A couple of my friends are currently preparing for the NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. The idea is that you challenge yourself to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November.
In 2011 Nathan Russel had the idea to initiate the first NaGaDeMon or National Game Design Month. You can “win” the NaGaDeMon challenge by creating a game (a roleplaying game, boardgame, computer game, etc.) during the month of November, finishing it (no handwaving allowed), playing it at least once and – this is the most important part – talking about it.
Last year I wanted to contribute something to NaGaDeMon by creating Astronauts, a near future, hard science fiction roleplaying game. Alas this project never saw the light of day. I also recently decided to work on an expanded and revised edition of Arcane Heroes, so I might not work on a separate NaGaDeMon project this year, but still I think NaGaDeMon is a fun idea and if you are interested in game design, you really should think about joining the fun! Check out the official NaGaDeMon site for more information.
As I’ve written last week, I doubt I will get my NaGa DeMon project done. Today is November 28th and Astronauts is far from being playable. But since it’s a very interesting project I hope to finish it over the next months. I don’t play to hurry things but instead I want to work on it until I am happy with the result.
I also promised you a first look on what I’ve done so far. So here’s an excerpt from my manuscript:
Astronauts uses a simple dice pool mechanic to determine if actions attempted by characters are successful or not. Astronauts uses two kinds of six-sided dice: Skill dice (blue) and Complication dice (black). The blue dice represent the character’s skills and any favorable conditions that may help the character. Black dice represent anything that hinders success. Whenever it’s unsure whether a task at hand may fail or not, the dice pool is assembled. The pool starts with one Skill die. For each character trait helping in that situation another Skill die is added. The GM then may add additional Skill dice if there are favorable conditions making the task even easier. Then the Complication dice are added. Stress, unfavorable conditions, sometimes even trust issues between the characters can account for that.
The dice pool is then rolled. Each die that comes up 5 or 6 is counted as a success. Successes on black dice negate successes on blue dice. If no successes on Skill dice remain, the check failed. If only one success on a blue die remains, the check was partially successful. The task succeeded but just by a very small margin. At least two remaining successes on Skill dice are needed for a full success. Further successes imply that the task at hand was performed with superior skill or in less time than initially thought.
This core mechanic is actually pretty close to which I came up for another unfinished project, but I like it a lot, that’s why it makes a reappearance here. To put the mechanics into a bit more perspective, let me share another excerpt:
On Friday I announced my project for this year’s NaGa DeMon. It will be a near future hard science fiction roleplaying game called Astronauts. And after making that announcement I realized two things: a) a lot of people are quite excited about this and b) it’s going to be harder than I thought.
One major problem is that the way I imagined the game in the first place it’s extremely hard to actually run it. While being in space, exploring the surface the Mars etc. is extremely exciting a lot of the things astronauts do during those missions is terribly boring when played in a roleplaying game. As HyenaSpotz pointed out in a comment to my announcement post:
What sorts of conflicts would this game have? If there are no aliens, most of the immediate threat is environmental, the sweeping threats are politics back on Earth, and there’s always the “Why did you bring a gun into space?” scenario among the team…
I have been thinking about this over the weekend and I also checked out Paul Elliott’s game Mars which commenter rainswept recommended. And I realized that I can circumvent a lot of the major problems by moving the game from “First Mission to Mars” to the “First Colony on Mars” without having to abandon all of my initial ideas.
I already started working on a future history which spans from the early to mid 21st century. In my version of the future a new space race starts in the 2020s with a international mission to Mars led by the USA against a Chinese Mars project. The game will probably be set into the 2050s or later when a permanent research colony on Mars has been established and when private companies start looking into exploiting the natural resources of Moon, Mars and other celestial bodies.
When it comes to game rules I am currently torn between a dice pool mechanic and a 3d6-roll-under mechanic. But in either case I intend to use a system light on rules. The focus of the game should be the story, the characters and not the rules. Since I am still in an early design phase I am of still open to your ideas. What are your thoughts on the whole project? Please share your thoughts below.
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