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Wargame fluff

I've been working a little more on my free table-top wargame/RPG, and as I've been following Rob's advice on writing, I've been keeping all the fluff out of the rules document. Unfortunately this had lead to a massive back-pressure build up of the stuff, which I'm now going to release all over this blog post. Ooh-err.

But first, a quick apology (of sorts). I'm pretty new to the world of table-top, pen-and-paper gaming, so please bear with me if I say anything that's either painfully obvious or painfully stupid to someone with more table-top gaming experience than myself. For all I know, some of these concepts I'm mangling have proper names and long and illustrious histories, so call me out and leave a comment enlightening me if you can.

Grids and hexes
My game is much more wargame-with-RPG-esque elements than vice-versa, so you'll need models or markers to play it. Originally I was going to use a grid system for movement and measurement, but instead I've decided to go with a hex based system. There's a couple of reasons for this.

Mechanically, hexes are much more consistent than squares. If you travel diagonally on a grid, you've covering more ground than if you move in the four cardinal directions. A hex grid eliminates this problem: each direction of travel is the same distance.

I think hexes can also produce a much more natural looking environment. Sticking strictly to a grid can result in very blocky looking trees and rivers. If you ignore the grid for natural features, you end up arguing about how much of a square needs to be covered before it counts as one terrain type or the other. Hexes, being much closer to circles, can give a better approximation of curves and natural formations, and I'm putting my foot down in the rules and saying each hex is either one terrain type or the other -- no half measures or bits of rough terrain creeping round the edges.

Finally, and much more importantly, they're a bit more... nerdy. If a game is played on a hex grid then it's immediately Serious Business in my estimation. So hexes are in.

At the moment the game uses a pretty simple D6 system. For most everything, you roll a D6, add some modifier, and try to beat a score of 6. Higher rolls are always better, and a roll of 1 is always a failure. This means, for example, if you can get a modifier of 5, then you are almost guaranteed a success, and the character creation numbers are balanced with this in mind. Unfortunately I’ve found this leads to a fairly limited number of viable characters, so I'm thinking of moving to a D20 system.

Using a D20 instead of a D6 would widen the range of modifiers, hopefully meaning more viable characters, but it might make the game too hard with freshly-minted low-modifier characters. But if I lower the success value from 20 down to say 15, or increase the character creation budget, I'm guessing the same situation will occur as with the current D6 system and I'll have solved nothing. This one needs more thought and probably an evening in front of a spreadsheet. Luckily I'm a massive nerd, and so an evening in front of a spreadsheet is no real hardship.

Theme and setting
This is a big problem for me, mainly because I don't have one, and I really, really should. At the moment, all I've got is a set of rules. Good ones, I think, but still, just rules. I believe that setting is the one thing free games have where they can really shine. I'm living proof that any idiot can chuck together a set of rules and play test them, but without a decent theme, well... I'm guessing there's nothing particularly unique about my game.

As I've been making the game, I've had in mind a sort of grim-future-of-war Warhammer 40,000, Aliens space marines, high tech apocalypse theme, but there's nothing yet in the rules that's specific to that sort of theme. It would work just as well with a stock fantasy elves and goblins setting, or pretty much anywhere else where two or more groups of people want to kill each other.

I'm guessing I'll present the rules in a sort of setting-free vacuum, then provide a default setting with optional extra setting-specific rules, then maybe have a paragraph or two about developing rules for other settings. I could even release extra settings at a later date as supplements, if I'm feeling particularly adventurous.

Some kind of conclusion?
That's enough fluff discussion for now. I'm not going to say when I'll be releasing this as-yet un-named game (that's another item on the to-do list: a name) as I'll no doubt sail past any deadline I set, but I'm still making progress. Until next time!

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