Resources for a Detective/Noir campaign

SJB

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I suppose it depends on how loosely one is using the term, since film adaptations of both hard-boiled and noir stories tend to fall into the film noir genre. For example, Chandler's The Big Sleep is a classic hard-boiled detective novel, but the 1946 movie is generally considered an example of film noir.

I think most RPG players are likely to be more interested in the hard-boiled genre than the kind of deeply flawed and likely doomed protagonists you find in noir fiction like Double Indemnity. Then again, there have been several noir playsets for Fiasco...
Indeed. Thanks to noir cinematography it took me decades to work out that hardboiled and noir are in fact diametrically opposed genres.

I haven’t played Fiasco but the tag line about “low impulse control” suggests it’s all noir.

I nominated CoC as the most appropriate noir rules. But maybe it should be Gygaxian AD&D? Tournament play, tricks, traps, thieves, assassins, PvP, DM Dickhead, treasure seekers destroyed by their own cupidity.
 

CT_Phipps

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Indeed. Thanks to noir cinematography it took me decades to work out that hardboiled and noir are in fact diametrically opposed genres.

I haven’t played Fiasco but the tag line about “low impulse control” suggests it’s all noir.

I nominated CoC as the most appropriate noir rules. But maybe it should be Gygaxian AD&D? Tournament play, tricks, traps, thieves, assassins, PvP, DM Dickhead, treasure seekers destroyed by their own cupidity.

I tend to take the storytelling view that genres should be a wider rather than smaller tent. Specifically, hardboiled detective fiction is about tough men solving mysteries and noir fiction should be about fiction taking place in crapsack corrupt worlds where the protagonist's morality may as well be pissing in the wind. Which is to say not necessarily opposed and very often complimentary.

Note that my motivation is actually due to the fact that I often got in a lot of these sorts of debates trying to get my Literature Masters and found out that the academic definition of genres was very often diametrically opposed (as you say) to the popular consensus of them.
 

CT_Phipps

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Chinatown is a great movie.

Jack Nicholson's wholly produced, directed, and starred in sequel, THE TWO JAKES is a surprisingly good follow-up. It had a tough act to follow with its predecessor widely considered one of the greatest movies of all time but it's a really solid and entertaining story. It also works best if you watch Chinatown immediately before it.

The movie essentially being a mirror inverse of Chinatown. Chinatown is about the tragedy that befalls Jake as he thinks he's in a small-scale story about a wife offing her cheating husband when he's actually in a massive land fraud deal with a woman trying to escape an abusive home with her daughter.

The Two Jakes is where Jake assumes it's once more a massive land swindle and oil deal when it's actually about a man trying to protect his wife from a man blackmailing her with the fact she's a product of incest. The former has one of the most infamous downer endings in cinema while the latter one is fairly upbeat.
 
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Gringnr

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Not really apropos to this thread, as it's a neo-noir, but man, After Dark, My Sweet is such a good damn movie. Jason Patric is amazing in this. Plus it reminds me of living in the Coachella Valley in the '80s.





























 

finarvyn

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film adaptations of both hard-boiled and noir stories tend to fall into the film noir genre. For example, Chandler's The Big Sleep is a classic hard-boiled detective novel, but the 1946 movie is generally considered an example of film noir.
I guess I don't really understand the difference. In my mind, hardboiled detective has always been an example of noir. Perhaps it's because of examples such as what Doctor Wombat mentioned. :sad:
 

Fenris-77

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I guess I don't really understand the difference. In my mind, hardboiled detective has always been an example of noir. Perhaps it's because of examples such as what Doctor Wombat mentioned. :sad:
As much as I am a very educated fellow, specifically in the areas of History and English, I find academic notions about genre to be immensely annoying. I like genre as an explanatory tool, not as a gatekeeping function.
 

Simlasa

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I guess I don't really understand the difference. In my mind, hardboiled detective has always been an example of noir. Perhaps it's because of examples such as what Doctor Wombat mentioned. :sad:
To my mind, the difference is that the hardboiled detective is doing an Orpheus, dipping into the underworld with (generally) noble intentions and at the end returns to the light relatively unscathed. He doesn't live in the darkness, he's just visiting.
Mike Hammer is my favorite hardboiled detective (at least the early books) because he's actually a pretty nasty character... and his descents into the darkness are like a vacation for his violent/cruel tendencies. But he still returns to Velda (his secretary/assistant/muse) at the end.

Noir generally has waaaay more to do with the weaknesses and hubris of its protagonists leading them on a one way journey into the abyss... a few noirs have happy-ish endings, but most don't. Eddie Muller calls noir, "Suffering in style".
My favorite noir movie is Blast Of Silence... about an assassin. Also Ashphalt Jungle, which is probably better suited to an RPG group, since it's a heist movie with a lot of shady characters.

I agree that a certain amount of PVP action is going to boost the right atmosphere of paranoia and desperation. If the game ends with a shootout between the PCs it's a perfect fit.
 

Ronin

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To my mind, the difference is that the hardboiled detective is doing an Orpheus, dipping into the underworld with (generally) noble intentions and at the end returns to the light relatively unscathed. He doesn't live in the darkness, he's just visiting.
Mike Hammer is my favorite hardboiled detective (at least the early books) because he's actually a pretty nasty character... and his descents into the darkness are like a vacation for his violent/cruel tendencies. But he still returns to Velda (his secretary/assistant/muse) at the end.

Noir generally has waaaay more to do with the weaknesses and hubris of its protagonists leading them on a one way journey into the abyss... a few noirs have happy-ish endings, but most don't. Eddie Muller calls noir, "Suffering in style".
My favorite noir movie is Blast Of Silence... about an assassin. Also Ashphalt Jungle, which is probably better suited to an RPG group, since it's a heist movie with a lot of shady characters.

I agree that a certain amount of PVP action is going to boost the right atmosphere of paranoia and desperation. If the game ends with a shootout between the PCs it's a perfect fit.
Much in the vein of Asphalt Jungle, I think the movie "The Killing" embodies this as well.
 

Zebraman

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I guess I don't really understand the difference. In my mind, hardboiled detective has always been an example of noir. Perhaps it's because of examples such as what Doctor Wombat mentioned. :sad:

There are a few different definitions but essentially the stories and the world of noir and hardboiled are the same. The difference is the protagonist. In noir they are more likely to be figures doomed or trapped by character flaws in hardboiled the protagonists recognise the type of world they are in and while often gritty or uncompromising are driven for justice (or vengence) anyway.

Obviously there's a lot of grey area and variation depending on the example. But the crucial point is the main difference is the protagonist not the story or world.
 

Mankcam

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I'm not sure if anyone has already mentioned the Harry Bosch books, or the Bosch tv series

It's a contemporary era police drama primarily set in Los Angeles, occasionally with jaunts into other Californian cities like Las Vegas, San Francusico, and San Diego.

The main character of Harry Bosch fits a noir character down to a tee.

Whilst it's not Peter Gunn classic era LA noir setting, many of the plots and other elements of Bosch could be very inspirational to a GM.
 
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Fenris-77

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I'm not sure if anyone has already mentioned the Harry Bosch books, or the Bosch tv series

It's a police drama set in contemporary LA, although it has some noir elements at times. The main character of Bosch fits a noir character down to a tee.

Whilst it's not Peter Gunn classic era LA noir setting, some of the plots and other elements of Bosch could be very inspirational to a GM.
I love the books and the show. I think in terms of noir its somewhat in the middle. Vry hard boiled in spots, but very noir in others. Because I don't really care about labels I'll just it all two thumbs up.
 

Simlasa

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The main character of Harry Bosch fits a noir character down to a tee.
I love Bosch, but I wouldn't consider him Noir because his motivations are generally just and honest (from what I've seen on the show).
He's very much the hard-boiled type though... and willing to skirt the law when necessary.
Some of the guys on The Shield are a better fit for a neo-noir... starting off in the light and then going past the point of no return. None of them are as cool or as stylish as Bosch though.

I do kinda care about labels... and people using them in sloppy ways.
Like with 'pulp' I get annoyed when people toss the terms around willy nilly... if anything/everything is 'pulp'/noir/whatever... then why use the terms at all? Just because they sounds cool? 'Hard-boiled' has too many letters to type?
Meanwhile I have to pick my way through reams of cheap old crime movies listed as 'noir' that aren't.
 
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CT_Phipps

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It should be noted that it depends on the type of detective because:

* Phillip Marlowe is a good man in an evil world.

* Sam Spade is just an unrelenting ASSHOLE from beginning to end.

* Mike Hammer is a bit of both (and subject to "alternate character interpretation" since when he is at his most righteous, he considers reefer dealers worthy of death among other views).

* Jake Gittes is a slimy used car salesman-esque private detective but that's because he used to be a good man but virtually every time he tries to do the right thing, it makes things objectively worse.
 

Fenris-77

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Noir is notoriously ill-defined. If you take a straw poll of the first 20 websites that come up when you search for a definition, what you'll get is something like stylized crime stories with cynical heroes and a generally sleazy environment (plus a bunch of effect stuff about lighting and whatnot). Set that next to the exemplars from the 40's and 50's and that definition is enough for me. Some people though very much like a more specific definition, but I'll submit that in this case it's somewhat artificial.
 

Fenris-77

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So, perhaps helpful here, Simlasa Simlasa - what definition of Noir are you working from?
 

Mankcam

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Harry Bosch is a hard-boiled police detective as far as character concept goes, which is relevant to this thread, given the stereotype has origins from the Pulp/Noir era.

Regarding Noir, I don’t see every single character as being bleak, it’s more just the overall tone of the setting is dark. Noir stories certainly have an abundance of grim, devious, despondent, bleak, unscrupulous and broken characters, but I wouldn’t preclude some optimistic characters as ‘diamonds in the rough‘ trying to make their way thru a Dirty World.

Pulp and Noir have always been vague handwavey terms at best, and that’s pretty much what they still are. I have read many discourses attempting to define blurry lines, but in reality these genres/tones are more in the “I’ll know it when I see it” bag.

Also, regarding my suggestion of the Bosch series, I actually don’t feel it is a Noir series, but rather there are aspects from it that could be inspirational for GMs
 

Simlasa

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Regarding Noir, I don’t see every single character as being bleak, it’s more just the overall tone of the setting is dark. Noir stories certainly have an abundance of grim, devious, despondent, bleak, unscrupulous and broken characters, but I wouldn’t preclude some optimistic characters as ‘diamonds in the rough‘ trying to make their way thru a Dirty World.
There are a number of noir stories where the narrator is there to witness the decay of the protagonists... but remains mostly unsullied themselves. Like Sam in The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers... or Jeff in Out Of The Past, who stumbles a bit but retains an ethical compass.
In a game though, it wouldn't feel quite right to me if all the PCs were optimistic/heroic.
 

Zebraman

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Regarding Noir, I don’t see every single character as being bleak, it’s more just the overall tone of the setting is dark. Noir stories certainly have an abundance of grim, devious, despondent, bleak, unscrupulous and broken characters, but I wouldn’t preclude some optimistic characters as ‘diamonds in the rough‘ trying to make their way thru a Dirty World.

Albert Finney is this in Millers Crossing. Keving Spacey and Danny Divito as well to an extent in LA confidential (they are fairly unscrupulous though not bleak).
 

CT_Phipps

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Referring to my above experience in academia, I think it's always helpful to remember that for the majority of people, the popular meaning of something is more useful than explicit correctness.

Which is to say noir and hardboiled may not be 100% accurate but it's less mathematics and more a Venn Diagram.

1669676187159.png
 

Simlasa

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Referring to my above experience in academia, I think it's always helpful to remember that for the majority of people, the popular meaning of something is more useful than explicit correctness.
From what I've seen, the majority of people think 'noir' is any crime fiction from (or set in) the 30s/40s/50s.
 

CT_Phipps

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From what I've seen, the majority of people think 'noir' is any crime fiction from (or set in) the 30s/40s/50s.

Yes, which is what leads to reductive and somewhat annoying subcategories like, "Neo-Noir", "Fantastic Noir", and so on.

For example, Blade Runner is decidedly based on classic noir detective tropes.
 

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The best noir game I've found is The Big Crime by Spectrum Games. It is rather awesome. It even has a couple of cases written for it as well. I love film noir and have wanted to play in exactly this kind of game for eons.

You wouldn't consider running it online, would you?
 

sharps54

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Yes, which is what leads to reductive and somewhat annoying subcategories like, "Neo-Noir", "Fantastic Noir", and so on.

For example, Blade Runner is decidedly based on classic noir detective tropes.
That said maybe we need to call “film noir” it’s own sub-category because the special mix of the post WW2 feel of the troops returning to a changed country they might not fit into anymore plus the Hays Code ended up causing the film’s creators to be very creative which helped make a unique feel. “Neo-noir” is very much a thing because without the Hays Code restrictions the film makers didn’t have to hide the violence or find other ways to show sexual situations and relationships.

I’m not putting down the post Code films, I think movies like Night Moves, Cutter’s Way and Out of Time are great examples of the genre.
 

CT_Phipps

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That said maybe we need to call “film noir” it’s own sub-category because the special mix of the post WW2 feel of the troops returning to a changed country they might not fit into anymore plus the Hays Code ended up causing the film’s creators to be very creative which helped make a unique feel. “Neo-noir” is very much a thing because without the Hays Code restrictions the film makers didn’t have to hide the violence or find other ways to show sexual situations and relationships.

I’m not putting down the post Code films, I think movies like Night Moves, Cutter’s Way and Out of Time are great examples of the genre.

It also becomes something of a misnomer in the fact that a lot of the classic film noirs are based on books that DIDN'T have those sorts of restrictions. The Big Sleep is about a pornography and blackmail ring that danced around it but it is still blindingly obviously about it if you read between the lines. The Maltese Falcon removed most of the massive amounts of homophobia and had Sam Spade call the cops on the baddies at the end but it's still an intensely dark film.
 

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Not specifically noir, but Gurps Mysteries is a very good resource on how to design and run a mystery / investigation game. Lots of good tips on things to do or avoid, and how not to just make it an Easter egg hunt.
 

PolarBlues

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TV series

* Mob City: A short-lived series about Mickey Cohen's reign over the LA underworld in the 1940s. It attempts to be as noir as humanly possible, often to semi-humorous effect. It stars Jon Bernthal AKA the Punisher.

I really liked Moby City. Over here it aired on a minor channel, late a night and then vanished without trace. I struggle to understand why it does not seem to enjoy a higher profile.
 
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chuckdee

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This was what I was going to suggest.
 

Mankcam

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From what I've seen, the majority of people think 'noir' is any crime fiction from (or set in) the 30s/40s/50s.

I know Miles Davis did a soundtrack album to the french film 'Ascenseur Pour L'echafaud' and described it as 'Noir'.
I haven't seen the film, but from the snippets I don't get the impression it was crime fiction, I'm speculating it's probably more interpersonal drama:
Scene From Ascenseur Pour L'echafaud

Miles Davis described lots on Noir in his musical material at times, and I think he was referring to mood and tone

I've also seen references to Fellini's La Dolce Vita as being indie art-noir, I'm unsure how accurate that is, but there certainly is dark and moody undertones in the film at times (if you can actually follow the discordant plot):
La Dolce Vita

I think Noir is about more tone and visual appeal - although crime fiction certainly lends itself as it's biggest subject matter
 
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Simlasa

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I think Noir is about more tone and visual appeal - although crime fiction certainly lends itself as it's biggest subject matter
When I said, "the majority of people" I wasn't thinking of folks like you... or myself. More the folks I see recommending stuff like the Boston Blackie movies as 'noir'.
I don't think crime is a requisite either... at least not in the legal sense.
 

Voros

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Lisa Smedman, who wrote a number of excellent modules and supplements for 2e Ravenloft, recently (2020) put out noir/detective game for FATE.

 

SJB

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Reading Mean Streets, purchased as a result of recommendation on this thread, made me pine for the good design choices of the 2000s. Clean black-and-white layout, core rules in 24 pages, the balance of the 128 being support and scenarios. The stat blocks are all present and correct, and never split across pages. Compared to the awful over produced, incomplete, badly laid out, memory-guzzling behemoths that we get today, it is a classic.
 

Fenris-77

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Reading Mean Streets, purchased as a result of recommendation on this thread, made me pine for the good design choices of the 2000s. Clean black-and-white layout, core rules in 24 pages, the balance of the 128 being support and scenarios. The stat blocks are all present and correct, and never split across pages. Compared to the awful over produced, incomplete, badly laid out, memory-guzzling behemoths that we get today, it is a classic.
Hmm. I own a lot of new games that sound exactly like this. Not an argument, just a notion.
 

PolarBlues

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I never played in a properly Noir-based game. I wonder if you get the same sort of drift commonly found between cyberpunk actual games and cyberpunk literature or WoD actual games and the sort of novels they were based on.

Ironically I think the only Noir-inspired games I've run was a couple of Star Wars one-shots, of all things. The framing device is that all the events would occur over the course of the night (inspired by B B King's "Into the Night" track, which was the theme tune of a John Landis movie with Michelle Pfieffer). Those were fun, though not very Star Warsy. But I never approached Star Wars games I've run with the intention being faithful to the movies.
 

Fenris-77

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I think the problem is that outside very genre-indexed games (mentioned above) you get no mechanical support in a lot of systems for the things that male noir noir. Most of that is psychological, and also about setting. The latter is easy to manage, but the former isn't, and in most cases only work if all the players are quite committed to playing that sort of game.
 

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I think the problem is that outside very genre-indexed games (mentioned above) you get no mechanical support in a lot of systems for the things that male noir noir. Most of that is psychological, and also about setting. The latter is easy to manage, but the former isn't, and in most cases only work if all the players are quite committed to playing that sort of game.

Yeah noir is all about making bad choices and too many games don't get that.
 

Mankcam

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Yeah noir is all about making bad choices and too many games don't get that.
The 'GM Intrusions' rule in Cypher would be a good mechanic to thematically express something like this.
Just sayin'
 
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