Aspects in GUMSHOE

Both Fate Core and the GUMSHOE system have been released under very permissive licenses. In fact, when Pelgrane Press released the GUMSHOE System Reference Document, they used the same dual-license scheme of Creative Commons and Open Game License as Evil Hat. This says to me that the folks at Pelgrane knew a good thing when they say it.

It also suggests a question: how can I mix these two great systems? And the first obvious answer is to introduce aspects into GUMSHOE. But where? And how should they work?

In Fate, aspects are wired into the fate point economy. GUMSHOE's economy is contained in its abilities and their point pools. Logically, aspects should hook into pools and spends. Invoking an aspect should cost one of more ability points, and compelling one should earn points (that is, refresh a spent pool).

Note: If you are unfamiliar with how aspects work in Fate, shame on you. You can read about them here. The advice on creating interesting aspects holds true in GUMSHOE as well.

These ideas are completely untested. If you give them a try, I would love to hear how they go for you.


When you invoke an aspect, spend a point from an investigative ability. The ability must be appropriate to either the scene or the aspect being invoked (and preferably both). Invoking an aspect has one of these effects:
  • Add +3 to a general ability test. (The upcoming +TimeWatch RPG includes this rule as standard, without requiring aspects.)
  • Gain the benefit of a 2-point investigative spend (effectively earning a 1-point discount).
You can also invoke another character's aspect if you can describe how it helps you and can spend from an appropriate investigative ability. Finally, you can invoke an aspect and give the benefit to another character with the same restrictions.


The GM (or any player) can compel an aspect if that aspect could plausibly complicate the scene. Examples of such complications in a GUMSHOE game include (in addition to the examples for Fate): 
  • Missing or ignoring a (non-core) clue
  • Losing a few points of Stability (or similar ability)
  • Reduce the character's Hit Threshold by 1 for the scene
If the player accepts the compel, they can immediately refresh 1 point to any investigative ability or 3 points to any general ability (excluding Health or Stability).

On the Sheet

Aspects should replace Drives present in most GUMSHOE games. Particularly, each character should choose one High Concept aspect and one Trouble aspect. Together, these fill the role that Drives normally perform. In addition, you should come up with one more aspect to make the character a little more interesting. Three aspects should be fun without bogging down the GUMSHOE flow with a constant search for invokes and compels.

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