Eternal Lies Design Notes #1

Reposted from Game Playwright:

by Jeff Tidball

Eternal Lies is a beast of a campaign, and although it was announced a while ago, don’t let the relative radio-silence fool you. Will and I have been hard at work conceiving, breaking down, and then writing the locales and make up the greater campaign. If you follow me on Twitter (@jefftidball) or search for the #EternalLies hashtag there, you can get a sense of the grim travails that my Monday-night playtest group has already experienced. (And nobody tell them, but they haven’t even quite reached the end of Act One yet!)

The overall goal with Eternal Lies—the one that’s written in giant letters at the top of the conceptual whiteboard—is to write a worthy spiritual heir to Chaosium’s legendary Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign for Call of Cthulhu. (Although, to be clear, Eternal Lies has nothing to do with Masks. We’re trying to create a campaign of that magnitude and quality, not write a sequel to its events.) Having that pole star to follow has been helpful. Whereas it’s sometimes tempting to constrain circumscribe a given location, or subplot, or locale, asking “WWMoND?” always points us in the direction of awesomeness rather than ease or safety.

One of my tasks last week was to create the set of pre-generated Investigators that Eternal Lies players can use if they don’t want to create their own. Although I have trouble imagining starting a campaign with a PC that I didn’t create myself, those players exist, and it makes sense to give them a hand. And these pre-gens also serve another, and entirely probable, eventuality: They’ll be handy replacement Investigators in the likely event that the first (or second, or third…) wave of player-generated PCs die or go mad. As an example of the “extra mile” of quality we’re trying to inject throughout Eternal Lies, each character has statistics for three-, four-, and five-player group sizes (since the character creation rules vary slightly depending on party size), and each character includes a set of notes on how that Investigator can be cast in the opposite gender, for a player who wishes to do so.

I’d love to write more about the specifics of the campaign, but extreme spoiler paranoia is leading me to delete points of interest as fast as I can write them down. (In fact, Will and I recently sent a blizzard of e-mail back and forth about the advisability of liberal use of the names and labels associated with certain [REDACTED] in certain portions of the campaign text itself, lest a player spoil his fun by accidentally glancing behind the GM’s screen at an open book while on his way to grab a beer from the fridge during play. Don’t doubt our paranoia on this front!)

Assuming we can think of things to write about that won’t ruin your eventual fun, we’ll try to keep you posted on our progress every couple of weeks from here on out.

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