The Siege of Maddenhafen

Started by Renee, September 12, 2010, 10:34:05 AM

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So Mr. and Mrs. Czege were over for dinner and movies last night (pot roast good, Machine Girl not so much), and they reminded me that Game Chef still existed!  Since I'm recently unemployed and have tons of free time on my hands, it seemed like it might be a fun distraction.

"As we all know, prior to the ascendancy of Emperor Roderick Henderossen III, the Free World was barely more than a gaggle of petty fiefdoms and squabbling city-states.  But in just a short few decades, his vision of one Empire, united in purpose and understanding, has all but come to pass.  Only the Despotate of Karragut, that foul little piece of land hidden by the Boragmus Mountains, remains outside the fold.

There are lots of bad things in this world but Karragut is particular kind of awfulness.  Surrounded by the jagged peaks of the Boragmus, its lowlands are given over to brackish fens and clinging mists.  As you might expect of a people who choose to live here of their own volition, it's citizenry is uniformly hideous...sometimes even grotesque.  With no real standing army of its own, one is left to wonder if the plan was always to be as unpleasant as possible and hope the rest of the world would just go away.

But even vast tracts of impassible land, a perpetual stench strong enough to impugn a warhorse, and strange things skittering in the night are insufficient deterrent for the Great and Glorious Army.  With barely a fight we found ourselves on the doorstep of the Karragut capital, the many-spired mountain-city of Maddenhafen.  There was to be no easy defeat though.  The Karragites, sickly though they seemed, were hardier than imagined; shielded by sheer cliff walls, fearsome magicks, and monstrous alliances, they have consistently rebuked our advances thus far.  We have resigned ourselves now to a siege of indeterminate unpleasant prospect that could be avoided if the Despot would simply yield to the inevitable."

- Waldemar Rupp, Royal Propagandist

So, the player characters are heroic figures embedded within the Emperor's army, encamped outside the city of Maddenhafen.  Game play would be kinda-typical fantasy fair...small-scale mission-based forays against the forces of Karragut, with an emphasis on violent conflict.  Successful missions can lead to promotion, improving one's standing in the eye's of the rank and file soldiers and providing more power and influence.  The gimmick, of course, is that the Empire and its army are the bad guys, and while this will be readily apparent to the players, they'll have to decide how to live with themselves; desertion is an option, but if attempted early-on will simply lead to execution, whereas if they wait until after some promotions, they may have the power to betray the Empire and break its siege in one fell swoop.

Ingredients: City, Desert, and probably Edge (most likely will roll that into a game mechanic somewhere), though I might be able to use Skin if I could spin it towards "learning how to live in one's own skin" without it seeming forced and trite.

The journey is a sort of spiritual or moral journey...discovering the line between right and wrong, and walking it.  Possibly with a visual representation/game mechanic depicting this.  Maybe.

Names of places and people subject to change once I get Warhammer out of my head.  :p

- Renee


Comfortable in your own skin would be a great thing to fit in as a major focus... I can see really enjoying playing that break from wanting to be part of the gang and fit in to the slow realization that what you want to fit into is evil. Whats the feel like? For some reason it reminds me of boarding school dramas and Anna Karenina...

David Shockley

If desertion early on leads inevitably to execution, I can't see many people doing it... doesn't actually seem like a real option. But if it were just fairly risky, and you would come out with fewer resources.. then it sounds more viable. And staying should have its own negative consequences, like ill-will from the people of Karragut or psychological consequences of acting against your own conscience.


I've wanted to poke around with a game concept like this a couple of times.

I like the idea of a choice that remains relevant to the characters, but changes it's true meaning as the characters develop and evolve.

I'll be interested to see where you take it.
A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.


@ Masqueradeball

Well, I hadn't imagined Tolstoy, lol.  And if by boarding school drama you mean something like Suspiria, then maybe.  :p   Honestly, I'm not quite sure what it's like, so it's hard to throw out comparisons...there's an obvious similarity to something like Schindler's List, but it isn't like that.  My horror and dark fantasy roots are showing, so you can expect it to be somewhat lowbrow, gritty, and violent, with a little bit of the gothic in there. 

On a side note, while writing this response it occurred to me this could easily fall into the genre of "white savior" tales (Dances With Wolves, Avatar, etc.).  I generally find those stories loathsome, so I'm going to need to tread carefully...I don't want to write the Avatar rpg.

@ David

Deserting is a game-ending last option, and it may not be the only last option available to the players.  I don't expect it to be a huge part of the game; the meat of play is about being trapped and the people around you are perpetrating these awful things and you have the power to sway that towards good a little, but once you step too far out of line, that power goes away.  Ideally the players will be looking for a way to preserve their tenuous balance.

As for the other stuff, I think you're totally in my wheelhouse. 

@ Michael too! 


Okay, so this is a (lengthy) preview of my game.  I still have things I want to add, lots of stuff to clean up, and certain bits that aren't as inspired as others that with a little more time will pop a lot better.  And of course, I have no idea how it plays or if any of the mechanics work like I want them to.  It's sizable, but anyone who has the time, feedback is appreciated.

Maddenhafen Preview


And the finalized Game Chef version:


Fun to mess around with this stuff again...wish I had some graphic design skills though!


This sure seems to be going for the flavor of old-school D&D.  Randomized attributes ("roll six times, in order, no takebacks") and all.  :)  I wonder how the big revelation in the GM section would actually work out in practice?  Seems like the target market for the hardcore-gamist veneer might take that sudden twist in mechanics like a shot to the face.

Side note: I like how you've approached the job system - the way you unlock classes seems heavily flavored by Final Fantasy Tactics, which is my favorite video game in the history of ever, so major points for that. I worry that if you get poor attribute rolls, though, you might be stuck either kamikaze-ing the character or else grinding basic Jobs for a few tedious sessions as everyone else grows up to become epic.

And props for the vast amounts of typing that had to go into this.  I was looking at a few of the 5-page systems and freaking out over my 31-page monster.  I salute your bravery in tackling such a beast as you have here; your turning this in on time probably ranks right up there with slaying one of those ubiquitous 30-foot swamp monsters.  ;)

(I'd have offered feedback earlier, but my whole. damn. weekend. was spent working on my own game.  I submitted after you did, in the wee hours of the sunrise.)


Hey there!

Final Fantasy Tactics is the best game ever!  And FFT Advanced was the best game for Gameboy Advanced as well!  <3

It's definitely a bit of a bait-and-switch.  I wanted the old-school stuff in there because historically speaking, those games have a sort of black-and-white morality (i.e.,some things are just good and some things are just evil), and I wanted to take advantage of that familiarity.  But this isn't a commentary on those games or style of plays (I played them and enjoyed them, so turning on them like that would be about as hypocritical as James Cameron making a lavish 3-D movie where the techheads are the bad guys and the peaceful wonder of nature is held aloft...oh wait, nevermind).  But seriously, I wanted the game to feel a certain way, to put the players in a certain frame of mind, and also to be legit fun to draw them in and make them want to play; and I don't want it to not be fun anymore after the big reveal...just more emotionally provocative.  I'd like to think the game would still be fun even if the players know what's coming.

Did I accomplish any of that?  Hard to say until I and a few others actually play it. 

As far as early-game character kamikaze-ing and such, I definitely get what you're saying.  Anything that makes the game less fun early on will definitely do a disservice to the whole game; it's the fun they're having that's going to make for a compelling emotional crisis once the later stuff kicks in.  Hmmm, I should add that to ling to the GM chapter.  At any rate, it's essentially a first draft and there are ton of fixes for that...modifying the way Traits or rolled or adding new Careers with lower pre-reqs for entry (or both).  I already have some other stuff I want to add, like a rule for Low Morale that should be super-fun, so I'm definitely not done working on this.

And thanks for the props.  I lost my job earlier this summer in a corporate restructure, and this proved to be a nice distraction from thinking about things (like the 14% unemployment rate in Michigan).  Maybe it's size will pretty much doom its chances of winning...a snappy, tightly focused five-pager has an advantage in this play-to-win environment, I think.  But that's okay, I'm looking forward to playing it and maybe I can draw some people in with the promise of some fun character-building.  :-)