The Plain People of Gaming: Fruit of a Poison Tree

It’s been some time since the Poison Tree campaign was announced, even by the sometimes leisurely standards of Pelgrane. It’s currently on my desk undergoing development and additional writing. The core concept of the campaign is unchanged from those early articles – a series of connected adventures across the generations, from 1650 to the present day, tracing the ghastly fate of the cursed Whettall family. Right now, the final adventure roster is looking like:

Chapter 1: 1650

Chapter 2: 1715

Chapter 3: 1752

Chapter 4: 1775

Chapter 5: 1890

Chapter 6: 1914

Chapter 7: 1952

Chapter 8: 2023

(with plenty of scope for ambitious Keepers to drop other scenarios into the gaps – notably, there’s a period in the 1920s where one branch of the Whettall family become occult investigators operating out of Miskatonic university, so you can graft virtually any Trail adventure onto the campaign…)

I always enjoy the development phase of a book like this. It’s when you get to look at the text as a whole, and start to spot patterns and correspondences. You get to add in moments of foreshadowing (or excise accidental overlaps between adventures). You get to weave the chapters together, dropping hints and callbacks.

One of the tasks was updating the Poison Tree text to the modern GUMSHOE sensibilities. While Trail of Cthulhu’s rules haven’t changed, our understanding of best practises when it comes to structuring GUMSHOE scenarios and presenting information have improved, so I’ve added innumerable Leads-in/Leads-Out entries and Scene Flow diagrams. We’re also still wrestling with the question of how best to handle character generation for the campaign – there will definitely be a set of pregenerated investigators for each chapter, but how they’ll be presented and whether or not they’ll be the default option remains to be determined. Still, all questions should be resolved and rewrites completed well in time for a late-autumn harvest…

And after that, it’s onto an even longer-promised project…

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