I've been thinking about how to handle the actual artwork on the Subject cards. Currently, my prototype for a Subject looks like this:
Which, you know, is okay, but if I'm going to be showing this game to total strangers at Gen Con, then I'd like to make the product as close to finished as possible. These polaroid frames are empty and I'd like to fill them with art!
The problem with adding art to a storytelling game is that it's really easy to let the details of the picture take over the story from the players. These Subjects are supposed to be nouns with little to no context - each Detail card the players add puts another adjective on the board, and it's up to the players to make that story work. Once you start putting pictures of people for each Victim or Subject, you start setting unintentional limits on the story. For instance, one of the potential suspects is "The Spouse." If the card has a picture of a bride on it, there's a good chance that the players are going to tell a story involving the wife as a suspect, rather than the husband. It also introduces limits on the nature of the relationship - what if the players want to tell a story of a marriage between two men?
I've been discussing this a lot and one of the solutions to make all the "person" cards neutral without losing the potential for humorous details is to make all of the people silhouettes without any defining features. For example:
In this case, you've got a pretty clear story here. The Old Flame has returned to the Victim's life, and in some way or another, one of these detectives is going to hang a murder charge on them. What it doesn't do is tell you if that leg belongs to a man or a woman, or who the observer is. Even though this obviously draws from a pretty well-known reference, I think it does a pretty good job of taking a familiar trope and making it gender-neutral. I think that using these genderless silhouettes is a good way to balance having fun, descriptive imagery on the cards while still letting players fill in all the blanks.
Weapon and Location cards are much more straightforward, and are a bit easier to illustrate:
The Victim cards are still a work in progress. I definitely want to keep them neutral like the Suspects, but they need to stand out by themselves since there's only a single Victim on the board and everything else has to relate to it. Maybe a silhouette, but instead of a shadow there's a chalk outline?