Secret Writings of the Ash Ock

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Looking for people who want to brainstorm on some RPG rules
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Looking for a small group for some brainstorming on RPG rules. Expecting it to be FATE. Ping me if you are interested in being part of a small email group.

A long while ago, I started working on a science fiction game centering on founding a colony on an alien world. I expected gameplay to be a mix of survival, exploration, mystery-solving, building, and political/factional disputes. Potentially, designing gameplay around long-term planning and adventures allowing for seasons and years to go by.

Like unfortunately many of my game ideas, it stalled when I hit a point where the energy I was getting out of working on it was less than the energy I was putting into it. Meaning, I got bored and did other things. ;)

Since I've identified "doin' more creative things" as something I could or should be doing to be happier, started brainstorming again this week with a goal of getting this project back into my head enough to actually finish it. I've actually been thinking about it since December, but this week I finally started typing some notes and going back into "development" mode.

The basic structure I put together could work for a one-shot, but probably works better long-term as a campaign. As a one-shot, I suspect it would tend a bit toward survival and a more dramatic plot. The earlier game development I did was really around letting the players answer questions to build out the game world. I mean, the game could literally be a colonial expedition, or it could be more of a crash landing, like the Lost TV show. So who are the players? What sort of ship did they come on? What world did they land on? My goal was to present a more focused questionnaire rather than leaving it completely open ended. I think that structure generally works still.

Without trying to put the whole brainstorming document in this post, where I'm at now is trying to write some mechanics together. Some parts of the game/story could theoretically be done just with aspects and a lot of improvisation, but I think that having more mechanical weight will help focus the game just a bit more. What I've been brainstorming about is having resources that the players need or want to find access to. Food, water, that sort of thing. You have to spend these resources to actually keep the colony alive. Another resource/tracker would be morale - are people happy or despondent?

Mechanically, I want something that's just formal enough to focus roleplaying, without feeling like a boardgame. But a lot of my inspiration right now is coming from "survival + story" boardgames like Robinson Crusoe and Dead of Winter. In those games, at the end of a turn, you need to spend food and/or other resources. If you don't have food to eat, you take wounds and possibly die. So a big chunk of the boardgame is scrambling to get enough resources each turn (and maybe the payoff is when there's not enough resources for everyone, and you start having rivalries turn ugly).

This might be getting off the original idea, but there's an En Garde game I was playing for a bit (and may rejoin soon). The idea of turning some of this into a play-by-email game could be interesting. One thing about En Garde is that it is almost entirely character focused. The fortunes of the British Empire aren't really at stake in En Garde, just the rank and success of the characters. If I turned this into a PBEM structure, the character actions would be a little more formal than a standard RPG setup, but I'd also want the fortunes of the colony itself to matter. You are improving your character and also building the colony. (FWIW, the idea of a large En Garde game mixed with the structure of Dead of Winter has a BIG appeal -- random events to introduce crises would mix up the game play some).

I have a pretty long list of inspirational games, and I've started putting together some of the concepts, but want to brainstorm on how to make the mechanics work well. It may be that at the end of the day I move away from FATE entirely, I'm not sure yet.

Anyway, some games worth noting:

Robinson Crusoe: Boardgame. Resource gathering with periodic need to spend them to survive. "Choose your own adventure" event cards.

Dead of Winter: Boardgame. Resource gathering with periodic need to spend them to survive. "Choose your adventure" cards, crisis that the colony needs to survive each turn, factions and private victory conditions.

Perseverance: RPG. Interesting structure of action scenes followed by interpersonal downtime. Creating a crisis/event deck at the table based on the theme, then moving through the deck to unfold the story.

Ars Magica: RPG. Seasonal and troupe play. Settlement as a character. Different kinds of settlements (so evolution of the settlement over time, even if you start somewhere other than the beginning).

Wrath of the Autarch: RPG. Seasonal and troupe play. Settlement as a character. Structured adventure/conflict resolution. Mission-oriented game structure. Adversary as PC.

En Garde: Personal character development. Turn-based structure.

Dresden Files Accelerated: Mantles as a way to focus character play. Lightweight character rules. Resource pools as a way to feed stunts.

Apocalypse World and MANY variants: Playbooks to make game setup easier.

Masks (technically an Apocalypse World variant): Built-in story goal or payoff for a character. Significantly changing who a character is as a result of gameplay.
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I'm not great at this sort of thing, but I've passed a link for this post to Scott who is very interested in this sort of discussion. I don't guarantee he'll get back to you, but he really likes talking game mechanics (FATE in particular) and scenario ideas and all of that.

I'm interested, but not sure I've played enough games/am familiar enough with FATE/have enough working memory to be useful.

Do you envision a point at which the game becomes less about survival and more about other things, or is there a constant pressure of survival resources?

Pendragon and Houses of the Blooded would be other examples of seasonal play.

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