At this stage I'm toying with the idea of Egyptian souls making a journey across the lands of the dead, trying to reach a chance at a just judgment at the hands of Osiris, before the hordes of Anubis swarm across them and obliterate their souls completely. There will be several paths to take, basically divided into the left bank, the right bank and the river, and there will be obstacles to face along the way each of which will reveal something about the character's life before they died and began that journey. As the story unfolds we learn more about the characters, and their chances of passing judgement (if they make it that far), we also gain traits that might vary the speed of the scroll unwinding toward judgement, or vary the speed of the approaching horde. Two commonly quoted dogmas regarding Egyptian myth indicate 15 or 21 steps on the path to judgement, I'll be going with the 21.
The first calculations I've been doing for this involve the rate at which the horde approaches. I'm thinking of using custom dice like Heroscape for the game. 6 sided dice where three faces have a sword (or Khopesh), two sides have a shield, and the remaining side has an ankh (to remain thematic).
Combat in the game will basically used flat combat values indicating the number of dice to roll. Every sword takes a wound from the opponent, and every shield prevents a would being taken.
For the horde, we roll one die the first turn, two dice the second turn, three dice the third, until we reach the number of players participating. So, in a five player game we'd be rolling a maximum of five dice and we'd reach that point on the fifth turn. Every sword indicates an advancement of the horde by 1 step, every shield cancels out one of those advancements. At first they advance slowly, but as the turns progress, the horde picks up average speed. Having more players may mean that the horde are faster, but it also means that there are more opportunities to open up the scroll and remain ahead of the beasts.
While they'll never be seen as a part of play, I've generated up some charts to determine the speed of the horde under different numbers of players. I've highlighted the most likely positions of the horde at various stages of play. A line across the table indicates the point at which the horde will have reached the end of the scroll in 50% of the games played.
So, on average we are looking at about two to two-and-a-half hours of gameplay, gradually increasing as the number of players increases. If we make the character actions a bit more complex, increasing them to 2 minutes each, we end up with:
2 player game = 5 minutes per turn
5 minutes x 32 turns = 160 minutes total
3 player game = 7 minutes per turn
7 minutes x 24 turns = 168 minutes total
4 player game = 9 minutes per turn
9 minutes x 21 turns = 189 minutes total
5 player game = 13 minutes per turn
11 minutes x 18 turns = 198 minutes total
(so, about two-and-a-half to three hours of gameplay)
These are maximum durations for the game based on the calculations provided, it could be possible to finish the game earlier. Players being more descriptive and getting deeper into the storytelling of the game might drag the game out a bit longer (which actually could be a good thing).
The next thing I've been considering is how quickly the scroll opens up, but that's the next post.