Many of my games feature a heavy investigation influence.

Gumshoe, being designed for investigation, provides a way of finding clues and manipulating clues that provides for a far more enjoyable experience.

How can I adapt Gumshoe's methodologies for investigation and scenario planning to Ars Magica?

What do I have to look out for?

To elaborate on one of the problems I've found (via a google+ conversation):

The problem is that there's no power ablation in magic that Gumshoe expects of investigative abilities. If a magi has a "completely read your mind" spell, and is good at the spell, they can go and read anyone's mind that they feel like. The system is far more simulationist than gumshoe. I'm just trying to figure out the abstraction level that can translate the investigation skills to a set of skills and powers that ablates away.

I am specifically looking for a local mapping or add-on to provide a way to use Ars Magica characters in Gumshoe investigations in their world; almost a "investigation-mode" toggle with a set of abilities that can be precomputed from the extant character sheets.


2 Answers 2


This problem needs to be looked at from a magical and non-magical standpoint. Let's look at the easier one first.

For non-magical investigations, the ability scores of both GUMSHOE and Ars Magica are comparable (although the latter tend to be higher). You could simply say that all abilities are Investigative. So that if a PC has a relevant skill, core clues are free and other clues & benefits are available as spends from their pools. There are a lot of Lore and Ken skills that will come in handy, as well as certain social abilities that resemble GUMSHOE's Interpersonal ones. You could even limit this mechanic to such abilities.

As with any mystery, a GM has to decide which pieces of information are necessary to move a story forward (as opposed to information that is merely interesting or supplementary), and how to give PCs this information. Information of the first category is given as core clues to a PC with a skill that would logically uncover such information.

That leaves you with the problem that has bedeviled GMs since the invention of the genre. The key lies in making sure that the mundane elements of investigation will generate enough leads, and that you have creative ways to lessen the effect of Intellego. Obviously, magi and magical creatures will have some resistance - and discovering why someone has hitherto magical defenses can be a mystery in itself. Likewise, it might be difficult to cast a spell before a mundane crowd, or in a location with a hostile aura.

Then consider what information might look like in a potential witness' head: did they see the perpetrator? Was she disguised? Did the crime look innocent? Were steps taken to counter the potential effect of magic investigation? Was magic used to alter the memory of the crime?

Even further afield, consider a setup in which information that is usually unknown is given at the start, and the PCs have to fill in the other details. Perhaps the killer is known to a maga, but in a position of power that prevents her from taking action or from others believing her. Or maybe the killer is a grog who has no memory of who he killed, and the body cannot be found.


Atlas Games is working on Tales of the Quaesitores, an investigative game using GUMSHOE in the Ars Magica setting.


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