Sunday, September 25, 2016

Post Apocalyptic Domain Level Play Thoughts


I've been thinking lately about the minimal presence of domain level play in post apocalyptic games. A key factor is no doubt the survival oriented nature of post apocalyptic life. However, establishing settlements and rebuilding society is often a key theme in post apocalyptic fiction, so it occurred to me to give some thoughts on the subject. For game play, I think that the players are going to want the experience of four levels of structure in their games. The earliest level of structure is beginning adventures, out exploring the wasteland, scavenging ruins, etc. After some levels of this, I think they're most likely going to want to establish a home base where they can store the accumulated stuff they've scavenged, have a sense of security, protect their loyal followers, maybe make some money in some sort of trade, etc. At somewhat higher levels, this will evolve into controlling and operating a wasteland settlement (though some games make settlement management and improvement part of their basic play). Beyond this, once they've got a secure, growing settlement, they're going to want to expand their borders. which brings us to domain level play.

Naturally, I've been looking at various systems of domain level play, notably BECMI's Companion Set rules, and ACKS modifications to that system. I think there are several usable things that can be used from each system, and some things which can either be discarded, or modified to reflect the post apocalyptic setting. I'll admit, I prefer BECMI's somewhat more detailed domain resource breakdown as opposed to ACKS' more abstract system. Detailed resources means that the domain is going to possess some things and need others to grow, which encourages play directed toward trading what you have for what you need. Having something to help specify the resources makes it easier for the GM and players to know what they have and what they lack. Of course, in a PA setting, the resource breakdowns will be different, so that will have to be taken into account.
Another key mechanic of these systems that I think needs to be addressed or modified, is the civilized/borderlands/wilderness classifications of hexes. Depending on the particulars of a PA setting, there may not be any civilized areas, or even borderlands for that matter. As for the hex scaling itself, I prefer ACKS' 6-mile and 24-mile system to BECMI's 8-mile and 24-mile system, and although I would prefer BECMI's resources per 8-mile hex breakdown over ACKS' resources per 24-mile hex, the larger hex scaling makes more sense in terms of a PA setting. I should also probably note here that in my thinking about PA sandboxes, I've decided to use a larger 24-mile or 30-mile hex size as my standard because of one factor. I like the road warrior post apocalyptic action type, and cars are going to cover those hexes fairly fast (even with crap roads, marauders, biker gangs, and so forth, a 30 MPH travel speed is not unreasonable (and also makes factoring fuel consumption easier...one gallon per hex of gasoline).
Probably the biggest area of change is dumping the feudal aspects of BECMI's and ACKS' domain rules. Characters aren't generally going to be getting land grants from some ruling overlord (though that can still be a possibility), they're most likely going to be carving out territory of their own from the lawless wilderness. However, this doesn't mean I want to abandon the titles of nobility aspect of domain rule (though obviously I'd use and create different tables for titles of nobility, while still keeping the feudal titles as an option...after all, there's plenty of PA fiction with (self-proclaimed) barons, counts, dukes, and kings.
Another area of consideration is domain events. While both BECMI and ACKS use a monthly time period of play, there's no reason weekly or daily events can't occur to change things in the settlement or domain. This is where a modified version of Oriental Adventures' Event Tables come in. I'll probably also be checking into some Gamma World adventures (mostly for idea generation on how Cryptic Alliances are doing the domain thing) and Twilight 2000 modules for empire building ideas.
The last consideration is that there are going to be others out there looking to carve out their own domains. This is the post apocalypse after all, every flea-bitten, mohawked, wannabe bandit leader is trying to carve out their own empire. Which gives us lots of options for sandbox play, since their activities can involve the characters who work with or against them, defending settlements or raiding them, even at lower levels of play.