Roleplaying in the World of Sherlock Holmes

Recently, there has been a fairly big resurgence of the popularity of Sherlock Holmes, what with the Robert Downey, Jr. movies, the t.v. series Elementary and the other t.v. series Sherlock (both modern re-imaginings). The copyright to most of the Sherlock Holmes material has expired (all of it in the United Kingdoms, everything published before 1923 in the United States), which allows people to use that material in whatever they like. In this case, Fearlight Games has taken up that idea and produced a role playing game set in Victorian England just after the time of Sherlock, through Kickstarter.

 

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A I mentioned, the game is set in Victorian England. The basic premise is that Sherlock Holmes is missing, presumed dead, after tumbling over the Reichenbach Falls while fighting with Moriarty. But cases are still coming into Baker Street. Dr Watson has enlisted your help to solve these influx of cases.

The game will utilize a lot of the existing material,such as characters and investigations, but will also include new content as well. The rule book will contain one adventure based on the stories and one completely new piece. This also applies to the art, a lot of the original Sidney Pagett art will be used in the rule book, but new art for some character portraits and maps will be used.

The rules will utilize a special die (you will get some with pretty much every backer level) that will affect every roll you make, whether it be good or bad. The d6 has the numbers 1, 2, 3 and then three different pictures. The numbers will let you choose which of those three numbers will be successes on the other die you have rolled. The Sherlock picture is the wild card that lets you choose 1, 2 or 3. The Watson picture can be used to gain one extra success and the Moriarty picture is the negative, causing each failed die roll to cancel out a success. Where D&D and Pathfinder have encounters involving combat, traps or puzzles, Baker Street has Investigation Scenes. The game revolves around these Scenes, having Investigators make a variety of skill rolls to detect clues, identify false clues or uncover more leads to follow. The trick is to gain enough clues quickly enough so the criminals can’t get away or make further plans. If you tarry too long, the reprobates and villains will move further onwards, perhaps increasing the Threat Meter.

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Speaking of the Threat Meter, it is a tool employed by the Mastermind (read: Game Master, Dungeon Master, Storyteller or any such name) to increase the difficulty of the adventure for the Investigators. Some examples of the effects of an increased Threat Meter are:

  • The criminals are able to move their time table forward. Maybe they commit a crime earlier than expected, or plan their escape sooner.
  • Bad press from the case is published. The heroes suffer a -1 rank in status until the conclusion of the next adventure.
  • The investigation becomes slightly more difficult. The tension reaches level 1– Rolled 1s on the Sherlock Die no longer cause 1s to be successful.
  • Scotland Yard gets involved in the case and they don’t like meddlers.
Status was important in Victorian England, and so shall be important in Baker Street. Status is used for a plethora of social interactions, such as charm, manipulation, favours, loans and getting assistance. It is represented by a number, and a series of 5 circles are the level of that number. The Mastermind can give out or take back these points, and when those 5 circles are full, the Status of the Investigator increases. But beware, if the Investigator does not live up to Victorian ideals or acts in an unbecoming way, their Status is liable to drop.
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Beyond being just a very cool sounding game taking place in a very interesting setting, the game is also officially licensed by the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate. To me, that is a really great endorsement to the quality of the product that is being made here. I can only assume that an official license wouldn’t be slapped on any old thing bearing the Sherlock name. I am also a big fan of the time setting, Victorian England and 1920s America are my two favourite. I have 1920s America in Call of Cthulhu, and now I will have Victorian England in this, everything I need.

I like the look of this game so much I have backed it. And for the level I went for, to get the softcover physical book with two Sherlock Dice, it was surprisingly inexpensive. With conversion and including shipping, it will be about $55 AUD (give or take a little for exchange rates). I’ve paid a lot more than that for books from games stores around here. The expected date is for August this year, so not too long a wait either. The goal has already been reached, so if you pledge now, you know you will get it. And several stretch goals have also been reached, including lots of adventures, an Investigation Scene pad and a Mastermind Screen (I always love screens). If you are at all interested in Sherlock Holmes and table top role playing games, I think this is a must.

You can find the Kickstarter page here if you want to know more, and the Fearlight Games homepage here.

 

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One Comment
  1. February 17, 2014 | Reply

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