Echelon Quick Start Reformulation

A while ago (January 1, so almost four months now) I considered an Echelon Intro Box Set.

I evidently don’t have enough to do with my copious free time (do I really need to mark that as sarcasm?), so on top of all the other stuff I’m doing, I’m thinking of cracking open a Echelon Quick Start set again.

I have come to agree with some of the comments on that previous post.

This comes to a minimum of 176 pages and a maximum of 240 pages, with only the two introductory adventures.  If we add a dozen character archetypes (player kits) that brings it up to 224 and 288 pages respectively, and adding three more ‘middling’ adventures (32 pages, as above) and a ‘large’ one of 64 pages would bring the totals to 384 and 448 pages respectively.

This probably is too big for a quick start package.  It might still make a good ‘Basic-Expert Set’ like the D&D Red Box, but it’s pretty heavy for “let’s take a look at this”.

Right now I’m thinking of something on the order of 128 pages total:

  • 32 page core rule book (just enough to get by)
  • 16 page introductory adventure
  • 32 page ‘real adventure’ (12-15 rooms — I like using two facing pages per area of interest)
  • 48 pages of sample characters (12 characters, each four pages long, made as easy to use and specific as needed for the character).

The core rules would be just that — the core of the system, task resolution, that sort of thing.  Nothing about creating a scenario or setting, probably close to just a procedure manual.

The introductory adventure might be something like the solo adventure from the Mentzer player’s book.  Not the one where you meet Aleena and Bargle, but the one with an actual map.  Probably only four or five rooms, holds the GM’s hand really firmly, walks through some common activities.

The ‘real adventure’ is somewhat bigger, probably 12-15 rooms (I like using two facing pages per area of interest — important that this can lie flat).  Doesn’t hold the GM’s hand as tight, but still exercises a number of different mechanics and provides some guidance.

That gets me to 80 pages. If I do 12 quick start characters (different archetypes), each four pages long that gets me to bang on 128 pages.

For character folios, I’m thinking printed on 11×17 card stock, folded over. Front is a picture of our little badass and stuff that makes you want to play him, left-inside is the character sheet, right-inside is the stuff you’ll want to know during play like spell descriptions or rules for your talents, back is the instructions for how to level this character. All character design decisions are made ahead of time, so there’s no talent selection, etc.

I might want to rearrange the pages for a PDF version.  This might not be the right layout if you don’t have it on a piece of folded card stock.

Probably band the material on the right-inside page by level it will be applied to you. Only the stuff in the first band applies until you level, then the second does too, and so on.

I want one of the characters to be a jaegermonster. I wonder if Phil Foglio would be up for that….

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  3. I’ve been working on a quick-start package for WRPS, so “I got opinions”. I can see one possible way to make the document a bit shorter; how about if you have several versions of the quick-start, each with a different (single) adventure, and a party of premade characters (say four or five)? The sum total still gives lots of different character ideas, but the individual ones aren’t too long. You can always use NPCs in the adventures to illustrate character design concepts too, of course.
    I got my quick-start down to about ~30 pages, and still had somebody (new to tabletop play) think it was a bit long! Someone pointed out recently that the most complex decision you need to take to play Monopoly is deciding who gets to be the dog. I’m trying to push my one towards a very simple start; you might prefer more complexity mind you. Anyway, thought I would chip in.

  4. Bearing in mind that in Monopoly there are no real differences between the dog, the hat, and the car….

    I think I could get the package down to 48 pages. Six characters to pick from at four pages each (first says why you want that character, the rest is the stuff specific to that character) gives me 24 pages. Four more for the barest of core rules (task resolution and processes; specifics are on the sheets of the characters they apply to), leaving 20 for the adventure. Two for the main map, leaving 18 for the individual encounters (detail rich) and GM-specific rules.

    Net reading up front for the players: four for the core rules, half a dozen to pick the character you want. The GM should read the entire GM package, so adds 18 pages, including the encounter stuff.

    If you wanted you could probably duplicate the common material (half a dozen pages, basically) in each such package, but provide more characters for each adventure. You should be able to carry current characters over, so they would still include leveling information with them.

    Yeah, could be workable. 12% overlap between modules (6/48) seems kind of high, but I could live with it given the material can be shared between them and the reason for the overlap is so there is no additional product required.

    • Of course there is nothing special about the dog, it’s just a reminder of what you are up against if you intended to target new players. 🙂 The idea of having to make a lot of decisions before starting play — especially when they don’t know how the different options will affect the game — can be a bit daunting. At least in Echelon the decisions aren’t irreversible (you can always change your talents next level; assuming you survive that long), so that will help a lot!
      Having said all that, I think Echelon isn’t particularly targeted at newbies, so you may not be remotely concerned about this. Anyone who’s used to 3.5 or PF will not exactly find themselves swamped with “too many options to fiddle with” here. 😉

      • Indeed, entirely. You may have seen my new post at KJD-IMC (What is the Bare Minimum? asking what the minimum rule set might be, assuming people who know what RPGs are and just want to give this a try.

        I’m not in a position to try to draw in brand new players, though it might be cool if it works. Right now I’d be happy to have something other people could try.

        And yeah, this should be a lot fewer choices than D&D 3.x or Pathfinder, and probably fewer than D&D 4e.

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    • Took me a couple weeks but I finally got around to reading the article.

      I’m not sure the same conditions apply. This is intended not as a ‘simple toy’ but as a ‘teaching tool’ that hopefully is fun. It’s not railroady in the general sense because you can make your way through however you like. It might be somewhat railroady in that it provides a lot of support for expected behavior (such as Dex/Balance checks to cross a rickety bridge) because I am trying to show how such things can be resolved. It is less “this is what you must do” and more “this is to practice these rules”.

      There could even be a sub-scenario where you are expected to wrestle your opponents, thereby exercising the grappling rules, for example.

      An actual adventure would likely have similar supporting material but less emphasis on specific expected activities. That is, if it is likely a Balance check will be needed I may include a reminder about how to do skill checks, including untrained, but stop there. It’s not likely to be as the previous scenario scenes where I am trying to exercise…

      There we go. I see some scenarios and scenes being used for system training, and others as actually playing. This is going to be somewhat similar to when I was playing rugby — the drills we did in training never came up quite that way in play, but they developed the skills we applied on the field in play.

      I aim for the introductory scenarios to still be fun, but they’re really there to highlight certain aspects of the rules. Not quite the same as what Justin was talking about, I think.

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