I just bought Tremulus, which interested me especially because of its use of playsets. After reading how they work and looking at the Ebon Eaves playset included in the book, I must say I'm underwhelmed. I know that they were inspired by Fiasco, but I'm not seeing the great parts of Fiasco playsets brought over to Tremulus.
To me, the genius of Fiasco playsets is that they are constructed by simply compiling a list of archetypes for a specific setting and then the details of a specific story are brought to life organically both when players collaboratively select elements and when players expand on them during play. Even the elements that you don't end up picking are relevant, because merely reading them gives you a better picture of what kind of stories take place in the setting.
Tremulus playsets, on the other hand, seem like little more than a set of 70 separate, pre-made scenarios that don't interact in very meaningful ways. While the process is made somewhat dynamic by players answering a small set of questions, that step does not seem to reveal anywhere near as much about the setting as the collaborative setup process in Fiasco.
To give an exampe, consider selecting a location in a Fiasco setup as opposed to answering the question "Are the landmark buildings in disrepair?" in the Ebon Eaves playset.
In Fiasco, players would not only select a location from the list but immediately tie it to their characters and their relationships, and even their needs and objects. This decision alone would give rise to half a dozen exciting ideas in just a minute or two, creating a story that nobody could have foreseen by just reading the playset in isolation.
In Tremulus, the players would answer "Yes"... and then they would move on to the next question while the GM decides all on his own which buildings are in disrepair and why - or learns it from the pre-made scenario - just like in any traditional GM-led game. The fact that there are 69 other pre-made scenarios doesn't really help, since the answers dictate exactly which one to use, and the fact that the players influenced the process doesn't help much either, since the connection between their answers and the story details is so indirect that they won't necessarily appreciate or even recognize any of them.
I know that Tremulus intends to create mysteries and may for that reason need to withhold much more information from the players than a Fiasco playset. However, if the players only answer a small set of yes-no questions without going into any detail, are the playsets really giving us anything more than a straight-up list of adventure seeds in any other game couldn't already give us?
I love the design goals behind Tremulus and I intend to play it this Halloween, so I'm happy to be proven wrong, especially since I may have missed something after reading just part of the book. Can you convince me that Tremulus playsets are indeed as brilliant as Fiasco playsets and allow just the same type of interesting, organic stories without all the challenges associated with scenario design in other mystery games?