Sunday, August 14, 2011

Scenario Generator Concept

Well, its been awhile!
I've been a bit busy for the past several weeks, and then took a vacation in Maine, which I got back from only yesterday.

However, with slight tweaks, I did get to find out that the new armor/damage system works very well and, in a strange, arbitrary way, I get more fun out of it. I did have to actually raise weapon damage slightly for it to work, however (this was a design oversight), so that smaller weapons could still chip away at somewhat larger ships.

In addition, the adjusted fuel/action rules work well and really streamline play, and also allow for a couple of new options. I also found that I had to increase the amount of fuel ships had to start with. I also came up with some alternate rules (well, slightly modified) for 'realistic' campaigns where you automatically lose SOME fuel, but still take fuel checks to avoid wasting fuel. The rules make me think of Destination Moon.

One change I definitely had to make was generally increasing crew's Fly, Fight, and Fix scores. In the final game, a military ship would never have a score of 3 for more than one, and even then that would imply a bad crew.

At this point I'm working more on special weapons/defenses and other systems, ship attributes (not unlike the attributes in CR3, but for ships...), and the ship design system (I have two in competition, not sure which I like more).

Also, the campaign and scenario rules, the subject of this post.

It occurred to me, as I sat upon the top of Cadillac Mountain eating lobsters and blueberries (or so I'm told, the Maine trip was rather fast and turned into something of a blur), that scenario design basically comes down to the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How.

Who: Whatever models you're using
What: Killing each other
Where: Your table
When: After work, before sleep
Why: Hopefully its fun
How: This is what you find out when you play

That would be the normal standup fight scenario, when there is no story behind a game.
More story driven games have those W's replaced by bits of story. Who becomes Captain Kirk and Mr Spock against the Klingons, Where becomes Alpha Centauri II, and so on.

This is far from groundbreaking, and this exact idea of using the 5 W's (and the H) has been used (well, at least mentioned) in THW games before.

Of course, this applies more or less equally to campaigns and scenarios.
The big idea I had, though, was that you could use the  5 W's as changing factors on a scenario generator.

For example, say you have your ship traveling between two planets, A and B, in the 3rd month of your campaign. Along the way, you check to see if you get an encounter.... and you do!

So you fill out the 5 W's, probably in this order:
1)When: The 3rd Month and Where: Between A and B
2) What: (Rolling on a chart) A deserted ship!

So now you know, as you travel between A and B in the 3rd month since getting your ship, you detect a deserted ship! Why the ship is there and Who is on the ship (or used to be, or who made it this way... its all possible) are not determined yet, it depends on How you interact with it.

Do you board it? Then you'll quickly find out (as you go room to room) Who is or is not on the ship. Randomly generated "Info Markers" will give you more, well, info, representing finding computers, papers, diaries, whatever.... you find out:

Who: The ship was a small colonization ship with a dozen colonists on board, and they are nowhere to be found.
Why: The ship was attacked by pirates!
In addition, you find an addition to the What: The ship was carrying extremely valuable cargo!

Now, at the point you find out about the pirates, and discover they are not still on board (or on a ship very nearby) then you sort of 'start over.' Now you know the following:
Who: Pirates
What: have stolen treasure, possibly prisoners
Where: Perhaps known, perhaps not.... if you are totally lacking information in such an important area, you get an automatic clue that lets you get 'on the trail.' That is, you might not know they are on Planet C, but you know you can find out if you interrogate a guy on Planet B.
When: Now!
Why: Probably because they are pirates, but there could be other reasons... you'll need to find out more when you get to the pirate's hide out.

How do you deal with this? Chase the pirates? find out more info at a pirate haven? Whatever...

Anyway, the adventures sort of expand as you go into them. At each layer there will probably be rewards and risks (rarely will a layer only contain more info to get to a new layer, as that is just padding the length of an adventure), and as things get more dangerous the higher the chance will be that this is the final layer, at which point you get the big rewards for success (That is, you finally find the treasure.... which is most likely to happen after you generated 24 pirates with power armor and Rapid Fire Lasers than after generating a single pirate with a  pistol as the guards).

It would be an interesting scenario generator, I think.... and good for campaigns. I think you could also build in red herrings and have mystery elements that would work (even though it doesn't KNOW if he killed the guy, and not the red alien, if you find info that suggests it, you could make the chance increase.... though there is still the chance he is a red herring built in).

The issue would be more in complexity. It might take awhile to write, and you could end up with a few weird situations... though its relatively easy to fix, once you find a problem.

I'm also sure that this will be adjusted to match up with the system that New Hope City or New Beginnings is using.... which, luckily, seems to not be that different than the one I'm describing.

The TRUE issue has more to do with making the W's fit into anyone's game.... they'll need to be somewhat vague (so that they all work together, no matter what the order, and so that they work in any setting.... the player will need to fill in gaps, but it shouldn't be hard most of the time).

I think the best way to do that would be to have the TIGU (Traveller Inspired Generic Universe) that most sci fi gamers seem to use in mind when I write the scenario bits.



  1. I like your ideas on scenario generating, especially the idea of using "Info" markers as an alternative to PEFs. Your ideas seem to incorporate "Larger Than Life" types of mechanics in the sense of gaining clues as to where the scenario will lead you to next. This is good for those "Search" types of missions. Then after you find out the 5 "W"s and the "H"(gained from successful Info gathering missions), this could lead you to a final encounter, with the scenario objectives being based on what the 5 "W"s and "H" are.

    And as you say, the "Who" could be filled in by a race, group, faction, etc. from a master list of all those involved in a particular setting, be it Traveller, Star Trek, Star Wars or what have you.

    It'll be interesting to see your developments on this.

  2. Yeah, its kinda like Larger than Life, at least in spirit.

    The cool thing about all of them is that you can have them filled in by a system that has multiple layers.... so you can have pirates, aliens, and smugglers, but you could have alien smuggler pirates too (not a great example, but I think the point is made).

    I think the way I'm going to do it is to have two lists (or perhaps a list that is optionally split in two or used together), one being generic (has things like "Pirates, High Tech Soldiers, Aggressive Aliens, Peaceful Aliens, Hive Aliens, Low Tech Soldiers, and other archetypes) and one being 5150 based (Free Traders, Star Army, Hishen, I can't think of a peaceful alien in 5150, Bugs, and Star Army Militia).