Saturday, October 10, 2015

Philippine Gumshoe: Smaller & Smaller Circles

Stepping away from the more fantastic elements of Gumshoe to a straightforward procedural hunt for a serial killer, my immediate instinct is trying to set it in a local setting. Sadly, there aren't many local novels that stray into genre fiction. F. H. Batacan's Smaller and Smaller Circles is one of those rare books.

When F.H. Batacan first published Smaller and Smaller Circles—now acknowledged as the Philippines’ first crime novel—she was calling for a revolution. Or maybe two. 
Early in Batacan’s prizewinning novel, the hero-sleuth, Jesuit priest and forensic anthropologist Father Gus Saenz, reveals his personal dream of overturning the popular national myth that there are no serial killers in the Philippines... F.H. Batacan also started a literary revolution by producing what is now widely acknowledged as the first Filipino crime novel. In the decade that has passed since its publication, others have begun to follow suit, and now the genre is burgeoning. (from the Soho Press blog

The idea of having the a priest as the protagonist / detective in the Philippines is an interesting one, as it affords some latitude for the 'amateur sleuth' archetype in the predominantly Catholic country. They  have a measure of respect that allows some access to otherwise prohibited locales of people, and their position in the political landscape of the Philippines affords them some protection from some of the ensconced powers-that-be.

Also, the nature of local crime scene investigation is exposed as being somewhat behind the more modern U.S. and U.K. approaches, rationalising why observation, deduction, psychology, and ground-pounding work are more than valid in a modern world where TV shows like C.S.I. became a phenomenon.

Perhaps more similar amateur detective archetypes can be thought up for a Philippine Gumshoe campaign.

Let's Read: The Dracula Dossier (Preamble)

Not the cover for The Dracula Dossier,
but a cover by John Cassaday for a
comic book series in 2009.
I backed the Kickstarter for The Dracula Dossier, and I'm finally getting down to a serious reading of it. Many Gumshoe games have piqued my interest, but I've yet to play or run any game.

The Dracula Dossier intrigues me because (a) it involves the seminal vampire in the seminal vampire story; (b) it layers in not only a secret history of the original story, but it also; (c) layers in more secret histories that bring it up to the current day. Here's the summary, in the book's own words:


The Dracula Dossier (without italics) is an in-game artifact, the first draft of Bram
Stoker’s Dracula. Written as an after-action report for Operation Edom in 1894, it was classified by Her Majesty’s Government, to be issued on a need-to-know basis to Edom operatives on later missions. Two of those operatives, tasked for Edom missions in 1940 and 1977, added their own annotations to one copy of the Dossier, providing a few answers and many leads. 
In 2011, that copy fell into the hands of a third denizen of Britain’s shadow realm, who added her own annotations — and when she disappeared, it showed up in your player characters’ computers, or in their hands. The Dracula Dossier is the annotated version of Dracula Unredacted
The Dracula Dossier (with italics) is a collaborative, improvisational Night’s Black Agents campaign, in which heroic Agents hunt and (one hopes) finally destroy Dracula, while they evade (and likely expose) the secret vampire program within MI6 known as Edom.

Bottom line: it's a lot of reading. But it does intrigue me in terms of how this improvisational campaign works. It seems a lot like (gasp) a sandboxy investigative modern game. It sounds really cool as an overall concept, and it also uses one of the things I loved about the classic Call of Cthulhu RPG: lots of in-game artefacts that are potentially critical clues or hints for the game.

Also, it makes for some interesting alternating reading with A Red and Pleasant Land.

I have a mad idea that I'll be able to combine both The Dracula Dossier and A Red and Pleasant Land into a Doctor Who RPG-powered game, with the team members all a part of U.N.I.T. -- but for now, I'll just read.

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