Saturday, December 24, 2005

Branching Out A Little

This is coming from my latest Hamsterprophecy post.

(I've never read or played a historical miniatures game, and have no idea if they tend to have the same or different problems. Just, FYI)

Ok, so Sim-supporting miniatures game. First, let's get rid of two big minature game staples:
First, I think that there should be a populated world, rife with conflict, and all that stuff. Political and ethnic divisions should be seperate - as in, some countries/kingdoms/whatever have majority-ethnic populations, others are totally mixed, most fall somewhere on the spectrum. Of course, there's a large contingent of mercenary forces and non-affiliated beasties that are ripe for recruitment.

Building an army is kind of like using Lifepaths, as I understand them, from Burning Wheel. There's a number of options for why the army is in existence - raised by the nobility to prosecute a war, a rebellious mob, a megalomaniacal cult of personality, a democratically raised militia, whatever. Each of these base choices gives you a number of unit choices. Units are classified by metrics of race/ethnicity and social class, maybe others (magical ability?), as well as the basic organization of the army. You build your base army from this. Write down all the officers/important people, as well as any interesting thoughts about backgrounds, etc. Maybe each army gets a "signiture unit" of your choice.

Each choice has a "army path" tree, which further adds/removes options, changes the organization, gives access to cool stuff, whatever. You probably make two choices past your base choice. Stuff like "co-opted by the forces of evil" or "independent means" or "naval force". You make your first choice, promote officers into new slots, fill from the bottom with recruits, etc. Keep track of these changes, you're building the history of your army. Your second choice, you do it again.

Now, maybe each "strata" of unit gives you a certain number of bodies to divide amongst the units, or you have a total force that you divide among them all, something like that. For the most part, fighting effectiveness is based on history/background of the unit, with some options, which you set when you get the unit. Weapons are pretty much color, for the most part, except for really special stuff.

So, when you're done with the army, you have something with a whole background, including (probably) bonuses in combat from using certain themed tactics, stuff like that. The text comes with sheets for recording what happens to each unit - casualties, successes, etc. At certain benchmarks they become eligable for promotion to new unit status, new options, etc. You can keep track of this on your own, or have it be part of a campaign. There will be good and bad changes, that, if you keep track of them, should cancel over time in terms of army effectiveness.

Now, the actual mechanics would have to include some mechanisms for meta-control, I think, in order to simulate close, back-and-forth battles. Maybe each player gets two "reversals of fortune" that give an advantage to their side for a little bit, etc. Maybe some armies get certain meta-options (the patriotic rebellion army gets a phat bonus once it takes mad casualties, for example) that are theme-specific.

Of course, a lot of work would have to go into either A) balancing all the options or B) making the mechanics such that badly matched forces still get close, exciting battles.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Sci-Fi Setting

It's a fairly standard (by standard, I mean Geek standard, not really-real-science fiction standard, mainly cuz I don't know much about really-real-sci-fi) "gritty" sci-fi setting. Something along the lines of a planet completely covered with constructed matter, one world-sized city, ruled by a petty and bureaucratic oligarchy. Oppressive government structure, but its so big that it can't possibly keep an eye on everything, so there's lot of illegal/extralegal activities. Everyone is kinda generic human. Fairly standard setting-Sim kind of game, skill trees, different splats to be a part of, etc.

This game is kinda like Mike Holmes's Cell Gamma (from the No-Press Anthology), in that the GM really, really knows something that the players don't. But, there is a twist that the players know - their characters all have to be adults (above 21, or something of the like), and their memories don't go back farther than their 18th birthday. Nobody, no NPCs, no-one, has memories of childhood or adolescence.

There's certain guages on the character sheet that track stuff thats useful to the matters at hand - like bravery, or honor, or willpower, that kind of stuff. At some point in the continuing campaign (oh, it's designed for long-term play. Oh, oh yes) there's a Breaking Point. A situation comes up where it's resolution is absolutely dependent on something coming up from the pasts of the characters. The text would, of course, have buckets of tips and help for putting situations together for different amounts and kinds of characters, that involve all of their backgrounds.

Anyway, the Breaking Point. The only way out is to bring something up from the past - and each character has a dramatic flashback. There's a number of options for their true origins, dictated by those guages I mentioned above. I'm thinking, some are vat-grown to the age of 17, have a year of basic "skills" training, then have their higher faculties activated at 18. Some are from various other planets or worlds, who were smuggled onto this one, but part of the deal is that they wipe the memory, so the smugglers can never be found out. Some were criminals, who had their developmental years erased so as to purge the elements that made them criminal. And some, the fewest, are plain, born-n-raised humans that, when they leave the public educational system, are wiped so the government can fit them into the places they need them in society.

Did I mention that the determinent of the "truth" is entirely dependent on how the player managed their players guages?

Anyway, now a new phase of the game begins. Only very few people on this planet "Break," and they have an entirely different, and secret, society that operates alongside and beneath "normal" society. It's obsessively caste-oriented (Vat people are the bottom rung, goes up through immigrants, criminals, and the highest is pure-bred human) and paranoid, with fingers in all the pies. There are ample, ample reasons for nominally normal people to abhor this society, but once you've Broken you can't go back - and they will find you out. I'm also thinking that, once you have access to all of your memories, you can start to learn or develop supernatural powers, probably stuff along the lines of "things that go bump in the night" - turning into shadow, drinking blood to gain more power, generating fear and paranoia in others, that kind of stuff. Creepy stuff, that helps them keep their hold on the shadows.

There's a lot of goals there that may conflict (like, the coolest part is the part that no-one other than the GM is supposed to know, makes it kinda hard to sell), but it's interesting.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Musical Creation, Part Deux

Is this cheating? Mayhaps.

Anyway, I had some more thoughts on this whole musical creation thing.

Once all the Setting elements have been chosen, there's a number of dials that you set. Something along the lines of: Genre, Key, Tempo...maybe more? I know next to nothing about music as such.

Anyway, Genre would be a musical genre, and also the genre of the game (sometimes this is contiguous, and sometimes it'll need interpretation. I mean "Country" is pretty easy, or "Punk Rock". But, like, "Egyptian Orchestral"? Or even "Classical" could lead to many different kinds of games. "Bollywood" - now that would be some crazy shit). Maybe this is the genre of the song you played, or maybe it's not. In either case, the dial setting is how strictly the setting adheres to the genre, with some kind of mechanical effect in there somewhere. Maybe penalties for going outside genre? I dunno.

Key would be kinda funky. I'd need to talk to some music theory people and ask about what keys are standard for what "sounds" of music - like, calming, angry, progressive, whatever. Anyway, you set a number of keys (oh, a chord!) that corresponds to those themes/moods/whatever are in the setting. Maybe three, maybe five, depending on how extensive actual key corrolations are. Now, this is entirely in my head, and I don't know if it would make sense to people that actually know music.

Tempo would be a certain number that would have a lot of mechanical weight - something like, your actions push your personal Tempo up and down, and when its within certain ranges of the main Tempo it does stuff - too under and you get penalties to active things and bonuses to passive thigns, too over and it's vice versa, or something like that.

Other music stuff that would translate to fun mechanics?

Overall, I'm starting to get an idea of an Everway/Multiverser kind of thing, where theres an infinity of worlds, or at least locations, that are each musically-linked in this manner. You could pre-gen a number of them, as examples for creating your own, and characters from those worlds are always built on songs of that genre.

So I'm still missing grippy Situation creation, but I'm feeling better about the rest.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Musical Creation

Play a song at the beginning of the session. Everyone has a pen and blank sheet of paper. Draw lines to make three columns.

In one column, write down every noun you hear in the song. In the next, write down every verb or action you hear. In the third, write down every descriptive word you hear. If you feel unsatisfied with your lists, listen to the song again. If you listen to it three times, that should be enough, or you should pick another song.

The nouns are Setting and Character elements. The verbs are Skills/Powers/Cool Shit. The descriptive words are modifiers that can be attached to any of the above.

Now, you see what nouns are everyones sheet. All that stuff has to go into the Setting. If someone wants something to go in and its on a majority of sheets, it goes in. If its not, its up to a vote. Or something. It would probably be valuable to devise some kind of bidding/sacrifice interaction for this step. Once all of the elements off the sheet are in place, the group fleshes out the setting/world through kibbitzing and conversation.

Now, characters get all the stuff they have under the second column on their character sheet. They also write down all the descriptor stuff in a different place on the sheet.

Resolution is along the lines of spending stuff on your sheet, and using the modifiers to re-spend them.

Whats missing? Situation, probably some kind of baseline stats for characters. An example - maybe next time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


First of, an idea - a game that is basically a collection of one-shots, designed to be played in a seqence (maybe with the same characters, maybe not), but any could be lifted out and played on their own.

Next, an idea for one of those oneshots - the characters are all on an airplane, an international flight. Part of character/scenario creation is decided where the flight is going, and why each character is on it. None of them know each other. They also generate a number of events that will happen on the flight. The GM takes those, adds them to a couple "standard items" if they haven't come up (like an elderly passenger has a heart attack, stuff like that), and either randomly determines or chooses hour marks for them to happen on (Event A happens at 4 hours, Event B at 6, etc.)

There's a clock, and the resolution mechanics include advancing the clock. Maybe the better you succeed, the less time it advances, so you have more time to deal with an event before the next one comes around.

Characters are defined by capability to deal with stress, general adaptability, friendliness, and maybe a handful of specific attributes or skills. Each of them has an NPC foil, who opposes them at every turn for whatever appropriate reason. Maybe there's a group foil. Airline attendents are standard foils, but an early Event should serve to undermine their authority enough that the characters will end up taking charge.

There's real stakes. If things go badly enough, the plane crashes into the ocean and everybody dies, for example. (Thought - for connected oneshots, if this kind of thing happens, its a relative or a close friend of the character than that player then takes for the next oneshot. If the character makes it through, then they can use the same one down the line).

This needs some kind of teeth, but I think actually writing it would be required to find them. But I think it's a cool idea.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Setting Thoughts

I see a planet thats flat. On each side is a world. No one from either side has ever ventured past the end of the earth, except for lone explorers who are lost to the annals of history. Each thinks that they are alone on a flat earth.

One side, the side that tends to face towards the sun, is a world of lush forests, deep jungles and broad, sparkling oceans. The civilizations that have arisen are rich in woods and ores, and enjoy a diversity of plant and animal life on the majority of the large islands that make up a global archipelago.

Political divisions tend to be along the lines of the tides, and which clusters of islands use the same part of the sea for fish and trades. There is an ever-shifting system of alliances and agreements among the merchant-nations. Between these states exist independent isles, undiscovered archipelagos and the odd pirate federation, drifting on the tides in a network of lashed-together ships and detritus, feeding off of all that comes their way.

At the center of the sea is a giant whirlpool, a vortex that no man has ever been known to return from alive. Getting within mere miles is enough to feel its pull, and many a ship has been lost to its irrestable swirl. At the edges of the earth, the sea pours off a knife-edge between the water and the stars.

The other side of this planet, the side facing away from the sun for much of it's year, is a colder, crueler place. A world of rocky mountains, glaciers and barren tundra, its people organize themselves under fierce warlords and self-proclaimed prophets. This world has much in the way of precious metals and gems, but the pockets of more usable resources are fiercely contested.

In the midst of these wastelands, a handful of glittering cities have arisen, heated by underground pockets of molten magma and hot gases. These principalities revel in their riches, even while trying to bring the most powerful of the warlords and most holy of the prophets under their sway. The arts reign supreme, with a well-crafted portrayal of a ruler being his greatest compliment. By the same token, the harsh words of a few respected critics can bring the city to its knees.

At the center of this world lies it's icy heart, an ever-shifting frozen geyser endlessly pushing the glaciers outwards and outwards. Legends tell of great riches and buried secrets in the heart of the ice, but none have returned from such an adventure. On the edges of the world, a deafening roar eclipses the hearing as a dense mist erases sight. It is said that those who venture too far into the mists are lost, forever.

This is as it has been for centuries. But now, something is changing. The seafarers of the top side have detected changing currents, and some say that the islands themselves are starting to move. Explorers on the bottom side report that the glaciers are moving faster and staying frozen longer, and the frozen geyser is getting larger and larger. And, on both sides, reports come from the remote corners of the world that strange things have began to emerge from the center of the earth....

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Conflict System - Sim?

A conflict system with escalation, totally ripped off from Dogs mechanics. This is something that may, some day, make it into a project.

Characters have three umbrella things - Mental, Physical, Spiritual. When you get into a conflict, you choose which thing you're approach to the conflict falls under. It doesn't have to be the same for all participants. You roll a number of d10s equal to some derived effectiveness stat, somewhere between 3 and 10 dice. So, once its been established that there's a conflict, and you establish the stakes as well, every rolls and has a pool of dice.

Now, every action has a certain number range associated with it - like, a "basic attack" would be 3-8, or something like that. Your kewl powerz, equipment, advantages, etc that do stuff have narrower ranges depending on how powerful or effective they are (like, crazy face-kicking only works on a 7 or 8, etc.). Theres also kewl powerz/etc that let you re-roll a dice, change it one number up or down, etc. You can only do stuff if you can spend a dice or a combination of dice equal to one of the numbers in its range. If you go over, it still happens, but you get some kind of fallout.

Every action and attached die expendure goes towards some overall conflict scale, that measures whos on top. Something like you add all spent die, or you collect all the physical die, something like that. Anyone, once everyone in the conflict had either given up, or run out of stuff to do/aren't willing to escalate/can't spend more dice, whoevers higher on this scale wins the conflict.

If you don't have the dice to spend, or aren't willing to take the fallout from going over on actions, you can escalate by switching what thing (Physical/Mental/Spiritual) you're fighting with. You roll all the die from that stat and add them to your action pool. You can do this twice (moving through all three) in a conflict.

Whats the qualitative difference between the three? Well, hooking in with the setting, you take physical damage, mental damage or spiritual damage, respectively. Physical damage is the easiest and cheapest to heal (including ressurection), mental damage is harder and less understood, and spiritual is the hardest to harm but once it's gone, it's gone. All fallout you earn during and after a conflict goes towards damaging the realm you were using when you got that fallout. Also, it would make sense for there to be some initial barrier to starting outside of the Physical realm, or maybe there's a declaration system/order, and declaring a Realm outside of your opponents has some kind of minor but surmountable penalty.

Whats the point here? Well, I love DitV-style escalation, and want to explore it more. I would like to link this to a setting that has a heavy divide between the physical, mental and spiritual realms, but also interplay between them. I also want to have lots of crunchy bits with real effects on resolution, and the interplay between these bits and randomly-generated numbers will, I think, create the kind of tactical bite that I would enjoy. In my head, it leads to making choices among a restricted field of options, with the knowledge that certain choices (escalation, going over a number) will lead to fallout.

Theoretically, I think this could be very supportive of constructive denial. It's certainly denial (of your full range of choices). Now, for the constructive part - if it links into supporting the Source in some way - perhaps by having some kind of ideal vision of your character, and performing actions in support of that vision, even when facing fallout, gets you some kind of reward - that would be cool. Hard to talk about without having more of the Source detailed out, though.

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