Detective Story, Early 20th century, Edwardian, Ghastly Affair, gothic game, Gothic Gaming, Gothic Horror, Gothic Literature, Gothic Romance, Gothick, Historical, Historical Gaming, Murder Mystery, Occult Detective, pre-World War I, Romance, Romantic Horror, Whodunnit
This first draft of the Sleuth Class expands Ghastly Affair into the world of Edwardian Murder Mysteries. I’ve chosen 1913, the very eve of World War I, as the default year for Affairs in that time. This is the year after the sinking of the Titanic (the first early blow against faith in the Inevitable Progress of Industry), the year of the Armory Show that introduced Modern Art to the United States, the height of the Edwardian Spy-Fever in Great Britain, and the year when bobbed hair and plunging necklines were to starting be seen on ultra-fashionable women.
I have deliberately chosen not to give the Sleuth a simple “Investigate” Special Ability. The whole point of the Sleuth Class is to actually play out the process of investigating mysteries, rather than treat the process abstractly with a few Ability Checks.
You could never resist a good mystery, and you’ve gotten quite good at solving them. You know there’s darkness in this world – most of all in the unlit corridors of the human heart. But you’ve never found a question – however bizarre – that doesn’t have a perfectly reasonable answer. At least, not yet.
Perhaps you are actually a police inspector. Or, you might be a globe-trotting gentleman of leisure looking to do something interesting with his education You could be a noble Lady bored with the same tiresome garden parties. You might even be engaged in counter-espionage on behalf of your government.
Use the Sleuth Class to create characters inspired by historical figures such as Frederick Abberline (chief investigator on the Jack the Ripper case), Rose Mackenberg (who investigated fraudulent mediums with Harry Houdini), and Chang Apana (the real-life inspiration for Charlie Chan); or by such fictional characters as Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, or C. August Dupin.
SLEUTH SPECIAL ABILITIES
DANGER BONUS (+1)
You get +1 Bonus on all Ability Checks and Saving Throws in times of Danger, such as Fights, Chases, and Escapes.
- This Bonus is in addition to all others that may apply, including your Danger Bonus (see below). Yes, you are actually better at detecting clues when you are in Danger!
DETECT CLUE (+1)
Whenever you encounter a new person, place, or object, you can make an Intelligence Check (with a +1 Bonus). If you succeed you know whether not the thing encountered is (or contains) an important Clue to whatever mystery you are currently working on, and you can also discern (or remember) one non-obvious fact about the subject.
- A Clue does not always lead directly to the solution of the current mystery, but may simply point to the next location, person, or situation where another Clue can be found.
- Presenters should see the Ghastly Affair Presenter’s Manual for guidance about using Clues to help structure the Chapters in a Game Session.
DETECT LIES (+1)
You can make a Wisdom Check with a +1 Bonus to discern whether or not someone is telling the truth.
- Note that this Special Ability does not reveal the truth, just if an informant is lying.
You get a +1 Bonus to the Dexterity Check when attempting to hide, or to move silently.
You can rely upon a number of informants, experts, and allies equal to your Charisma score.
- Half your total number of Social Contacts will be Police, at least one of which will be in a command position. Note that the relationship with your Police contacts may be sometimes be rocky (and they may even occasionally arrest you), but they will always be there when you really need them.
- If you are engaged in counter-espionage on behalf of your government, then one of your Social Contacts is your “handler”.
- Determine the Professions of your remaining Social Contacts randomly.
- Your Social Contacts can be located anywhere you might feasibly have already traveled.
There is always some criminal – of your own Level or higher – who is your especial enemy.
- Your Nemesis will constantly try to harm or oppose you, cause trouble in your investigations, or even frame you for crimes they commit.
- Work with your Presenter to determine an appropriate initial Nemesis. They might be such things as a rival Sleuth secretly operating a criminal empire, an aristocrat who is also an international jewel thief, a wily Spy determined to undermine the stability of your country, or even a murderous Vampyre who suspects you know the truth about them.
- If you associate with other characters who also have Nemeses (such as Demon Hunters), all your Nemeses may occasionally team up against the group of you!
- If you defeat your Criminal Nemesis, advance past their Level, or move beyond their reach, their place will be taken by a new Criminal Nemesis (chosen by the Presenter).
OBSESSED WITH MYSTERIES
Make a Wisdom Check (with a -1 Penalty) whenever you are confronted with an unsolved murder, an act of espionage, or the theft of a valuable object.
- If you fail the Check, you must investigate the mystery as soon as possible, or lose 1 point of Charisma a day until you do.
SUGGESTED ASSETS FOR SLEUTHS
Aristocratic Skills, Boxer, Good Driver, Good Judge of Character, Expert Equestrian, Good-Looking, Good Manners, Good Shot, Good Reputation, Intimidating, Lucky at Love, Master of Disguise, Naturally Skeptical, Official Credentials, Patient, Resistant to Alcohol, Sharp Ears, Tracker, Underestimated, Well-Dressed, Well-Spoken, Witty.
SUGGESTED AFFLICTIONS FOR SLEUTHS
Addicted to… (choose drug), Allergic to… (something common), Asthmatic, Bad Reputation, Blind in One Eye, Chronic Disease (choose one), Disfigured, Elderly, Incompetent Equestrian, Lame, Lost Love, Missing Arm, Poorly-Dressed, Satyriasis / Nymphomania, Sleazy, Traumatic Memory.
INITIAL ABILITY ADJUSTMENT FOR SLEUTHS
- +1 Intelligence, +1 Wisdom
SLEUTH HIT POINTS PER LEVEL
- d6 Hit Points at 1st Level.
- You gain an additional d6 Hit Points per Level
SLEUTH DAMAGE BONUS BY CHARACTER LEVEL
- 1st Level: None
- 2nd Level: +1
- 3rd Level: +1
- 4th Level: +2
- 5th Level: +2
- 6th Level: +3
- 7th Level: +3
- 8th Level: +4
- 9th Level: +4
- 10th Level: +5
TYPICAL STARTING EQUIPMENT FOR SLEUTHS
- day suit (tailored jacket and pants, or jacket and skirt)
- evening wear (tuxedo suit, or hobble skirt).
- day hat.
- evening hat.
- walking stick, or parasol.
- spats, or long evening gloves.
- pocket watch or handbag.
- letter from a police officer asking your help in a difficult murder case.
- invitation to a weekend garden party at a country manor.
- unused ticket for a trip on a luxury ocean-liner, on a riverboat, or on the Orient Express.
- Macassar Oil (black hair oil), or lipstick.
- magnifying glass.
- fingerprint kit (vial of powder, and soft brush).
- handkerchief (large enough to wrap evidence in).
- revolver (loaded).
- motor buggy, or automobile.
- pocket cash in the amount of 2 Pounds Sterling, or 10 American Dollars, or 40 German Marks, or 50 French Francs. (In 1913, Francs are legally accepted currency in most of Europe outside of Germany, Scandinavia, Portugal, and the United Kingdom.)
ADVANCING IN LEVELS AS A SLEUTH
- 8 Experience Points to attain 2nd Level.
- 4 additional Experience Points are needed to attain each Level after 2nd.
VARIATION: THE OCCULT DETECTIVE
To create a supernaturally-inclined Sleuth inspired by the likes of Thomas Carnacki, Jules de Grandin, or Simon Iff, substitute one of your Sleuth Special Abilities with one of the following from the list of Magician Special Abilities: Esoteric Knowledge, Use Incantation, Perform Ceremony, Create Talismans, or Employ Pact.
If you take Use Incantation, Perform Ceremony, Create Talismans, or Employ Pact as a Special Ability, you might also substitute one of your Sleuth Weaknesses with Magical Implement or Power Object (as per the Magician Class).
SLEUTHS IN OTHER TIMES
The Sleuth (and its Occult Detective variant) can also work well in the Groovy Era of the 1960s and 70s, and the subsequent Awful Eighties. This is the time period for characters inspired by the likes of John Shaft; Columbo; Nancy Drew; Mystery Incorporated (Fred, Daphne, Shaggy, and Velma); Carl Kolchak; and Harry D’Amour.
If you want to use the Sleuth in the Gothic Age of the Thirteenth Century, (inspired perhaps by Brother Cadfeal, or William of Baskerville from “In The Name of the Rose”), then instead of being Police, half your social contacts are priests, monks, and nuns – with one senior clergyman.
*Note: Information on currency exchange rates in 1913 is based on information from https://www.historicalstatistics.org/Currencyconverter.html