Making Cosmic Choose-Your-Own-Adventures

Greetings, fellow Patrolmen! Philip A. Lee here (and despite what Matt might try to tell you, my middle name is not actually “Awesome”)! Since Matt was incredibly swamped with projects this summer, he asked me to give him a hand with writing the latest Cosmic Patrol book, The Moon Must Be Ours! (TMMBO!), and I’m here to tell you a little about how this book came into this world.

TMMBO! is the first of its kind in the Cosmic Patrol series. Cosmic Patrol (AKA, The Little Red Book that Could) is the core rulebook, and Into the Cosmos offers a more in-depth look at the Cosmic Patrol universe. TMMBO!, however, is a campaign book that allows a rocketship crew to finally learn the secrets of the mysterious Moon Men and help the Cosmic Patrol take back the Moon.

Matt’s instructions for the writing were straightforward: 1) Write a campaign consisting of a series of Moon rooms, and 2) riff on as many sci-fi and pulp tropes as I could fit in. Instead of a normal, linear campaign, he wanted a “choose-your-own-adventure” style of campaign that would result in a different path through the Moon in every playthrough. I thought this was genius, and the flowcharts Matt put together to represent the possible paths for each campaign difficulty are a sight to behold. (Maybe he’ll post them on here if you ask him nicely.)

With assignment in hand, I blasted the scores to The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Black Hole at a high volume, and I hit the ground running. At first I used the spaghetti-on-the-wall approach: I threw together a huge list of the craziest, more ridiculous pulp sci-fi ideas as I could, and I kept the ones that stuck. My biggest concern when I started was, “What if I run out of ideas halfway through?” At first, I was working on a bunch of pretty random ideas. I went with whatever idea on my list sounded interesting at the time, but after the first day or so of work, my momentum slowed, and I reconsidered my approach to each campaign room.

The solution? Creating specific zones within the Moon’s subterranean labyrinth. At that point, I decided to split the campaign into various parts, and each zone would have enough rooms so that even when playing on an Easy campaign, a group would be able to hit at least one room in each zone before reaching the end. This way, the campaign received a structure that made some logical sense. The solution was right in front of my the whole time: the first few rooms I’d written already shared a certain thematic element to them. This led to the first zone, the lunar mines.

Once I had divided up the labyrinth into zones, the whole campaign fell into place. Each zone provided not only a thematic jumping-off point for new ideas, but it focused the ideas I already had and gave a framework upon which to base the whole campaign. The zones also provided the genesis for the overarching, optional plots that Lead Narrators can implement into their games.

Working in a pulp universe is always a blast. I hope you all have as much fun playing through the Moon Men’s labyrinth of certain doom as I had writing it.

—Philip A. Lee
@joechummer

23

07 2013

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