One of my favorite things about writing and running GUMSHOE games is that everything in them is true. Ok, maybe there aren’t really shoggoths and ghouls and vampires—or nobody will admit there are—but a wonderful part of writing and running the games is seeing how much truth and history you can sneak into them. For example, when working on my scenario for the Dracula Dossier, I managed to dig up a map of the Covent Garden area, produced only two years before my scenario was set. Or when writing “Midnight Sub Rosa” (Trail of Cthulhu, in playtests now), I dug up scanned maps from 1936 to see which rural Alabama highways were paved with what and wrote to an archive to get the exact entry for a particular day of a particular almanac.
There’s something thrilling and addictive about getting the little things right. Which is why when @summonedmonkey mentioned that Google Earth Pro is now free, I bookmarked it to check out and use. One thing it took me a moment to see because I didn’t initially RTFM is that while it’s free, you still have to enter an email address and the “license”: GEPFREE to use it.
I’d tried Google Earth years ago (wow, I’m trying to remember how many and I’m thinking at least 5) and, while it was cool, I didn’t have a reason to stick with it. But now that I’m actually creating my own scenarios and the games I’m playing are happening in real places, it’s a lot more exciting to play around in. Extra bonuses of Google Earth Pro include the ability to create movies, overlay images, measure distances, and export really high-quality images from the service. If you need something high-res, this is the way to get it. I’m honestly not sure I even need the Pro version, but everything about it is much nicer than I remember from a few years ago.
You can bet your boots I immediately went to Castle Bran and circled around it, imagining the surprisingly-lithe Count climbing headfirst down its high walls. I then discovered how to interact with all the tagged photos both in and outside the castle. It’s going to take me a while to get the hang of it, but for someone who’s never been in the castle, I got a pretty good idea what it’s like inside.
I haven’t yet gotten the movie-making function to work smoothly for me. I was able to get it to output as a movie, but it was a collection of static frames—not a flow. However I was able to record and save a tour of tagged locations from my Blood Coda adventure. Once you have Google Earth installed, you can download it and take the tour yourself.
I’d already used Google maps to help me plot things for scenarios, but I think I’m going to start using this to actually bookmark locations, maybe create more tours, and definitely scout for better locations. The excellent 3-D rendering and street view in many major cities is a great feature for trying to figure out new locations or exactly how you’d describe some point of action in the story. Normally I consider a stand-alone program a hassle if I’m able to duplicate functionality in the browser, but this has much less lag and many more features than the regular Google maps.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to be scoping the architecture of Buda Castle in Hungary for its narrative potential.