The initial task for this WW2 game (which we began discussing here), after reining in the initial creative mind-dump of images and ideas, would seem to be figuring out what caused the apocalypse. That’s THE REASON for the setting in the first place, so it would make sense that that’s where one begins when designing.
Except I have no idea what this Big Event is.
I have lots of thoughts about what it could be, but no firm idea about what actually happened. Was it supernatural? Was it Biblical? Was it science gone awry? Did the Axis or Allies cause it? Was it done on purpose? I don’t really know the answers to any of these questions yet. I am tempted to not move on with other elements until this major element gets decided.
Then I remember the phenomenal Dungeoncraft articles by Ray Winninger that appeared in Dragon Magazine. The key piece of advice there, the one I remember to this day, is “create only what you need.” If the PC’s are soldiers who are just beginning to figure out that an apocalypse has happened, then there’s no way they are going to know what caused it at first. Based on this gaming perspective, I don’t need to really know what the Big Event was in order to begin the game. What I need are some effects of the Event that the PC’s would immediately encounter. I have at least some of those ideas already, gleaned from the initial flood of ideas and images that came when I first cycled into the idea of a 1943 apocalypse. There needs to be soldiers fighting zombies or other undead. There needs to be some degree of “moral ambiguity”, insofar as Axis and Allied soldiers may be forced to work together by some greater threat. There will be some scramble for resources, as supply lines fail and units are on their own. There will be exploration of a strange land, foreign to most of the Allied troops, with that strangeness compounded by the forces unleashed by the Big Event.
Hmm. . . looking back over that short list above there are several adventure ideas there. Multiple antagonists are possible. There are directions to expand based on how PC’s act in the initial set of adventures. Themes are also suggested, if I want to get all literary in this part of the design process.
That’s a good place to start, I think. For right now, the cause of the apocalypse will remain as mysterious to me as it does to the player characters. Maybe we can discover it together.