I’m a big fan of ttrpg starter sets. Although they are often gateway drugs to the never-ending world of rulebooks, expansions, scenarios and accessories, some of them are marvellous self-contained worlds of adventure that represent great value and give players an idea of what to expect from the full game.
I’m adopting the starter set approach for The Aether Throne, my steampunk system and setting. Partly to achieve the above goal of letting curious players discover the ruleset, and partly so I can release something sooner rather than later, given the ‘full product’ is going to be a labour of love that might take the whole of 2023 to complete.
One element of modern starter sets I appreciate is the ‘solo adventure’ / tutorial. Starfinder has one, as do the Runequest and Call of Cthulhu starter sets. Choose-your-own-adventure style scenarios that introduce the basic rules and the setting as they go, they do a great job of letting a player jump in and get started with the system with the minimum of effort.
Now, I could go full digital with this, with virtual dice rolls and hit point tracking and the like (and I can see from reading the Twine docs that such things are possible). However, I like how the Runequest starter set in particular tackles the solo tutorial concept: it uses a pregen character and some very basic rules (most of which are revealed in the text of the tutorial adventure), and asks the player to roll real dice and update a separate character sheet as they play through the scenario.
This is the route I’m taking. I have a ‘lite’ pregen in the shape of Lady Jessica McAlpin, fortune hunter; I will also produce a 3-4 page version of the important rules (such as playing tricks and the impact of being wounded). The rest of the rules will be in the body of the Twine scenario itself, and will guide players through how to make skill rolls, carry out simple combats (melee and ranged) and introduce an element of the magic system (aether).
Now the scenario’s not going to be too involved, but it will hopefully give players a taste of what to expect in the full game. And, as I want The Aether Throne to be playable solo in any case, it’s a good primer for that fully-developed aspect of the game (when I come to design the random tables, enemy AI automata, and other elements needed to let people play the game on their own).
For now though, my focus is on this ‘starter set’ approach. I anticipate a character sheet for Lady Jessica, the rules ‘pamphlet’ and the Twine scenario being released on itch.io soon, which will bring the world of The Aether Throne and all it contains one step closer to reality …