Investigating Baker Street

sherlockA fairly long while ago, I put up an article about a role playing game I had backed on Kickstarter. That game was called Baker Street: Role playing in the world of Sherlock Holmes, by Fearlight Games.

Well, several months later, the Kickstarter has been fulfilled and I have received all my delicious goodies. Most of the Kickstarters that I have backed have been video games or digital content, so when a box arrived at my door teeming with loot, I was quite excited.

Opening the box revealed two books, a Game Master screen, two pads of clue sheets, printed ‘Resolve’ tokens and the special Baker Street dice. The books are both soft cover, but I can’t complain about that, having only backed it for $35. Everything is nicely printed, haven’t noticed any mistakes anywhere yet. The inclusion of the blank clue sheets is handy for those who wish to write their own investigations. I never like using things like the officially printed cards or sheets, so I had the idea of taking a dozen or so of those sheets and getting them laminated, so I can re-use them over and over.

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One book is the main rulebook, all the information on how to create a character, run a game, fill said game with Non-Player Characters and even information about how to play characters in Victorian London. The rules, overall, are easy to understand and leave a lot of room for individual movement. In character creation, there are over 30 example professions for players to choose from, or they can make their own if they want. Some imagination is required, having an idea for a character prior to creation is advised as there is one part of a character that needs it, called Characteristics. These parts of the character have to do with personality; part personal, part professional and part negative; the last of which the GM uses against the characters.

The second book contains a whole bunch of Investigations for the GM to use. 8 cases are in the book, stretch goals from the Kickstarter. The cases are pretty succinct, giving the GM a whole bunch of information on what might happen. There are included clue sheets that could be copied, player hand outs (also needing to be copied) and information on what to do in given situations or how NPCs should react.

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I have also had the opportunity to have a game of it, though only one so far. I had three players, each with differing degrees of role playing experience and capability. The rules were easily accepted and understood and character creation went very smoothly and quickly, at least in comparison to other games I’ve played in or run. I used the Case in the back of the main rulebook, which was quite short and written for beginners.

There is a part of the game called the Investigation Scene. It is where the players can roll a few dice to see how many clues they can gather, what leads those clues can generate and whether or not those clues or leads are true or false. This mechanic is a very good way to introduce players to investigative role playing who otherwise might not be so familiar with it. So if there are people who are more used to rules heavy games, or action based games, this rules set can bring them into that style of investigative play, like what you might see in Call of Cthulhu, but with a mechanic that helps them along. When we played, I changed it up a bit. I had it so that the players could figure out clues themselves, without the rolls. I let them take these clues, and then had them make a roll after to pick up some extra clues, albeit at a higher difficulty level. It worked out quite well.

So what do I think about it all?

Pros: Easy rules to understand, easy rules to play, good for beginners in investigative role play, well explained setting, ability to modify rules and be more supportive of free form play.

Cons: Some rules are quite ambiguous, doesn’t have as much appeal to experienced investigative role players.

Overall, a good game for those either interested in the Sherlock Holmes universe or Victorian England. Also good for those who wish to get involved in investigative role play but are not well versed in it. For those more experienced players, it leaves something to be desired or makes it a bit too easy. A clever GM could easily adapt it to make it more appealing to those more experienced players. I’ll get some play out of it, but I don’t think I’ll use it ’til the book falls apart. I do not regret backing the Kickstarter, and almost any role play book is a welcome edition to my shelf.

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