Wednesday, April 11, 2012

SA Design Contest - Rambling Horseshit

I am going into this with no idea how I'm actually going to do this. That's cool though! I'm just going to hash things out in big wordy posts and hope I don't turn into an Ideas Guy.
So, this is basically a game about being a precursor civilisation that ruins everything - basically making fun of a gentle ribbing a heartwarming love letter to a common sci-fi theme. What do I want out of it?

• Fun. (hurrr ima gaem deingsiner)
• It has to be simple enough to be run online. (Most of my games are over IRC and I doubt I can get a game going locally, which rules out certain kinds of dice tricks.)
• It has to be broad enough for individual games to use whatever references they like (like if one guy wants to make fun of Mass Effect, another guy wants to be the Yith and another wants to do something weird with energy beings and megastructures they can all do that.)
• It has to be easy to play. I am not making a game about micromanaging alien fleets while harvesting vespene gas.
• I want the players to be able to play whatever they want, from libertarian fungus colonies to humans with funny ears.
• I want the players to customise the "galaxy" they play in, so galaxy creation should be involved.
• I want the players to interact with each other, whether by interstellar war or diplomacy or whatever.

And on the subject of theme, what are these alien dudes going to get up to anyway?

• Seeding worlds with life
• Encouraging the development of civilisation with monoliths and whatever
• Sealing away ancient evils
• Creating ancient evils
• Leaving powerful artifacts in tombs and shit (probably weapons for shooting the evils)
• Leave traps to kill people because fuck you, that's why
• Killing you with synthetics
• Going into hibernation/hiding, intending to murder or enslave everyone later
• Making records of history (for bonus points, Be The Yith)
• Embedding themselves in mythology as gods because why not
• Leaving travel networks
• Ascending to higher planes of existences
• Getting themselves murdered by shoggoths
• Fucking with people

Actually, that's giving me an idea, so I think I'll work out the broad strokes of:

Character creation!

This isn't going to be a crunchy system, but there should be some rules. Looking that list gives me an idea: What if one of the defining features of your race is how they intend to leave a lasting legacy? I think it could be divided into several categories: Those that want to create things (particularly life), those that want to destroy things, and those that just want to change what's there to their liking. If I rearrange the list we'd get:

DESTROY: Leaving traps, planning to return and kill everyone, leaving synthetics to kill everyone

CHANGE: Monoliths and whatever, sealing ancient evils, leaving artifacts in tombs and shit, making records, embedding in mythology

CREATE: Gene seeding, creating evils, shoggoths, travel networks

Some of those seem like they could be in either (travel networks could go under "change" and "create" could mean creating and leaving technology behind, for example), but for the moment what I am working with is that "create" means massive, sweeping and potentially galaxy-changing projects, while "change" involves smaller tweaks - for example, creating entire alien species and seeding the galaxy with them is something much bigger than "dump some artifacts in the galaxy for some alien species to find and use later". Oh, and fuck alignments. You can be benevolent bumblers or tremendous assholes or something in between, I don't care. For now we'll use Create-Change-Destroy instead - the means rather than the ends, I guess.

So how do we use this? I am thinking that there's some possible crossover between these things - wanting to lay traps everywhere wouldn't stop you creating a travel network, for example - so it's best not to make players pick just one. I'm thinking you'd get some "points" to spread across them, to represent how into that particular method you are - something like "Create 3, Change 2, Destroy 1", or similar. As a bonus, this starts making me think about dice mechanics - maybe that determines how many dice you're allowed to roll for a particular action, or the size of your dice.

Speaking of actions, how about skills? Or some kind of character elements, at least. I'd like to be able to specify each race's strengths - do they create life? Invent technologies? Murder dudes? We're trying to represent an incredibly diverse range of aliens, too, so we want the skills to be broad as well. Let's also roll with this idea that you get to roll more dice (or use bigger numbers) for the things you're the best at, and skills are ranked like Create-Change-Destroy.

I could use the list of things aliens can get up to as the "skills" (plus anything else that seems like a good idea), and let the player describe the details. For example, let's say some hypothetical skills are "Life" (Creating life, obviously), "Sealing" (imprisoning races or evil beings or whatever) and "Superweapons" (leaving behind powerful weapons for others to use). I like that setup - the skills play off each other and make me think dealing with non-player life forms is going to be a big part of this game. One player could want to make a race of scientists who want to use the galaxy as an experiment and a test to breed the ultimate life form, seal undesirable elements away in time-slowed prison dimensions and set up automated defense networks to protect their assets forever. Some of their skills could be:

Ultimate Lifeform Experiment [Life] +3, Creating Prison Dimensions [Sealing] +1, Automated Defense Systems [Superweapons] +2

Another player could want the same skills but have different ideas:

Summoning Elder Evils [Life] +2, Prison Worlds [Sealing] +1, Weaponized Shoggoths [Superweapons] +3

Why engage in boring life experiments when you can summon the servants of Hastur, trap your enemies in prison worlds (or give your summoned horrors somewhere to sleep) and leave ways for everyone to destroy each other and hasten the arrival of the Old Ones?

I'm not sure how much else I can do there without hashing the dice mechanics, and I'm getting a bit tired anyway, so one last thing before I wrap up this waffling horseshit:

Empires or PCs?

At first I was going to have the PCs represent empires, but now I am getting some different ideas. Basically, I want the players to engage in social combat, something which might be tricky if there aren't any specific characters involved. I still want the actions of the empire to be at the forefront, though.

My current idea to fuse them is to begin with a "setup" phase where the PCs lay out the galaxy and how the race as a whole interacts with it, then move on into a "leader" phase, where the PCs roll as the rulers of their civilisation, chilling out on some kind of Space United Nations world and continuing to issue galaxy-changing orders while engaging in "diplomatic" social combat with their fellows and secure aid and bonuses. Depending on how the game is structured there may be multiple "leader" phases, but for first now I'm thinking of just one. Unless this is an awful idea, who knows!
Also I put this one up a little late and I have the dice mostly worked out, so expect that soon!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

SA Design Contest - Concept

Alright, so the short version: the Something Awful forums are having a sort of design contest, and I've decided to enter because why not! I will also dump my posts in this blog.

So, basically I need to design an RPG with competitive elements and some cool dice tricks. Also I need to do it in less than a month. Woo hoo!

My idea:

Assholes Among the Stars

The galaxy is young, and the players represent the first sentient life to spread across the galaxy. Those guys who normally appear in sci-fi RPGs as the amazingly advanced precursor civilisation that seeded worlds with life or planted portal networks or other amazing relics before disappearing? That's you. During the game each player's civilisation tries to leave behind just such a lasting legacy, and competes with the other players to see whose is the best.

In most sci-fi tales, though, the precursor races are either enormous assholes or even bigger fuckups. With that in mind the goal of this RPG is not to be the best, but to be the
least worst: the player who gets the closest to succeeding without actually doing so is the winner. The game is designed so that this may require fucking up your own plans - maybe that evil you sealed away isn't as sealed as you think, or your civilisation just straight-up goes into civil war mode and you lose a bunch of tech. It's not good for them, but it's good for you, provided you can push other players into failing even harder or - better yet - "help" them succeed. 

This should be fun. And by fun, I mean for everyone watching me crash and burn.