Category Archives: Dirty Secrets Development and Playtest

I summon the design power of the Internet

So, it occurred to me yesterday that there are several designers and whatnot that read this blog. I am now going to pick your brains, if you don’t mind.

While I have a couple of smaller games in the pipeline (like Showdown and my daughter’s Alien Smackdown!), the next Big Game that is in my head is another crime game. I’m currently calling it Dirty Cities, because I see this as a sequel to Dirty Secrets. I don’t think that name will stick, but hey, we all need working titles, right?

Anyways, I have some fairly lofty goals for this game. What I want is the uber-crime game with interlocking stories (a la Traffic or Crash or The Wire). In other words, I’d like to be able to manage a cast of thousands in a city that is just as much a character as the people.

Oh yeah, plus you set the whole thing in your home town, which you essentially turn into your very own campaign setting for an anthology of crime stories.

As a bonus, it would be nice to be able to integrate Dirty Secrets games into this structure.

I’m already doing my standard media absorption for this project. What I would like from all of you is ideas on how to accomplish my goals and/or games that I could steal from…I mean, be inspired by.

For example, we’re currently playing In a Wicked Age in our Friday group, and I’m thinking, “Hey, maybe I could lift some of this for Dirty Cities.” A small part of me even wonders is Vincent would let me use the Anthology Engine to power the core of the game.

But stuff like that. Please, help inspire and instruct me.


David Simon explains how to play Dirty Secrets

First, check out this video of David Simon, creator of The Wire, talking about Baltimore. Here’s a salient quote:

“Some of the smallest, gentlest moments I’ve ever experienced have been being a bystander to how people relate to this city and to each other as Baltimoreans. The trick is to tell the stories [on the Wire] with enough insider affection and insider angst and insider worry and insider anger that other Baltimoreans recognize that it [The Wire] is something of a love letter. It’s from a conflicted and often frustrated lover, but it’s nonetheless a love letter.”

Replace “Baltimoreans” with whoever you live with. Yeah, that’s how I think Dirty Secrets ought to be played.

As I worked on designing Dirty Secrets, I found myself developing this same affection for Peoria. Yeah, I learned all kinds of badness about my city, and I’m still learning more. But, at the same time, it’s my city…the place that I love. This same sense drives my political critiques and all that. I love where I live, warts and all.

So I hope that some of the players of Dirty Secrets would develop a similar feeling about where they live. I guess we will see.

Crime maps

Okay, I just went through the last month of violent crime reports from the Peoria Journal-Star and put them on Google Maps.

Peoria Violent Crimes 2008

And, as mentioned before, here are the murders for the year:

Peoria murders 2008

And, as a bonus, here are those two maps overlaid!

Peoria Crimes 2008

If I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I may do the non-violent thefts on a separate map. If you’re interested in helping put in the older stories, let me know, and I’ll get you set up.

No, I’m not doing drug crimes (e.g. possession and dealing). First, I’m opposed to drug prohibition, so I don’t really feel like putting the effort into reporting it. Second, it’s hard to tie a drug crime to a particular place, at least from the sorts of reports that I currently have access to. Third, the point of these maps is to try to chart some sense of the danger that crime presents to people in various areas of the city. Possession and dealing simply don’t present a threat of bodily harm to those nearby.

Actually, that leads into a good point about these crimes. “Random crime” often isn’t. If you look into the news stories, you’ll see that many of these crimes were perpetrated on victims known to the perpetrator. Even in crime, it seems that it’s all about who you know.

Cheap political point

I’ve been reading The Great Neighborhood Book recently. One of the points it made is that “rough” areas of town aren’t necessarily less safe than “nice” areas of town. Instead, it is often a matter of reputation, not reality.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer this map: Peoria Murders 2008

Notice that two of the three reported murders occurred north of War Memorial Drive. You know, in the “nice” areas of town. Also, notice that none of the three reported murders on the South Side.

(Why am I emphasizing the reported murders? Well, there is that little place on the north end of town, where nearly 800 citizens were murdered this year. But no one really wants to talk about that.)

Yes, there’s more to safety than just the murder rate. I’ve taken to watching the papers, and I know that there’s a lot of violence reported on the South Side.

Yes, this is just for 2008. If I’m so moved, I might try to root around in the Journal-Star’s site and see if I can find the locations of the 2007 murders.

Nonetheless, I think that this is somewhat significant for the core neighborhoods to note, especially in the Heart of Peoria and on the South Side, as we try to address the city’s perception of where we live.

We were doing so well….

Murder #3 for the year.

Well, except for these murders, of course, which are kept off the stat sheets.

Maybe we weren’t doing as well as I thought.

A Peoria murder

So, yeah, I wrote Dirty Secrets, a detective noir game. And that meant that I read a lot of the source material. So, trust me when I say that this sounds like something that I would have expected to find in the pages of a Ross MacDonald novel:

Rolling Acres woman’s death remains mystery

Police are releasing few details regarding the homicide investigation of a Rolling Acres woman found dead in her home Friday morning, to the dismay of worried neighbors….”She was a quiet woman,” Lowe said Saturday afternoon. “But she was the most wonderful person you would ever meet.”

Lowe met her neighbor when she moved in five years ago and said Finnegan would always check up on her and see if she needed help around the house.

Lowe returned the favor, recently watering the woman’s flowers while she was out of town. She said she’d planned to have dinner with Finnegan the night she was found dead.

“When I found out she was killed, I was so confused,” she said. “I can’t understand, why would someone kill her?”

Son arrested in Rolling Acres death

Police have arrested the son of a woman who was found strangled to death in her Rolling Acres home Friday morning.

Stark County deputies found John W. Finnegan, 20, sleeping in his mother’s car at a rest stop in Toulon early Sunday. He was detained in Stark County until Peoria police picked him up for questioning.

He was later booked into the Peoria County Jail on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of his mother, Mary T. Finnegan, 43, with whom he lived at 5513 Merrimac Ave.

Bond set for Peoria man accused of killing his mother

Bond was set at $2.5 million Monday for a Peoria man accused of strangling his mother last week.

The death occurred sometime Thursday, when John Finnegan, 20, entered his mother’s room, found her sleeping and “swiftly killed her emotionlessly,” Peoria County State’s Attorney Kevin Lyons said in court, repeating what Finnegan reportedly told detectives.

Mary Finnegan, 43, was found dead around noon Friday, when her other son, 23, stopped by her house and found her naked and wrapped in bedding.

During a five-minute bond hearing in Peoria County Circuit Court, Lyons said the situation had “peculiar” overtones. He cited a “consensual but inappropriate” sexual relationship that had existed between John and Mary Finnegan for about four years. John Finnegan said he and his mother had sex the day before he allegedly killed her.

Finnegan initially denied killing his mother but later told police he felt like he was “bottled up with rage.” He also told detectives he sexually assaulted his mother’s body and then tried to kill himself.

Lyons said Finnegan first tried to drown himself in the bathtub before trying to overdose on various household medications and pills. When that didn’t work, he grabbed some money and left the house in his mother’s car.

He was arrested about 1 a.m. Sunday by Stark County sheriff’s deputies, who found him sleeping in the car. He was then brought back to Peoria.

Audio Actual Play of Dirty Secrets

Scott Dunphy recorded one of his games of Dirty Secrets and then went through the time-consuming process of editing it down to a manageable length. Well, relatively manageable. 😉

Anyways, here are the links to the three parts of the recording:

Story Shtick: “Dirty Secrets” Part 1
Story Shtick: “Dirty Secrets” Part 2
Story Shtick: “Dirty Secrets” Part 3

The third part has Scott’s thoughts on Dirty Secrets. I’ll let you listen to them, but I’ll give you a hint: he likes it.

Dirty Secrets audio review

In which Brennan Taylor calls Dirty Secrets his pick of 2007.

The Voice of the Revolution, Episode 20

Sounds like something from Dirty Secrets


A college student who branded a date’s body with a scalding piece of metal as payback for never calling her after they had sex was sentenced to five years in prison Friday.

Kristina Caban, 23, had no comment as state Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus sentenced her for what he called a crime that was “not remotely justifiable.”

Assistant District Attorney Nicole Blumberg told Obus that Caban was the “mastermind behind the plan” to sear the torso of Samir “Sammy” Sara, then 23, for having sex with her once in 2004 and never calling her again.

Caban enlisted new boyfriend Robert Testagrossa to help brand a four-inch-high “R” on Samir’s abdomen in October 2006, the prosecutor said. She said Caban lured the former lover to a hotel room, where Testagrossa and another man grabbed him.

Blumberg said the men used a Taser to immobilize Sara in a room at the Chelsea Inn while Caban laughed at his distress and kicked him while he was down.

Yeah, that’s really bizarre.

But you know what’s really bizarre? The headline. I quoth:

“Woman brands thoughtless date with hot iron”

Having sex with a woman that isn’t your wife and then not calling back is a bit beyond just “thoughtless”. Actually, it’s sinful.

I’m just sayin’….

Some Dirty Secrets discussions

A couple of Dirty Secrets discussions broke out on the web today. So, here they are:

“Investigator Investment in Dirty Secrets” by Gerald Cameron
blog version
Forge version
Story Game version

[Practice: Dirty Secrets] Be Judgmental.

This is a really good post, by the way, with some excellent discussion that will help your Dirty Secrets game.