Weekly Round-up: GUMSHOE Kids Playtest, Maelstrom Dreamers – Session 0

It turned into “moon” week around here as Jupiter’s Io and our very own Luna featured in the storytelling in two very different ways…

GUMSHOE for Everyone!

If you haven’t heard, Pelgrane Press is taking their GUMSHOE engine into the little gamer market with a title called, currently at least, GUMSHOE Kids. Their playtest runs until the end of May 2020, so if you’d like to get on board there’s still a little time.

Broadly speaking, GUMSHOE allows players to gather clues based on a suite of Investigative Abilities, and so play becomes about deciding what the clues mean and how to act on them, rather than grinding away to get them. When there are action scenes, players use General Abilities to fight, move, etc., etc.

Without getting into territory that might violate my NDA, I can say that this version pares GUMSHOE right down to the absolute essentials. In the current playtest incarnation this version comes with a couple of different settings. (I suspect there will be more as the product evolves.)

In any case here was some of my prep for the game we played this week…

Does NASA has some sweet resources for exploring the solar system or what?

I worked with letting Xander play around with NASA’s virtual tour of Io, which he was kind of blown away by. Of course that wasn’t really part of the playtest, but it gave him a lovely sense of immersion.

X, who is already getting to be a veteran of kid RPGs, didn’t struggle at all with the GUMSHOE engine. Since he brought up our session several days after the fact, I think he enjoyed himself… and I’ll be interested to see how GUMSHOES Kids continues to evolve.

It’ll be on my shortlist of things to pick up when it comes to market.

∅ ∅ ∅

Enter the Maelstrom 

After years of having Davide Pignedoli’s Maelstrom Dreamers on the virtual shelf, I’m finally getting around to playing with my friend Brian. Apocalypse World inspired the creation of a lot of games, but to my knowledge this is the only one that takes its inspiration directly from Vincent Baker’s setting. It is not a Powered by the Apocalypse game, but rather a game that explores the Psychic Maelstrom as its fundamental concept.

Maelstrom Dreamers is designed for one-to-one play. The Maelstrom player takes on the duties of the GM, most fundamentally by creating challenges that the other player, the Dreamer, will face.

Maelstrom and Dreamer collaborate in building a blasted world that brims with possibilities. The sky is really the limit here. If you’ve got some freaky idea for a world-ending cataclysm that you’ve never been able to fit into another game, now’s your chance. As long as something has gone horribly wrong, and both of you think it’s playable, you can do whatever you want.

Brian’s never gotten to play Maelstrom Dreamers before, so I wanted him to come up with something he could sink his teeth into. (We do a weekly social distance walk, so I took our Session 0 notes on my phone during one of those.)

Here’s what we came up with…


What’s the world like now?
Scarred landscape, shattered moon that’s “poisoning” the world. Funhouse gravity. Extreme tides.

The shattered moon always makes make me think of Thundarr the Barbarian a little, but we have this nice thing of gravitic anomalies in the mix, too. What could be more unsettling than a law of nature gone wrong? It also rhymes thematically with some other things we created below. 

What kind of people are in this world?
Removed. Tribal. Vast inequalities… neolithic, but also highly advanced. There’s a race to get to “the next” age.

What is the Scarcity in this world?

I really like that. The idea is that Psychic Maelstrom incessantly batters everyone’s mind, so the Dreamer will have a special ability to make people whole in a way that no one else in the world can. Whether Brian’s character, the Dreamer, can “wall off” individuals from the Maelstrom, or his ability works some other way, we’ll have to find out.

And what about that character?

Dreamer Character Sheet

MY NAME IS: Waylon

an older person. I left behind my family. I was exiled due to age, and my family thought I was out of my goddamned mind to go into the wasteland instead of accepting a dignified death.

someone in need or something to do. (We will explore this in play.)

a nimbus. (Like an old timey saint.)

an instrument or a useful tool. (A toolbox.)

regret and being quick to love. (As the Maelstrom player this sounds just great to me. Brian and I have been gaming together for awhile now, and I always get a kick out of it when he plays a vulnerable, romantic character.)

‡ ‡ ‡

icon_detailSo, we’re all loaded up and ready to go! I just need to create a settlement with a problem, and then we’ll throw Waylon into the mix.

We’ll have to see how this plays out, but Waylon may be a sort of wasteland Buddha going around teaching enlightenment. I’d be concerned that this doesn’t have enough pop, but given that we’ll actually be weaving Brian’s dreams into the story-telling, I’m not too worried.

Hell, maybe we’ll end up with an unholy hybrid of King Hu’s A Touch of Zen and a mumblecore Spaghetti Western.

Very curious to see where this goes. We could all use a little more inner peace these days…

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