Gritty Cop Show Test Game Episode 3: NY Confidential.

This Saturday we ran another play test of Gritty Cop Show, the role playing game.

If you want to see what Gritty Cop Show is, here is the recap of the first test game (where I stole the plot of Heat) :

And the second (where I stole the plot of Paranoia) :

We made a few rules tweaks after those last two to improve and streamline the system a bit more. It has been several months since the last test games, but that’s what happens when you’re a busy writing books, one of your regular players gets deployed, and another ends up working every weekend.

So I invited over the regulars and then a couple of neighbors (one of whom used to play a lot of D&D, and the other who’d never played an RPG before), and this time I stole the plot of L.A. Confidential. Only since I wanted to test out character growth, we moved it to 2018 New York.

If you read episode #2, you’ll remember that Detective Jimmy Moore shot a professional hit man while he was in custody. IA couldn’t prove it, but when we pick up with this session, Moore has been demoted and been “riding the boat” (yes, I love the Wire). Detective Tank Middleton is still at Major Crimes.  Since Detective Quinn and McRidge couldn’t make this session, we decided that Quinn had gotten promoted, and McRidge had quit the force, bought their local cop bar (now renamed Ox Knuckles’) and married the super hot waitress (I rolled a 10 on a d10!).

Major Crimes was joined by two new detectives. Vimes (a practical law and order guy who came over from SWAT, his advantages were Ice Water Veins  and Arson, Murder, & Jay Walking. But his disadvantage was Got A Feeling That I Can’t Let Go. and Detective Stiles,who’d spent the last couple years under cover with the Irish mob, who had Brute Squad, Fast Talker, and the disadvantage Flinch.

Since there are partnership advantages, Tank and Moore are Good Cop/Bad Cop while Vimes and Stiles have Cowboy Cops. Because it ain’t a gritty cop show unless you’ve got your cool partnership dynamic.

And yes, I’ve got four pages of advantages and disadvantages based on every cop show trope I could think of. My favorites are Doughnut Run, Fists of Ham, and Good is Not Nice.  Each one has a mechanical bonus, and is also kind of a guide for the player how they should play their character.

I didn’t tell the guys what plot I’d stolen this time (I figured everybody has seen LA Confidential, and if you haven’t, you should, fantastic movie) but I kept all the NPC names the same. Only there was no Exley, Vincennes, or White because the PCs replaced them. Plus, since these are different characters entirely, I just skipped all the early scenes set up, and we opened up with the shotgun massacre at the Nite Owl Café.

2:00 AM Major Crimes gets a call. Six people have been shotgunned in the bathroom of the NIte Owl Café. Tank, Stiles, and Vimes arrive to find a mess. One of the victims is identified as Dick Stensland, former detective, forcibly retired for beating a suspect on Christmas and getting caught on video. And to bring Moore back in from his exile to the harbor, Stensland used to be Moore’s partner.

Remember, Major Crimes has a new Captain now because the old one got murdered by his Russian mail order bride. In this game the PCs pick what kind of unit they are in, so this time instead of Shit Detail they are a Black Sheep Squad, so their new Captain only cares about results, not reputation.  So the new Captain thinks there is no way Moore actually shot an Austrian hit man inside the station, and he knows one of the vics, so should be useful, and brings him back.

The PCs start investigating, and immediately the new guys flub some rolls and add some stress. (remember, in this game there is an escalating stress mechanic that leads to complications and eventually a Dramatic Blow Up). Once you’ve got some stress points, you start having the potential for dramatic screw ups. And when you roll a dramatic screw up, it’s on the players to decide what happens to them.

Some good forensics rolls and they start to piece together what happened. It was obvious Susan Leffarts (who looks a lot like Scarlett Johansson) was eating with Stensland. (there were two female vics, but one was the waitress, and there was lipstick on the glass across the table from where they found Stensland’s blood, and it matches Susan’s)

Vimes and Stiles head out to Long Island to the address on Susan’s ID. One thing about using existing cop show plots, the GM needs to be ready to roll with it whenever the PCs do stuff out of order. So as they are talking to Susan’s befuddled old mom, there is the scene where they smell something rotten and see she’s got a towel stuck against the bottom of the door. So Stiles ends up in the crawl space under the house where he finds the rotten corpse of Buzz Meeks, another former NYPD detective.

So the plot is now out of order, but that’s fine. The PCs just know there is a conspiracy a bit earlier is all.

At the same time (in Gritty Cop Show you totally split the party) the other two are going through Stensland’s stuff (he drives a really nice car for an ex-cop who didn’t even make his pension), and they find some mysterious business cards that Tank recognizes (steetwise) as coming from a high end prostitution ring.

The next morning at the briefing, Deputy Chief Dudley Smith (I described James Cromwell, but left off the accent and didn’t call anybody Boyo to keep them from realizing what movie this was yet) passed on the tip about the three men in the red Mercury (changed to crappy ’97 Sable).

A bunch of research and streetwise rolls (shaking down chop shops and drug dealers) led our PCs to three bad dudes who matched that description.  (I skipped the kidnapped girl bit and escape from the station bits because of time) and they arrive at the home of Sugar Collins, to find two detectives from Robbery Homicide, Brunig and Carlilse at the Mercury. Brunig swears that they saw these three sawed off shotguns on the back seat, but Vimes is really suspicious that they just planted them because what kinds of idiots would leave three murder weapons in plain view.  (congrats, you are more observant than Guy Pearce).

But Carlilse lies convincingly and says that the guns were actually hidden on the floor boards, and they just moved them to the seat so they’d have probable cause, now you want to let these scumbags get away or not?

Vimes is ticked, but the three bad guys are upstairs, so the PCs, along with Carlisle and Brunig, swoop in. Of course, a running gunfight ensues. Moore gets grazed in the arm and shot in the vest (dramatically) but the three dudes get shot. Stiles tackles a 4th crack head who just happened to be there (Stiles has Flinch, so sucks with guns).  Of the three suspects, only one survives (eBay Fontaine, because I had to come up with street names on the spot for the other two dudes).

Moore is going to the hospital anyway, and since he and Tank have Good Cop/Bad Cop,  and Tank stuck most of his points into interrogation they ride in the ambulance with eBay. They grill him, but its pretty clear he’s a total scumbag criminal guilty of pretty much everything, but he doesn’t know a thing about the Nite Owl.

Meanwhile, Vimes and Stiles question the crack head (I was basically playing Tyrone Biggums, itching and all) who can alibi Sugar. (honest your honor, I couldn’t didn’t commit those murders because I was busy selling crack). So it’s a crappy alibi, but it’s an alibi.

But at the hospital, while Moore is getting stitched up, Deputy Chief Smith shows up with a pile of reporters to talk about the heroism of his officers for catching these killers so fast. Moore is back In Major Crimes, hailed as a hero, and everybody is calling him Shotgun Jimmy. (which I think is when this particular player realized what movie this was).

But the PCs know something is up. This smells like a frame job. They confide in their new captain (and since they took Black Sheep, he’s got their backs) so they keep investigating, but they are supposed to keep it on the down low.

The next day there’s a great scene between Moore and the IA detective who hates his guts and got him put on the boat, where he finds out how dirty Stensland and Meeks were. (this was when I got to sneak in Russell Crowe’s awesome line about a Big Rat in the basement). Of course, the IA still thinks Moore is dirty and wants to ruin him, because Gritty Cop Show reasons.

This is getting long, so I’d better condense. I introduced Sid Hudgens (I can’t do a very good Danny DeVito) who now runs a gossip blog called The Husher. More investigation leads the PCs to Lynn Bracken (and when I describe her as young Kim Bassinger, then they all knew which movie this was).  But when they stick Lynn into protective custody, this goes back to the Deputy Chief, and the next thing they know they’re getting yelled at by the DA. Stress is building. More and more complications are occurring.

Then Moore and Tank go out to Martha’s Vineyard to interview playboy Pierce Pratchett, who employed Stensland and Meeks as “drivers”. When he offers a thinly concealed bribe (he’ll give them $20k to moonlight as “security” at one of his “parties”) Moore flubs a roll, has one too many stress points DRAMATIC BLOW UP and breaks the millionaire’s nose. They get tossed out by security.

Meanwhile, Vimes and Stiles get the black mail photos of the DA from Danny DeVito, and go to confront the DA. They were smooth fast talkers, and didn’t even need to drown him in the toilet or dangle him from a window. He spills the beans on Dudley Smith.

(and because nobody ever went alone to talk to Smith, nobody got the Rolo Tomasi treatment)

When Vimes and Stiles realize just how high this goes, and that they put their one witness in protective custody (which is under Dudley Smith’s command, and he knows where every safe house is, and who is in it) they rush to where Lynn is being guarded by Nobs.

Oh yeah… Officer Nobs. Okay, so one of the things I wanted to test this game was random extra cop character generation. It’s designed so that you can create an extra NPC cop helper, fully statted out, in like 30 seconds (the system works fantastic). So the rookie cop who found the bodies at the Nite Owl had been assigned as Major Crimes gopher/helper. And he was the one guarding Lynn Bracken at the safe house.

Vimes and Stiles get there. Nobs and Kim Bassinger are missing. The lock has been picked. The (hidden) security cameras were all disabled.  They got Nobs! The bastards! They call Tank, who has just gotten back into the city.

With a witness and the rookie kidnapped, Moore and Tank decide to directly confront the two detectives who planted the shotguns (oh yeah, those matched the hulls at the scene).  Of course, this doesn’t go as planned.

So when they see Carlisle and Brunig in an alley, Carlisle immediately shoves down Tank all like “how dare you accuse me of being dirty!”.  Moore sucker punches Carlisle.  Who takes it, spits out a blob of blood, takes his coat and tie off, and hands his gun to his partner while telling Tank, “If either of us cheats, feel free to shoot us” See, these guys ain’t run of the mill mooks, I statted them all the way up with as many points as our PCs.  Alley fight!

Moore and Carlisle proceed to have a dramatic fist fight, which ends badly when our PC tries to smash the bad cop’s head into the car door, and instead ends of getting bounced across the hood. However, during this, Tank accuses Carlisle of kidnapping Nobs, and Carlilse is shocked. It’s one thing to frame scumbags who really need to get put in the ground anyway, but he obviously doesn’t know anything about kidnapping cops.

So a few hours later, instead of dispatch sending the heroes to the Victory Motel, it’s Carlisle giving them a tip. One thing about GMing is that when your PCs derail your plot, just roll with it. This guy is dirty, but he likes Nobs, and wasn’t down with that.

They can’t tell anybody, because it’ll just get back to Dudley Smith. So they gun up, armor up, and drive to New Jersey so we can have a big ass gun fight at the abandoned Victory Motel.

This happened in two waves. First was them trying to sneak in to rescue Kim Bassinger and Nobs, only most of these guys aren’t sneaky, so it turned into a big ass gun fight. Lots of drama happened. Stiles (who can’t shoot for crap) gets pinned down behind a car that’s getting riddled with bullets. Moore boots the door and spends two rounds shotgunning a bad guy in the vest. Tank dramatically saves his partner’s life by shooting a guy who came up behind him. And Vimes actually put a bunch of points in shooting, and asked for an AR-10. So he was pretty much just popping heads like grapes. (I made guns super lethal in this).

The hostages are saved. Tank takes Kim and Nobs out the back.

Only that’s when two more SUVs with lights and sirens come flying in. When Vimes looks at them through his scope, they aren’t from Jersey. They’re from the NYPD, which is a bad sign since they are dealing with an army of crooked cops.

Moore goes out to meet them. (a variation of the badge scene from the end of the movie, very fitting).  Only one SUV stops, and the other sweeps around the back toward where Tank is trying to get away. There’s a tense confrontation, but then the bad guy (Brunig) does a count down for Moore to turn over Kim Bassinger or else, only when he gets to one, Vimes (who is hiding in the trees) blows his head off.

(in the words of William Defoe) AND THERE WAS A GUN FIGHT!  Stiles gets shot again, and has a complication with his shotgun (kicks himself in the face with it, we decided it is a PGO). Moore ends up having a close contact hand to hand/John Wick moment with the driver of the SUV, and it ends up driving violently into the side of the hotel.

And in the back of the hotel, the other SUV opens fire on Tank. He takes one in the vest and goes down. But then Tank asks me if he can see the gas tank from there. I say yeah, but being a pedantic gun nut automatically say gas tanks don’t blow up when you shoot them in real life. But Tanks says this ain’t real life, this is GRITTY COP SHOW! Excellent point Rule of Cool always wins.

So Tanks rolls great, and Suburban goes up in a huge fireball. The bad guys even stumbled away, on fire, waving their arms, stunt man style.

Only Tank rolled a complication (and to illustrate how dramatic complications work) as Tank stands up, and Kim Bassinger runs to hold him, one of the on fire bad guys is still alive (play Karl music from Die Hard here! DUN DUNDUNDUN DUN DU!) and Tank sees him just as the bad guy is about to blow him away (and this is when I step in) BUT Rookie Officer Nobs suddenly fires a gun he picked up, and shoots the bad guy right between the eyes, saving Tank from certain doom!

Because Gritty Cop Show!

In the aftermath, now the PCs had to add up all the evidence they’d collected during the session, and I assigned points. Remember, the goal in GCS is to get as many evidence points as you can, and then roll a D12 and add them to it. You need to get at least a 12 total (representing the jury), or Dudley Smith, the DA, and Pierce Pratchett will walk.  They got a whopping 10 evidence points, and luckily managed not to roll a 1!  Boom. Convicted. Case closed.

And I almost forgot, one of my favorite dramatic complications during this session?  As they were driving back from Martha’s Vineyard, there was a call over the radio, the deadly hit man, Helmut Bookwalter, has escaped from prison! (he killed a guard with his TEETH). BOLO. Extremely armed and dangerous. Do not engage, hide and call SWAT. Better yet, call the National Guard.

Remember, Moore shot this psychopath in the stomach. He’s a bad dude. And when I say bad dude, I made up advantages and disadvantages for creating nemesis level bad guys, and his are called Plot Armor and Killing Machine. 😀  And the funny thing is, he never even showed up in the session. Just the threat of him being out there was enough to change the dynamic. I love dramatic complications. This is what happens when you watch a thousand hours of cop shows.

So that was our third test game of Gritty Cop show. The tweaks we made to the wound/health system worked good, but since none of our guys got incapacitated this time, I only had to test it on bad guys. Also the random NPC generator works great. It’s literally a few dice rolls, and they’ve got skills and a basic personality.

I went on the Tom Woods Show again
Sign David Weber's Petition In Support of Free Speech at Cons

68 thoughts on “Gritty Cop Show Test Game Episode 3: NY Confidential.”

  1. This system sounds hilarious. I am looking forward to the published version.

    If you get a chance, check out Paranoia XP. 80’s scifi and conspiracy clichés in an adaptable system that lets you play from dark and gritty to Three Stooges with laser pistols.

  2. That was awesome! I’m excited to run this game, eventually. I love fast, narrative heavy, rules lite systems.

  3. So, I’m assuming you picked the name “Nobs” on purpose, because somebody else named their character “Vimes”?

  4. Damn, now I’ve got to watch L.A. Confidential on Netflix. Again. That said, I’ve never considered using movies, etc. as the basis for campaigns.

  5. Can someone please rig up a livestreaming suite so Larry can get Dean Cain, Nick Searcy, Adam Baldwin and Dwight Schultz into this awesomeness on a quarterly basis?

  6. From the usual outraged suspects, their argument seems to go something like this: “Allowing abusers to attend a con with their victims is a really bad thing.” (paraphrased from some File770 comments)

    To that I respond: If you have knowledge that Larry Correia, John Ringo, Jon del Arroz or David Weber has “abused” someone, in other words actually physically assaulted a person, then you should inform the police and fill out a report. Keep in mind the possible legal penalties for filing a false police report.

    If Larry, John, Jon or David has been “rude to someone on the internet,” then that is not “abuse.”

    I swear, these people just can’t understand that when you sling insults and profanity at people, sometimes they will shoot back (with WORDS, Larry…!).

    Then when someone does get “uppity” and dare to answer back, it’s all fainting couches and safe spaces, and “I felt threatened…”

  7. I’m a little concerned that no one has commented on your last two posts. Your one was an awesome read. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Have you checked out tvtropes for ideas to mine? Might save you some brainstorming. For instance, I just checked the cops page out, and atonement cop would be a fun one to play to the hilt. “I’d shoot the guy strangling my partner, but I can’t shoot anybody since I accidentally shot that family of 5 in the dark alley… so I’ll try tazing him… and maybe some harsh words”

  9. Sounds like a lot of fun.

    Hmmm . . . to go into a bit of film criticism ‘LA Confidential’ is one of those movies where, IMHO, the film is better than the book. I found the movie more believable and the cynicism, which in the book was sole destroying, in the film came across as darkly bracing. Although I think the movie’s ending was a bit of a cop-out.

    But, no, if ‘Gritty Cop Show’ or indeed when GCS hits the presses, I’d definitely be interested in a copy.

  10. Sigh. I want to game with you, dude! That sounds like it was an absolute blast to play in and to run.

    Much respect!

  11. How can “Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking” be a character trope? He’s petty?

    (Do I gotta go read No! That’s a black hole of productivity!)

  12. If this NYT Bestselling author thing doesn’t work out, you would probably do well in the hobby games industry… I want to give you money for these rules.

  13. You, uh, don’t need playtesters, do you? Because it’s totally normal in the industry to have playtesters pay you to test out your new game … isn’t it?

    It’s not? Well, where do you think best practices come from? That’s right, one innovator with a dream …

  14. I’m not even a fan of gritty cop shows and I’d love to play this game. I especially like the ‘stress points’ mechanic and would like to find out more about that. Maybe in a future post?

    1. Am also curious about that mechanic. It sounds fascinating to read about.

      Speaking of, I would love to read the Gritty Cop Show Test Game the way that Larry used to write out his L5R RPG sessions – in story format. Maybe even as novelizations of the game sessions…

  15. It’s a shame Southland didn’t have any arcs long enough to be playable, that was a hell of a gritty cop show.

    Isn’t the line that “There Was A Fire Fight!!!!” ?

  16. Any plans to publish the rulebook, even if only digitally? Sounds like there is a lot of interest in playing this kind of game. Also would love to see an official MHI campaign setting with PUFF tables (especially if it uses the acronyms John Ringo put in Memoirs: Sinners)

    1. Yes, someday. But on your second part, there is an official MHI RPG. There’s one version out using Hero system, and a new version shipping this year that uses Savage Worlds.

      1. Oops, guess I was playing 1-2-3 Redlight in my head instead.

        (What’s the other one we played: 1-2-3 redlight, mother may I, and something else? Besides roll the bat, kickball, tag, and hide and go seek. Rats. I’m jumping in the lake because I’m on vacation!)

        1. My school had a blank-outline map of the states on the asphalt playground, so we invented “state tag”. Whoever is It calls out the name of a state, which then becomes “safe” or “home” or “base” or whatever. Everyone runs to said state’s outline and It tries to tag someone. Once everyone is safe or someone else is It, another state is named.

  17. Gritty Cop Show looks like it’ll be a blast for some of my friends and me! We especially love some of the great names for advantages/disadvantages like “Punchable Face” and “Fists of Ham.” And “Doughnut Run” will give my retired-cop Dad a laugh.

    Hoping to make it to the demo of this at LibertyCon in a couple weeks! Won’t be there for the beginning part of it, but hopefully for the latter portion.

  18. I was wondering if something was wrong w/ my browser. I didn’t see any comments here for several days. This sounds interesting; however, I’m not familiar with either the Hero system or Savage Worlds.

    1. uh oh. Sounds like Melvin hasn’t reformed his ways. Or he found a new way through the firewall. 🙂

    2. I commented about the squee that resulted when I read of Vimes and Nobbs plus a Dude reference ALL IN THE SAME GAME, and said comment has vanished into cyberspace. (Typing this at five minutes of one, Pacific time, on Thursday the 21st. Let’s see if the datestamp is screwy also.)

  19. So many cop show tropes. How to choose?
    Just in buddy tropes there’s:

    Grizzled veteran with brand new rookie.
    Grizzled veteran with transfer from some other part of the force that has no idea what life is like on the streets
    Grizzled veteran with other grizzled veteran and they both think they’re right all the time.
    Local cop with foreign exchange cop.
    Borderline sexist/or lecherous cop with woman partner.
    Borderline racist cop with minority cop.
    Long-time cop who just want’s to make it to retirement with insane cop.
    Local cop with extra-terrestrial cop
    Veteran, hard-charging cop stuck with his clueless supervisor as a partner
    Street cop gets stuck with house mouse
    Cop has to partner with criminal. Maybe one he put away and afterword went on to marry the criminal’s girlfriend.
    Two county lifeguards who inexplicably decide to solve crimes after getting off work at their day job.
    Two retired cops who are called back in because X super-crimer is on the loose again and only they know how to catch him.
    Two idiots who aren’t cops at all but because of zany circumstances everybody thinks they are and if they want to get out of this mess they’d better solve this case.
    Seat-of-pants cop with data-driven cop.

    And that’s with just a few minutes of thinking about it!

  20. In the criminal justice role playing genre, the Player Characters are split into two separate but equally important parties: The Gritty Cop Show that investigates the crime (and has epic car chases and totally sweet gun fights) and the Sexy Legal Drama that prosecutes the offenders (while drinking staggering amounts of expensive alcohol and having sex in exotic locations).

    These are there Adventure Modules…

    1. In the role-playing world, rule-gaming based offenses are considered especially heinous.
      In New Bjork City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious min-maxers are members of an elite squad known as the Special Munchkins Unit. These are their stories .

      1. Fanboys and Geek-Girls: the Let’s Play you are about to hear is true. Only the names and die rolls have been changed to protect the newbs.

  21. Anywho, how is “arson, murder, and jaywalking” a character trope? Are they petty? Do they like piling on every charge possible?

  22. Please please please Kickstarter this and I will be kicking in!

    By the way, I have similarly been working on coming up with a homebrew game to play with my kids, something fast and easy to move along, and something even the one that is hard to get interested in RPGs will want to play. But because he’s a video game freak (especially Mario/Sonic), I am going that route. I’m envisioning it being like Wreck-It Ralph as an RPG. Playable classes such as Plucky Platformer, Princess of Peril, Hero of Legend, Cute Creature, Savage Shooter, Daredevil Driver, Mechanical Marvel, Fighter of Fury, and Big Brute.

  23. And now for the Donald Westlake goofy-comic-criminal version! (Spider Robinson turned me on to the Dortmunder novels)

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