The concept of this little excercise from Population: One is this: take a concept from a common or popular show, book, movie, or whatever, and mash it into a genre or game setting for which it was not originaly designed. Starting from the beginning and catching up, we’ve got Monday Mashup #1: CSI
Now, I haven’t seen CSI except for a few bits and pieces at the gym while I’m on the elliptical, so you’ll have to bear with my impressions.
CSI is, obviously about forensics, used to solve crimes, but what I’m always seeing when I catch the show is one character or another displaying some absolutely INSANE levels of esoteric knowledge regarding stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with forensics. Entomology. Automotive repair. Anthropology. A complicated bag of tricks to be sure.
Let’s make it more complicated. I don’t want to get too specific, so let’s call this CSI: Sci-Fi.
Ideally, you need to be running this game in a sci-fi setting with LOTS of aliens. Lots. Something like the d20 Babylon 5 that just came out would be ideal, so lets work with that. The PC’s are a specially-assigned group of Station Security assigned to investigate crime scenes on the station — the idea here is that they not only have to know forensics, but need an near-encyclopedic knowledge of alien psysiology, psychology, cultures, plus material engineering, design, etc. Done correctly, there isn’t a knowledge skill in any sourcebook that couldn’t have some relevance in at least some investigations. It’s CSI, squared. Cubed, even.
For something a little different, set the thing in the Star Wars universe, before the rise of the Empire, mostly on Coruscant. For a more mundane campaign, the group are all members of the Judicial corps; for something more powered up, everyone plays Jedi in a campaign where your brainpower is infinitely more useful than the size of your lightsaber.
Finally, if you’re groups into it and you can pull it off, you could make the PC group a special team within the M.I.B. organization (a fine RPG that can fall back on ten years of WEG’s Star Wars material for alien stats). CSI: MIB would be a little sillier, a little more slapstick, but there’s still absolutely no lack of weird and esoteric knowledge skills that would crop up when investigating strange crime scenes (in situations where it’s not as important to Cover Up What as it is to Find Out What Happened).
There we go. My two cents.