Gritty Cop Show: LibertyCon 35 Charity Game Recap (the statistically impossible edition)

The six seats that were auctioned off for my Gritty Cop Show RPG game at LibertyCon raised $4,900 for Ronald McDonald House. You break the all time charity fundraising record, you get a quality dramatic recap!

For those of you unfamiliar, Gritty Cop Show is an RPG of my design, and everything you need to know about the setting is in the title. The rules are designed to run fast and simple, with everything being tropey and dramatic. Every advantage/disadvantage is named after something from a cop show, and there’s an escalating stress mechanic to add complications and eventually Dramatic Blow Ups. (and yes, we are going to kickstart this but it keeps taking back burner because I have to keep writing novels!)

For con games I always pick a movie or tv show to steal the plot from. This time I used a version of the British cop drama Paranoid. I’ve used that one once before for a beta testing game, but that was with my regular group, and was a 6 hour session instead of 4. So here we go:

Gritty Cop Show: LibertyCon 35 Episode

Representing the NYPD’s Serious Crimes Unit we had-

Jay, playing Lt. Christopher Rawls, who is Too Old For This Shit. We’re talking suspenders and a shoulder holster with a 38 Smith in it, old school, one year from retirement.

Tim, playing his partner Detective Milton Cyrus, who had just got done working a deep undercover assignment. He’s the grey man, master of disguise, they never see coming.

Rawls and Cyrus partnership has the Blood Brothers advantage. These guys are best buds, ride or die.

Joel, playing Sgt. Reginald “Reggie” Quincy, who is the squad’s research guy and crime scene savant. If there’s brains stuck to something, he’s gonna know how they got there!

Ian, is playing his partner, Alexi Bosoyev, who is on special exchange from a PD in Siberia (think the movie Red Heat). They do things a little different where he’s from (usually involving truncheons and knee caps)

Quincy and Bosoyev are the Odd Couple, where one of them is a hard core Action Guy and the other is The Nerd.

Norman, playing Detective Kendall Jones, who came from the city’s upper crust, and dropped out of law school to become a cop. Before he was in Homicide he was on the Bomb Squad.

And Carey, playing Detective “Sweat Pea” Smith who knows the law like back of his hand, but criminals just don’t take him seriously, (like literally, the disadvantage he took is called Punk Ass Bitch! and automatically results in crooks challenging him like, “You ain’t gonna shoot me!”

Together, Jones and Smith are The Closers. These are the dudes who make solid cases and put bad guys behind bars.

The game opens Saturday morning when our squad gets called to a homicide at a playground. A mother named Angela was pushing her 4 year old on the swing when she got attacked by a man in a blue hoodie, who stabbed her to death.

Our guys go to work examining the crime scene, questioning witnesses, gathering evidence, checking the victim’s cell phone, and checking for local security camera videos (the beautiful thing about GCS games is that everybody has watched a million cop shows, and this game is based on all that stuff, and isn’t meant to be realistic, but it’s fun to watch players get all super meticulous!) 😀

The murder weapon (a butcher knife) is found in the bushes. One especially moronic witness (I love playing NPCs) got it on cell phone, but you can’t see the bad guy’s face. The cops who are good at hand to hand fighting stuff all get that this killer was motivated and knew exactly what he was doing. There’s witness and videos who saw the attacker approach from the north, and then leave toward the north.

The victim is identified as a doctor who works at a nearby hospital. She is living with her father since breaking up with her boyfriend, and the father arrives at the scene to be questioned. (and these guys were way better at managing grieving witnesses than my heartless kids, that’s for sure!)

During this the players experienced their first Complication, when Lt. Rawls tried to stop a bossy reporter from hounding the victim’s dad, and ended up body checking her to the ground on camera. Whoops! The Captain (who we had all decided was a total douche, played by me doing a very poor impersonation of Danny DeVito, was going to love that)

Then the squad gets a call. There’s been a jumper off a 6th floor fire escape 4 blocks north. And the suicide was a white male in his 30s in a blue hoody (which matches the description and video of the attacker). It could be the guy.

Unlike D&D where you NEVER SPLIT THE PARTY, Gritty Cop Show you split the party like crazy, because cases are on the clock, and the partners are constantly going off in different directions to check on things and we flip back and forth between them for scenes.

So one squad goes to the victim’s home, the other goes to the victim’s workplace, and the third goes to the scene of the suicide to see if they’re related.

And the suicide does appear related. Not only does the dead guy make a pretty good match for the attacker, he’s got a knife block missing a butcher knife, and the set matches the murder weapon perfectly. He also has pills in his medicine cabinet for treating psychosis, and when they ID him, he does have a record for erratic behavior and violent outbursts. So it looks like some guy had a psychotic break and attacked a random mom. That looks pretty open and shut! (which makes the Lt. happy, because he just wants to retire).

Only our guys are thorough, and they note that his shoes have no playground material in the treads. And though he’s got a history, its been six years since his last run in with the law. They also get the name of his psychiatrist and decide to follow up with him too.

Meanwhile, at the doctor’s home office, they find that even though she’s got a computer, she’s gotten an old 90s typewriter out of storage, and has been typing on it, though they can’t find any type written pages there at all. Sweat Pea takes the typewriter because he knows messages might be reconstructed from the ribbon.

In a strange coincidence, it appears that sometime on Friday night, somebody broke into the doctor’s office at the hospital. Security camera shows someone jimmying the door, but he was wearing a hat and managed to never once look at a security camera. Cyrus, being a UC and infiltration kind of guy, realizes that the dude in this video is really good at B&E.

As much as Rawls really wants to close this case fast, there’s just too much out of place. So when they find out the doctor has only been at the hospital for the last year, he gets her resume from a coworker (poor Dr. Bob, who put his fingerprints all over the broken door knob and had a freak out!). They find out that the victim used to work for a pharmaceutical mega-corporation called Rustin-Wade, in their R&D department.

So once again, the partners go off in different directions to track down leads.

Bosoyev and Quincy go to talk to the psychiatrist, who is an unctuous toad of a man named Crowley. Rawls and Cyrus go to Rustin-Wade’s Manhattan HQ. And Jones and Smith go to talk to Ruben, the victim’s ex-boyfriend, at his apartment (who it turns out, is still a research scientist at Rustin-Wade)

At Rustin-Wade (they even have a giant glass statue of Jesus filled with pills in the lobby) they are met by a slick talking corporate security dude named Mr. Groves, who is super helpful, while not being helpful at all. Some digging shows he’s a former New York FBI ASAC who left under questionable circumstances involving bribery and corruption. He basically stonewalls them (and in GCS, when you are trying to interrogate or manipulate information out of people, it’s a contested roll, and this dude is super slick).

However, Crowley the psychiatrist is not. He’s a sleaze ball. He says that its tragic but not surprising, and sure sounds like a psychotic break to him, so tragic, so on and so forth. Only Quincy can tell that he’s lying. So Bosoyev goes full super intimidation on him, and I lost that contested roll by A LOT. So the shrink breaks and admits that he got paid a visit by a terrifying German man who threatened to kill him if he didn’t provide a patient who met the right parameters (size, age, appropriate symptoms, and location). It also comes out that Crowley has done consulting for Rustin-Wade’s drug trials.

Then at Ruben the boyfriend’s super nice apartment (this is when we found out that Detective Jones came from old money) Jones and Smith bully their way in (exigent circumstances, man!) only to find that Ruben died sometime Friday night, and is floating face down in his indoor pool. Poor Sweat Pea has to fish out the bloated floater, and takes a whole lot of stress when the gas comes out. But it looks like Ruben decided to take a whole bunch of drugs, wash it down with a bottle of vodka, and then go skinny dipping the night before his ex-girlfriend got stabbed to death. Surely that’s a coincidence.

So the squad is feeling like there’s some kind of cover up going on involving the victim’s prior employer, and loose ends are being taken care of. There were a lot of other clues dropped, but I can’t remember all of them for this recap. Don’t blame me, it was a busy weekend! 😀

While doing research, into all these things, and not finding any smoking gun, they get a call that the victim’s father has been assaulted in a burglary attempt at his home. They rush over to discover that he had returned home to find a man in his daughter’s office, tearing the place apart looking for something, but then he’d struck the father in the head and fled the scene.

Our guys tear the place up, and as near as they can guess, the burglar was looking for those missing type written pages. The Doctor was writing something that she didn’t feel safe putting on a computer. With that in mind, they find on her credit card statements that she’s been paying for a PO Box in Long Island. Thinking that she might have been mailing letters to herself for safe keeping, the squad calls for some local cops to watch that post office, then heads that direction to check for themselves.

Only on the way, they get the call shots fired, officer down, at that post office address! Each partnership has a car, and one of them is driving. They go to lights and sirens, hauling ass to the PO Box. The first on the scene discovers that the black and white they’d sent to watch the place has been shot up, and a black Audi is speeding away.

Now this next part is where we get to the statistical impossibility part, because in this one car chase scene was the most sequential bad dice rolls I’ve ever seen in my life. In GCS, as you fail, you start to collect stress. Each time you do anything you need to make sure you don’t screw up because of that stress. So every roll, you also roll a D20. As long as you don’t roll below your stress (which for most of these guys was only a 1) you’re fine. If you do roll below that, you have a Complication.

Out of six D20 rolls, FIVE OF THEM WERE 1s.

So the car chase didn’t go according to plan! My professional hitman, clean up guy (His name was Helmut Bookwalter) starts setting the type written evidence on fire and tossing it out the window of the moving car.

During our hot pursuit through Long Island, Bosoyev and Quincy’s unmarked car clipped a minivan filled with nuns. Rawls and Cyrus ended up going through the front glass of a doughnut shop. Sweat Pea tried to shoot out the fleeing perp’s tires with his shotgun, but they hit a bump and he dropped his shotgun out the window.

Only one of 1s was me, and my professional hitman (who had an excellent driving skill by the way). So the perp got t-boned in an intersection. He’s injured but comes out shooting at Sweat Pea and nearly hits Jones in the face through the windshield.

Only after wrecking his car into the nuns, Bosoyev took the black and white cop car, and rammed the hitman with it, breaking one of his legs and rag dolling him down the street.

It was a very dramatic scene, but at the end they’d wrecked 4 cars and some buildings, traumatized the nuns, and recovered a bunch of the half burned evidence. They did first aid, and the hitman would live (only because I gave that dude a lot of health, but I’d not been expecting them to run him over!) but the local cop he’d shot wouldn’t.

So they gather up all their stuff and wounded hitman and take him to the nearby hospital, only before they’ll let the doctors work on him, they “interrogate” him in a proper Gritty Cop Show manner, by threatening to undo the tourniquet that’s holding all the blood in (dude had a bone sticking out his leg and they had to go and start poking at it).

So Helmut spills his guts. He was hired by Mr. Groves at Rustin-Wade to silence a bunch of employees who were thinking about going whistle blower and make the evidence go away. He didn’t know what the cover up was about. His just was just to clean up the problems and make them go away. He agrees to testify against Rustin-Wade if they can get him into Witness Protection (This is a huge evidence point, and I’ll explain how the Jury Roll works at the end).

Meanwhile, some of the other detectives are pouring over the half burned evidence, which is a bunch of chemical formulas, and a big list of patients for a drug trial which there’s zero official record ever existed. Some really good rolls from them and they piece together that Rustin-Wade came up with an anti-depressant, but during the clinical trials five years ago, an absurd percentage of the people taking the drug killed themselves, or were in a murder-suicide, or performed a mass shooting, or drove their car into traffic, so on and so forth. Like 200 out of 700 people had some kind of reaction like that, so Rustin-Wade covered it all up and destroyed all the evidence. The Doctor knew about it and was trying to pressure her ex-boyfriend into going public.

Only Jones rolled a complication during all this research, so we got to have some proper Gritty Cop Show style traumatic drama when he realized one of the cases on the notes had been his, where a school bus driver had driven off a bridge for no discernable reason. 11 kids had died. Only Jones couldn’t find anything suspicious because of the cover up, so he’d not know about the drug trial, and he’d written it up as an accident. So his dramatic blow up was being wracked by guilt. Justice unserved!

However, Mr. Groves from Rustin-Wade is desperate. His professional clean up guy is in the hospital, probably getting flipped to testify against him, so desperate, he takes $25,000 in cash to the local MS-13 hitters, and says if you go kill this witness in this hospital right now, I’ll give you the other $25,000 after.

So while Rawls is downstairs making phone calls to the horrible Captain Nails, six members of the local youth organization walk in, looking all suspicious, and asking the receptionist where the German guy who got run over is at. They’re clearly really bad dudes.


At this point, we get into the next super statistical anomaly bit. Because in Gritty Cop Show, when you roll a skill, its a D6 plus whatever your skill rating at that thing is. Guns, because super deadly, get an extra D6. So if you go to shoot somebody, it’s 2D6 plus your shooting skill.

In the following round of gunfight, I believe there was five snake eyes out of six. These guys make the actual NYPD look like masterclass shooter. 😀

The bad guys split up. Two take the stairs. Two take the elevator. Two remain in the downstairs lobby. So Rawls pulls his .38 on those two and yells hands up, they’re under arrest! Of course the bad dudes pull their pieces and start blasting, and Rawls empties his gun back at them. And misses everything! He gets shot repeatedly and flung down the hall.

In proper cop show trope fashion, in GCS, when you get shot you roll a dice. Even means it hit your bullet proof vest. Odd means it gets through. Rawls rolls even, so he’s alive, but his gun is empty and he’s crawling around the hospital while everything is exploding around him. And he’s almost to retirement!

Jones was also downstairs, around the corner, getting his face stitched up from where he got nicked by the hitman’s bullet through the car window. (and the nurse was an 8, because in GCS whenever you are dealing with somebody of potential dramatic flirtability, you roll a D10 to Check For Hotness) he hears the shouting and shooting and runs out with his 1911 right into a hail of bullets. He shoots back and misses like crazy.

The two coming up the elevator aren’t as lucky as their buddies downstairs, and Bosoyev and Quincy are waiting for them. Bosoyev is action guy, but it turns out that nerdy Quincy is the only guy who can roll good! 😀 And he blasts his gangster. The other one gets nailed the next round and flung back into the elevator to do the dramatic slide down the wall while leaving a blood trail!

The two who rush out the stairs, Cyrus is using his stealth abilities, and waits until they both pass, before ambushing the last guy, and choking him out with his mad jujutsu skills.

The two bad guys downstairs are feeling cocky, trying to chase down Jones and Rawls, except Rawls reloads with his one speed loader, and does the dramatic fall out the door and shoots one up through the brain. Jones empties his 1911 at the other, but misses again. Jones is about to get killed, but then Rawls nails the badguy in the earhole from across the room.

Sweat Pea is exchanging gunfire with the last gangster (he’s got a Desert Eagle, because Gritty Cop Show is why) only not only does he miss, his gun is jammed, and very dramatically the bad guy lifts his piece to blow Sweat Pea’s brains out, but then Quincy, Bosoyev, and Cyrus all light him up so he can do the dramatic slow motion jerk and twitch!

When the smoke clears, all the bad guys are down (one lives, and they flip Paco too) the hospital is trashed, but all the good guys are alive, and they’ve still got their witness and evidence.

At the finale of a GCS episode, it isn’t just about killing some of the bad guys, its adding up all the evidence to see if they can bust the big fish. (in this case that’s Mr. Groves and Rustin-Wade Pharmaceuticals) That’s what the Jury Roll is for. The players go over everything they think is good evidence for court, and I give them a point for each one.

Flipping the hitman, the psychiatrist, and the gangster to testify all count. The doctor’s notes count, as does the type writer ribbon that show where they came from. They also have the money Groves gave the replacement killers.

So then you roll a D12, which represents the Jury, and you add the evidence points to that. Above 12, you convict. Below 12, they get off (for campaigns, you can give the bad guy the advantage of really good lawyers who subtract points!). And Jones and Smith are Closers, who are good at building cases, so they get bonus evidence points.

It is a lot of tension right at the end to see if the bad guys get away with it or not though! Only Sweat Pea rolls good, the jury is convinced, and Rustin-Wade is found guilty.

That was a crazy fun game. Weirdly enough, despite the horrible odds of those bad dice rolls (the math nerds are debating over on Facebook right now, but its somewhere between one in a billion and one in a trillion, so whatever, it’s a lot, and I’m just glad I’ve got like 30 witnesses to the game or nobody would believe me) I didn’t actually kill any players. Kendall Jones left the force because of his guilt over the bus crash, but at least he got to put things right and get justice, but I didn’t kill any of them. Normal con game one offs for me I usually kill about 2 out of the 6. TPKs are extremely rare for me, but I’ve also had some 4s, and a couple lone survivors over the years. However it turns out that I’ve played with Sweat Pea Smith three times at cons and in none of those have any players died, so he’s just good luck I suppose.

The Death of Good Will
LibertyCon 35 was a blast

16 thoughts on “Gritty Cop Show: LibertyCon 35 Charity Game Recap (the statistically impossible edition)”

  1. It was a crazy-fun game to wrap a great convention.

    Other “statistically improbability” – none of us really discussed our character builds and yet we had what seemed like a pretty well-balanced party. Also, every player at our table was a blast to play with, I would 100% play with that group again.

    1. Agreed, would play with all of you again. It was an utter blast. Thanks to all of you, and Larry, for making it worth every penny.

      And Larry went over the scheduled time to give us a great game. He made sure we all (including the audience) enjoyed ourselves and had a good time. Thank you Larry.

      And I totally should have been toast, but Larry said Rule of Cool for Dramatic Effect. 😁

      1. Oh yeah, by the dice, you were a dead man!
        Only it was too damned cool and a tropey cop show moment to have the bad guy just about to blow you away, before your buddies dramatically blast him. You can even see the slow motion shot. 😀

  2. The screenplay practically writes itself! (Which suggests another threat to the WGA. And they were worried about AI!)

    “They do things a little different where he’s from (usually involving truncheons and knee caps)”
    Reminds me of the Russians in one of the Flashman books and their knouts. I don’t remember them appearing in Servants of War, but there’s always the next book. Very nasty. Very brutal.

    1. One of the Classic Fantasy Animes, Record of Lodoss Wars, was originally a D&D campaign. So really, why not?

  3. Thanks for this brilliant recap! Even knowing the story, I hung on every word of the retelling. I played Lt. Rawls for this game. He was my take on a merger of Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon (I am too old for this) and Rawls from the Wire (insert greatest show ever plug here). The great part about this game and genre is that its very easy to tell what everyone else is going for with their concepts and riff off of their play. Everyone is constantly setting up everyone else to say or do something thematic. Its great fun just playing the game itself.

    And then there is Larry. Even after a long and awesome con, he brought his A Game to help us have a great time. As soon as we sat down to make our characters, he was excitedly explaining all our options and making sure we understood the concept. All the while wolfing down a burger and fries and reviewing our many options for hilarious advantages and disadvantages. Who wants to be normal in a game like this?

    About the 1s. Been playing tabletop for several decades and I have never ever ever seen rolls like that. It was a disaster, and it was awesome! If we hadn’t repeatedly hit that perfectly stereotypical German hitman Helmut with our cars, he would have killed half of us. I am certain of that. Audis, Nuns, and Donut Shops, oh my! We wracked up so much stress during all of these blown rolls. Which leads to complications. Which leads to fun. I especially appreciated how all the players just leaned into the complications(failures) with great suggestions that made things worse, and of course, more entertaining.

    Then there were even more 1s in the hospital shootout. But this time we were rolling 2d6 for gunfire. Multiple dice were no bar to our ability to keep rolling 1s. Magnificent failure everywhere! In my mind I could see the grainy episodic film aesthetic to every scene as we shot absolutely everything on the set. Except the bad guys of course. Rawls absolutely should have died. I got hit with 2 6s from a real shooter. When the rounds hit my chest plate and I lived I was thrilled to have made it. The rest of the scene was a series of events that barely pulled victory from the jaws of defeat. Even had we lost, we would have gone out in a blaze of fun.

    Everyone in the room was into it, and the crazier it got, the more everyone leaned in. Larry’s narration was top notch. The players were hanging on every word, living and almost dying moment to moment. The spectators drew closer with every new throw of 1s. It was a roller coaster of game play and narrative. It was the kind of game session everyone who has ever played a tabletop game aspires to be a part of. Even with all the evidence presented at the trial, it was still nerve racking beyond belief for the final conviction dice throw. It was so satisfying in the end. In the words of Lt. Rawls, “Gentlemen, we do not put red on the board.” Fade to black and roll credits.

    It was a Field of Dreams moment of gaming as far as I am concerned. We were just a bunch of regular joes being led by a master action-teller through a genre that almost plays itself. You just try to do your part while enjoying the ride. I will never forget this game. Thanks to Larry. Thanks to the other players. My friend Tim just missed playing in last year’s game, and I wanted to make sure he got a chance to sit with Larry. We had a budget and that went out the window in like 10 seconds. So did everyone else’s apparently. Glad the money went to a great cause. Would have been a bargain at twice the price. I know for sure Tim and I are thrilled to have been part of the “statistically impossible” Gritty Cop Show Game. I highly recommend.


  4. Smiling over here, sounds like a great game, and well worth every penny raised for charity! Congrats to all!

  5. Before I even start reading the recap this audience member wants to shout out to Tim for NAILING the grey man persona. Just sayin. Now back to the recap of what was a wonderful thing to watch and y’all should have been there. Everyone else was gonzo too but Tim was so tactical.

  6. It was every bit as thrilling as it sounds here and more. What a great team of players and CM (Cop Master)

  7. God, this sounds like how we played D&D with the white box edition. Focus on storytelling and not on the complex rules that killed my interest in RPGS.

    And Gritty Cop Show is such a perfect idea. You can add characters from other eras like Joe Friday (stern, laconic, VERY law and order), and even a Victorian version where it can really get wild!

  8. Is this a great country or what? Here we have a bunch of guys who could have just written a check to the charity for the tax write off (got to meet that Schedule A floor, right?). No, they bid against some other people to raise more money so they can all have fun! Then they tell us all about it so we can enjoy it.

    Groovy cool. Thanks all around; and that’s from an uncle of a niece who spent 2-1/2 months in the hospital for heart surgery beginning at 10 weeks. The hospital was four hours from home. She’s 27. (Praise God!)

  9. Oh. My. God.

    That was an amazing read. Leave it to Larry to make a session synopsis into an ‘edge-of-the-seat, laugh-out-loud’ experience.

    Larry once “confessed” that Monster Hunter International started out as “gun porn”. GCS most certainly qualifies as “cop show porn”.

    Thanks for sharing.

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