Thursday, April 17, 2014
Reworking the grand tactical scale for my game Fire On The Suns. This one will use a grid system similar to the one used in the strategic system. I've had a hex-based system in place for years using a hex map image superimposed on an Excel spreadsheet, but it always seemed just a bit "off". Both system use vector-based movement (in 2D), but the hex map isn't really user-friendly in Excel. I've got the grid coordinates laid out, the light hour boundaries established (1, 2, and 3), and the grid coordinate and movement system established including a handy movement utility that appears to function. The hex-based system sometimes got clunky and confusing when plotting vectors and calculating when things would be detected at up to 6 light hour ranges (60 hexes or in the new version grid squares of 6 light minutes each). Also, the hex-based system just seemed to take some of the drama out of writing about the battles in the first FOTS novel. I'm hoping something like, "Enemy drive flares detected. Grid Six, bearing zero nine eight. Range three light hours" will be a little more exciting. Of course, just because the enemy might have appeared in grid 6 and 3 light hours away does not, in any case, mean they're still there. Depending on one's position in the system they could be anywhere up to 6 hours movement (about 72 light minutes for most starships - or 12 grid squares) away from that position in any direction when you detect them. Very, very few starships in FOTS can hide from anybody bothering to watch for them (and the ones that can usually use deception or trickery to do so). Those drive flares are very bright and the ships themselves are not exactly "quiet" (glowing hot in the infrared from their environmental systems at the very least). Given the scale it might _just_ be possible to watch every grid square along the 3 light hour boundary where most ships can warp into a system (there'd be 3600 of them (60x60), but that's an awful lot of watch stations to try to build and manage plus by the time you spot them there's a good chance they're already light seconds to light minutes away from where they were when detection occurred. What this will do, however, is establish a fairly easy and comfortably manageable and, I hope, intuitive system for managing combat between fleets at the grand tactical scale. The FOTS Battle Engine can handle all the tactical stuff when fleets actually come to blows.
Thursday, April 03, 2014
A friend of mine recently decided to bow out of a game he'd invested a lot of time and effort in because the GM rescinded a decision he'd made. I've been in that position more than once so I understand where he's coming from, and, to be frank, the GM in this case, is in the wrong. A GM runs a game. He plans it. He plots it. He wrangles the players, balances forces, creates the NPCs and sets them loose in the world. He creates the background. He writes the storyline. But once the game is underway the GM cannot, and should not, dictate all possible avenues of game play for every player - especially in a non-video 4X game of the free-form style I'm talking about here. The GM, just like a writer, has to be flexible enough to allow his players and his characters to "go with the flow" of the storyline he has set in place. He (or she so as not to be too sexist here) can set up cut-scenes, scenes which must happen within the game, and has an extraordinary amount of flexibility when it ccmes to creating new scenes that have to happen within a game. But a GM should never, ever, in my not so humble opinion, ever dictate that certain things cannot happen within the context of an open-ended or even closed-ended game. This is a path toward chaos and players quitting because they cannot do what they believe will advance their own agenda in the game. Now, the GM has a certain ability to influence the course of his game - indeed, he has perhaps ultimate power in that regard - but to simply erase a player's ability to do what they want, to backtrack or sidestep the GM's storyline, to deviate from that storyline, is to alienate players in that game and to leave egg on the face of the GM in that regard. Other players are going to reconsider whether or not they want to play in that GM's games again because of such heavy-handedness, plus potential players who are considering juping in may not be enticed in the future into doing so. And that affects all the GMs in a game - not just that one. I've stayed out of the argument thus far, but I can see a thousand ways this particular GM might have been able to wrangle the player's decision(s) in-game to better his storyline. The same, I believe, hold true for writing. When a character simply will not hold true to the plot, it's not generally a good idea to force them to toe the line. In fact, because characters have a habit of going off on their own and ding their own thing if a plot is decent enough, sometimes the story can come out better than the GM/writer ever thought it could. When players make their own decisions about their characters and their worlds and their empires - that's the player thinking for the GM/writer. Give them their head, let them have free rein. But be prepared to throw your own or a different monkey wrnech in their path along their way. Let them live and die on their own. Only that way will your characters become truly human and truly memorable. And maybe, just maybe along the way you'll have more story than you ever thought possible. Thanks, Greg