I think I like it ‘Dead Simple’

Maybe I’m just a simple minded person.  Maybe I’m just lost in nostalgic meanderings which are just the first signs of senility.  Maybe I just am not that clever.  But I think I like what I would call ‘dead simple’ in D and D or similar campaigns/games.  Not too much overarching plot.  Not too many conspiracies or complicated, interwoven relationships between factions that toss the players back and forth whre they cannot keep track of one faction versus another. 

“Game of Thrones” and similar might be entertaining to watch as TV drama, but I wouldn’t want to be a player in ‘A Game of Thrones’ game simply because the characters themselves are so frequently battered around by circumstances — the dwarf nobleman (I’m terrible with names; played by the actor from “The Station Agent”) is the only one in the show who seems to have even the slightest degree of choice in what he does for the first half of season 1, but even he is manipulated by events beyond his control.  Byzantine dramas don’t give the individual players much agency (and, although I’m no lit scholar, that is probably how it should be in such works — we watch them to see these different characters push against each other). And I like having agency… even if its just little things, like “Which way do we go?”

A few years ago, I tried to run ‘The Shackled City‘ campaign (I think that was what it was called).  This was a monster of an ‘adventure path’ from Paizo that was supposed to take the players from level 1 to level 15 or 20 or something.  A few of my players were really hyped up about it; I had my doubts (especially because of the size of the book), but I wanted to be a good sport and ‘see what the new adventure path thing’ was all about. I wanted to play the new D&D the way that I thought most of the rest of the world played it.  And ‘chapter 1’ was a lot of fun. 

There was a ruined gnome city under the city where the players were staying… and evil ‘skulks’ were kidnapping citizens from the city to sell as slaves in the underground economy.  The players made friends in the city, researched some missing kids at the local orphanage, found the entrance to the secret ruined gnome city, uncovered and eventually smashed the slaver base under the city (at great loss to themselves — only 2 made it out alive). Despite difficulty with the rules (I just can’t handle the big stat block), the players were having fun and so was I.  But as I read forward in the book, I realized it got more and more and more complicated.  One of the people who had been kidnapped, a teen age child, was ‘special’ in some way and was going to be a special ingredient in some world-shaking catastrophic series of events and plots. I just couldn’t keep track of it all.  So I dumped Paizo’s big book. I made up a ‘new’ adventure, sometimes drawing the maps and making up the encounters I needed the night before, and I had MORE fun than I would have if I had followed the ‘Adventure Path.’  The players seemed to like it, too.  I ran it for at least two years, then a player in the campaign took over DMing duties and took it off into new and unexpected directions. And I guess that’s kind of my ideal campaign.

Detroit as Spookhouse

OK, someone is running a crowdfunding campaign to turn a stretch of abandoned, post-industrial Detroit into a ‘zombie’ theme park. You can also read about it here. Or here.

Here in Detroit Metro, we hear the mayor and the city council spitballing ideas back and forth to increase shrinking revenues while decreasing expenditures.  Some proposals include simply abandoning sections of the city and relocating the residents to other parts to save on utilities, police and fire coverage, etc… which has people proposing greenspaces, urban farming, etc.  There are a few urban farms up and running already.  One entrepeneur, Marc Siwak of Royal Oak, thinks the time is right for Detroit to launch the ‘zombie’ equivalent of a lasertag or paintball arena — a few acres of abandoned buildings and overgrown lots… some locals employed as ‘zombies’ with blood stained costumes, and thrillseekers paying a few bucks a piece to be one of a few ‘survivors’ trying to escape the zombies.  Run, hide, try to barricade yourself into an abandoned building, team up with someone slower than you are to increase your own odds of survival… if you get tagged and you join team Z.

From their pitch: Z World Detroit will be a unique and spectacular zombie themed experience park that will transform a virtually neglected section of Detroit, Michigan. Participants will be chased by a growing zombie horde through abandoned factories, stores and homes across hundreds of derelict urban acres. The Z World Detroit initiative is a radical rethinking of urban redevelopment and Detroit’s well-documented blight and de-population. It turns perceived liabilities into assets that will bring a renewed vitality to a struggling neighborhood. When done right, Z World Detroit would be transformative for part of the city and become a legitimate destination.

What do you think?  Sound reasonable and plausible? AFAIK, it currently lacks funds or permission.

My thought is, “Why not try it”?  I don’t know if it will work or not… or how many years it will work if it does, but, given the condition the city is in, provided the city itself does not have to pay for it, what does Detroit have to lose?  The city could lease abandoned land in return for a tax credit to the company running the operation, and perhaps make money on parking and the revenue that the ‘zombie camp’ might bring in.  If it fails, well, the land could go back to being abandoned, right?  If it succeeds, the city and ‘Z World Detroit’ can look at re-negotiating a few years down the road. It could be fun, too.

addendum: One of the thoughts that occurs to me is that ‘zombie walks’ and similar things, where people in zombie make-up shuffle around drooling ketchup and chewing on beef jerky (or whatever they chew on) are going to dull our senses to the point that when a real zombie outbreak occurs, many people are going to assume that the moaning, drooling, bloody creature shuffling towards them is just an amateur actor in greasepaint… and that will be the last mistake they make.  It’s enough to make me think its part of a plot — they are trying to mainstream zombies, like the satanists encourage kids to dress up as ‘ghouls’ and ‘goblins’ for fun… and the next thing you know, they are listening to their Beatles records backwards and killing kittens for Satan.  Mark my words.