Looking for feedback on Dirty Secrets (plus a Showdown update)

So, in the wake of all the Veronica Mars attention, I find myself idly poking at the idea of doing a second edition of Dirty Secrets.

For those of you who don’t know, Dirty Secrets is my roleplaying game of detective noir, set in your home town, last week. One person plays the investigator, who is drawn into the seamy underbelly of her town in the service of truth and justice and righteousness…or at least some of those. The truth can be a dirty thing, especially the truth about yourself.

In fact, I was introduced to both Veronica Mars and The Wire through my work on Dirty Secrets. When I was demoing Dirty Secrets at GenCon 2007, people were constantly asking me, “Oh, so it’s like Veronica Mars?” After having to admit several times that I hadn’t seen Veronica Mars, I resolved to watch it as soon as possible. And, as I engaged discussions on the Internet about how Dirty Secrets handled issues of race, I discovered the need to watch The Wire.

And now, I find myself poking at the idea of another edition.

After all, it has been seven years since I designed the game originally. I’d like to think that I’ve learned a thing or two about game design since then.

For example, I know that Dirty Secrets required significant cognitive load, especially during conflicts. Using Liars’ Dice as the core mechanic was a cool idea, but this was also the time that gameplay could come to a screeching halt, as players tried to juggle narrative and dice info plus bluffing…. It was a lot to hold in the mind.

I’d also like to allow for a smaller footprint for the game. There are a lot of components required to play Dirty Secrets. Dice, index cards, record sheets…the table was full. Maybe I could cut down the clutter a bit. I’d also want to reduce the social footprint of the game. I doubt that Dirty Secrets would ever be an hour-long game, but it might be nice to get it into the three-hour time slot. This is because I’m selfish. I don’t have the mindspace these days for a multi-session game, and I want to be able to play my own stuff, dammit!

So, these are some of the thoughts I have when I start thinking about a second edition. I’ll even admit to having done a little design and prototyping. But here’s where I’d like to pause and ask a question: what were your experiences with Dirty Secrets? Anything that you really liked? Anything that could be smoothed out? Any awesome experiences? Any really bad ones? I’d love to get an idea of what worked and what didn’t.

Please note: this doesn’t constitute a promise to actually release a second edition or even to do any work on it. I’m still in the exploratory phase, you might say. After all, I still need to get Showdown out the door, right?

Oh yes, about that….

Here’s the deal. I have a final manuscript in place. Layout has progressed a significant amount. However, my wife is my graphic designer and layout person. Part of the joy I get from working on Dark Omen Games is being able to work with her. And right now, due to some health challenges[*], she hasn’t been able to work on the project. I like all of you, and I really want to see Showdown in the world, but caring for Crystal comes first.

We both intend on seeing Showdown through to the end. But for now, the project is at a standstill.

At such time as we reach our next milestone, which would be the completion of layout, I’ll let all of you know.

[*]No, nothing life-threatening or anything, but enough to be very tiring.

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One response to “Looking for feedback on Dirty Secrets (plus a Showdown update)

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