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Help changing a theme?

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Robinxen
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I've been designing a game for well over two years now with many iterations from the base version, initially it was an attempt to make a Co-Op game for my friends based on XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Then after adding several new features it began to deviate somewhat, as many roleplay mechanics were added to enable a campaign to last almost indefinitely as long as someone could create a plotline and to enable more freedom in player actions. Both my play groups, one of my friends and one from a veteran gaming community, agreed to find a new setting for the game to enable rule and mechanic expansion because they wanted me to try publishing it.

The obvious choice was to set the game in the future, which we tried, however the game lost its impact when doing so, the fictional entities and technobabble removed the conviction from the players to complete the game.

Then we tried setting it in the Cold War, with the players being agents of Area 51 and their mission was to expand said facility and prevent global disaster. This worked well, but was felt to be an overplayed topic.

Brainstorming led to three more options.
Western-However it was unpopular.
Fantasy-However the explanation of weapon choice and player classes became difficult, it just didn't fit with the mechanics. Such as base construction, hacking and the lack of melee rules.
Steampunk-Again the conviction of the players felt lost.

There was a spin off of the steampunk idea which was that a time traveller from the future came back and pushed the Nazi weapon development program into even our future, and that the Allies hired the players as part of a counter organisation to capture and reverse engineer the advancements to ensure the war plays out as it was "somewhat" historically supposed to. However it fell to a large degree of criticism.

Two more ideas were then added to the mix:
Demons-With the players being demon hunters and they had to expand their Cathedral to protect the world. This was a controversial setting, with many for and against arguments.
"Alternitech"-(Named after a book with a similar idea) This is/was the most popular of the new settings. Essentially the players are agents of a company which goes to "alternative" timelines to exploit them, using the profit to expand their company and eventually get dragged into a war with parallel Earth's.

My question is what theme should I go for, there a pros and cons for every setting. Nobody can settle on which is the most practical, mechanically fitting, interesting or expandable.

chris_mancini
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Hard to say without knowing

Hard to say without knowing more about the game and its mechanics. What more can you tell us?

radioactivemouse
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chris_mancini wrote:Hard to

chris_mancini wrote:
Hard to say without knowing more about the game and its mechanics. What more can you tell us?

Agreed. It seems you started the thread mid-thought.

Robinxen
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Core Mechanics

Each player (minus the GM who has to control hostiles) has a basic character, they then spend 15 stat points over 4 areas, and select a "class" bonus ability (of which of which 9 exist). These range from the ability to use swords to hacking into terminals easier. They then deploy onto an operation where they face varying degrees of hostiles, which for playtesting have been determined by a GM (though limited rules exist for automated generation) with an objective (GM or generated from a table). These can vary from capturing an item, downloading some data or simply killing everyone. When this is met it can either be game complete or part of a campaign, if it's a campaign then the game continues in "out-of-combat"

Once out-of-combat characters on the mission gain XP (this is spent directly on character improvement, there is no leveling) and amounts of four resource types. These can be spent buying items, upgrading the "base", increasing their stats and so forth. Eventually they can buy into a "specialization" which is an additional bonus on top of their class.
(Eg the "Agent" class which has a bonus to stealth, can specialize in Backstabbing, dealing extra damage against hostiles who are unaware of their presence)

The "base/company" is an entity with a fixed amount of expansion slots which can be filled with certain abilities. Such as training facilities, research departments. These determine which upgrades and specializations are available for a character as well as which operations are available. Without a communications array for example, highly profitable third party operations are not available.

The names of everything is flexible, Agent was formerly Spy. The Techie was originally Scientist. Communications Array was a Call Center.

Characters are not expected to last extended periods of time, an operation with a bad decision or two uncooperative players can enable the hostiles to get the upper hand. Death is part of the game, as a result character creation is easy so that the player can jump straight back in next operation. The only persistent part of a campaign is the base/company which is the entity the characters are working for.

Campaigns can last indefinitely, until either the base/company is destroyed by the players inability to defend its interests or until the GM's plotline is completed (there is no fixed plot, though there is generally accepted end game goal)

questccg
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Personally I like an XCOM flavor

How about a game in an alternate reality of Earth?

Have different countries including the USA (Area 51). Each country is researching alien technology since the number of alien sightings has globally increased.

I would date the game back to the year 2000! I think it could work...

I don't know what the overall goal would be ... but like you said your base needs to grow while Characters can be lost. Alien technology could STAY. And I would go the "Civilization" route. Maybe a tech tree of all the different kinds of things you can learn.

IDK maybe this is possible/plausible.

Note: I would even explore Co-operative game effort. Again I don't know what the "end-goal" would be... But in XCOM you would need to be able to build a spaceship that could take you to the alien "base" (could be Mars for example, etc.) Maybe go back to the 1980s with the Columbia, etc.

The maiden voyage was in 1981. Challenger blew up in 1986...

radioactivemouse
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Sounds like something

Sounds like something futuristic, but I believe it shouldn't be strictly futuristic. I say since you're creating this universe, why not an alternate reality? You'll need to create the rules of the universe, but if it's based on rules of reality, it shouldn't be hard to create a unique universe.

Soulfinger
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Re-themes of X-Com: --

Re-themes of X-Com:

-- Invasion America setting, Red Dawn style.
-- Something like the show, Leverage. You have your team of assorted criminals bringing down corporations. Sort of a Shadowrun dealio without the cyberpunk elements.
-- Be the first person to base a game on The Stuff, and have your guys running missions against people possessed by an evil confection.
-- For your demons idea, take a look at Fritz Leiber's "Gather, Darkness" for some inspiration. The main issue I ever have with religiously themed settings is that so many people who write them are ignorant of theology, so the end product becomes an unintentionally shallow parody. Frank Herbert is an example of an author who understood religion well enough to craft a convincing fiction.

I like your alternitech idea though. It's sort of like playing the bad guys in TORG or They Live, or something from the old show, Sliders. Plenty of room for a fresh take on the genre.

Robinxen
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Alternitech and XCOM

The Alternitech setting when it was tested by the veteran group led to some amusing operations.

My favourite example was the players had to go to a parallel America and "steal" the President of the USA from that Earth because the one on Earth Prime had been assassinated in his home. The public would be unaware of the difference and the "alternative" president was lied to so he didn't realise either.

During the original iterations the XCOM flavour was held for a long period of time, even when we got 9 classes and the roleplay mechanics everything was heavily styled to make it feel like a sequel to Enemy Unknown, when XCOM 2 was announced it made things trickier to keep separate. There's so much in the XCOM franchise that I didn't want to just rehash it in the format of a board game. That said I can never escape the fact that mechanically it is a rehash of XCOM.

Darwins_Dog
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What about some sort of

What about some sort of shadow organization/secret society? I'm thinking of the video game The Secret World, or the show Agents of SHIELD.

You could have an international organization that is trying to contain alien technology and keep it from harming people. That opens up possibilities for lots of different mission types (tech retrieval, eliminate a threat, cover up a sighting, etc.) requiring different specialists.

Soulfinger
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Robinxen wrote:The

Robinxen wrote:
The Alternitech setting when it was tested by the veteran group led to some amusing operations.

My favourite example was the players had to go to a parallel America and "steal" the President of the USA from that Earth because the one on Earth Prime had been assassinated in his home. The public would be unaware of the difference and the "alternative" president was lied to so he didn't realise either.

Yeah, I really think this setting will work out just fine -- stick with it! -- particularly if the variations between the parallel worlds are very minor, like in your example. Most parallel Earth franchises use the idea as an opportunity for fighting Nazis or mixing genres, and you end up with all of these Cadillacs and Dinosaurs or X+Nazis settings.

If the differences are very minor then extreme outcomes also become more compelling. For example, there is a parallel Earth where all life is extinct, save for one person. You have to extract that person before she succumbs to the elements so that you can interrogate her and make sure the catalyst for this apocalypse isn't relevant to your own world. As a follow-up, you have to kill the scientist performing the research that ended this woman's world (it turns out to be the same woman -- dun-dun-duuuun!) Teams are then dispatched to other strategically important realities to commit Jane Smith genocide.

You can steal patent registries to see if anything has been discovered that isn't native to your own Earth, rescue lost works of art, and do some truly awful things like detonate a nuclear device in a populated area as part of a simulation to see if it can be done safely in your reality without provoking a nuclear war or infiltrate a facility to gain sensitive materials knowing that it will end in horrific consequences for that world, but not yours. I really like the possibilities. Maybe offer two mission decks, white knight and black op, which gives the players some say in the morality of their work.

Fortunately, the rehash aspect mirrors the aspect of XCom that FFG didn't use with their board game (which is excellent, by the way), but its not as though the skirmish aspect of that game really veered away from the tried-and-true formulas for numerous other ones.

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