Cops and Robbers is pretty much the oldest RPG that any of us played. Sure, we didn't know that we were playing an RPG at the time, and we definitely didn't consider that those running shoot outs we had over backyard fences were actually an early form of LARPing (Live Action Role Playing for the uninitiated), but that is exactly what they were. There is something very basic there, Cops versus Robbers, that speaks to us from childhood, and, if the current listing of TV programming is anything to go on, still speaks to us today. It's not quite good versus evil, there are enough shows about crooked cops and heart of gold thieves to prove that, but it is still something there on a fundamental level. Order versus Chaos perhaps? Whatever it is there is a draw, and yet, I haven't seen many games out there that are based around playing Cops and Robbers over the table top, and it is something I've been giving a lot of thought to lately. Why? Well, read on to find out.
First of all, let me just say that I am not saying that there are no cop games out there, just that I haven't seen them. There are some heist games (Leverage comes to mind), but nothing has stuck out and caught my attention that is billed as a "Cops" game. This may be because a police officer leads a regimented and strict life, much like someone in the military, and that very regimentation makes a game hard to do, but I still think there is some draw to the idea of a police game.
Obviously police games can lend themselves well to mystery stories, especially with the stone cold "Who done it?" situations that you can end up in, but you don't have to look much further than modern cinema to see how a Police game can also have heavy action elements. High speed chases, shoot outs, hostage situations, bomb defusals, the whole lot and more can come up in a police story.
However, those movies do have one flaw, which is mostly that they focus on one, or two, cops, while your average table top will have 4 to 6 players. That's fine then, just take a cue from one of the dozens of police shows that are, or have been, on TV. Instead of doing the single cop movie, you go for the show about a special task force formed to take down someone big. Gang busters, or a drug unit. Alternatively, you can split the PCs up between different departments and give them separate, but intertwining, cases to solve. The Homicide Detective finding that his jane doe was the girl of the club owner that Mr. Narcotics Detective is looking into for distributing cocaine, and the Organized Crime Unit wants for the potential mob connections.
It goes without saying that the chances for Role Playing are very high. You have interactions between the cops, between cops and robbers, cops and civilians, interrogations, undercover work, not to mention informants, snitches, and reporters looking for a story. The variety of RP possible here, and that is in fact probable, is rather high which could make for a fun, and very social game. The mystery element is also obvious - if desired, and I've already talked about bringing action into the game.
There is more than enough that I wonder why a game hasn't fully tried to take it on. Or why I've never seen someone run a police game for table top. It is something I kind of want to try now though, and I think I'll be putting up more thoughts on it, and ways it could go, as this week goes on if nothing else. (*appends a 'part 1' to the post title*)
So, how about you? Have you ran a police game? Or had a police PC in your game where their ties to the force was an issue? How did it go? How did you do it? Did people have fun?