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Persuaded to Publicly Playtest my Skirmish RPG

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Robinxen's picture
Joined: 06/21/2015

So I've been working on this game for the best part of 3 to 4 years on and off, the most recent versions roots really grew in the last two years, since I was 16. It's jumped from setting to setting an awful lot until it settled in its current one. Finally I've been persuaded to get some external opinions rather than just my playgroups, since they have quite specific tastes and a previous thread brought up conflict between something they really wanted and something that few people here were a fan of.

The game is under the working title Alternitech, which is a loan name from a book which the setting has a degree of inspiration from.

A quick setting and mechanics overview can be found below, along with the playtest package link.

The development of Rift Technology by Alternative Technologies created a new era for the company. It enabled the movement of matter anywhere in space. Subsequently, with an influx of investment and breakthroughs on every front, it began to attract moral and legal opposition. Sued almost to bankruptcy after some bad experiments, the rebranded AlterniTech has just one facility remaining, hiring a handful of agents, the company now uses Rift Technology to deploy them to parallel Earth’s and retrieve high value targets non-existent on Earth Prime.

The company is a shadow organisation, working to do what can’t possibly be done at home, existing both within the laws of Earth Prime but out the laws of its targets. It falls down to the effectiveness of the Agents and the reconstruction of AlterniTechs assets to determine the future of Earth, Prime or otherwise. But don’t fall into a false sense of security, other AlterniTechs exist and are just as willing to exploit you as you are them.

The games roots are an RPG, that said, however very little of your traditional roleplaying components are present. Aside from character classes, and the full control of character stat placement, there is little in terms of free will during an operation as everything is constrained by rules. The game relies on a GM and X number of players (3 to 7 in my playtests) as Agents, performing operations. Operations run more like a miniature wargame skirmish, with specific actions and stats available against a number of enemies. The ultimate goal for Agents is to go in, complete an operation and make it back out.

A unique feature is the games encouragement of character death, dying is part of the game to be embraced and replacements characters can be created almost instantly. A GM not killing characters leads to a state where it becomes difficult to pose a challenge for the players without resorting to just masses of enemies.

Outside of operations though players can drop in and drop out freely, so you don't have to worry about absent players for regular meet ups and the game doesn't stop there. Resource management, character development, technology development and the expansion of the AlterniTech company can all take place in the time between operations, whether that be minutes or days, enabling some degree of strategy to be at play. All the players will have differing opinions.

The rules aren't fixed, and the game mechanics openly allow for the GM to reconstruct the game their way. If you find something that works, or doesn't, then change it to suit you. In the process you can let me know and I've learnt something useful.

You can download my quick hash together of a playtest package here.

The linked version has been heavily modified since my last playtest, I added some new classes, changed the stealth rules and changed the specialization system etc. Since I have not settled on rules for the rival AlternitTech's attacking the PC's company I have not included it, however the GM may choose to do so at their discretion since it is a useful way of keeping things moving.

For my playtests the Pathfinder Beginners Box was used for the board and "lifesigns" (which I must rename because half of them are robotic and therefore wouldn't have a lifesign!).

Many Thanks!

Soulfinger's picture
Joined: 01/06/2015
You'll want to drop the term

You'll want to drop the term "Rift," as that might get you a cease and desist from Palladium.

For figures, I want to suggest the Nova Corp. and IMEF miniatures from Reaper's Bones line. Also, maybe ones like their Chronotechnician and Bonnie.

Refine your game's identity. It's not an RPG, and it sounds less like a skirmish game than a thematic strategy board game, similar to Descent.

Consider formatting your game so that it does not require a GM. This style is becoming increasingly popular, as not a lot of players enjoy the GM role.

Robinxen's picture
Joined: 06/21/2015
Points of discussion

Perhaps the way I've wrote it made it feel less of an RPG, however the two groups I've played it with have roleplayed to the extent that they've done something on how their character would do it. However that's probably because they are from a roleplay background. I toned it down to make the game more simplistic for those that don't roleplay, though had plans to enable ways to "talk through" operations rather than the current guns blazing or stealth methods.

As for removing the GM I don't see a possible way, it was in the original plan but I had to drop it. Someone has to control the enemies, and a GM is an easier way of doing it than having a player almost destined to lose or one that's going to annoy the other players by killing them all. Having them as a GM removes that personal touch. We've even rotated GM's per operation for a campaign. Again maybe that's just the groups I built this with.

As for the actual identity I had no idea what it was as I've never played a board game of the same style so I was really at loss. I resorted to Skirmish RPG because it was a small group vs a small group and there were a couple roleplaying elements. However if there are strategy board games of a similar style then I'm more than happy to accept an identity that actual fits the games description when it comes to helping explain and describe it.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011

Sounds to me like you could benefit by having a look at a few squad-based tactical games that don't use a GM or referee. A few off the top of my head:
- Tannhauser
- HeroScape
- BattleBall
- Last Night on Earth

These game systems establish standard rulesets but allow for customization within and/or prior to game sessions. A referee is not required, just someone to control each squad. The individual units are collections of stats, abilities, and equipment - not fleshed-out RPG characters - and beyond their special abilities could be interchangeable entities. With the exception of BattleBall, the teams are asymmetrical in terms of composition, and often have abilities much different from the other.

Based on this scenario, it may be more effective for players to serve as heads of their Earth's Alternitech corporation, making top-level decisions, hiring and firing technicians for the operations, staying in their office waiting for updates from the field. It doesn't seem satisfying to me to have either a nameless, bland character that's interchangeable with any other in a matter of minutes, or to invest creative energy and time in a character that's destined to perish in battle and be instantly replaced with someone nearly as effective.

I really like the idea of competing time-traveling teams, each one from a different time-stream or alternate universe. Fundamental in this is bragging rights over who earns the privilege to call themselves "Earth Prime." If they're all alternate time streams, who's to say that theirs is the "first one," or more "Prime" than the others?!?! :)

Earning one or two experience points per session also seems prohibitive, but can make each XP earned very significant in contrast. It reminds me somewhat of contemporary tower defense games, in which players can set up their "bonuses" they've earned to increase effectiveness in some areas or with some tower types, but then before the next round they can "reset" their bonuses and reconfigure the bonus distribution based on the hazards they anticipate in the next stage.

Soulfinger's picture
Joined: 01/06/2015
Straddling genres can make

Straddling genres can make for a hard sell. Shadowrun is a good example of this sort of RPG, often being played as a series of mission-based skirmishes. I strongly suggest playing the recent Shadowrun: Dragonfall, which can be had quite cheaply for play on a computer or Android tablet.

A skirmish style game would fit your setting well if you are doing player versus player. I haven't tried it yet, but I imagine that MERCS: Recon would be something that you'd want to take a look at.

For tactical board games, I'd add to let-off studios's list:

-- Okko
-- Descent
-- Mansions of Madness
-- Siege of the Citadel (used copies can be pricey, but it's an
A+++ top notch example of the genre)
-- Star Wars: Imperial Assault (haven't played it yet)
-- Sedition Wars (for an example of an unsuccessful one, or if you need a load of parts and figures to use for prototyping your own game for less than $30)

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