06 August, 2011

Goblin Labyrinth Blues

A bit more information regarding my thought processes on the Goblin Labyrinth.

First a few key design points for the project.

  • The game uses a combination of live play and miniatures.
  • The game needs to be scalable for a variety of play group sizes. Ideally, anything from 2 players to 200. But it's more likely we'll be looking at the 6 to 30 range.
  • All players need to be connected to at least 3 other players through some kind of relationship (whether that comes in the form of an alliance or a rivalry).
  • The game needs to be fairly self-sufficient in terms of ecosystem and economy within the game world and narrative potential. (Any GMs need only be present to help resolve rule disputes between players, a small game between experienced players shouldn't need GMs at all).
  • The game needs to generate story through meaningful player decisions.
  • The game needs to be fun and easy to learn.

It's a tough set of criteria, but I'm gradually finding my way towards a rule set that fulfils each of these objectives (in my mind anyway).

Point by point:

  • The game uses a combination of live play and miniatures. If you've read my Raven's Nest posts, you'll know that this is possible. If you know the origins of roleplaying games as a hobby, you'll understand that this is basically just the ultimate old-school revival...the first braunstein games basically fulfilled this criteria and most other forms of roleplaying have been divergences from this tradition.
  • The game needs to be scalable for a variety of play group sizes. Ideally, anything from 2 players to 200. But it's more likely we'll be looking at the 6 to 30 range. I'm envisioning the game to run more as a board game with smaller numbers of players, perhaps more akin to a standard miniatures game, but with story driven elements required to achieve success rather than simply beating down an opponent. This is easily driven through mission objectives acquired at the start of play. A mission from a shadowy cabal of benefactors, a mission related to a current occupation, a mission for family...This becomes inherently scalable as larger groups of players will have more conflicting missions, but larger groups of players will also find groups sharing the same mission.
  • All players need to be connected to at least 3 other players through some kind of relationship (whether that comes in the form of an alliance or a rivalry). The application of missions immediately links players through rivalries and alliances, so this one's covered. To advance the concept here, I'm working on an idea of sharing favours with one another, or making public declarations of ill-will.
  • The game needs to be fairly self-sufficient in terms of ecosystem and economy within the game world and narrative potential. (Any GMs need only be present to help resolve rule disputes between players, a small game between experienced players shouldn't need GMs at all). A standard miniatures game needs no GM because the rules are procedural and can be looked up if necessary. A large freeform game only requires GMs to help resolve conflicts that extend beyond the scope understood by the players. Hopefully, by tying players and characters to specific goals within a specific framework of activities, the use for GMs can be reduced if not eliminated. This is the tricky one.
  • The game needs to generate story through meaningful player decisions. The goals assigned to characters will be conflicting, players will have to choose what is more important to them. This will become even more dramatic when characters require other to help them complete their goals, because you can never be certain whether the person you are asking for help will end up being a hindrance. An action will often lead to new actions, and the first quests completed in a game will change the dynamic of the scenario for the others involved. Thus the story will work toward a climax, but you can never be sure what climax will be generated. In many cases I'm foreseeing the ability for players to generate their own goals on the fly, thus creating a truly interactive experience driven by the economies of the setting.
  • The game needs to be fun and easy to learn. The actual miniature rules needs to be intuitive, they need to help drive the action in subtle ways, but not complicate the setting. The rules should make sense on the first turn, and with every action performed. The same general system should be used for all activities.
That's my basic design goals for the project. More details to come.
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