‘Bubblegumshoe’: Live Out Your Teen Detective Dreams in This Indie RPG
And we would have gotten away with it, to, if it weren’t for you meddling kids playing your Bubblegumshoe!
Published in 2016 by Evil Hat Productions, Bubblegumshoe allows you to enter the world of teenage detectives and solve local mysteries with your friends. Will your game be more Scooby-Doo or more Nancy Drew? Will you include the grittiness of the recent CW high school reboots or keep it light? Let’s get to the bottom of it together.
Though it was designed as a pared-down version of the similar-but-more-grown-up Gumshoe, Bubblegumshoe doesn’t dumb the game down. Instead, it simplifies it to meet the needs of a group of teenage detectives as opposed to adult investigators. There are certain abilities and lines of knowledge that your average high school student wouldn’t possess. And Bubblegumshoe cuts those out, leaving you to make a character who is, despite it all, a normal kid.
There are three stats in the game under which your abilities are listed. Investigative, Interpersonal, and General. These are all exactly what they sound like. General is a sort of catch-all of skill that might not fit into one of the other categories.
Noticing and research are investigative skills while flirting and negotiations are interpersonal. Athletics, First Aid, and Driving? All General. There is also a stat for “Cool” which similar to how you would use it in other systems represents your ability to do something social or step out of your comfort zone. You know, how well you can keep a cool head on your shoulders.
Teens and Interpersonal Relationships
Like in the super-powered teenage system, MASKS, relationships are also very important in Bubblegumshoe with rules for people you love, like, and hate. Each of these people is scored numerically with higher-scoring individuals holding more influence over your life and your choices. This is an aspect that I really enjoy in tabletop systems designed for teens to play and people looking to pretend to be teens alike.
The social hierarchy is a concrete and measurable aspect of gameplay. Your crush, rival, upperclassman, or an adult could all influence you in ways that will have an actual impact on the story. And in story-driven games centered on human interactions, that can be a hugely important skill to tap.
Possibly most interesting to me, the game doesn’t make you roll to spot clues. So the players can instead focus on interpreting those clues and interacting with the world around them. As a D&D player, the concept of not rolling to spot a clue is very alien to me. You have that notice skill for a reason, right? But also as a D&D player (and very infrequently a GM) who has botched key rolls and watched others do the same, it’s comforting to know that I couldn’t possibly miss the keystone piece of evidence.
The system was created with a young to teenage audience in mind. But adults like solving mysteries and pretending to be half their age too. And Bubblegumshoe manages to cater to both of these groups equally with a system that is easy but not boring and leaves enough wiggle room to solve the mystery of the stolen bike or the stabbed quarterback without having to go off-book.
If you want to start solving mysteries and busting bad guys yourself, you can grab a copy of Bubblegumshoe by following the link below.
What’s your favorite way to solve a tabletop mystery? Have you given Bubblegumshoe a try? Which famous teenage sleuths would your game be most like? Let us know in the comments!