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Author Topic: [Badass Space Marines] Inspired by Descent  (Read 7908 times)
MikeSands
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« on: December 07, 2005, 03:26:10 PM »

I was reading this thread http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17921.0 and got fired up on the idea.

So here's a few hours of my thoughts on how this kind of game (i.e. inspired by Aliens and similar) should look:

Marines have the following stats:
Hit points (rated from 1-10), average 5.
Close combat (rated from -5 to +5), average 0.
Guns (rated from -5 to +5), average 0.

Weapons are rated on whether they are feeble (unarmed: -2 or knife/pistol: -1), normal (assault rifle 0) or heavy (grenage/machinegun +1, rocket launcher +2).

Some marines have special training as well (maybe every marine gets some?). This covers officer training, pilots, computer guy, heavy weapons guy and so on. Maybe the squad is even pre-generated and you just pick who you want to play each mission from the list.

The scenario is nearly always "investigate what happened at this isolated place"

The GM has a pool to spend for challenge. This is calibrated against the experience of the squad and difficulty desired.

Investigation is free-play with players & GM all contributing facts discovered about the mystery (and the aliens). If the GM makes up a fact, they spend a challenge point. If a player makes up a fact, the GM gains a point. In this phase, only extras may die and only if they are off in ones or twos.

Next phase is triggered when a few basic facts are established about what happened (maybe direct evidence of aliens?). Aliens now may attack the marines. Normally aliens attack in swarms equal in number to the number of marines. GM may spend challenge to increase in increments of marine squad size (or something like that).

If a player character takes damage, they gain a point of fuel (thanks Scarlet Wake) that can be used to give bonuses to actions.
If a player character dies, the player grabs one of the extras to play and divides all their remaining fuel amongst the surviving player characters (including their new one).

Once all the extras are dead, play enters the final phase, in which the aliens can be defeated (e.g. by killing the boss or nuking the site from orbit).

If only one player character is still alive and fighting, then maybe they get an extra bonus (or maybe all that fuel from the other dead people will be enough?).

Conflict resolution will basically just be combat, which should be fast and furious.

Roll d6 + close combat + weapon rating. Your result is how many aliens you kill in the swarm.

Aliens roll d6 + number in swarm to get amount of damage inflicted on the marines, which is distributed by the GM. Extras must take more damage than the player characters. When a marine is down to zero hit points, they're gone (not necessarily dead but out of action).

I think that should capture the source material pretty well. Playtesting is probably required to make the challenge/stats values match up.

Questions:
Is this too stripped down? Can I really get away with spending to establish facts and a combat system (probably the special training would give people extra advantages in certain situations too)?
Should there be separate rules for swarms and single big monsters?
How (and whether) to control the fact establishment phases? I.e. limits on what you can establish?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2005, 06:44:27 PM »

Heya,

Quote
Next phase is triggered when a few basic facts are established about what happened (maybe direct evidence of aliens?).
What have the players/the GM contributed to play by adding facts, beyond just colour?
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MikeSands
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« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2005, 06:48:38 PM »

What have the players/the GM contributed to play by adding facts, beyond just colour?

Basically, it can include facts that constrain what can happen or can build to tactical advantage. This will probably need to be quantified somehow.

E.g.
"The aliens are not harmed by heat or fire."
"The colonists blew all the air from that section of the base."
"This area is honeycombed with tunnels."

Probably you'll want to allow either GM or players to utilize these for a bonus in combat, if applicable.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2005, 07:46:12 PM »

When declaring facts, will there be a method for stating who latter determines if the fact (and it's bonuses/penalty) apply in any given situation?
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MikeSands
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« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2005, 12:23:32 AM »

No, this ought to happen at the time the advantage is required.

I am after a system where the early stages of the game set the stage for the later set-piece fights. So who put the facts in play doesn't matter, just who can turn them into an advantage.

Maybe I'll go with this - only one person can use each fact for an avantage each scene, and the first person to narrate it into their marine/alien attack is the one who gets it. This will mean that in the early game the GM will want to put in facts useful to the aliens and the players will want ones that help the marines. This shouldn't be a problem (although maybe there could be an incentive to declare facts that don't directly just help your side).

Also, it encourages you to spin out the early discovery phase a little, because everyone gains a bit if you determine more facts before going into the action scenes.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2005, 12:56:42 AM »

This will mean that in the early game the GM will want to put in facts useful to the aliens and the players will want ones that help the marines.
Is part of play about the GM and players ideas interacting with each other rather than being the GM's list of facts over here and the players lists of facts over there. For example, players taking a fact that the GM made and use it to their marines benefit.

Though I kind of worry about my own suggestion there, since I see an agreement being needed there about whether using it to advantage would fit the genre.

How much play Vs GM competitiveness is there supposed to be (And I'm not talking in gamist terms...I mean competitiveness in the same way capes play is competitive - it's just there to drive the agenda)?
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MikeSands
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« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2005, 02:49:43 AM »

Definitely everyone should be looking to use any facts to their advantage. I think part of the fun of this structure would be working out how to get something from a fact that was invented to hinder you.

There would be a lot of GM vs players competitiveness (and between players too). The GM should be trying as hard as possible to kill everyone*. The players should each be trying to be the one (or one of the few) who survive. Everyone should be looking to step on up and use the facts established to gain advantages in their combat rolls.

One idea that occured to me, which would make the fact establishment phase more constrained, is to have a worksheet. The worksheet would be divided into areas such as "aliens", "what happened", "the colony". Each of these areas would have a number of fill-in-the blank sentences. Establishing a fact then allows you to fill in the blanks on one of these. This would certainly prevent the temptation to just invent loads of facts to help yourself out, while still getting the creative side in - mainly in the use the facts are put to, rather than inventing them in the first place. The game would probably need a variety of these mission templates too, to prevent it being any more formulaic than it already is.

One additional point - this would normally be a single-session game. Sometimes you might want to have the survivors of a mission sent on another, but this would be an exception.
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Kaare_Berg
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« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2005, 03:48:55 AM »

Quote
There would be a lot of GM vs players competitiveness (and between players too).

There is one major difference. I am trying to remove the competivness by moving the whole alien attack bit over into the realm of dice.

Yet I really really love the fact sheet.

It is a different approach from mine. I can see this bit work.

I'll see if I can't post something about Descent over the weekend, so we can compare the two.
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MikeSands
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« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2005, 11:22:30 AM »

There is one major difference. I am trying to remove the competivness by moving the whole alien attack bit over into the realm of dice.

Yet I really really love the fact sheet.

It is a different approach from mine. I can see this bit work.

I'll see if I can't post something about Descent over the weekend, so we can compare the two.

Regarding competition, I think that it will help build the tension up.

The more I think about the fact sheet the more I like it, but it seems like it will be pretty hard to set up things so that the missions have much variety. I guess a table-driven approach would have the same effect and be easier to set up. So you would roll on the table for "facts about X" and get the same sort of fill-in-the blank sentence to complete.
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darquelf
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« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2005, 11:30:25 AM »

There is one major difference. I am trying to remove the competivness by moving the whole alien attack bit over into the realm of dice.

Yet I really really love the fact sheet.

It is a different approach from mine. I can see this bit work.

I'll see if I can't post something about Descent over the weekend, so we can compare the two.

Regarding competition, I think that it will help build the tension up.

The more I think about the fact sheet the more I like it, but it seems like it will be pretty hard to set up things so that the missions have much variety. I guess a table-driven approach would have the same effect and be easier to set up. So you would roll on the table for "facts about X" and get the same sort of fill-in-the blank sentence to complete.

Build the 'colony' or whatever like a town from Dogs, with a definate manifestation, cause for desertion, ect.  then let the pcs have only part of that during thier briefing.  Like in Aliens, how the company knew what had happened, but didnt give the Marines all the info.  Then you can have the fun of "Oh wow, that alien was HUGE!  I wonder what else command didnt tell us..." set in.
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MikeSands
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« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2005, 03:55:23 PM »

Build the 'colony' or whatever like a town from Dogs, with a definate manifestation, cause for desertion, ect.  then let the pcs have only part of that during thier briefing.  Like in Aliens, how the company knew what had happened, but didnt give the Marines all the info.  Then you can have the fun of "Oh wow, that alien was HUGE!  I wonder what else command didnt tell us..." set in.

I prefer using the 'make it up as you go along' system here. I'd like the game to be playable without preparation, just sit down for an evening and go for it. For this reason, having the mystery/aliens generated as you go will be something I stick with.

This doesn't preclude events like your example, of course. Easy enough include proto-facts like "The briefing did not mention that ______" and "The marines are being used by _______ for ________"
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Callan S.
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« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2005, 07:59:59 PM »

Hi Mike,

Quote
There would be a lot of GM vs players competitiveness (and between players too). The GM should be trying as hard as possible to kill everyone*. The players should each be trying to be the one (or one of the few) who survive. Everyone should be looking to step on up and use the facts established to gain advantages in their combat rolls.

Okay, I'm gunna get a bit theory heavy on you, but this is what I see with gamist design: It's like narrativism, in that you can't design a game that has a fixed address like "You betrayed your girl for your country" but there aren't any mechanics for further addresses to be made by players. All you do is examine the fallout of that fixed choice. Gamism parralels this: You can't have a game with a fixed address "Kill all the aliens", but no mechanics to support new addresses/gamist goals being made & most importantly, declared. All you could do is examine what happens after that goal is made.

Yes, this can still involve lots of strategizing on the parts of all players. But strategizing toward what? Without the injection of drama of a player declaring their objective, your not building up toward anything except seeing how the games objective of wipe out the bugs, turns out. That's fine, but it's just like that fixed address nar game...your just seeing what happens after the fixed choice, rather than players making their own addresses and seeing what new drama that leads to.

On a personal note, I think 'see what happens after the fixed choice' is fun if played in a simulationist way. I've been caught in limbo at the forge for awhile over it, because outside of play as a games designer I'd keep thinking of challenges that were neat. But when I 'fixed' them into the game, I just made a simulationist exercise (and because I like hard rules, it'd be a very confined sim exploration with little wriggle room). This kept me stuck in a loop.

PS: I really relate to wanting to avoid prep.
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MikeSands
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« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2005, 11:17:33 PM »

Callan,

I agree with what you're saying there. I'm not really sure whether this idea wants to be a gamist or a sim affair. I know I was using gamist terminology there but actually I was just thinking about how to get the tension working right. But I'm not sure which way I want to take it at the moment.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2005, 03:06:24 PM »

I think tension is a good goal. And I think it's agenda neutral.

Perhaps you could get it from working into the game something the player has tense/unpleasant feelings about. Like I hate the idea of a needle going into my eye...

Eww, that was horrid enough to start a new paragraph to avoid. Anway, so players were willing to offer something that they dislike (it doesn't have to be terribly intense, just as long as its some sort of experience that they would hate). Once you have that, you can use it as an ingame event that could happen to a PC and when it does, the players will so relate (make it an expansion of the pet hate, that it happens in such a way that an alien does it to the marine and kills them via it, true to genre). Now, the more they can avoid the pet hate while at they know there are odds of it coming up, the more tension there will be.

Though my spidey sense tingles, sensing that too much GM fiat could easily cause disasterous play with such charged stakes. That'd be an issue to deal with, if you take this idea up.
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MikeSands
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« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2005, 04:48:09 PM »

Callan, that is an extremely cool and also disturbing idea. However, it certainly works well with the source material.

I don't think this will lead to an excess of GM fiat. It's probably better used as a way to develop the alien - every player has to put in something icky like that, and these all end up being something the aliens do. This would really be color, I don't think any mechanical advantage for the aliens needs to be associated with this.

Note that the original alien concept really seems like it could have been developed by a few people in a room putting together everything that would disturb them the most into one creature.
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