Delving into Design: Echo of Dead Leaves (Part II)

Tonight, I’ll be running the guys through Plot Point Zero of the campaign. I’m curious how this particular scenario is going to shake out do to a number of factors, which we’ll get to in just a moment. First off, I should address why Plot Point Zero?

Good question, and that’s the one that causes me the most concern. Let’s run through this.

1. Unlike a traditional plot point, PPZ is going to be an optional adventure that the Keeper may choose to run or not run BEFORE the campaign gets underway. In that sense, it’s a stand alone, self contained adventure.

2. It’s designed in a Flash-Forward state (which we’ll address in more detail a bit later).

3. It doesn’t use the characters the players create–it uses pregens.

The reason(s) for going with PPZ are multiple.

1. Savage Worlds players like things to start out with a bang. PPZ scratches that itch quite successfully, whereas the initial plot point is done in a more traditional, Lovecraftian fashion of events (half-seen, rarely undestood) unfolding with the characters getting swept up in them, and may not appeal to all sensibiltiies.

2. PPZ can ratchet up the buy-in of the characters through this “vision” of an impending doom.

3. PPZ also drops, in subtle (and not so subtle) fashion some clues about how to deal with various things once the campaign begins properly. What happens in their alternate personas are events that each character can process, interpret, and apply the knowledge of with their character once the campaign gets honestly underway.

4. PPZ allows players (and the Keeper for that matter) to jump into Echo of Dead Leaves right away without the worry of “getting the rules” right. They can play with little concern about longlasting concerns to characters, and gives them a feel for the rules if they’ve not played RoC before. For more experienced Keepers, it can allow them to fiddle about with the play style, and to get their group enthused about giving this whole “RoC-thing” a go.

The concerns–oh the concerns–I have are numerous Let’s look at the potential negatives.

1. PPZ is definitely steeped in some strange twists and turns that are atypical of a Mythos tale.

2. Having the players take on the role of a character “other than their own” before the game even begins is something that I have trepidations about.

3. Too much action can turn off some game groups. Hopefully, the Keeper is sensitive enough to the needs of their group that they won’t foist something on them that is out of sync to what they’re wanting to play.

This may certainly not be something for every group or every Keeper, but, as I want to reiterate, is something that is not required to begin the Plot Point Campaign. I’d just hate to think that I spent the time and energies necessary to put it together. It adds an additional layer of meaning and subtext to Echo of Dead Leaves, but is the payoff going to really be there?

You see the Flash-Forward state I mentioned earlier is, essentially, what happens should the characters fail and events go well for what we’ll call “the foes of Humanity”. It’s like what happens to Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone when he shakes hands with Greg Stillson–he sees this whole apocalyptic event unfolding that drives him, an ordinary man, to get with the program. It’s potentially a great motivation–an idea I’ve toyed with for some time and one I’ve not seen executed before in a game sense– but is there a reason I haven’t seen it? Has it been tried before in some hidden playtest and crashed and burned and died a horrible death (leaving the playtesters as ashen corpses while the designer pulls himself from the wreckage, vowing to never try THAT stunt again)? I’m game to give it a go. The rest of the PPC is tightly woven, and interconnected. This connects in on a more symbolic level. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Fortune favors the bold, and so on. [Insert your own banal, encouraging statement here.]

How it plays out, we’ll have to wait and see. I’ll keep you posted.

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