Interview Techniques In Mutant City Blues

Officer looking through one-way glass at angry subject with extensible claws.This article offers advice on how to run suspect and witness interviews in Mutant City Blues. It incorporates some real police techniques, as well as those TV cops sometimes use.

This is not a game about corrupt cops who beat suspects. I’ve added a couple of techniques which will get Internal Investigations on your back pretty quickly. Examples include badgering witnesses for hours, illegal power use, beating suspects, depriving them of sleep, and lying about evidence. If your jurisdiction allows this (awful though it may be) and you want to play on it, knock yourself out. This should be established by the group in Session Zero.

In Mutant City Blues, your character is an expert even if you are not.

You can take back anything you say – and the GM should allow it. Just keep pressing ahead and don’t worry about whether you are doing it right. If you have collected everything useful you can, or if you need leverage to get more information the GM will tell you. This should be something which leads to more play – get out there and talk. If you can’t get any more from the subject, it won’t be because the officers are incompetent.

As always, cool dramatic scenes are more important than veracity.

The Reid Technique

This suits old-school good cop, bad cop players.

This technique is frowned upon in most jurisdictions, as it can elicit false confessions. In MCB, characters really do want to find the genuine criminals. Obvious false confessions are a good way of encouraging players to be more subtle and discourage corrupt behaviour.  However, if your characters have Empathy, Read Minds or Bullshit Detector, this technique might work to illicit a true confession or eliminate the suspect from your enquiries. In addition, this is very on-point for police procedurals.

  1. Tell the suspect they are in the frame for the crime, and you like them for it (Intimidation or Interrogation).
  2. Diminish and justify the nature of the crime – no one could be blamed for doing it. It’s understandable. (Reassurance or Charm)

Those barheads, right? They really wind me up. I bet they started it. I mean, if they’d looked at me wrong, I wouldn’t be having any of it. You had to stand up for mutant rights. So, you lashed out. I mean, who wouldn’t?

  1. Ignore or push back against denials.
  2. Lie about the evidence. (Your GM will let you know if this is illegal in your jurisdiction).

We have your fingerprints at the scene. What do you say to that?

  1. Giving two choices for what happened; one more socially acceptable than the other. Both mean guilt. This is also a likely time when suspects will reveal an embarrassing alibi (an affair, another minor crime). (Charm or Interrogation)

Did you mean to kill him, or was it an accident?

  1. Once they have confirmed their option, get them to acknowledge and repeat it.

The Funnel Technique

This suits the forensic, detail-oriented cop in a formal interview setting.

  1. Show concern for the subject’s welfare. Ask them how they want to be addressed, how much time they’ve got available to be interviewed, if they need anything. (Reassurance)
  2. Let the suspect know why they are being interviewed. Ask an open question at the beginning and let them talk – have them account for their behaviour. (Interrogation)

Please tell me what you were doing at 18:00 on the night of the incident.

  1. If what they say does not fit the evidence, let them lie. Then, a piece at a time, feed them evidence which contradicts their story and ask them to explain it.

We have CCTV footage of you at the scene of the crime at 18:00

  1. They will often come up with a new story when they see the evidence. Then offer any other evidence which contradicts it.
  2. If you don’t have the forensics (yet), ask leading questions which imply you do, without lying.

We found a fire projection mark at the scene. What would you say if it matches yours?

  1. Funnel them into an admission or contradiction. If what they say fits the evidence, that’s also fine. You are trying to establish guilt or innocence, not trick someone into a false confession.
  2. Get a statement from them.

A confession is the gold standard in some jurisdictions, but showing that they are contradicting themselves or that they are not the perp is also good.

Using Interpersonal Skills in Interviews

Forensic Psychology

This is the skill which gives you a hint as to which Interpersonal skill might work best. You build a profile based on the information you have, and then use the ability to get the information.


This ability means you are polite, professional and forensic, picking apart their arguments, extracting extra information by asking probing questions. Once the weight of evidence against them is strong enough, them might go silent, or invent a new story which fits the evidence.

  • You said that you were at home on the night in question. Here is some CCTV footage from the vicinity of the attack. Does the person in that footage look like you? No? We recovered a red jacket with number 12 on the back from your flat. On the footage, the person is wearing a red number jacket. Is that person you? I suggest that you know that person is you. What were you doing there?
  • You have chosen to remain silent, and you must understand that this may be used in court against you. So, I ask you one simple question, did you commit the crime? This is your opportunity to put the record straight.
  • Your powers match those used at the crime scene. How do you explain that?

Bullshit Detector

It’s not infallible, but you won’t get false information. You can tell obvious liars, which questions make people uncomfortable or if they are hiding anything, but some people don’t give any reading at all.


You make friends with the victim, empathize with them and imply what they did was reasonable. Chat with them, let them boast, be approving. This can be used in casual conversations outside of an interview setting.

  • Your mates have really landed you in it –  I really sympathise. I know you weren’t the ring leader – why don’t you just tell me what happened?
  • Look, I get it, I wouldn’t want to talk to the cops, either. Is that a photo of your grandkids? I bet you care for them. The old lady in number 70 had grandchildren, too. Sweet kids.


You don’t have to directly threaten them, just suggest what might happen to them if they don’t talk.

  • If you don’t want to talk, we’ll let you out real quick and let your buddies know how helpful you were.
  • We are looking at a custodial sentence here unless you cooperate. It’s not pleasant for someone like you.
  • You wouldn’t want us to get the health inspectors round here, would you? Just let me have the customer’s details, and we’ll leave you alone.
  • This is a nice bar. I think me and my cop buddies would love to hang out here after work.
  • If you don’t talk to us, I think that Vice might be interested in the contents of your phone.
  • You’re an influencer? Well, if you don’t help us, we might need to take your phone as evidence.

There is the option of bad cop behaviour, physical intimidation of suspects, shouting, getting into their personal space, giving them a very uncomfortable seat, turning off the tape.


Simple – offer them something they want, ideally legal, in exchange for something you want, without an implied threat.

  • Give me what I need to know, and you can have your phone back.
  • Help us out and I’ll make sure you get a nice warm place to sleep tonight.
  • I can make you into a confidential informer – the pay’s pretty good. Just help me out by telling me where Vince went.
  • Offer a plea deal or a caution instead of pressing charges.


Find out what they are worried about, why they won’t talk, and suggest you won’t do it, or will stop it from happening.

  • I promise you we’ll keep you safe, and you’ll be helping get a murderer off the street.
  • We aren’t interested in your petty drug dealing – we just want to nail the guy who killed an innocent girl.
  • Look, we don’t care that you were having an affair. We just want an alibi, and if checks out, you are free to go.
  • Honestly, you’ll feel a lot better if you tell the truth. Just get this off your chest.

Other Abilities

Popular Culture – look at their clothes, where they were found, anything in their background which will enable you to use other interpersonal abilities to talk about their favourite things.

Community Relations – show empathy with their circumstances and background.

Streetwise – lets you use the language of criminals and gangsters and recognize their place in the hierarchy.

Read Minds –ask a question then read their surface thoughts. It acts as a decent Bullshit Detector and sometimes picks up extra information. Prepared suspects can disguise their thoughts; character with Read Minds, Telepathy or Empathy can tell you are doing this. While it’s hard to prove, it’s a serious criminal offence, so be careful. If you find evidence this way, you’ll also need a legitimate evidence trail which leads you to the same conclusion.

Emotion Control –make subjects angry, or calm them down, depending on what is more likely to make them talk.  They might refuse to cooperate if they realise they have been manipulated. It’s not illegal to do this, but defence lawyers might suggest that their clients have been manipulated.

Empathy – you can monitor a subject for subtle increases and decreases in any one of the following: amusement, anxiety, arousal, anger, or sympathy. You can then sense every time that emotional state intensifies or decreases, which helps other officers know when their questions hit home and which interpersonal abilities to use.

Extreme Measures

If the crime is serious enough, and there is enough evidence to get a warrant, then more extreme measures are available. Observe Dreams (possibly combined with Enter Dreams) and Read Minds can wrench information from people. Getting a warrant is difficult (the GM determines this based on the in-game circumstances, and whether it would short-cut the investigation.)

Once you’ve got what you can from an interview, follow any leads which emerge and move on. Always Be Closing!

Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition is an investigative science fiction roleplaying game originally written by Robin D. Laws, and developed and extended by Gareth-Ryder Hanrahan, where members of the elite Heightened Crime Investigation Unit solve crimes involving the city’s mutant community. Purchase Mutant City Blues in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

1 thoughts on “Interview Techniques In Mutant City Blues

  1. Game Dave says:

    I think you’re actually underemphasizing the importance of Reassurance. Police interrogations are obviously different than intelligence interrogations (which is where my training and experience was), but there’s also obviously a lot of overlap.

    Contrary to pop culture depictions, in real life, reassuring the subject is actually often the most important part of an interrogation. You want the subject to believe that fully cooperating with you is in *their* best interests. Even better, you want them to believe its in the best interests of the people and causes they care most about.

    Some level of stress and uncertainty is often helpful, but convincing the subject that you’re *not* going to hurt them is often much more difficult than frightening them. And a badly frightened subject actually isn’t very useful – they’re prone to rambling, confabulation, and saying whatever it is they think you want to hear, which is actively counter-productive.

    In the context of a police interrogation, I imagine it would be very useful to Reassure a witness or cooperating accomplice that you can and will shield them from retaliation. Or, for example, Reassuring a gang member that cooperating is not only in their individual self-interest, but it’s also in the best interests of their gang (to avoid a bloody gang war, for example), or even in the individual best interest of the culprit (shielding them and their family from retaliation by another gang, bringing them in peacefully, etc.).

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