Thursday, June 27, 2019

Forking The Culture: Making "New Model Colony" Pt. 4

Continuing from yesterday's post, it's time to talk characters. I put down these rules for the campaign specifically to recreate the old-school environment in a manner that those more familiar with D&D3 and later, or with videogame-heavy backgrounds, would understand with ease.

In current terms, this is a Rogue-like game about the campaign to establish the Colony and make it prosper. In such a historical event, many people play their parts in the success or failure of that objective. Some fail at launch. Some make it to become heroes. Most fall between the two, and no one knows in the moment what one's fate may be. That's how such milieu work in practice in the real world, so verisimilitude demands a similar attitude and approach.

This is why I go so severe in old-school approaches to character generation, from attributes to starting resources. This is why I don't do static Hit Points per level or any of that nonsense. This is why I forbid replacement characters to start above 1st level unless it's the deceased's henchmen. This is why I don't do any form of metagame currency like Fate Points or whatever, and it's why I emphasize just enough structure to allow for maximal liminality.

There's more I do:

  • Training Required: Leveling up takes time and costs money. Your character does not level up until this is done, and your character is unavailable for play until it is done.
  • Multiple Characters Per Player Expected: Because characters can be rendered unavailable for play due to training, injury, research, multi-session sorties, etc. I allow players to have multiple characters in the campaign.
  • No One True Party: Players are expected to mix, both in terms of playing different characters and in terms of playing with different people. This ain't the Fellowship. This is the Hyborean Age, and none of you are Conan.
  • No One True Party Still: Players are expected to attract and retain henchmen and hirelings. A typical sortie of five player-characters can easily involve a total number of 25-50 people, most of them hirelings managed by the henchmen who act as the lieutenants of the characters. In short, embrace the warband and accept that you're running a mercenary army once you get out of the early levels. Even at 1st level, you can have a trained dog assist you and dogs can be a big help.
  • Yes, We're Tracking That: All the stuff that gets ignored too often, like tracking your character's provisions, ammuition expenditure, sleep and spell memorization times, etc. doesn't get ignored here. Time is the most precious resource and players who track it best are most likely to succeed.

For a lot of people today, this emphasis on logistics and problem-solving is what makes the game different from the storywanking we see with the glorified Let's Players on YouTube with its emphasis on narrative bullshit and outcome-focused equality. They are not wrong; despite superficial resemblance, the substance is very different because the premises are very different. That difference is what I want when I run New Model Colony, and tomorrow I'll talk about how it comes together.

1 comment:

  1. Bradford,
    Your emphasis on logistics echoes Benjamin Chia's post on the subject. In fact his latest crowdsourced novel precisely works this conceit.
    I also think like you and Benjamin that this emphasis on logistic will help writer better their craft.
    I'm taking logistic into account in my mecha story.


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