A few years ago, I whipped together an entry for an impromptu Mecha RPG contest on RPG.Net. The entry I came up with was called Extinction, and it ended up being runner up. It lost because it didn’t have movement rules and some other fiddly bits, even though that was by design. The setting is a sort of post-apocalyptic Earth where humanity has lost an intergalactic battle with an insectoid alien army. Earth is in the process of being colonized or quarantined. The few communities of humanity left are living like rats in the wreckage, fighting with scrapped parts and Mech-like fighters.
It’s not the most original background in the world, but it’s fun enough.
That entry was fairly straightforward as an RPG, but my new experiment will be to turn it into a game you can play solo and with friends, without a GM even. I also want it to be super light, maybe a 32-64 page RPG with everything you need to make cool stories. That’s a tall order, so some of those things may get the axe if it can’t work.
At the core of the game is what I call the Stronghold, the community of these survivors. There will be a lot of freedom on what these Strongholds look like. The players get to craft that in the beginning of play, whether they live in a subterranean parking lot, an old shopping mall, an abandoned military base, or whatever. While the players will play mech pilots, in truth, the game is just as much about the shared Stronghold and increasing its size, strength, and resources to survive against alien attacks and possibly unite other Strongholds under its banner.
Initially, I imagine gameplay going like this:
Every player gets one active turn and one reactive turn per round. A round is basically a sequence where every player gets their two turns.
An active turn is where the player decides to try to increase one shared stat of the Stronghold. Shared stats will be things like Population, the overall size of the Stronghold, the Scrap level, the amount of raw materials or junk that players can use to repair or strengthen the Stronghold, the Tech level, the type of technological resources the Stronghold has, and so on. I’ve got to solidify the list as one of my first to dos. The size of the increase determines the difficult of the action, and the player can either roll on some sort of random encounter type chart or come up with the quest to accomplish said action.
Let’s give a very rough example: So, Fred decides he wants to recruit new people to the Stronghold. His Stronghold has only a Population of 24, so it’s pretty small and meager. He wants to find 6 survivors somewhere out in the wastelands to make it stronger. He and his fellow players decide that the 6 survivors will be discovered holed up in a sewer system near a nearby city. The heroes will have to deal with their attackers to rescue them.
Ideally, the encounter charts and game will give some sort of guidelines on how to build these encounters and play them out, but you get the idea.
Reactive turns are the opposite - the Stronghold gets attacked, or some sort of strife threatens the safety and security of it. While I like the idea of random encounter type tables as a fallback, these events should be crafted by the players for maximum fun. Reactive actions should threaten one of the Stronghold’s ratings or the hero himself.
Both types of actions are playable by everyone, not just the player whose turn it is. There will be some system in place to use the Resources of the stronghold to help in overcoming these challenges, as well as risk if things don’t work out as planned.
Granted, this is all a very rough idea of where I am going with this. There are lots of questions, like who will control the bad guys? (I am thinking a player can volunteer to be a GM for a turn to gain some sort of bonus points that they can use to boost their hero or Stronghold.) How do I stay away from making this over-tactic? I also have always envisioned a sort of one roll engine style approach to this game, so it’s not outright win/fail.
In the example above, the outcomes could be anywhere from - a total route of the alien forces, saving all 6 recruits to a defeat of the forces but a loss of life with the potential recruits to a complete defeat at the hands of the aliens but still gaining a handful of new faces to the Stronghold anyway.
That’s where it all gets complex.
Stay tuned for other thoughts and ideas to come as I shape this thing up.