So I've got a plot which gives me a list of NPCs and locations to build, along with figuring out which clues show up where. But honestly I rather work on characters first.
I've already got the basic idea for everyone: cops in the burglary unit of the Baltimore PD plus someone on ride along, if I need a third character. Just have to decide if that third character is a journalist (in which case I get diversity of job descriptions/skill sets AND the added complication of them having no actual arresting powers plus the ability to screw up the evidence chain) OR an investigator from the Department of Justice (similar skill set as my cops, different resources, completely different aims, intra-party tension of 'this guy's out to get us,' less likelihood of them accessing up evidence).
Either way on the third character, I think I've got everybody's secrets. Which has really been the starting point for everyone coming alive for me. I suppose I could have started with professions, but that seemed like a fairly mechanical approach to coming up with them, and just not how it worked for me this time.
So, secrets. They come in three levels in A Dirty World: Minor, Serious, and Horrendous. Minor's are the default and embarrassing if they get out; no additional points to build your character. Serious gets you one more point and would "really changes your life if it's widely known, and not in a good way." Horrendous secrets wreck your life if they get out — disgraced and ostracized is the good outcome for a horrendous secret, jailed or dead seems more likely. Which is why you get 3 more points for a horrendous secret. So, let's look at what I've come up with.
Secret the First
'You're a coward. Oh, not of the physical stuff. You did your year in Vietnam and came home more or less whole. There's been enough rough stuff on the streets since then that you're sure you can face any sort of physical threat. No, it's the emotional and social stuff that you're a coward about. God you wish you had a quarter of the courage these kids on the force show these days, never apologizing for their personal lives, never hiding who they are. Maybe if you did you'd have had the courage to divorce your wife back when the two of you started to go bad. Maybe if you did you'd have been able to stand up to her for your daughter, who's a hell of a lot happier now than she ever was as your son.'
This seems like a minor secret to me. We've got what, shame over not living up to his self-conception of who he should be, unhappiness in a marriage, possible bi- or homosexuality, and a trans kid. And most of the focus in the writing here is the shame and self-flagellation over not living up to his ideal. Heck, I think I've left it open to player interpretation whether or not this guy's open about his kid being trans. Looks to me like he's got the pronouns down. If the secret was he was trans, I'd say yeah, it'd qualify as a Serious secret, due to the risk of violence trans folks face. But not as the parent of a trans kid.
Secret the Second
'You're a rat. A snitch. A traitor. At least that's what everyone you work with on a day-to-day basis would say if they knew you're Internal Affairs. You're a long-term embed in the burglary department, in here long enough that the head of the unit has been replaced and the new guy was never informed about your undercover role. You've never had to turn in or turn a blind eye to your partner, thank God. But several dirty cops, both inside the department and in other units, have been brought down by your patient insider knowledge. You just don't think the civvies should have to fear their protectors. Or good cops should be tainted by association. Too bad even the good ones would see your career as a betrayal.'
This one is a Serious secret I think. Word gets out, this cop faces ostracism, violence from angry co-workers, and a major turn in their career (no more undercover work inside the police department). The examples of a Horrendous secret consist of "cannibalism, murder, or betraying your country during wartime." This just doesn't rise to that level to me. So, Serious it is.
'Dad always did say you were blessed with too much imagination. You're a coward. The idea of a fight scares the heck out of you. Just thinking about the possible consequences makes you sick to your stomach and your skin prickle. That's why you made sure your career has stayed as far from the rough stuff as possible. You want to protect and serve as much as the guys walking the beat, you just know you've got to work with YOUR strengths: people and paperwork.'
This last one would require some rewording if I go with the journalist. Also, I'm not too happy with it in general. On the one hand, it works as a nice parallel to the first secret. On the other, it feels like all these secrets are of one particular type: hiding how you don't fit the face you present to the world.
um. That's kind of the definition of a secret, isn't it? Gah. Let me try again. They're all about, in one way or another, hiding how you are, not something you've done.
Either way, this one would also qualify as a Minor secret, keeping in parallel with the first one I wrote up.
So, that's the secrets. For professions, I'll make the cop a Defender (let's him slide abilities between Courage and Endurance), the IA cop a Detective (Selfishness and Observation), and the journalist/DOJ investigator (I really need to pick one.... DOJ it is) an Academic, so they'll be able to slide abilities between Generosity and Demonstration. And, in order, let's name them Michael, Kendra, and James.
NPCs, locations, and clues write up next week. Meanwhile, if anyone's got a better idea for DOJ James's secret, please, lay it on me. That third one is the weakest of the lot and I'd love to give a player more to work with for that character.