Thursday, June 9, 2011

Software, support, and what is this all for (yet again)

OK, so I want an star/system/logistic management system to manage notes for a novel, notes for an RPG, and data for a strategic game.

There are a number of functions that are obvious, such as route and time determination software and system creation.  For a game there is certainly logistics tracking.  Also subsector map generation and the like.  Those are functions I need on my own desktop; data products like travel itineraries or images of maps can be produced and distributed as needed.

For a low-intensity function like an RPG the software is probably fine just on my desk.  For a full, formal strategic game I would have to pick one of two choices:
  • Abstract the system to the point where results can be worked out "in your head" -- which, when you get down to it, would not be a horrible bear.  It is probably safe to assume that I could also distribute player data in the form of spreadsheets - there are simple APIs for spreadsheet output.
  • Provide software for player use to allow full calculation, but only with data he can see.  The program could also generate order files that could be processed by my GM software.  The real downside to this is development time and support effort.  Do I want to take it on myself and do I want to impose it on others?
There is a third choice -- a "strategic RPG".  The players would have strategic roles within various polities and interact with one and other and the GM as they would in an RPG, but one of the outputs would be the strategic inputs to what would basically be a solo game at a low level.  I think this would be a valid option.  The players would essentially  (in addition to other RPG play) receive briefings and proposals from their subordinates and review and approve or modify operational plans at a high level.

A strategic RPG is also less sensitive to player coordination -- as a "solo game with outside inputs" instead of a conventional multi-player it can clog on without direct player supervision.  This is especially true if each side has multiple players.

I like this last one.  What do other folks think?


  1. Hi Les,

    I for one an not a major number two option person. I am not interested in doing calculations. That is why I have flunkies, I mean staff, who expertise I value. As you pointed out, once we receive their briefings or proposals we are free to modify our directions.

    Iprefer to give orders and let the system take care of the rest. I agree it would be preferable if only data that was available to the player could be used in any of the calculations.

    There was an old 8 bit Atari game that reminded me of Steller Conquest, that Harris, Charles and I use to play. It provided the overall sort of strategic level game I enjoy. I directed were the colonies are establish, what promising research is going to be developed, and muster the fleet for battle. However it was so 2 dimensional and I'd like to see it done in real space, with time lag and all.

    I am not interested in piloting every ship and filling every crew position. I would just like after a round of combat be allowed to decide to stay for another round of combat or retreat from Wolf 59, if still possible.

    I find the third option strongly appealing. I like both the idea of providing some strategic direction to the game. High power politics can be fun, especially the behind the throne games that can go on.

    I also like the idea that I'd be able to run a character in solo adventures, either in relation to my overall moves (think Dominic Flandry)or as the result of another strategic player's orders. Even running a small trading ship could be fun in that environment.

    I trust I'm not too rambling in my comment.

  2. would just like after a round of combat be allowed to decide to stay for another round of combat or retreat from Wolf 59

    I'd see the strategic player influencing that through the choice of commander (including some sort of timid/cautious/stolid/bold/rash scale) and direction (at a fairly abstract level -- if outnumbered, if low remass, etc) along with various situation inputs to give decision outputs. This might be a paper table and die system or a programmed fuzzy logic and genetic programming exercise; but giving a player an appropriate level not so much of control as predictability within a range of uncertainty.

    I think the main output of combat system is a story -- a blow-by-blow of what happened in a way that is compelling for a player. Mind, part of that is the ref's write up; but "I rolled six and all your ships are dead" is not going to cut it.

  3. In my comments on Force Shields I elaborated my liking of the idea tactical and strategic doctrines that would lead to possible available decision paths. Actions could be unpredictable but with analysis of multiple encounters could lead to an understanding of a players doctrine. I envision doctrine to continuously evolve during a game.

    I believe that Gallagher's Renaissance Campaign allowed for changes to tactical doctrine, troop types, etc when you had lost a battle. You don;t change tactics when you're on a winning roll.

    I haven't done very much RPG since long before I left Hfx. I have taken part in a couple of local games when a player was needed here in Mtl. Much of the action still turns into hack and slash. The idea of a compelling blow by blow account is great, but is the ref up to the task.

  4. but is the ref up to the task

    The ref and is faithful computer. Small skirmished are good for a sentence, major battles deserve a paragraph.

    the action still turns into hack and slash

    RPG combat in PBEM I see somewhat differently form Jutland-sized fleet actions. I used to enjoy running a pulp-fiction games back in the 80s. I forget the name of the system but I insisted that every played take very deadly weapons indeed. That way every combat transitioned from "we are using deadly force" to "stack up the bodies, what do we do next" very quickly.

  5. Description should work on that level.

    When I was running my Daredevil Adventure games in the 80s, I was doing the same thing. I wanted to convince the players that going in with their guns blazing was not the best approach (Rob and Pat together come to mind). So projectile weapons always did maximum damage.

    Since minions were treated as extras, one Hit Point each, it didn't matter is they suffered minimum or maximum damage. They'd be out of the game. Major bad guys took damage as normal, but for the player characters, maximum damage from must weapons forced them to make a saving throw against shock. If they made it, they laughed it off, after all they were heros. If they failed then there were consequences.

  6. Rob and Pat together
    Yup, they killed a lot of people in my campaigns as well. We just didn't describe each death in detail.