Rules-Lite Mystery Game recommendation

My regular group is playing a game of Dogs in the Bark, and the players have collaboratively decided on wanting to run a gang of crime-solving dogs.

The problem is that the core loop of BitD assumes that you’re 1) invested in faction play 2) looking to upend the status quo by expanding your turf and 3) invested in your gang. All of this goes out the window with crime-solvers, and the players and I agree that a lot of the mechanics feel superfluous.

We’re hoping to port these characters over to a rules-lite narrative system. The key criteria are 1) flexible enough to port over these character concepts 2) has a core loop of crimefighting / mystery solving.

Does anyone have good recommendations? It’s not a long-term game, so the lighter the rules the better.


Well, my first thought of a mystery-solving core loop is generally GUMSHOE, so maybe a slimmed-down GUMSHOE system like Bubblegumshoe might be something? Another possibility is Noirlandia, which I would say leans more narrative, but also is interesting in that the mystery kind of happens on the fly during play; it’s a GMless mystery game. But you get to make a corkboard of clues!

All of that would need hacking, though. My big thing is…how important is it that the ruleset allow for the PCs being dogs? :smile: Or, more to the point, how much does the game change if the PCs are dogs instead of humans.

That made me think of the possibility of something kinda cartoony like Jinkies! I’m assuming that’s maybe not the right tone, since this all started with a BitD hack, and also I haven’t read the game yet, but I know it at least makes room for mystery-solving talking animals. :laughing:


The Murder of Mr Crow : a zoomorphic detective gathers all the suspects for a few questions and a revelation. Lighter than this you’ll need a spacesuit.


@DeReel, This was going to be my suggestion. I like the Jinkies idea too

1 Like

Perhaps The Witch is Dead. It aims to be a one-shot with a very particular goal for the PCs: it’s about pet-animals solving a murder and exacting vengeance for it. That can be altered for crime instead of vengeance. It’s incredibly rules-light.


Thanks for suggesting my game, but I don’t think The Murder of Mr. Crow suits the purpose, because the OP wants to port from one system to another.

I would actually suggest Dogs in the Vineyard - it creates fish tanks (mysteries/intrigues), is rule light, have rules for relations (if you know people - get dice), and I can’t think of any character concepts that should be hard to port over to this system.

As long as they are on the good side, I think this is a great system to use, because they are going to be assholes - by using unnecessary violence.

(I honestly thought Dogs int the Bark was a DitV hack before I looked it up.)


I don’t know why it hadn’t occured to me to use Dogs in the Vineyard. Thanks for the suggestion!