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A streamlined mystery tabletop RPG.
780 backers pledged AU$ 13,334 to help bring this project to life.

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AU$ 13,334

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The Grey Cells campaign is into its closing days! Massive and sincere thanks to everyone for the massive support and enthusiasm that's been shown so far. Not only has the campaign been fully funded, but every stretch goal has been met, assuring that Grey Cells will support not only modern mysteries, but also Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Lovecraftian mysteries! If you'd like to learn more about the game, here are some additional places to look!

You can find the Google Drive folder containing the case files and all profile cards related to the case by following this link.

If you'd like to see Grey Cells in action, you can see me playing Death of a Survivor with backers in this video.

I was also a guest on Professor Jimbles' Dicebag Podcast and Professional Goblins to talk about Grey Cells, including its past, its design principles and its future!

Grey Cells is a game of unravelling mysteries. It’s about stepping into a dark morass of crime and deceit, and piecing together nuggets of truth into a full picture of what really happened. Players take the roles of investigators of all stripes - policemen and detectives, reporters, scientists, socialites and criminals (reformed or otherwise).

Every character wields powerful tools to shake loose information from the world. When making deductions, some character abilities can build on the information you’ve gathered to help you connect the pieces more clearly. This makes it much less likely that players become stuck without recourse.

And once you have that information you can start making deductions yourself, or you can have your character help you. Several character abilities assist in interpreting evidence, and can help put your deductions on the right track. They’ll never solve the case for you, but they allow you to utilise your character’s experience in the field to aid in the deductive process, should you need it.

The game emulates your favourite crime fiction genres, whether that be a civil and proper Cozy mystery such as a Hercule Poirot adventure, a hard-boiled detective flick like The Big Sleep, and more! It also provides advice on how to make your game feel the way you want.

Grey Cells is a race, and the villain is already a step ahead. They have their own agenda - the thief escapes with their prize, the hacker erases their tracks, the killer stalks their next victim. Take too long to catch them, and they could be long gone.

Cases can involve a lot of dialogue with non-player characters, be they witnesses, suspects or even friends and allies brought into the world by the players themselves. However, Grey Cells doesn’t have a Charisma stat to help you convince and manipulate them. Instead, how well you can persuade or intimidate someone depends on how much you know about them. Discover what they want, what they fear, and what their dirty secrets are and you’ll have them talking in no time.

This creates a more thematic experience - people won’t cave until you have something to press them with. Also, since success is dependent on something that’s not on your character sheet, each player’s voice is equally powerful; you don’t have to stand aside while the persuasive character does all the talking.

Writing mysteries can be tremendously challenging, especially for a roleplaying environment. This is why the game includes tools to help gamemasters weave their own mysteries, expanding and connecting elements of the story until they have a full web of mystery. Furthermore, you don’t need to lay every piece of the puzzle beforehand - the same mechanics that help keep the investigation’s momentum going also help the gamemaster create clues during the course of play.

Crafting a compelling case still requires more preparation than many other types of roleplaying adventure, but it’s one of Grey Cells’ goals to make the process as smooth and effective as possible.

- 83 pages of content

- Basic rules of play

- Guidance on how to play in different genres: Great Detective, Cozy, Hard-Boiled, Police Procedural and Thriller

- Six unique backgrounds for player characters: The Beat Cop, The Crook, The Detective, The Reporter, The Scientist and The Socialite

- Special actions to uncover new information, engage in combat, and more

- Rules for adding permanent new characters to the game in the form of Contacts

- Rules for Exploits: Special advantages representing your investigator’s strengths

- Rules for Momentum Powers: Potent abilities to make breakthroughs in the case, and other special effects

- Extensive guidance on how to create and run a mystery adventure

- Rules for making custom backgrounds

The core rules of the game are already complete. The game is playable, and in terms of rules all that remains is to tweak and perfect them. This will require more playtest sessions to find weaknesses in the design and improve the systems and verbiage used in the rules.

The zine will require numerous art assets. Of these, the most important will be character designs to represent the six character backgrounds available to the players. They will reflect not only the background but also an associated genre. These character concepts will be used in illustrations throughout the rest of the zine.

Several stretch goals are available, including supplementary materials for the game. If the goals are met, any backers receiving PDF or printed copies of the core game will also receive PDF or printed copies of the additional materials, as matches their tier.

It all started with Poirot and cake. My friends and I would gather to watch Agatha Christie mysteries and enjoy unhealthy quantities of cake. Eventually, this interest overlapped with our passion for roleplaying games, and we tried our hand at creating investigative crime fiction adventures.

Although the adventures were fun, it always felt like we were playing two separate games. The games we played were great for epic combat and high adventure, but the rules took a back seat when it came to investigation and deduction. I decided to make my own game that put the investigation itself in the spotlight.

I’ve studied game design and participated in multiple Game Jams. With my history of tabletop roleplaying I wanted to use that knowledge to create a game that supported and encouraged the inquisitive style of play we were after.

UPDATE:

Thanks to the massive support received, I'm adding Discord & playtest access to the Junior Detective ($3) tier! Also, the Detective ($5) tier and upwards will gain access to weekly update emails, including development notes and artwork to be included in the final book! Unfortunately the text on the backer rewards can't be changed after launch (which makes sense!) but rest assured that you'll get them!

UPDATE:

I've completed the first set of playtest case notes for Grey Cells, and as promised they are going to be freely available. The following link goes to a google drive folder that contains not only the PDF of the case notes, but also JPEGs of all the Profile Cards involved in the case.

Death of a Survivor is a hard-boiled mystery that should take about two 4-hour play sessions to complete. Full disclosure: Most playtest cases will be a bit shorter than this one, but I will try to maintain this standard of quality. Furthermore, playtest cases will be from all of genres supported by Grey Cells, including Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Lovecraftian cases as development continues.

I hope this gives you an idea of what Grey Cells has to offer, and that you enjoy Death of a Survivor!

Also, if you'd like to see an example of how this case works in action, you can find a recording of the playtest here!

Risks and challenges

This is not the first game I’ve designed, but it will be my first professional release. However, this is not the first iteration of Grey Cells - throughout its development it has had two major rewrites, replacing, redesigning and improving large portions of the game. Now it has reached the stage where it can stand on its own, and I’m ready to share it with a wider audience.

With the core of the game nearly complete, the most risk lies with the design and illustration of the zine itself. Preparing enough illustrations to fill the zine could take longer than I’ve accounted for and cause delays, but in this event I will recruit additional artists to assist in production.

As a black and white zine, printing risks are low even with a zine of this length. Distribution could face delays depending on shipping factors, but even in the event of delays backers would have the PDF available to them.

This is my first crowdfunding campaign, and while I’m going in with eyes open there may be issues I have not anticipated, especially surrounding pricing and shipping. If issues arise, I will be as transparent as I can be and try to resolve them in a manner that is as fair as possible to the backers.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 3 or more About $2

    Junior Detective

    Receive a PDF copy of the Grey Cells playtest rulebook, as well as a PDF copy of the finished rules and any supplementary materials met through stretch goals.

    Includes:
    • PDF copy of the playtest rules as soon as possible
    • PDF copy of the finished rules and stretch goals
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    Pledge AU$ 5 or more About $3

    Detective

    Everything above, and access to the Grey Cells Discord channel, where you can participate in online playtests.

    Includes:
    • PDF copy of the playtest rules as soon as possible
    • PDF copy of the finished rules and stretch goals
    • Community Discord access
    • Chances to participate in online playtests
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    75 backers
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    Pledge AU$ 15 or more About $10

    Inspector

    A printed copy of the rulebook, as well as printed copies of supplementary materials met in stretch goals.

    Includes:
    • PDF copy of the playtest rules as soon as possible
    • PDF copy of the finished rules and stretch goals
    • Community Discord access
    • Chances to participate in online playtests
    • Printed copy of the finished rules and stretch goals
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    246 backers
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    Pledge AU$ 30 or more About $21

    Super Sleuth

    Gain access to PDF copies of the case notes from each playtest, so you can run them yourself.

    Includes:
    • PDF copy of the playtest rules as soon as possible
    • PDF copy of the finished rules and stretch goals
    • Community Discord access
    • Chances to participate in online playtests
    • Printed copy of the finished rules and stretch goals
    • Access to playtest case notes
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    Pledge AU$ 50 or more About $35

    Ace Investigator

    Receive PDF case notes for a unique single-session murder mystery with yourself cast as the villain or the victim. These cases will be created after the release of the game.

    Includes:
    • PDF copy of the playtest rules as soon as possible
    • PDF copy of the finished rules and stretch goals
    • Community Discord access
    • Chances to participate in online playtests
    • Printed copy of the finished rules and stretch goals
    • Access to playtest case notes
    • PDF case notes for a custom murder mystery
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    Limited 21 backers
    AU$
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 55 or more About $38

    PDF Private Eye

    For people who don't need a physical copy of the game, but want access to all of the playtest case files, and all the Ace Investigator and Great Detective case files. This gives you all the materials in digital from.

    Includes:
    • PDF copy of the playtest rules as soon as possible
    • PDF copy of the finished rules and stretch goals
    • Community Discord access
    • Chances to participate in online playtests
    • Access to ALL case notes produced during this kickstarter
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    5 backers
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 70 or more About $49

    Master Archivist

    Gain access PDF case notes of all playtest sessions, as well as notes from the Ace Investigator and Great Detective tier mysteries - up to 60 additional cases for you to play!

    Includes:
    • PDF copy of the playtest rules as soon as possible
    • PDF copy of the finished rules and stretch goals
    • Community Discord access
    • Chances to participate in online playtests
    • Printed copy of the finished rules and stretch goals
    • Access to ALL case notes produced during this kickstarter
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    28 backers
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    Pledge AU$ 100 or more About $70

    Great Detective

    An exclusive online mystery game session for you and up to three friends, hosted by the game's designer. The game sessions will be scheduled after the release of the game, and will be subject to the availability of the host and players.

    Includes:
    • PDF copy of the playtest rules as soon as possible
    • PDF copy of the finished rules and stretch goals
    • Community Discord access
    • Chances to participate in online playtests
    • Printed copy of the finished rules and stretch goals
    • Access to ALL case notes produced during this kickstarter
    • Exclusive online mystery session with the designer
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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 12 backers
    AU$
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Funding period

- (30 days)