 because is the unit is out of Favor Tokens, or didn't earn any to start with, it should still be possible for the more charismatic members of the unit to weasel favors out of the other units.

I'm also happy with the card mechanic here, instead of a dice roll, because it means no mater how many more bad events the players were involved in compared to the good, as long as they did at least one good thing, they have a chance to draw a joker and walk away looking good. A dice roll with stacked up penalties and bonuses had a much larger chance of being too heavily stacked against (or for) the PC.

You'll also note I'm not giving rules for handling IA... that's more of a story even than a mechanical thing, and I don't think outright rules would be a good thing, beyond what triggers it.

Case Board
The Case Board is a white board setup in the Special Investigations Office. Every detective in the unit has their name at the top, and a list of their active cases is listed under their names. Completed cases are in black, unsolved cases are in red.

Game play wise, it is assumed that characters are constantly working various cases, so their isn't a need to actually draw up a board and invent various case numbers or details. Instead, at the start of each episode the detectives make a check to determine how well they have been staying on top of their case load between episodes. They can make their choice of an Investigation check, representing digging through records and evidence to solve crimes, or a Streetwise check, representing canvasing neighborhoods and interviewing witnesses. Non-detective members of the unit can make any appropriate skill check to aid any one detective. Success means they have a bit more black than red under their name, but not enough to earn any favors. A raise means they have closed a lot of cases and earned a Favor Token for the unit. Failure means they are buried in enough red to make the unit look bad, adding a Negative PR draw to their Reputation test for the episode right off the bat. Rolling a 1 on the Streetwise check always results in a negative PR event, regardless of the Wild Die.

Design Considerations
I'm really happy with this setup. If you have 5 players than you will have no more than 5 Negative events or 5 Favor Tokens this way, but I suspect most of the time you're looking at 1-3 tokens and 0-2 negative PR events. I don't think it would break the game for it go all the way in either direction. As the players advance they are more likely to increase their Investigations and Streetwise checks, and thus more likely to earn Favor Tokens, but I think this should be fine.
I am a little worried about how easy it is to pump Streetwise up with Charisma modifiers or Profession bonuses, as high as +8 I think, so I've included a special note about rolling 1 on a Streetwise. Investigation does not have this penalty as it is tougher to pump up, and because it's harder to cause a PR event digging through evidence and notes than it is out on street or interrogating witnesses.

Fear Levels
I'm borrowing Fear Levels from the Deadlands series, mostly from Hell on Earth, but with a few changes:

Firstly, the falling of night actively increases the fear level by -1 anywhere without bright lighting. Thus a bad neighborhood with a fear level of -1 during the day becomes more intimidating at night with a -2. Nice neighborhoods tend to be well lit and don't suffer this problem so much. It also explains why supernatural creatures tend to be drawn towards bad neighborhoods.

The second major change from Deadlands is that SINS characters can lower the fear level only by concealing the supernatural, instead of dragging it's corpse into the light. After the Unit has killed a big bad supernatural creature, they then need to write up proper paperwork effectively blaming any strange or supernatural events on perfectly rational circumstances. Escaped bears, gas leaks, and simple human malice aren't pretty, but they don't cause the same kind of Veil weakening dread that monsters are drawn to. Also, you're likely to get run out the department on insanity charges if you put killer ghosts in the paperwork for a case.

At the end of case where some fear inducing supernatural creature was defeated, the characters must write up the "official case report" to explain away everything freaky and supernatural. The character doing so makes a Persuasion check, including charisma modifiers and the fear level of the area, but no reputation penalty. On a success they manage to reduce the fear level in the affected neighborhood with a reasonable explication. Failure leaves the lingering dread unabated. Rolling a 1 on the skill die makes it clear the paperwork is a bad cover up, and adds a negative PR event to the Reputation Test at the end of the episode.

Design Considerations
Covering up the truth is an interesting twist compared to standard Deadlands version of Fear Levels, but it fits with the Veil being effected by human emotion, and with the "secret" nature of Special Investigation's real work. I think it's a good fit, while mechanically being almost the same. Plus, it helps answer the question of who has to do the paperwork.... that answer is whichever character can lie the best.

I also plan on making a Spin Doctor profession edge that gives bonuses on Reputation and Paperwork checks... and maybe an extra bonus for reducing fear levels like Tale Teller in the Deadlands games.

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#9 Postby Sadric » Fri Aug 10, 2012 2:27 am

Nice rules. As I say, I hope for a pdf. ;-)
I like the Case board.
Maybe I would add a rule that one of the case could be somehow connected to the main adventure, lets say, two raises on the streetwise check could be a short time connection helpfull in the main adventure (choosen mainly by the player, with some narrative how he meet the connection)

The Fear level and the concealing of the supernatural is cool, too.
It explain nicely why its better to not tell anybody about undeads and witches.

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#10 Postby BlackJaw » Fri Aug 10, 2012 8:34 am

@Sadric: I actually considered trying to make a case board generator that would list out the various odd and annoying cases SINS characters got stuck with, but it's harder than it sounds as I'd need a dozen per character. I eventually figured it wasn't worth the effort, or devoting the time to it . Instead I came up with the Two-Case structure, where most episodes start as two odd cases, and one of them ends up being one of the rare supernatural problems, while the other exists mostly to show the kind of demeaning cases SI gets stuck with. The implication is that most cases that SI works are the non-monster kind, and the monster related cases aren't always obvious. Of course not all episodes have to run that way. In some the team might be pulling an obvious SI case away from another unit that wanted it, or investigating things on their own. These situations would not be the norm, but they might be as many as a third of the episodes. And of course you need the occasional two-part-er (which would need some sort of variant of the board check at the start of the second episode, even though no time would have passed between episodes.)

One fun idea I have for an episode is to take a past episode's secondary case, and have it going to trial, only for the trial process to be manipulated with voodoo. Which ever characters investigated the original case get to spend the first part of this episode at the court house testifying, only to pickup on some kind of magic being used to effect the jury.

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#11 Postby Zadmar » Fri Aug 10, 2012 10:51 am

BlackJaw wrote:@Sadric: I actually considered trying to make a case board generator that would list out the various odd and annoying cases SINS characters got stuck with, but it's harder than it sounds as I'd need a dozen per character.

I've been working on something similar, and I agree it's pretty difficult - I ended up with a primary story thread and two subthreads, which I'd probably drop into the Mythic GM Emulator to help tie them together. Here's a few examples of the sort of thing I mean:

* Wrong Victim

* The Curse

* Vanishing Act

Note that these are all automatically generated, they're not done by hand.

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#12 Postby BlackJaw » Fri Aug 10, 2012 12:56 pm

Continuing to share my notes and thoughts....

New Hindrances:

Crooked Cop [Minor/Major]
Tweaked from Agents of Oblivion's Obligations
You're on the take from some criminal or criminal organization. As a minor hindrance, your activities are bad enough that if discovered, you'd be stripped of your badge and kicked off the force. As a major hindrance, you've done much worse, and if discovered you'd likely go to jail.
If you have the Connections edge for the same criminal organization, you gain a +2 bonus on Persuasion checks when attempting to gain aid from the organization using that edge. Increase the bonus to +4 if a Crooked Cop is taken as a Major hindrance.

F-ing New Guy [Minor]
Tweaked From Necropolis
Fresh from the academy, or newly promoted to detective before he was ready, the F-ing New Guy (FNG) is wet behind the ears. He may not take the Lieutenant Rank edge.
The FNG is never dealt cards on the first round of any combat. (He's always "surprised.") In addition, he takes a -2 on Fear Checks involving the Supernatural as well as Common Knowledge checks related to the Police Department or the Supernatural. The FNG can not being play above the rank of Detective.
Of course an FNG doesn't stay new forever. This Hindrance is Minor because it can be bought off.
After each relatively active month of service, the hero makes a Smarts roll at -2. If the roll is successful, he drops one group of penalties - either the action card penalty or the -2 to Fear and Common Knowledge rolls. He may roll again after another month to rid himself of the other penalty, at which point he is no longer the FNG.

Rookie Partner [Major]
Tweaked from Solomon Kane's Dependent Hindrance
Your partner may think he's blue, but he's really as green as they come. He says the wrong thing at the wrong time, frequently gets into trouble, and often needs saving. Worse, as the senior officer, it's your job to keep him alive. You gain an extra ally with the Harder to Kill edge as your partner, and while scrappy in his own right, he's just not up to proper police work on his own. As a detective his name is on the Case Board, but don't roll for him, he is always in the red and provides a Negative PR Event every time.
If your partner ever dies you're grief-stricken, and receive one less Benny at the start of each episode until you have tracked down and wreaked bloody vengeance upon the creature or person responsible.
You must be a Detective. You may not be the F-ing New Guy either.

Uniformed Officer (Minor)
You are not a detective. You're an uniformed officer assigned to assist the Special Investigations Unit. You may not take the Grizzled Special Investigator, Nepotism, or Lieutenant Rank edges, nor the Rookie Partner hindrance. You can not head up investigations so you can only assist Case Board checks at the start of episodes, and should not write up the "Official Case Report" to lower Fear Levels after a monster has been defeated. Once you are Seasoned, you may spend an Advance to remove this hindrance.

New Edges:

Bomb Squad (Professional)
Tweaked from the Necropolis edge Demo Expert.
Requirements: Novice, Agility d6+, Knowledge (Demolitions) d6+
You're a former member of the Bomb Squad, and are therefore familiar with the workings of explosives and booby-traps. You have a +2 bonus on checks to Set, Disarm, or Make explosives and booby-traps, but not detecting them. You have been issued a Bomb Squad suit by the department (Use "Infantry Battle Suit" from the Savage Worlds Deluxe game.)

Grizzled Special Investigator (Background)
Tweaked from Hell on Earth's "Veteran O' the Wasted West" edge.
Requirements: Wild Card, Spirit d6+, Knowledge (Occult) d6+
Note: This edge must be taken at character creation.
You're been a member of the Special Investigations Unit for a while now, and along the way you've seen magic, fought monsters, and come to some hard realizations about the world. You've learned a few things about the supernatural, but that education didn't come cheap.
Unlike other characters, you start as a member of Special Investigations. Immediately gain 20 xp with all the advances and rank improvements that come with it. Then shuffle the Action deck and Draw one card. Show the card to show the GM, and when he's done with his maniacal laughter he'll let you know what unpleasant case you once worked in SI, and what side effects it left on you.
Grizzled Special Investigator List
Try not to share this list with the players. Game Masters are encouraged to work the Investigator's past cases and problems into future events, and not just level these features as mechanical issues. The player was asking for it after all.
  • Deuce (Jinxed): The investigator crossed someone, something, or otherwise did something to severely mess up his fortune or karma. He gains the Bad Luck hindrance. If he already has it, the new one stacks, and he starts each episode with two less Bennies.
  • Three (Hunted): The investigator had a case where he ended up being hunted instead of the other way around. He managed to get away, but the creature is still out there. He gains the Enemy (Major) hindrance. Pick some interesting supernatural wild card to be his ongoing problem.
  • Four (Deformed): On a past case the investigator was exposed to a powerful magic ritual gone wrong, and it's left him changed. He's burned, melted, tattooed, or otherwise marred. He takes a -2 penalty to his Charisma, and this stacks with the Ugly hindrance if he already has it.
  • Five (Transformed): After a close call with a powerful spellcater or creature, the investigator was partially transformed. He gains the One Armed hindrance, but instead of missing his off-hand is petrified or turned to gold from the elbow down.
  • Six (Night Terrors): The investigator experienced horrors that still wrack him with nightmares each night. Each night the character sleeps they must make a Spirit roll or suffer a level of Fatigue which lasts until they next go to sleep.
  • Seven (Maimed): An encounter with a creature left one of the character's legs entirely missing or devoured. He has the One Leg hindrance.
  • Eight (Cyclopean): Some creature managed to remove his eye. He has the One Eye hindrance. More disturbingly, the creature kept the eye, and sometimes the investigator can see glimpses through it. No real game mechanics, but feel free to spook him out with it form time to time.
  • Nine (Insane): The investigator has cracked up. He holds it together enough to do his job, but he gains a Delusion (major) hindrance of the GM's choice.
  • Ten (Paranoid): This hero's seen things he shouldn't, and it's left him a wealth of fear. He gains the Yellow hindrance.
  • Jack (Infected): On a recent case, the investigator got in close combat with something that left a strange mark on him, and his health has been failing ever since even though the doctors can't figure out why. He gains the Anemic hindrance, and the suspicion that the creature is still out there somewhere, slowing devouring his life force.
  • Queen (Gremlins): This hero literally attracts gremlins. They infect every device he uses, including guns, vehicles, computers, or anything else mechanical or electronic. He gains the All Thumbs hindrance. If he already has the All Thumbs hindrance, than it triggers on a 1 or a 2.
  • King (Death Cursed): Some terrible creature or spell-caster died at the investigator's hands, and left a curse on upon his head with it's last breath. All of the hero's soak rolls are at -2.
  • Ace (Haunted): The investigator is haunted by the ghost of his partner, whose back he should have been watching a little better on a recent case. Any time he's alone in an area with a Fear Level of -2 or higher, his partner shows up for a chat, resulting in Fear Check.
  • Joker (Revenant): As far as this investigator knows, he was left for dead by some terrible creature after it ripped his throat out, but the truth is far worse: He died, but his ghost refused to move on. He's now a revenant, but don't tell the player that yet. Instead tell him his vocal cords were damaged when his throat was nearly ripped out. He can't talk, but can grunt and write. He's also not the same man he once was. He gains the Vengeful (Major) hindrance if he didn't already have it, doesn't sleep well, and has a reduced Spirit (by one whole die, minimum d4) which can not be raised with Advances anymore. The experience has made him tougher than he was with a +2 Toughness and rolls to recover from being Shaken, but don't tell the player it's from being Undead until he figures it out himself. He's actually immune to Called Shot bonus damage, Wound modifiers, disease, and poison. If he's ever killed, reduce his Spirit die one type as more of his humanity is lost, and then have him get back up 1d4 hours later. If his Spirit die would be reduced below d4, he instead looses all humanity and becomes a true creature of vengeance. The GM gains control of the character and his former allies will likely have to track him down and kill him. See Revenant p105 in the Horror Companion.

K-9 Unit (Professional)
Replaced the Beast Master & Beast Bond edges.
Requirements: Novice, Spirit d8+,
You are a member of the NOLA K-9 Unit, assigned to assist the Special Investigations Unit. You have the rank of sergeant but are not currently a detective. For a partner you have a well trained loyal dog, typically a German or Dutch Shepard. Your partner is a standard dog Extra, not a Wild Card, but does have the Harder to Kill edge as a bonus. You may spend your own Bennies on your dog's behalf. You are issued a dog sized Kevlar Vest, and a k-9 version of "black & white" police car complete with shotgun.

Lieutenant Rank (Professional)
Requirements: Novice, Command,
You're the new Special Investigations Unit nightshit lieutenant, answering directly to the Unit Interim Commander, and attempting to collect favors from the rest of the police department to keep your unit afloat.
Thanks to your rank you get a +2 bonus to charisma when dealing with police of lower rank.
Although you are not a detective, at the start of an episode you automatically gain one Favor Token for the unit. You may still attempt to assist one detective on their check as well.
Note: There can only be one Lieutenant on the Nightshift. You may not take this edge if you have the F-ing New Guy or Rookie Partner hindrances, nor with the K-9 Unit edge.

Nepotism (Background)
Tweaked from Necropolis's edge of the same name.
Requirements: Novice
One of your family members has some pull within the police department. Maybe your step father is a District Commander, or maybe your Uncle is the Mayor's right hand aid. Because of your family connection, you've had your police career handed to you on a silver plate.
You don't need to meet the requirements to take the Bomb Squad, Investigator, K-9 Unit, Lieutenant Rank, or SWAT edges. You may also combine any of those edges with the F-ing New Guy hindrance. Additionally you get a Favor Token at the start of each episode that's yours alone to spend, in addition to any earned for the unit through the Case Board check.
Unfortunately such favoritism lead to animosity with other police. Subtract 2 from your charisma when dealing with fellow law enforcement officers.

Spin Doctor (Professional)
Tweaked from the Deadlands Tale Teller edges.
Requirements: Novice, Persuasion d8+, Charisma +1 or higher
You're skilled at putting the best shine on events, highlighting silver linings on storm clouds, and making good works seem like miracles. You can also lie on police paperwork like it was an artform.
You gain a +2 on Persuasion checks to alter PR Events, and when attempting to Lower a Fear level with falsified Official Paperwork. If you succeed on lowering a Fear Level, you earn the unit an extra good PR event draw, or two if you succeeded with a Raise. Lastly, you personally get to draw one extra card during the Reputation Test at the end of each episode.

SWAT Unit (Professional)
Tweaked from the Assassin edge.
Requirements: Novice, Agility d8+, Climbing d6+, Fighting d6+, Stealth d8+
You are a former member of the Special Weapons And Tactics unit, and are trained in various high threat situations and to use advances combat gear. You add a +2 to any damage roll where you strike a foe unawares, even with ranged attacks. Additionally, the department has issued you a Kevlar Vest with Ceramic Inserts, and a Helmet (use Steel Pot).
Last edited by BlackJaw on Thu Aug 23, 2012 10:03 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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#13 Postby BlackJaw » Fri Aug 10, 2012 1:20 pm

@Zadmar: Part of the point of the Case Board is that it's just background, there to help imply the busy workload the unit is under and what events have been happening between "episodes". I don't think it's worth the time to make up stories or events for the case board, in much the same way the TV show Homicide or The Wire doesn't bother to explain who all the victims on the Case Board are unless they are part of an episode.

I do, however, like randomly generated content you linked to. That kind of tool would be great for designing actual episodes for both the primary and secondary cases. I don't know much about the Mythic GM Emulator... what can you tell me about it? I went looking for mystery/investigation generators/advice before, but didn't find much I liked.

One fun thing about designing secondary cases for SINS is that that you get to think up unpleasant or wacky versions of cases. These are the things that other units pass off on SI. For example: Police animals (dogs and horses) may have additional rights, so the death of one of them is required to be investigated as a possible murder of an officer... but the Homicide Unit certainly doesn't want to waste time on a dead animal... so it's dropped on SI.
Another example: Missing Persons discovers that the missing husband case is actually a missing urn of his ashes... he died years ago. They drop that one on SI, likely not even bothering to change the paperwork to "theft" first.

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#14 Postby Sean-Khan » Sun Aug 12, 2012 1:33 pm

Excellent stuff! :D Have you planned any personalities to the game yet? I can imagine number of difficult/annoying personalities in the district... I'd also like to see these as pdf some day!

Btw BlackJaw, have you read Cthulhu Vice setting from Rel's Den? It's got a bit similar theme, although it does have very big differences too. Just came to my mind. Might give some new ideas, although it seems you've done quite extensive work already.

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#15 Postby BlackJaw » Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:24 pm

@Sean-Khan: The Cthulhu Vice looks similar in tone to the original Special Investigations game I played in, only with madness and elder gods instead of demons. Aside from the decade focus (80s vs 90s, and all the genre changes that go with it) a major difference is I have no intention of letting players be spellcasters. In SINS, one of the major points of accomplishment is taking on magic and monsters using ingenuity instead of more magic. Researching the monster of the week to find out what it's weakness is, and finding a way to use it will be the name of the game, and really only proper in a detective game.

In terms of NPCs... I've got a few. As a 90s "procedural" type detective show inspired game, most of the major NPCs will be other cops, crime scene techs, and a medical investigator. I've also got a few superntaural NPCs thought up... but mostly they are unpolished notes, in some cases just vague notes about what will be needed. I'll try get them cleaned up a bit and post them.

I'm getting a fair number of requests for a PDF, so I guess once I'm "done" drafting up the first version of the game I'll try making a basic PDF of it all. Anyone know where I could get some good public domain art/photos related to New Orleans, Voodoo, police, monster hunting?

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#16 Postby Zadmar » Tue Aug 14, 2012 3:20 am

BlackJaw wrote:I do, however, like randomly generated content you linked to. That kind of tool would be great for designing actual episodes for both the primary and secondary cases. I don't know much about the Mythic GM Emulator... what can you tell me about it? I went looking for mystery/investigation generators/advice before, but didn't find much I liked.

It's a bit like a Magic 8 Ball. You ask yes/no questions and decide the likelyhood (50/50, likely, very likely, etc) and it gives you a "yes", "no", "exceptional yes" or "exceptional no" answer. Alternatively you can ask a detailed question, and it'll give you a response that you have to interpret to fit the scene. The rules also include random events relating to PCs, NPCs and plot threads, and they can add some pretty unexpected plot twists.

I use a flash version of the GM Emulator (available here for free if you want to have a play), fill in the PCs, NPCs and plot threads, then go from there. My adventure generator creates an opening scene, 3 threads and 6 NPCs (designed with the GM Emulator in mind), so I can just feed those into it and ask a few questions to work out the specific details of the story.

It's pretty freeform, I think most people use the GM Emulator on its own (they just think up an opening scene and go from there), but personally I've found it works better when I've got something more tangible to start with - it makes it less stressful from a creative perspective, as I've already got a pretty good idea what's going on.

BlackJaw wrote:I'm getting a fair number of requests for a PDF, so I guess once I'm "done" drafting up the first version of the game I'll try making a basic PDF of it all. Anyone know where I could get some good public domain art/photos related to New Orleans, Voodoo, police, monster hunting?

I don't know of any decent public domain images, but depending on how you're planning to licence your PDF, Storn has released quite a lot of his artwork under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Generic licence. Check out this thread. There's a lot of superhero stuff, but if you sift through it you'll also find other artwork such as a large wolf, a wolfman, other monsters, various spellcasters, etc.

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#17 Postby BlackJaw » Wed Aug 15, 2012 1:53 am

Some more details on the Special Investigations Unit.

The Special Investigations Unit is normally comprised of just under two dozen officers. There are 10 members of the day shift, and 8 members of the night shift, plus a lieutenant for each shift and unit captain they report to.

The dayshift is where all the problem detectives end up. Those that are incompetent or unable to handle the truth get stuck on dayshift where they are less likely to get into trouble dealing with supernatural threats. The nightshift, which is when monsters are more likely to show up, is when the real SI work happens, and is staffed as well as can be managed.

At the start of the pilot episode, a big "bust," involving nearly the entire nightshift, as gone wrong. 5 officers, including Unit Captain Girard, are injured. Worse, one officer is dead, and another is missing. The players are brought into the unit to replace these officers. That leaves about 2-4 unnamed detective extras on the Nightshift when the game starts. Much like the unamed background detectives on most police shows, they are ignored unless a providing a little extra back-up on a big bust. The rest of the time they go about their business working their own cases without directly impacting the story beyond announcing a call for main character, or a reaction shot after the lone wolf cop gets chewed out by the captain. Don't involve them in Case Board Checks or Reputation Tests.

So, for useful personalities....

Interim Captain Isadora Decoudreau
This is SI, and it’s true what they say: We handle the weird crap, and if you hadn’t noticed: New Orleans has no shortage of weird crap.

Isa has been with the unit since it was founded in the 80s. She was made lieutenant of the nightshift some years ago, but the recent bust gone bad put Captain Girard out on injury, and now Isa is in charge of the entire unit.
Between her voodoo on the bayou upbringing and her years in SI, Isa is fairly familiar with supernatural entities and threats, although she doesn't have the knack herself.
As far the player interactions with her, she's the boss. She hands out cases (see two case structure) at the start of most episodes, and spends most of her time in her office dealing with the stressful business of keeping the unit operating. If she shows up in the field it means something is going terribly wrong.

Desk Sergeant Raymond Bayard
Let me guess; you're booking him for sacrificing a chicken on Thursday instead of Friday?

Sergeant Bayard has no respect for the SI unit, and takes any opportunity to mock them. Players bringing in arrests have to bring their captured foes in to him for booking. Visitors coming in to see SI have to pass by him as well.
I have plans for an episode somewhere in the middle or or late in season one where Sergeant Bayard comes to SI with a possible supernatural problem involving his family. Depending on how the player act it may change his opinion of SI.
Desk sergeant Bayard is always seen at the precinct house front desk, looking down on people.

Doctor Jessica Mathis
Ok gentleman, roll him.

"Doc Mathis" is the medical examiner for SINS. Like most detective cop shows, she isn't implied to be the only medical examiner, but she is the only one that ever interacts with the main cast. As medical examiner, she's responsible for examining bodies to determine the cause of death, along with any other trace evidence. She's learned the hard way that the stranger aspects of SINS related corpses should be obscured in the official paperwork. She wont' lie on the documents, but she will get creative in describing, or leaving out, details that might cost her job if recorded accurately.
Doc Mathis is most often found in the morgue, or hunched over a fresh corpse at a crime scene. She's fairly attractive and happens to be the same age as any male Player Character that's recently been separated or divorced.

Lead Tech Benito Garcia
The splatter is consistent with a jugular wound, but the sample must of been contaminated. The testing indicates both canine and human.

Garcia is in charge of the crime scene investigation team that shows up on SINS. Much like Doc Mathis, he isn't implied to be the only one around, but he's the only one that gets a speaking part, if a minor one. If, not when, the players can pull enough strings to get the harried Crime Techs onto a scene, they dust for prints, check blood splatter, examine bullet trajectories, and basically use science to gather evidence. Even if they can't get dragged onto a scene proper, detectives can bring Garcia evidence down at the Crime Lab.
Garcia delivers pertinent facts, but doesn't believe in magic or monsters enough to even consider them. If stated up he would have Doubting Thomas, but his primary function is to handle the science enough to advance the plot.

Assistant State's Attorney David Jacobsen
No judge would sign off on this warrant. Your witness died weeks before the crime even happened!

An overworked state prosecutor, Jacobsen is responsible for bringing various SI cases to trial. Similar to Doc Mathis and Benito Garcia, Jacobsen is the only prosecutor shown working with the SI Unit. He's well informed in both legal details and court house politics, easily naming various statues off the top of his head or knowing which judge would be most likely to sign off on a given warrant. He also has no qualms about letting Special Investigations detectives know when they don't legal leg to stand on. Jacobsen can be reluctant to work cases he doesn't thing he can win.

Mr. Ghede
Now mista police-man, what can I do for you this fine night?

Mr. Ghede, the "Midnight Man", is a short dark "man" almost always encountered smoking and wearing a worn top hat. He is dressed in a style suggesting he is a voodoo practitioner. He's unafraid of the police and doesn't spare them his crude humor. He can be helpful, but he charges a price and tends to deliver cryptic answers. He's very well informed, but comes across as amoral unless children are threatened, or the spirits of the dead are disturbed; both of which anger him greatly. Mr. Ghede happily excepts gifts of cigars, rum, etc.
Mr. Ghede can only be found after midnight, under the i610 / i10 interchange, at the "dead end" of Benefit Street.
Mr. Ghede is essentially the player's primary, if not entirely trustworthy, supernatural connection. His introduction would be a major part of episode two or three. Encounters with Mr. Ghede should always stress his mysterious nature and the location's creepy setting. It shouldn't be clear if Mr. Ghede is a supernatural entity himself or an entity possessing a human host.
I intend to play him up his amoral nature until a mid season episode involving a bogey-man stalking children.

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#18 Postby warrenss2 » Sat Aug 18, 2012 12:52 am

You have got some great, and well thought out, stuff here!!! I also would like to see a PDF of all this.

I've been thinking about running a game like this for a while now.

In fact, yesterday, I just went to FedEx to get my PDF of Agents of Oblivion printed out and bound together.

I've always enjoyed Special Unit 2, SPOOKS... but these posts and Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International books have pushed me over the edge.

I used to play both a zombie and futuristic mutant miniatures game, so I have hundreds of different types of weird looking critters to throw at my players.

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#19 Postby BlackJaw » Sun Aug 19, 2012 1:11 am

Thanks for the encouragement. You've all convinced me I need bundle everything up once I'm done working it out in my head, but I'll continue to post things here as I come up with them, and until I can get a group together to play, it's all just "alpha" rules. I'm actually very excited so many people like the concepts I've been messing with here.

Anyway, some recent thoughts that came to me while watching 90s detective shows:

Mr. Director
Playing up the TV Drama feel, the Game Master in the setting should be called the Director. I know a lot of savage world settings rename the GM, including the Marshal or Deadlands. I think I'll give "Director" a try when I attempt to write up the rules.

Credit for this simple idea, in large part, goes to my friend Matt who ran the World of Darkness 1980s theme Special Investigations game. He actually wrote up short "TV Guide" styled interviews with the director for most the episodes.

Lieutenants and Extras
After writing about the NPCs and unit structure, it's become a lot clearer to me that the edge could/should provides a small number of allied Extras, representing the rest of the Nightshift officers, and similar to the almost nameless detectives living in the background of the Homicide episodes.

Concept: Only one person in a game can be the "Lt" but they get control of 4 extras, minus any "rookie partners" the other players have. If no one chooses to play an LT, than the Extras are still around, but fade into the background more as no Player Characters have authority over them.

I'll need to think it through some more, but it feels right, and helps bring in the Extras and allies rules a bit more, and fills in a bit of gap left by banning the Noble edge.

Optional Rule for Arcane Backgrounds
I've also been considering an optional rule for those of you interested in bringing in Arcane Backgrounds for player characters. While the point/challenge of the setting, as I envision it, is to play baseline humans dealing with the supernatural, some people might really want to play a psychic detective or wizard PI. A character interested in playing a Paranormal Private Detective would have to suffer from being a Civilian Contractor. Civilian Contractor counts as a Major hindrance with an small upside. As a civilian contractor, you aren't real police and are not issued a gun or badge (or vest!). You also don't get the advantages of police training, so the minor skill bumps at character creation don't apply for you. Lastly, you don't get to make a Case Board check at the start of episodes, although you can try to aid someone else. Instead, you automatically generate a Negative PR draw, because the department doesn't like the idea of paying for a psychic. The good news about the hindrance is that you're allowed to take an Arcane Background and are not saddled with "Serve and Protect."

Gumshoe Investigation Rules
Around half of a SINS episode should feel like a police detective show, which is to say a lot of investigating and interrogating, etc. I'm considering integrating or modifying the GUMSHOE rule system's investigation framework into Savage Worlds. My preference, is largely to make this a Director's side of the table thing. Players would still make their characters as they do now, but the Director would need to distill some key crime solving skills from each player in order for the mechanics to work well. The trouble is that Savage Worlds characters are designed with very broad skills, so this might not be a very compatible mechanic to adapt without breaking things. I'm still thinking it through.

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#20 Postby BlackJaw » Sun Aug 19, 2012 11:41 pm

A SINS game should be run somewhat like a 90s detective TV show, and so it's helpful to get a handle on a "theorized" episode format.

Helpfully, a lot of this is stuff I've actually seen work at a table, as it comes directly from the 80s theme cop game I played in.

Cold Opening & The Hook
Sometimes called a teaser, each episode should start with a short bit of story, possibly involving the PCs, or not, that leaves the players wanting to know more. It should normally foreshadow the plot of the episode, but it can also end up being a red hearing or a chance show off some backstory for a character. As a "Hook," the scene should end with things unresolved, leaving the players eager to step in and get involved.
Example: A scene involving parents disusing how hard it was to get their daughter to go to sleep because she's scared of the monster under the bed. They are interrupted by a their daughter screaming, which they react to with frustration, only to become alarmed when a strange noise cuts in, and the sound of glass shattering ends the scream. The scene ends with the parents finding their daughter's room empty and the her windows smashed out.

Director's Tip: Feel free to use phrase things in camera cut or shots. "At first the shot is just darkness and the city skyline at night. The camera pulls back to reveal first the broken glass, then the window frame with pink curtains flapping in the breeze from the shattered window, and finally the camera stops once it's reveling the the crying parents holding each other as the sound of police sirens grows. Cut to Opening Credits."

Episode Start
At the start of the episode have the group make their Case Board checks to determine how the unit is doing. Hand out any earned Favor Tokens and note any Negative PR draws accumulated.

In most cases you can assume it's the start of the night shift, and all characters are in the SI office. Captain Decoudreau should offer up the two new cases for the episode. If the players did poorly on the Reputation Test at the end of last session she should also pull aside which ever character is targeted and let him know that IA has taken an interest in their activities.

The Two Case Structure
Most episodes should have a Primary and a Secondary case. The primary case will become the focus of the episode, and likely involve magic and/or monsters. The Secondary Case is a chance to show off the kind of odd and/or messed up cases other units drop on the SI Unit. As the Director, it's best if you don't spell out which case is just the Secondary. In some situations, it will be obvious becuse one will match the Cold Opening, but keeping it vague, or even doing a change up now and again helps keep the players honest and guessing.

Example: "Missing Person's gave us a lost husband, white male age 73. We also got a probable suicide case from hommicide. Roll common knowledge with a +1 for being police. Those of you that make the check realize that for homicide unit to give up an easy-to-solve suicide case something must be odd about it."

Let the players determine how to split the case load, but each case needs a Primary Detective. A Lieutenant can be the Primary if he/she so chooses, but as the stars of the show, they can't pawn a case off on Extras. The primary detective doesn't have to be the senior officer, but does have to be a Detective. K9-Units and other Uniformed Officers can't be primary.

In most cases the players should break up into pairs of partners, with one Primary Detective and one assisting officer that need not be a detective. While this is standard, many tv shows break this concept regularly, so lone wolf detectives are fine, especially if you have an odd number of players or a Rookie Partner hinderance throws off the balance.

Director's Tip: Just because the players can't give a case to an Extra doesn't mean you can't. If someone took the Rookie Partner hindrance, consider handing the player a Benny and making the Rookie Partner primary detective on the case.

Depending on the cases, the players will likely need to visit crime scenes, interview witnesses and victims, and gather evidence.
  • Canvas the neighborhood for witnesses - Streetwise. Include the Fear level as a penalty, as people are afraid to talk about what they have seen or heard.
  • Look for physical evidence - Notice. If the players bring in Crime Scene Techs, any pertinant details will come up later in their report, but by looking around in person, the players might spot key clues immediately. Spending a Favor Token can get the lab to make a particular case a priority and get the results back faster than normal. Without getting Crime Scene Techs onto the scene in person, the best a character can do is bag evidence themselves and bring it into the lab themselves. The lab is the only way players can get trace evidence like finger prints, DNA, hairs, etc analyzed.
  • Talk to witnesses/victims - Intimidate, Persuasion, Taunt, etc. Remember that the responding officer(s) on a case may be a witness, and will be subject to the unit reputation penalty.
  • Medical Examiner Evidence - Medicine and/or Notice. Similar to Physical evidence, the ME is likely to notice most obvious things and give rough ideas, with more details after the body is taken back to the morgue and autopsied. Players with the right skills might notice something interesting before the body is taken back to the morgue, and a Favor Token can get the Autopsy and Toxicology results much faster.
  • Research - Investigation. Checking various records can turn up past offenders, financial history, marriage and divorced records, deeds, and other useful paperwork details about people, places, and things pertinent to the case.
  • Ballistic Evidence - Shooting. Simply finding shell casings and bullet holes is a notice check, but determinig the angle of fire, location of shooters, and caliber of weapon based on damage is all variants on shooting.
  • Paranormal Investigation - Knowledge: Occult. Besides being used to recognize occult symbols or the possible implications of a bowl of cream, players might try waving a magnetic compass around, looking for "cold spots," or possibly using a weegie board get some sense of the sueprnatural. These kinds of ghost "hunting tricks" tend to give vague answers at best.

Crime Scenes:
The big question with crime scenes is: is there a body? If it's a murder scene, it gets an elevated level of coverage, and at the very least a Medical Examiner should be present to inspect the body before it's moved. Otherwise, the players are free to inspect things as they see fit.
If there is a human corpse, they players can expect the Medical Examiner to check the body before it's moved. Because it's moddled on a TV show, this happens right around when they arrive on scene. The players will have to spend Favor tokens to get Crime Scene techs on the scene if they want checks for trace evidence. If the players are low, or out, of favor tokens, they might try using a persuasion check to get the techs, but remember to include the unit's current reputation penalty. Most crime scenes are secured by the responding officers. The scene might be a few hours old by the time SI gets there, and a small crowd of gawkers may have gathered.
Director's Tip: Medical Examiners come free with a human corpse, but players should have to spend a Favor Token to get them involved with animal remains.

Crime Lab:
Some evidence requires advanced techniques to best be utilized, and when that's the case the players will need to make use of the crime lab. Unlike modern CSI focused shows, 90s detective shows largely gloss over the complicated science instead of trying to make test tubes and microscopes look exciting. For SINS, a trip to the Crime lab is either to drop of evidence the players have collected themselves, or to pickup results from the techs on evidence they already got in earlier scenes. It doesn't cost the players anything, other than time, to bring "bagged" evidence to the crime lab for anylasis. Spending a Favor Token can get the crime techs out to a scene to sweep it for trace evidence, effectively increaseing the quality of related skills checks one step automatically. Don't bother rolling for the Crime Scene techs.

While the Medical Examiner does cursory check of a corpse on scene, likely noting probable meathod and time of death, full details don't happen until after an Autopsy and Toxicology report... and that happens back in the morgue. TV Detectives frequently find themselves standing over a dead body having various details pointed out by the Medical Examiner. Especially gruesome or disturbing bodies might call for Spirit check to avoid getting sick. Favor Tokens spent at the Morgue might get your test results back faster, as toxicology reports alwasy seem to be holding a warrent for TV detectives, but for SINS episodes it might also be helpful to borrow a part of a vicitim from time to time.

The Box:
The interogation room at SI is not of the highest quality, but it works, complete with a only slightly cracked one way window. For TV Detectives, persons of interest are taken into the box for questioning, and cases frequently hinge on prying a confession from a suspect while he's in the box. In SINS, a full interogation is handled using the Social Conflict rules. Failure means the the suspect demands a lawyer and shuts up, success means he tells the truth, depending on the level of success. This isn't just limited to getting confessions. TV style interogations are often used to convince an uncoperative witness to admit what they saw, for exmaple. There are two good reasons to hold interogations in the Box. First: Admisions of guilt held else where have a tendancy to be inadmissible. Secondly, trying interogations else where comes with penalties, likely around -2 or worse for not having the right environment. On the other hand, getting a suspect into the box generally requires a warrent, or convincing the suspect to come with you of his own free will. A classic TV cop trick is to ask the suspect to come in and give a statement, make an identification, or review some evidence, implying they aren't a suspect until they are already in the room and talking.

Sketch Artists:
If the players have managed to find a witness, getting a description of a suspect might not be enough to help locate them. A Favor Token can get a department sketch artist to do produce a likeness of a target, while another favor token can get it on an APB to patrol cars and beat cops across the city. A crafty player might take "sketch artist" or a similar enough artistic trait for one of their defining characteristics, implying they had art training or talent in their backstory. In that case a Common Knowledge roll is sufficient for getting a likeness from working with a witness.

Key Clues:
A Key Clue is any clue that if not found, will derail the epsidoe. Essentially they are the bare minimum to needed to string an episode's main case togeather, and as such they shouldn't be tied to skill check success. This doesn't mean there are no skill checks, only that the results of failure are not catstrophic. Key Clues are not nessisary for Secondary Cases. Players can fail to solve such cases.
Example: The Detectives are investigating the scene of a back alley shoot out that narcotics has dropped in their laps. There's blood on the scene, but no bodies. The detectives can look around, call in Crime Scene Techs, or both. The players decide their detectives look around, so the Director calls for a Notice check. The Director needs the players to discover the Key Clue that the shoot-out involved silver bullets to advance the plot, so even if the players critcally fail the roll, they will still find a richochet on the brick wall leaving a clearly silver trail. If they succeed on the check, they will find some bullet holes with silver slugs in them, which they can examine with a shooting roll and/or bring into the crime lab for full anylisis. If the detectives get a raise, they will find even more bullet holes in the other direction (across the street, and easily missed) as well, but oddly still using the silver ammo from the same gun. This also allow for a Balisitics check to realize that the second set of shoots across the street likely weren't fired by the same person. Using a favor to call in the Crime Scene Techs automatically elevates the situation, so if all you find are richochets, or if you don't bother looking at all, the Techs find bullets. If you find the bullet holes before calling in the techs, they find the other shots across the street and let you know the gun changed users in the shoot out. Of course, Crime Scene Techs take time to be so thuorogh, so the players won't get the results until a later scene when their detective characters visit or call the crime lab for the results.

Closing the Secondary Case:
Around the time the players are getting into the details and supernatural repercusions of the primary case, they should also be closing up the simpler secondary case. If they manage to solve the case, by finding conclusive evidence and/or getting a suspect to confess, the Unit is awarded a Favor Token. An unsolved or abandonded case earns a Negative PR draw.

Director's Tip: Commercial Break
When the Secondary Case closes, or is lost, and the primary case really begins to heat up, it's often a good point to take a 5 minute break. Reveal something interesting and declare "Cut to commercial." Besides being a good time to grab a drink and snack, it's also a good time to ready the table for probable combat. Because the first investigation portion of the epsidoe probably didn't need much combat or grids, it's handy to prepare, and calling it a Commercial Break fits the theme.

Magic and Monsters
SINS primary cases are rarerly finished once the truth is uncovered. A rampaging werewolf isn't something you can just arrest and have sign a confession. The later half of most games will likely involve the group coming togeather to track down and fight some supernatural threat. In the case of supernatural monsters, they may also need to figure out how to best make use of the creature's weaknesses. Research in old books, talking with voodoo preistesses and preists, and producing odd type of ammo are common tasks leading up to final confrontations, although in many cases proper police investigations are need to locate the werewolf's home, or a ghost's estranged spouse. Because lead bullets aren't very effective on many supernatural threats, players may regularly find themselves Fighting face to face with things with fangs, maws, and claws.

Roll Credits
With the monsters killed, and the day saved, the only thing left to do is the paperwork. One of the eligible players will need to make a Persuasion check explain away all the magic and monsters in the final reports and public statements. If the mosnter is gone, and the rational explination sounds good enough, you might even lower the fear level.
The other task is dealing with the fallout from the often unorthodox policing style of the Special Investigations Unit: The Repuation Test. Remember that reputation doesn't go above 0 or bellow -2. Some rewards, and penalties, carry over into the next episode, so be sure to note them somewhere. If the players earned an IA investigation, it's handy to have some time between sessions to think on what activities from the episode they are looking into, and thus WHO they are looking into. After all, you don't have to tell anyone until the next episode starts.

Special Note: Red Ball
In TV police slang, a Red Ball is a case with lots of dreaded media coverage. In SI, tht's doubly worse as reports of cops fighting "demons" is not something that the department wants on the nightly news. For players, Red Ball cases have the advantage of making it easier to get police resources. You don't need to spend a favor to have the Crime Scene Techs show up at a scene. On the flip side, the enhanced scrutiny may require you to spend Favor Tokens to keep the department off your back while you do something abnormal. Red Ball cases tend to involve the famous, high body counts, or missing children, and shouldn't be too common.

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