The Wire

"I made up these rules in my head, ya know, about what I'd never do to get high…"

Design Goals

"All in the game, yo, all in the game"

To dos

  • Make specific. One instruction page to set up the game and the first scene. Chargen, Rules, etc, on the character sheets.
  • First scene: A crime scene with detectives, officers, forensics, etc and some dead bodies.
  • Second scene: A crew meetup with underboss, enforcers, dealers, etc, to talk about the hows and whys of the dead bodies.
  • Third scene: A hospital dealing with the one witness who survived with doctors, nurses, the witness, and maybe the detective.
  • Subsequent scenes and characters are unconstrained, and may follow the story where it will from these threads.
  • Character sheets are Dread style questionnaires with leading and informative questions: eg. Why didn't you process the evidence like you were supposed to?
  • Intro sheet is in the style of a crime scene report, so it may be read straight.


  • One city. Multiple interconnected human stories
  • No one is evil or good, but everyone is fucked up.
  • Institutions are like, a police district, a governing council, a crime syndicate, a school, a newspaper, a dockyard, etc. This is your job, but it's also your life.
  • In contrast, being a living and breathing functioning human being is important too, with normal human relationships.
  • To succeed at one you must sacrifice the other. This is why everyone is fucked up.
  • Fucked-up-ness is expressed through regular means; sleeping around, drinking, drugs, getting violent, skipping school, etc. You have to do this to release tension or you won't be able to do your job, but by doing these things you damage your relationships.
  • Institutions are neither wholly good or evil, but they are always uncaring.
  • Relationships are always caring, but never unconditionally. They're fucked up too, remember.
  • Institutions might drive you on to great things. They will also fail you and chew you out and destroy you.
  • The people of the city are connected in a web of favours and mutual backscratching, backstabbing and exploiting.


  • Dogs in the Vineyard style open and free within the specific situation, rather than top-down structured like My Life with Master. Like, 'relationship strength' and 'job efficiency' aren't rated explicitly, but implicitly by using the rules.
  • I'm thinking, you have dice to do your job, but it isn't enough. Getting beat on adds tension, being fucked up converts this tension in to dice you can use for your job. Being with your relationships just dissolves the tension.
  • Dice aren't resources that come from yourself, they're things you have exploited for your benefit. Take advantage of your friendship with a DA to secure a lead, shun your spouse to do overtime to get that survellience, betray your promises to the Commissioner to secure the money you need for the schools, etc. On your own, you are useless, only through living and moving through the city and exploiting the people there can you get stuff done.
  • These things aren't done in a mechanical vaccuum, they have story consequences. No tactical play, just hard choices.
  • A core of dice might come from your institution as a whole rather than individuals within it. These are for abstract resources and personal skills. They can still be stripped away from you though.
  • No conflict resolution, just TASK RESOLUTION, bitches! Only, the tasks are a case or a hit or a deal or a story or whatever. Usually something an institution wants, and will raise your standing with them.
  • Success at a task is usually only a cog in a larger task. You solve a murder, now you have to prove it to prosecute who's involved. Even if you do that, you haven't solved the underlying problem. The point being: Every job is pushing a river of shit up hill with a stick. Even if you make a difference, you're still covered in shit and the next torrent is rolling down after you.
  • Direct character conflicts are rare. Shoot outs are usually one-sided slaughters, arguments are usually just one guy beating down another, etc, and this can be done as a task. Competition in a scene is rare.
  • If two characters do get into an actual competing conflict, sort it out like real men. Argue or whatever. Do that roleplay shit and strike a deal with your opposition maybe.
  • GMless, obviously. Round robin scene framing. The scene framer can't roll dice though, so, they probably mostly want to play as minor NPC-like roles, or background one of their major characters.
  • Character generation is quick. Just story stuff, really. A name, a real name, their job, etc.
  • Play as many or as few characters as you like, but only one per scene.
  • Characters are written on a post-it note and slapped on the table. Link these up with details on favours, betrayals, etc. Underneath each character is whatever job they're working on at the moment.
  • RESOURCES ARE NOT INFINITE. When you take dice from someone, you are taking dice from someone. d4s are easy and free, fine. d10s represent major resources. BUT, THESE RESOURCES ARE FICTION ONLY. They will deprive the character specifically as written in the fiction, and have purely in-fiction consequences.

"There you go again; givin' a fuck when it ain't yo' turn to give a fuck"
Help please

Laying the shit down

This is Baltimore, gentlemen. The gods will not save you"

You need a table-space you can draw on, or at least label and attach connecting strings or lines to. Make sure it is clear which direction each connecting line is going. For example, if Chris is Snoop's boss, make sure it is clear that the line connecting them goes from Snoop to Chris.

Make an institution. Section off a portion of the table, and write a name on it somehow. Any post-it notes that are placed in the area belong to that institution. Related institutions are placed next to each other. For example, the Baltimore Police Department is adjacent to the Courts and the FBI. You might want to draw a big line around all of them and call it the law. Similarly, you might want to break down individual units within the Baltimore Police Department into their own sections. Whatever works.

If you're smart, you can do clever things like have higher ranks towards one end of the table, call it the top, with lower ranks towards the other end, the bottom. Then, if you want, the left and right sides can have the law and respectable society on one end with crime and the street on the other. Don't worry too much though, ain't no thing.

Keep the table up to date. As things change, move the post-its around. Stick new ones next to the old ones as characters or tasks get more complex, or over them as they change completely. Never remove post-its though, instead, write over them in thick pen "Case Solved" or "Story Published" or "Retired" or "Deceased" or whatever fits.

Making Characters

If a character appears more than once, or any player would like for them to appear more than once, make them a proper character.

Take a post-it note and write down a Name, an RP description and a Job title.

This includes a full real name and any call-sign, knickname or street-name. ((insert list of examples))

The RP description is a short pointer that describes how to roleplay as the character. So, accent and mode of speech, mannerisms, personality quirks, distinctive appearance, etc. Only write stuff that is distinguishing though. Everyone knows what most detectives dress like, but a massively obese white detective who speaks cruelly and crudely is pretty noticable. ((insert list of examples))

A job is something you do to live. No matter who you are, you work for an institution. You have peers, and you probably have a boss and you probably have underlings. You have specific duties and a place within the institution. For example, a detective might be a Homicide Detective assigned to the Major Crimes Unit or a Narcotics Detective in the Western District.

For example,
The Law: Officer, Detective, Commander, Attorney, FBI agent, Judge.
The Street: Dope fiend, Prostitute, Corner kid, Dope Dealer, Crew Soldier, Crew Chief, Crew Enforcer, Crew Underboss, Crew Boss.
Citizens: Politician, Dock worker, Teacher, Journalist.

Place the post-it note on the table. Draw an arrow from it to the character's boss, if applicable. Draw arrows from any underlings to the character.

Next, if they're important, assign them at least one task. Either draw an arrow to it, or create a new one and draw an arrow to that. Normally one task is plenty, but some characters might have a couple.

Making Tasks

Take a seperate post-it note of a different colour and write a task on it.

A case, a hit, a deal, a story, a class, a project, an administration, whatever. This is the basic unit of the character's job, and the one they are working on right now. Name it, and say what kind of task it is. Draw arrows from anybody working on the task to it. Optionally, draw arrows away from the task to anyone if specifically affects. For example, a case against a corrupt politician will connect with that politician.

Also, relationships can have tasks for a character. Connect these tasks with all those involved in the relationship. This might be attending your own wedding, going to your kid's parent's evening, paying your child support, laying the new patio.

Any details can be changed at any time to fit with the story better by writing a new post-it note and adding it next to the old one if they're both applicable, or over it. Tasks evolve as they are worked on more often than if they are simply completed.

They'll probably have a new task in no time and that's fine. Always something else going down. But, if a character doesn't have a task important enough to mention, they're just not going to show up in the game anymore except maybe as a minor role. They can reappear later if they're given something to do though.

Same shit, different day

"I'll do what I can to help y'all. But, the game's out there, and it's play or get played. That simple"

At any given time during play, one player will play the City while everyone else plays as a single character. Which player and which characters will change in play though.

It's up to the group to decide who is allowed to play which character. Some players may want exclusive ownership over all the character they create, or just one central character, or none at all. Just check before you take control of a character that you didn't make.

At any point in the game the City player can retire from the role and become a normal player, but another player must take it up immediately. It's encouraged that the role of the City is shared amongst the players equally, but no one can be forced to take it or give it up.

The City and the other players

You know the drill. The City plays as every single character that isn't important at the moment. Quite often the City'll be narrating for half a dozen of characters in fairly quick succession. Just roll with it. If it helps, if the character has a character post-it note, point at it on the table when taking on their role.

Don't bother describing static areas or inanimate objects too much though. If it's important, ask a player about it. Like, "Is this alleyway a dead end?".

The City never rolls dice. If the City's characters want to get stuff done, they'll just have to ask the player's characters to do it. Or if it isn't that important, do it 'in the background' so it's effectively described as already having been done. It's completely fine to have events happen 'off-screen'.

The City frames scenes, mostly by describing which characters are in it. Then, the players may assume the role of characters within that scene. This is a fairly open process however, and players are free to discuss which characters are present or not. The City has the final say.

It isn't necessary for every scene to have a character for every player. Every player should be contributing though, making comments and suggestions, describing the area and any important objects in it, and so on. Even if there is a character for every player, that doesn't mean they need to speak. Characters can communicate a lot through body language, etc. Even if you don't report a character's thoughts directly, show what's going on.

Changing characters within a scene is forbidden, and where one scene ends and another begins is largely up to the City's discretion.

Getting shit done

"The fuck did I do?"

Most of the time, characters will be working on their tasks. If they wanna get stuff done, they gotta roll some dice. To roll dice, they gotta get them from people, one way or another, or from being fucked up.

d4s, d6s, d8s, d12s and d20s are used from people. d10s too, from fucked up shit. Easiest to have four of each.

Getting dice

Getting small dice is easy, after all, your institution should be able to provide things. These are d4s. As long as you have the support and resources of your institution, those are available. These are always 'assumed' when narrating. They only become an issue worth talking about when they aren't there. This means your institution is failing you.

d6s are what you'd expect from people just doing their damn jobs. So, if you've got the crime lab to actually look at a crime scene, or if you've got those damn corner kids to do some business and not goof off, then you can pull some d6s from them. If they're with-holding them, then they better have a damn good reason, or you can probably get them in trouble. Most of the time, describing getting d6s is just breezed through. It's standard procedure, so don't dwell on it. As above though, it does become an issue when it isn't there.

d8s is asking favours. Might not be something big, but it's something that ain't usual, and something the other guy could reasonably say 'no' to if they're being a dick or they don't want the hassle or they just plain don't like you. What you gonna do about it? Getting these is always roleplayed to some degree.

d12s is getting serious. This is gonna require overtime or it's gonna cost the guy something. Capitalising on some good relations, and begging and promises are par the course here, or you can forget it. The roleplay here might be tense, or it might not. Friends or colleagues or crew do this kind of thing for each other all the time. It's what binds them together.

Now, d20s is sacrificing something. It's giving something they can't really afford to give. And if they DO give it? Well, shit, you better appreciate it. Roleplay here is always tense, and probably dramatic. You're asking more than you have any right to.

Also, in case you're wondering, you can do fucked up shit any time you like to get some d10s. As long as it damages a relationship to someone you care about, it's bad enough.

((No idea mechanically. But it should be probabilistically flat. Almost completely predictable. Random fuck ups can and will happen, but mostly, if you have what you need, you WILL succeed. Also, rules for perhaps making tasks contested. And working them for multiple scenes to go towards a more grand resolution. Etc.

Maybe this:))

The Task

You can only ever roll dice against a task that the current City isn't directly involved in.

For tasks that no one is directly opposing, the City sets the task's Target Number. Otherwise, whoever is opposing a task must roll on it first, and this sets the Target Number.

Rolling dice

Roll four of each die type you have. Take the highest die and set it aside. Every other die that rolled its maximum adds one to the highest die. If the result equals or beats the Target Number then succeed. Otherwise, fail.

If you fail, you're tense. Pick one of two options:

  • Visit a relationship to dissolve the tension. You're shit at your job, but so what? You still have a wife. But of course, she wants something. Your next roll must be on a task from your relationship.
  • Do something fucked up that will damage your relationship and dissolve the tension. The more fucked up it is, the more dice are awarded. From 1d10 for something only annoying to 4d10 for something completely unforgivable. Each player may give the fucked up player one die each until the remaining players think they've had enough, or you've already given 4 of them. In games where there aren't enough people to reach the maximum, the City can award up to the difference if required.

You can only roll dice once per scene.

Current Unused Quotes and Shit

Please add more.

"Happy now, bitch?"

"A life, Jimmy, you know what that is? It's the shit that happens while you're waiting for moments that never come"

"Game's the same, just got more fierce"

"What the fuck? You're supposed to be 'Good Cop'!"

Wikipedia shit

Ranks in the Baltimore Police Department

  • Police Commissioner. Instrument top-level changes. Answer to the Mayor and the Council.
  • Deputy Police Commissioner. Day-to-day management of the Police Department.
  • Chief. Command a Division.
  • Colonel
  • Lt. Colonel
  • Major Command a Unit.
  • Captain
  • Lieutenant.
  • Sergeant. Command a squad.
  • Detective. Solve crimes and gather evidence to get convictions.
  • Police Officer. Patrol, make arrests, etc.

Other roles:
These aren't part of the normal hierarchy, but are still intimately involved with the Police Department's operations:
Crime lab technician. Coroner. Dispatcher. Chaplain.

Operations Bureau
The Operations Bureau is Headed by the Deputy Commissioner of Operations and is divided into the following divisions. Each division is either split into the nine regional districts of Baltimore, or city-wide units.

Patrol Division
Chief of Patrol

  • Southeastern District
  • Eastern District
  • Northeastern District
  • Northern District
  • Central District
  • Northwestern District
  • Western District
  • Southwestern District
  • Southern District

Criminal Investigation Division (CID)
Chief of CID (Referred to as the "Chief of Detectives")
District Investigation Section (DIS)

  • Central District Detective Unit (DDU)
  • Southeast District DDU
  • Eastern District DDU
  • Northeast District DDU
  • Northern District DDU
  • Northwest District DDU
  • Western District DDU
  • Southwest District DDU
  • Southern District DDU

Special Investigation Section (SIS)

  • Commercial Robbery Unit (City Wide Robbery)
  • Arson Unit
  • Missing Persons Unit
  • Sex Offense Unit
  • Child Abuse Unit
  • Pawn Shop Unit
  • Check and Fraud Unit
  • Environmental Crimes Unit

Escape and Apprehension Section

  • Warrant Apprehension Task Force (WATF)

Homicide Section

  • Homicide Investigation Unit
  • Homicide Cold Case Unit
  • Homicide Operations Unit

Violent Crime Impact Division (VCID)
Chief of VCID

  • Narcotics Unit
  • Vice Unit
  • Gun Task Force
  • Western Module
  • Eastern Module
  • Northwest Module

Homeland Security Division
Chief of Homeland Security
Tactical Section

  • Quick Response Team (QRT)
  • K9 Unit
  • Mounted Unit
  • Traffic Unit
  • Marine/Emergency Service Units
  • Aviation Unit

Intelligence Section

  • Gang Unit
  • Cyber Crimes Unit
  • Computer Crimes Unit

Street 'Ranks'
Adjacent ranks can be combined. For example, Soldiers often work as Dealers, and most Lieutenants are Enforcers. In addition, an organisation member will often be given the duties of a higher rank while under the supervision, to prove themselves before being trusted with the rank's responsibilities and privileges. Note that due to the flexibility of these organisations, variations occur.

  • Crew Kid. Spotters, runners, sellers, etc.
  • Dealer. Look after the petty cash, run important errands, plus any of the above.
  • Soldier. Perform low-level hits, protect turf, provide muscle.
  • Crew Chief. Day-to-day management of a section of turf.
  • Enforcer. Issue and enforce commands from the bosses. Provide internal policing and high-level hits.
  • Lieutenant. Manage the flow of product and money.
  • Underboss. Manage day-to-day operations, including investments, money laundering, etc.
  • Boss. Direct high-level changes, plus any of the above.

There are other jobs used by an organisation that are often outside the command structure:

  • Treasurer. Channels money to make it appear legitimate so it can be used, often as part of a business front. Often a close friend or family member of a boss.
  • Mule Move things discretely. Not just product and money, but also responsible for buying other supplies the organisation needs.

In addition: Lawyer. Contacts with suppliers, investors, politicians, etc.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License