Monster of the Week: The Gumshoe Class Guide

Maybe it was inevitable that I’d stumble into this world. Learning to find dirt no matter where hidden, skulking around at night following another cheating couple, a kid with suspicious friends, but imagine my shock the first time I realized this case was different…that it made it all different. So might start the character building process for The Gumshoe, one of the new hunter classes introduced in Tome of Mysteries, the first expansion book Evil Hat published for the Monster of the Week gaming system (highly recommend, btw).

Deciding on a one sentence code with your Keeper to determine that personal code that you adhered to no matter what, and working with the group to help develop your backstory and how you came into the world of monster hunting, the Gumshoe is sharp, charming, and uses every bit of wit and skill they have to avoid being taken down in a supernatural world clearly punching above their weight class.

You won’t understand this…When I take a case, I’m supposed to do something about it. You’re supposed to do something about it whether you like it or not. You’ve got to pay for what you’ve done, sweetheart, whatever it is I might feel about you. Yes, I’ll have some bad nights, but I’ll still have myself.

Monster of the Week, Tome of Mysteries, p. 32

The Gumshoe class is a great addition to the Monster of the Week system and makes sense as if there’s any profession that almost inevitably seems drawn to stumbling over that other hidden world, the Gumshoe is right up there…and also serves as a potentially great “Frienemy” of any Crooked player in the group.

Gumshoe monster of the week
Gumshoe with a gun about to have a very bad time. Such is the life of the persistent dogged private investigator in the Monster of the Week world.

The Gumshoe can be an extremely fun class that brings a variety of skills, beliefs, and skills to the table. They start out with two moves that every Gumshoe must have and then pick one from other options…at least until they level up. There’s going to be a lot here for people who love the classic cinematic gumshoe whether it’s the newer references or the really old school Humphrey Bogart fans.

Let’s dive in and look at the MOTW Gumshoe class more closely!

What Is the Gumshoe Class In Monster of the Week RPG?

The Gumshoe Class is all about the private detective who is tenacious in investigating a job, stands by a personal code that they adhere to even when breaking it would be easier or more profitable, and good ones are almost inevitably going to eventually find something they don’t know how to explain or deal with, leading them to contact with other hunters.

One of the defining points of the classic Gumshoe is that personal code of ethics or honor. This is an old school trope from Gumshoe movies and it’s also an important mechanic for this class as the Gumshoe Code not only is a major part of your role playing but it is a one-sentence code that you work with your Keeper on, and once they agree that one sentence becomes a code that your character is defined by (you can feel the Fate System influence here – and it works!).

Example Gumshoe Codes

  • Murders must be punished.
  • Monsters must be destroyed.
  • Innocents must be saved.
  • Laws must be enforced.
  • Evil must be exposed.
  • The weak must be protected from the powerful.
  • The spirit of the law is more important than the letter of the law.
  • Corruption must be exposed at all costs.

Each of these is a concise one-sentence code that helps start forming a player’s attitude and character. These might always come into play or they might show up every so often depending on the mystery all of you are investigating.

This code is mechanical in nature, as well, as any time you violate your code you forfeit all code related moves and your ability to spend Luck points. This penalty lasts until the next mystery or you find a way in-game to make amends.

However, you also get a boost. As long as you follow your Code people will sense your sincerity and you receive +1 for manipulating someone as long as you’re in good standing with your own code and you can not be possessed or charmed by any supernatural, alien, or demonic entity or item.

As long as you follow your own personal Lawful Neutral code, you’ll have some serious advantages over other hunters when dealing with certain types of supernatural threats.

Monster of the Week The Gumshoe Playbook

What Type of Gumshoe Will You Be?

You’re going to be at least a little charming, but are you going to be Charming and Sharp? Sharp and Weird? Cool under pressure? Charming without any notable weaknesses but not as many strengths, either? There are several ways to play the Gumshoe but the main stats are always going to be a combination of Charming and Sharp.

Let’s be real: these are the abilities you need to be a successful Gumshoe and beyond that it’s all in the detail work. Also very much worth noting: while most classes can go up to 3 in each stat with Improvements from leveling up, the Gumshoe is capped at +2 for Tough and Cool, so keep that in mind when thinking about how you want to build your character.

The Gumshoe Ratings for MOTW Are

  • +2 Charm, +1 Sharp & Cool, 0 Tough, -1 Weird
  • +2 Charm, +1 Sharp & Tough, 0 Cool, -1 Weird
  • +2 Charm, +1 Sharp, 0 Cool, Tough, & Weird
  • +2 Sharp, +1 Charm & Tough, 0 Cool, -1 Weird
  • +2 Sharp, +1 Charm & Weird, 0 Tough, -1 Cool

You’re going to work good as a face and be useful figuring out clues that others miss. It’s also worth noting that with two starting moves chosen for you, some of the work is done for you in building the character then it’s about minding the details and figuring out what style you want to roleplay your character with.

What Makes Monster of the Week’s Gumshoe Class Different?

The personal code, and the boosts/penalties it gives depending on whether or not you are playing into or defying that code definitely are the first thing to stick out, but there are some cool aspects of the Gumshoe class in MOTW that make this class stick out.

The Gear

I love the gear you automatically get because it fits in perfectly with the motif of being a modern day investigator. You get:

  • A Laptop
  • Liquor Flask
  • 2 Recording Devices
  • One P.I. Weapon

Which is pretty cool and definitely lets you grab that feeling of being an Old School or New School Gumshoe, player’s choice. The variety in recording devices and P.I. weapons shows just how many options you have (below).

Recording Devices (pick 2)

  • Night vision camera
  • Tiny digital video camera
  • Film camera (8mm or 16mm)
  • Digital sound recorder
  • Cassette tape recorder
  • Remote-controlled camera drone
  • Laser microphone
  • SLR camera

P.I. Weapons (pick 1)

  • Brass knuckles (1-harm, hand, small)
  • .38 revolver (2-harm, close, loud)
  • 9mm (2-harm, close, loud)
  • Magnum (3-harm, close, reload, loud)
  • Shotgun (3-harm, close, messy, loud)
  • Switchblade (1-harm, hand, small)

This gives the Gumshoe class in Monster of the Week some really cool things to mess with, and when investigating a mystery I like fellow hunters who can help find information we need AND pull a gun when it’s time to throw down as things get nasty.

What Do Gumshoe Moves Bring To The Table?

Even with two moves that are mandatory for every single gumshoe, you shouldn’t let that scare you off. Those first two mandatory moves are both extremely solid and powerful, and among the many moves left there are some outstanding ones that can be both very powerful and fully fit in line with what type of Gumshoe you want whether it’s extremely sharp to investigate or charming to make all the connections.

This is a fun class when it comes to Moves, and players will often have a hard time choosing the ones they like most – which is always a great sign of excellent class design. Here is an in-depth look at the Gumshoe Moves in Monster of the Week.

  • Occult Confidential – MANDATORY for ALL Gumshoes. The first time in each mystery that you observe a monster, minion, or phenomenon in action, you may ask one question from the investigate a mystery list. Great feat as it’s not only useful but it also fits into the picture of the Gumshoe, someone who just is next level at figuring things out.
  • The Naked City – MANDATORY for ALL Gumshoes. You have lots of personal contacts wherever you go. Pick four contact types from the areas at the list from the next bullet point (or from other areas agreed to between you and the Keeper). You can hit them up for info +1 to one investigate a mystery roll or small favors – but there might be a small cost involved. Personal contacts can provide more significant help but the Keeper decides their price on a case-by-case basis. This is also an outstanding move, and goes back to that “I know people” you expect from a Gumshoe style of character.
    • Academics, accountants, artists, bartenders, clergy, conspiracy theorists, construction, courts, criminals (organized), criminals (street), cultists, engineers, espionage, film & TV, forensic scientists, fringe scientists, hackers, journalists, lawyers, mechanics, media, medical practitioners, military, morgue, occult, police (local), police (national), politicians, prisons, private security, property developers, stage magicians, technologists, transportation.
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice – Twice per mystery, as long as you are following your Code, you may reroll a roll. This is an incredibly powerful Move because sometimes you know that you really, really want to make that roll! Especially in a low roll campaign, every single one counts. This is a Code Move, meaning if you are in violation of your code you can not use it.
  • The Long Goodbye – You can’t die with an open case. Specifically, you suffer all harm as normal but your death is postponed until you have either completed or abandoned the case, or you break your Code (then all bets are off). This is a Code Move.
  • Jessica Jones Entry – When you double-talk your way into a secure location, roll +Charm. On a 10+ pick three, on a 7-9 pick two, on a fail pick one:
    • You don’t leave any trace of what you searched.
    • You find what you wanted.
    • You find something else that’s important.
    • You don’t piss anyone off.
    • You aren’t recognized.
  • Out of the Past – You have a police buddy who is willing to do you big favors. get in touch with them when you need to redirect law enforcement attention, get a heads-up on what operations are being planned, or access police files. They did you a solid but that also means you now owe them: expect them to collect on it soon. I love this Move because it gives you a way to break the impasse when the dice are being mean but also means you genuinely owe an NPC – and you know a good Keeper is going to come back to collect on that one.
  • Asphalt Jungle – You heal faster than normal people, which is very useful in your profession. Any time your harm gets healed, heal an extra point. You are immune to all the harm move effects under 0-harm and 1-harm (meaning mechanically when the Keeper would apply these, you ignore it). A great pick up for the rough-and-tumble Gumshoe, and definitely helps to make up for that cap on Toughness at +2.
  • Hacker with a Dragon Tattoo – When you hack into a computer system, roll +Sharp. On a 10+ pick two, on a 7-9 pick one. You:
    • Leave no traces.
    • Learn something important.
    • Can leave misinformation in place.
    • Gain access to somewhere you want to get into.
  • “Just One More Thing” – When you ask a suspect leading questions, roll +Charm. On a 10+ hold 2, on a 7-9 hold 1, on a miss hold 1 but something bad is going to happen too. Spend your hold to ask questions from this list:
    • One question form the investigate a mystery list.
    • Was that a lie?
    • What is something you left out that you didn’t want me to notice?
    • Are you complicit with any ongoing criminal activity?
    • Did you commit this specific crime?

The multiple pop culture references are great, and fortunately the quality of these Moves makes them worthy of those references. They make a Gumshoe a great class that can be loads of fun to play.

Monster of the Week TTRPG Books
The Gumshoe is the first class we’re reviewing out of the Tome of Mysteries expansion. Character sheets are available in PDF form for free online, but we loved the system so much we bought the books to support the publisher.

Who Should Play The Gumshoe Class in Monster of the Week?

Anyone who likes the old Gumshoe movies, or tends to gravitate towards characters who are good but more of a “they have a code” type of good versus traditional golden boy or lawful. These are going to be great investigators in a system based around tracking down a mystery, and if you like being the spy, the intelligence gatherer, if you like Roguish elements but still want to be more on the good spectrum (or at least personal honor) then Gumshoe is a good class for you.

If you like playing all types of classes, Gumshoe is very well-designed and will provide a great gaming experience within the Monster of the Week system. Basically as long as you’re not pure melee, dive into the middle of the fight no matter what the system, you will probably enjoy this class. Even if you are, but you want to try to expand your roleplaying horizons, gumshoe might still work as you work on build out your social and investigative skills, and then remind monsters during combat that a shotgun does a LOT of work in almost any situation.

A great overall class and one that you will likely enjoy if it piques your interest.

MOTW The Gumshoe Class: Final Thoughts

While the Gumshoe might not necessarily have the versatility or freedom of choice of some other classes, this gets made up for with outstanding gear, moves, and some cool mechanics that let you really embrace the roll of a private dick as you start your investigations into the world of the supernatural.

While I usually love versatility and the ability to make my own weird builds, thus shying away from classes where a lot of how I have to build is dictated for me, Gumshoe is a class that is so well designed and so interesting that I am making a notable exception. The two starting moves you must take are great, and ones I would likely pick from the group even if all the Moves were open, and being someone who took film noir classes in college and fell in love with the genre, the gumshoe holds a special place in my heart.

This is an excellent addition to the original classes in Monster of the Week and will be a class that I’m sure sees a lot of play at dedicated tables in the near future.

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