The Fen as I originally envisioned it, is a game about a group of survivors, seeing how long they last in a wild swampland bayou locked in perpetual darkness. Each turn is an hour, and during each turn characters can perform tasks such as tending to the campfire that keeps them safe, exploring the swamp, gathering the food necessary for ongoing survival, scavenging and foraging for components, and crafting items from those fomponents that will make ongoing survival easier. Once enough things have been done, the characters level up, gaining new skills (or remembering old ones as their amnesia fades away), and revealing elements of their past which might influence future turns.
It's intended to be a game that one player could play to weave the narrative of a group, but could just as easily be a game where multiple players collaboratively work together to survive as long as possible. It's generally intended to be open ended, but I'm wondering whether a natural conclusion point is necessary. This might involve ramping up the difficulty to something that is guaranteed to wipe out the characters if there is intended to be a sense of impending dread, it might involve a specific threshold point (survive one week... 24hrs x 7days), or maybe the survivors need to craft something special from the scavenged items in the swamp to make their escape. As I think about it, a few of these conditions might be applied so that the game isn't a foregone conclusion.
The essence of the game is the turn sequence. To get the right feel that I'm after, the turn sequence needs to monitor a few things, and needs to provide a few opportunities.
Things to monitor
- Size of the campfire that provides safety to the survivors
- Local degree of danger (which will be linked to the campfire in some way)
- How much firewood there is
- How much food there is (again, not sure how gritty I want this, and whether rules for food spoilage are necessary)
- How much water there is
- Penalties (such as Tiredness, Hunger, Thirst, Injuries, Fear, Shock, etc.). I'm not sure how many of those penalties there should be, or how they specifically function yet.
- Available supplies
- Who is amnesiac, who is aware, and how experienced the survivors are...
- Tending the fire (anyone can do this)
- Exploring the fen (aware survivors can lead parties into the fen)
- Crafting (survivors with the right skill may craft, but only if the fire is producing enough light, and the right supplies are available)
- Resting, Eating, Drinking (anyone with minor penalties may do these to eliminate the penalties)
- Healing (survivors with the right skill may eliminate the more significant penalties that basic rest and recuperation won't fix)
- Gathering firewood (as long as suitable sources have been found during exploration)
- Defending the Encampment (when the campfire is low, and the danger level ascends; successfully defending the encampment may lead to new supplies, but any confrontation may also lead to injuries, shock, and fear)
This is less the story of a single survivor, and more the story of their communal group. So the individual characters don't need to be too detailed. I'm thinking that an 8-page pocketmod could describe 8 survivors. Each survivor would be described by a limited number of skills (which provide specific new action opportunities, or bonuses to actions undertaken), any injuries or penalties they possess, and space for any beneficial equipment, food or other supplies they possess.
Something else that needs to be monitored is when survivors go exploring using wood from the camp as torches to light their path. Do those torches go out and leave the explorers in the dark away from the relative safety of the encampment?
With one hour turns, a torch will not last longer than an hour, but it's possible that torches will burn out more quickly. This makes exploration a riskier proposition, and since it's specifically an exploratipn based event should probably be linked into any die rolls associated with that task.