A downloadable game

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We Used To Be Friends is a collaborative teenage detective drama game. As a group, you’ll create your teenagers, the city they live in, and a season-long mystery that ties them all together. 

We Used To Be Friends involves a series of interwoven mysteries. You’ll have your season mystery, every character has their own personal mystery, and each session has its own episode mystery. Since the game is collaborative, you’ll investigate locations to find clues and then apply those clues to the various mysteries, moving them along as you discover what happens together. No one needs to plan it out before you play. You can pick up the game and immediately begin to figure out who did it.

While the mysteries are going on, the characters still live their lives. They have friends, enemies, acquaintances who are all around them. They open up to each other, they fight over their feelings, and get into trouble while figuring out what happened. Part of the essential conflict and drama of We Used to be Friends is balancing the tension of the mysteries with the reality that these characters all have to live in the same town.

CategoryPhysical game
AuthorFirestorm Ink
Average sessionDays or more
MultiplayerLocal multiplayer


Buy Now$5.00 USD or more

In order to download this game you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $5 USD. You will get access to the following files:

we_used_to_be_friends_ashcan_0510b.pdf 3 MB
WUTBF_-_City_and_Mystery_Sheets.pdf 516 kB

Development log

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(2 edits)

We Used To Be Friends is an arc-based teenage-detectives game that takes a lot of its influence and tonal pointers from Veronica Mars.

It's 50 pages, runs on the PbtA engine, and has really extraordinarily clean and good layout, although no illustrations.

Somewhat surprisingly, We Used To Be Friends is both GMless and a mystery game. These two elements are totally doable independently, but their nature makes them hard to combine.

That said, We Used To Be Friends pulls it off by giving a lot of advice on how the game is meant to be played---and also through some clever mechanical innovation.

In order to be suspenseful, a mystery needs to have information that's hidden from the players. We Used To Be Friends hides that information behind dice rolls and the choices of other players. Furthermore, it adds an extra layer of atmospheric suspicion by having multiple mysteries running concurrently. Every 'episode' or scenario has a mystery, but so does every PC---and the player mysteries are long arcs that stretch across multiple episodes and involve the recurring cast, making the game a *really* effective vehicle for long-running character drama.

There's also some other cool mechanical flourishes in We Used To Be Friends. For example, there are five core Moves and five core stats, and you get to lock a stat to each Move. So your Fight might be based on spotting weaknesses, but your friend's Fight might be based on throwing wild haymakers. There's also a sort of Dunbar's Number friendship system, where the more friends you have, the less strong those individual relationships are. The fewer friends, the tighter the bond. And how and where your friendship is allocated can shift over the course of a single episode of play.

Overall, even if you're not usually sold on GMless games or mysteries, I think this one is worth checking out. It *really* does a good job of using the other players as a sort of 'chorus' to GM scenes, but it *also* makes sure individual PCs get to have strong time in the spotlight and cool arcs with a lot of personal intensity. It's strange to see a game so successfully committing to elements that push in such different directions, but the result is a wonderful alchemy.

Minor Issues:

-This page doesn't show up when I search "We Used To Be Friends". It only shows up in the search results if I search for "ashcan". No idea what's causing that, but it makes it harder to find casually.

-Some section headings are missing caps from some words. Not sure if this is stylistic and intentional.


Thank you so much for the review!

Thank you for writing the game!

(1 edit)

Hey, Jonathan.  I just bought and read through "We Used To Be Friends" and I had a question.

Maybe I just missed it, but the playbooks and moves mention "bank 1 Clue", but I never saw where "banking a Clue" was defined or explained.

The only thing I saw that mentioned a "banked Clue" was the Gumshoe move.

How do you use a Clue that you have banked?  Is it just used as part of the Gumshoe move to ask questions?

Hey! Yeah, one of the things I did notice afterwards was that we cut things down to try to fit work count but probably shouldn't have.

I've gone back over the text, as you may be seeing, and making sure this is super defined but here's the quick version of it.

With clues you can do three things with them (the third one may not make the final cut but I'm putting it in here in case the language is still in the Ashcan)

  1. Bank CluesThis is basically you taking a clue and putting it in under your control. You can set it up as a personal, or episode clue but basically you create the clue.
  2. Place Clues: This is where you put the clue on a suspect in the associated mystery. 
  3. Spend Clues: This is where you get rid of clues for other effects (but may not make the final cut).

Hopefully that answers the question.

(1 edit)

Thanks for answering my question so quickly.  I appreciate it.

Follow-up question...

Do you define the Clue when you bank it or do you define it later when you place it as an Episode or Character Clue?

I can see where you could do it both ways and I'm not sure what your intention is.

You define what the clue is when you get it, both as what it is and where it goes (personal v. episode), but you define the context when you place it.

Thanks!  I appreciate your help.

I'm SO looking forward to finding a group for this one!

Hopefully you can! If it helps, because it's collaborative, I've had good games with 3 people playing.

Let me know if you're still looking!

Hey, I'm not sure if im missing something but I can't find a player amount in the book. does anyone know the recomended player amount?

It does have a GM, so really you can play with 2+ but I really recommend anything from 3-6 being optimal. Just gives people enough time to get some spotlight and some mystery stuff happening.

I got this game 2 years ago at GenCon and I SUPER love it!! My friends and I played about 2 episodes (we are slow). I like the cliffhanger mechanics, the character tropes, and the way that stats & moves are connected to each other. It was challenging to find ways to put the mystery together without a plan & the friendship/relationship mechanics were a bit unclear to us. Regardless, I love the vibe of this game & the length of the rules is great for me. (lol). PLAY THIS GAME!!!!!

Yay! Glad you like it!

Working the final version of the game, and part of that is giving more help with mysteries and cleaning up Friendship moves too!