Described in my entry, “Stalled But Not Forgotten,” was the problem that the Dissension level and Invasion track opened up a whole new area that I needed to explore before continuing with development, but I failed to mention (at least in that entry) the other main obstacle resulting in the delays — encounter templates.

Perhaps it’s come up before, but some time after I started working on encounters for The Ascalon Horror, I realized I had no clear path for setting up encounters. When I looked to Arkham Horror for structure, I realized I had created the only clear structure that existed — that is, beyond the basic “allies and gates at unstable locations.”

Waffling back and forth about what sorts of rewards and punishments should exist or be made readily available, and what sorts of things should be part of the template (and where, how, and/or why, exactly, to deviate) has made for just as many delays as trying to come up with the social conventions from my entry yesterday.

But now I think I have a template. What it finally took was imagining what the game would be about if there were no Ancient One threatening Arkham, what the game would be like if it were all an abstract conflict between internal and external strife. Roughly half all locations are “safe,” the rest are “other.” This varies, of course.

Safe locations have mildly “safer” results, and offer opportunities to recover from loss or injury, and build up resources like wealth. Under the worst circumstances however, they promote internal strife, and elevate internal pressures for change, whether that change represents growing fear amongst the commoners, or something else.

Unsafe locations, by comparison, elevate the threat of (or merely the fear of) external forces of change. These cases may appear random at times, but actually represent the symptoms of external forces that have always been there, and have always been at work. Encounters don’t make the problem, they make you aware of the problem.

Thematically, anyway.

Truth be told, the point of the “deck of cards that makes things worse,” or the mythos deck, as it were, is to drive the plot forward and create new conflicts for the characters to confront. Even without an Ancient One or a focus for the plot, there are always things happening, and without periodic intervention, the world faces destruction.

So, template good. I can move forward now with my writing.