Recent Labors and Silent Legions

With the successful completion and delivery of the Scarlet Heroes Kickstarter and the release of Dead Names for Stars Without Number, I’ve been chiefly occupied in catching my breath. Well, there’s also been the very successful SWN Bundle of Holding offer that went up last month, and the Engines of Babylon gear-book that I wrote for it that should be hitting DTRPG later this month.

As Languorous Harbingers learned last March, I’ve also been working on a new SWN-compatible game of modern Lovecraftian horror, Silent Legions. The high-end backers of my last Kickstarter got the draft of the first few score pages of the game, and I’ve been hammering pitilessly on the next section ever since. It’s a particularly tricky piece of work, because Silent Legions is built to be a sandbox horror game. Instead of simply using traditional Lovecraftian gods and abominations, GMs are given the tools to create their own unique Mythos and their own hideous cosmic truths for the luckless investigators to discover.

This is hard, because handling the kind of extemporization that a sandbox requires is very difficult when the ad hoc material needs to hang together in a mystery. Most GMs worth their viking hat can run a random dungeon crawl if you hand them a blank map and a fistful of encounters, traps, and novelties. A random occult investigation is harder to confect out of a stack of NPCs, a sinister plot, and an eldritch MacGuffin.

Silent Legions tries to get around this issue by re-balancing the use of prep time for the GM. The comparatively commodious free time a GM has between sessions is structured toward the creation of adventure templates and regional sites of interest. The sites of interest are studded with Enemies, Friends, Secrets, Places, Schemes, and other elements familiar to those used to my tag systems, each one fleshed out lightly in a sentence or two by the GM. Then the adventure templates set down on top of that site, providing slots for the specific elements to fill.

For example, the adventure might need an Enemy pursuing a Scheme to culminate in a Place. The template was constructed with placeholders for these figures, with clues and timelines and all the fiddly little details of an investigative adventure sorted out during the convenient downtime between sessions. Then, when material is suddenly needed in play, the GM just takes out the template, fills the slots with the elements in the site, and takes five minutes to run some sandpaper over the rough spots in the join. Voila; the GM now has an evening’s adventure suitable for wherever the PCs find themselves.

Getting the Tags for the sites correct and building the template generation tools to be sufficiently crisp and versatile are both large challenges, and they’ve been consuming my time lately. Still, if all goes well, I’m hoping to Kickstart this effort at the start of November. You can expect to see more glimpses of the work in progress as I advance to the final draft that I’ll need before I can KS it in my usual manner.