An Adaptive Sandbox

CirclesSandbox games or hex crawls give you a lot of freedom to explore and discover but without a lot of extra effort your characters aren’t going to make a true impact on the world. The sourcebooks – such as Carcosa – present a snapshot of encounters, places, kingdoms, countries, cities. It’s rare – if ever – that anything is built into it to account for the heroic deeds of the adventurers and the effect they might have.

I’ve long sung the praises of the social change mechanics in the old RPG Underground and it is from that seed of inspiration that I grew my GMless story game Colony: Moon.

I can see the potential to mix together elements from:

  • Traveller’s Universal World Profile
  • Hex Crawling
  • Underground’s ‘Make a difference’ mechanics

Mix that all together with a ‘web of influence’ and you might be on to something for an adaptive and reactive game world.

So, say you have a capital city, Aalberg, which rules over an area that includes the port towns of Balsport and Calder and Calder has influence over the villages of Delmar and Eegan.

The characters back a coup d’etat against the King in Aalberg and as a result the political stability of the capital nosedives as does its military strength. We assign it a 50% chance of having a knock on effect and roll.

Balsport doesn’t suffer, perhaps they were never too loyal in the first place.

Calder suffers political instability as a knock on effect. Perhaps it’s a hold-out for loyalists and they’re in open rebellion against the new government. We assign Calder a 33% chance of having a knock-on effect to its surrounding villages.

Delmar suffers, Eegan doesn’t. Rather than spread the instability further we decide that Calder is draining the coffers of the village to prepare for its war effort.

Some sort of program or spreadsheet and a ‘universal settlement profile’ would make this all a lot easier, but as a basic idea framework, I think this has some promise.

Lamentations Musings

I took this week and last week off to relax a bit and to prepare for my driving theory test (passed, thank you). Starting next week I’ll be working more on my fiction than on gaming stuff. That may – oddly – mean you’ll see more things coming out from me for  while as what I do write will be shorter projects (to keep things ticking over) and various other projects will be coming to an end.

Separate to that I haven’t given up on the idea of Machinations of the Space Princess but I think I need to testbed a few ideas first. I’m thinking of doing so via a fantasy-science (rather than science fantasy) hexcrawl/setting and putting a few of my rules adjustments out there to get some feedback.

‘Old School’ doesn’t mean much to me, I didn’t start with D&D and so I don’t quite have the same sensibility as the OSR. Raggi’s work is as much about attitude as mechanics though, about strong ideas and help in applying them and that’s something I can relate to.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess already deals with many of my existing issues with D&D clones and old school games. It’s a lot deadlier, it has a simple but usable skill system and an attitude towards improvisation and individual monsters that works very well.

I’m a fiddler though, I can’t help it. I still have a few issues. Race-as-class isn’t something I like, I think the skill system could stretch a bit further and I think some guidelines on ‘stunts’ and manoeuvres to give a few more options than ‘I hit it with my axe’ isn’t something that would hurt. It’d all be optional anyway.

So, for this hexcrawl setting I’d need to think about what I might change for Maksa-Jazra (the setting name).

1. Character Classes

Ditch the Cleric, Magic User, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling. Keep the Fighter and the Specialist. Add the Psionicist and Scholar. Rather than racial classes I’m thinking cultural/racial – in a human societal sense – minor modifiers.

2. Skills

The ones that are already there make a great ‘basic’ skill list, but if you’re removing some of the magic etc then I think you need to compensate by introducing some extra skills limited either by class or to the specialist (who can have anything). I’m thinking a few things like Alchemy, Craft, Healing, Psi Training, Learning. I also want to expand fighter’s combat capabilities with a few Fighter-centric skills to help guide/define/describe special attacks and so forth. Similar to Sneak Attack but a bit more broad. Things like Weapon Training, Combat Power, Trip, Parry, Knock-Out, Death Blow, Toughness, Disarm, Stun, Sniper, Deadly Aim and so on. Specialists would get 4+2 per level, other characters would get 1 skill point per level and Scholars might get 2+2 per level.

3. Equipment

Just want to add some refined black-powder weapons, but not much more for this.

4. Psionics

Keep things simple, character level + psi skill +Will/Int bonus for ‘power points’, and level of power is the cost to ‘cast’ in power points. The ‘spell list’ needs to be reduced down and limited though and would be combined and reskinned Mage/Cleric spells from the list.

5. Creatures & Twists

Most enemies would be human, but a basic bestiary of dangerous animals is always a good thing and I want to throw some random mutations in there too. So you can have nasty, horrible mutant animals and people who are ‘twists’ too.