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Bone Range (prehistoric) tabletop RPG idea

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Midnight_Carnival's picture
Joined: 06/17/2015

Bone Range is a game I would love to play but I probably won't develop it beyond the concept phase for quite some time. The idea came about as a way to test a new system for RPGs which I was planning to use in a computerised RPG which would come out something like a mixture of Harvest Moon and Rogue-like text graphic dungeon crawlers.

Things I've found limit traditional tabletop RPGs often centre around the Game Master, which is why the ones I'm currently developing do not need one. In Bone Range each player can act as GM but also as world builder while remaining a character – the prestige lies in making it fun and interesting to play while sorting out what is essentially a lot of admin.

The background/setting is that your character (with stats, skills etc.) is marooned somewhere. It could be prehistoric, fantasy or science fiction themed, for now that's not important (the main differnce would be in the skills and background knowledge of the character). The character would have knowledge which may be useful but no knowledge about the new world (s/)he now lives in. This part of the game can be played as a small group but is far better to play as solo (solo tabletop RPGs do exist but they are not popular). The challenges faced are those pertaining to survival, food, shelter/insulation, fresh water, some measure of safety.

When your character encounters something new (in the beginning everything will be new) you will have to consult a (hopefully not too exhaustive tome) in which you determine 1) what it is, 2) what properties it has 3) how useful or dangerous it is to you – this is more or less how a cast away would relate to new things I assume. I'm not sure how I'd do the first part, it may be rolling dice (yuk! I can foresee those hideous polyhedral dice!) or it could be left to the player to decide what (s/)he finds. Once you have determined what it is you encounter, you may check the other 2 by rolling for each property or by using skills and rolling. Most minerals would have few properties, let's check a stone for example:

it would need the following properties: weight, hardness, strength, um “knapability” or something, “likelihood of finding pebbles or huge boulders” and abundance. Rolling very high or very low numbers would indicate an exceptional property, this can be left up to the player. Exceptional properties of stone could include things such as being able to burn, edibility, being poisonous, being able to start fires, etc.

then we could use the same system on a berry bush, or we could get the character to test for skills as well. A character skilled in hunting or camouflage could hide and watch the bush. The character would have to test for remaining hidden as well as testing for observation. Seeing 1 type of bird eating the berries makes it less likely that they are deadly poison, yet that bird could have an immunity or eat something else which counters the poison... seeing many different types of creatures eating that berry would make it more likely that the berries are edible, but to see that the character would have to be lucky, well versed in the respective skills and attributes and have to test for endurance or they'll starve to death watching the berry bush or else charge out in an attempt to snatch some little creature and frighten everything in the vicinity away.
Berries can have properties like abundance, accessibility (only grows on steep cliff faces or the plant has thorns), toxicity, palatability and um time it takes for them to ripen as well as how long they are available for.

Properties such as having toxic flesh/venom could be quite common in say insects and only appear as exceptional properties in large quadrupeds.

The Solo part of the game consists of finding ways to survive and making hopefully not too cumbersome lists of the fauna, flora and minerals in your world. Finding new resources and stumbling across new hazards. Geographical and climatic features would also be at first randomly determined but once determined, they would be kept and there is nothing you can do about them!
It is quite possible that players might “cheat” the world by re-rolling exhaustively or just not bothering to roll and then selecting favourable things from the tables/lists -this would work for the Solo game (even if it is a bit like cheating at solitaire) but it would make the game far less interesting for the player and once other players join the game.

Once the multilayer mode commences you will hopefully have some impressive stats and skills, you invite all your friends around, who have likewise also hopefully developed impressive stats and skills and may have found/made some really great survival gear. Your character would act as a sort of guide (if (s/)he chose to!) and you, having created the world would act like a sort of GM. Of course new characters could find new things in your world or they could find things from their world in yours which you didn't know about. You can have adventures, battle one another or settle down and have kids, growing plants you found to be suitable for farming purposes.
It depends on how interesting you have made your world and how much you've played solo – the people who cheat everything will probably not make good GMs because they are lazy and not adventurous so their worlds will be dull and they are unlikely to go to much effort.

One thing which does not change and which no amount of clever GM guruing will fix:
The game is about survival!

Players can pull their characters from the multilayer at any point between periods of play, if the game play ends with the characters all trapped in an underground cavern and a player doesn't like this they can go without their character suffering penalties or anything. No matter how annoying the GM, you can't pull your character in the middle of a game. This is important because when your character dies, that death is FINAL. There are no animals, plants or minerals and no player skills which can revive dead characters. If your player should die in the Solo game you can maroon a new character in your previous one's world but then of course they'd have to find all the old stuff – if your character dies in a multilayer game other players can have their characters give yours a proper funeral or loot all your stone-age gear and maybe even eat your flesh and use your bones to make tools!
Like I said, the game is about survival.
In a multilayer game players who's characters have died can choose how much of the stuff they've developed on their own they want to share with others, but anything you developed and then found in somebody else's world remains in their world (although availability may change) It is assumed that if players meet for the purpose of setting up a combat multilayer game where the characters must find each other and fight to the death then the purpose of this game is to hyjack the losing player's whole world.

Like I said, won't develop this for a while but I'd like to at some point and I'd really welcome suggestions on how to refine and improve the system so that it's not cumbersome or exhausting to play (especially the solo bit).

Soulfinger's picture
Joined: 01/06/2015
What is the role playing

What is the role playing element? The problem with not having a GM is that it complicates the narrative structure and the process of character development. It would be very difficult to make a game book that can compensate for the absence of the GM's ad hoc arbitration without severely limiting player options. Game Masters are the greatest asset of tabletop role playing, allowing for a level of improvised creative play unparalleled by any board game or digital medium. By eliminating the role, you have to figure out a system of impartial player arbitration or risk shallow CRPG style game play.

Midnight_Carnival's picture
Joined: 06/17/2015
players are the GM

Ok, the roleplaying element is the bit about a character trying to survive in a strange and potentially hostile world.
If you don't get into that it would just be rolling dice and checking stuff on tables or in a huge book - without bringing the joy of discovery the game would have no appeal to anyone.

The GM is not as absent in this as in some of my other games since players must each act as a sort of GM in creating their own worlds then the player who acts as 'host' to the multiplayer game would obviously be the authority on the world and control it, much like a GM in some respects. Of course because discovery is central to the game, it is not only the 'host' player who controls everything about the world, opening your world to other players means making them 'demi-GMs'.

I'm well aware of how intricate and cumbersome the process of making every plant and animal in the world from scratch can be, finding clever or fun ways to do so before I get anywhere near serious development on the game was part of why I opened this thread.

In essence, the Bone Range world/worlds is/are vast and mostly unknown; constant exploration and study of the world is neccesarry because people can find ways to work with what they know about, what you don't know kills you.

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