The Caledonian Games Developer Journal

Hello and welcome to the Caledonian Games Developer Journal.  This will be a regularly updated journal of progress on many of the games made here at Caledonian Games.


As games are conceived, discussed, organized, and created; Caledonian Games owner/developer, Scott Allen, will post notes and images to help visitors see the Caledonian Games Creative process in action.

February 1, 2013


Creating Warriors of the Wasteland


Today I am going to continue on my original mission for the Developer Journal section and explain more about my process of game creation.  This post will start with the introduction to a game I am developing called Warriors of the Wasteland™.  It is a role playing game set in post apocalyptic North America.    


After the introduction I will show some of the working graphic mock ups for various game assets and explain how I conceived both their function and design.  I will then explain my map of development and the thoughts that lead to the efforts I will make in my future progress.


So, without further ado, let’s talk about…







Journal Posts

Introduction


Warriors of the Wasteland is a semi-cooperative role play adventure game set on post-apocalyptic Earth in the year 2094. The Earth as we know it had grown to unparalleled technological heights by the year 2081. Power sources, medicines, weapons, computers, and travel technologies had all been greatly enhanced. The people of this era could harness massive amounts of power in a small pocket sized generators, teleporters allowed instantaneous travel through all parts of the world, and perhaps most frighteningly, weapons of immeasurable destruction were now small enough to be carried almost imperceptibly. Technology had done a great many things but one thing it could not do was reduce the human need for food and clean water. With a growing population within a world of diminishing natural resources, an era of unprecedented greed and self-entitlement within the upper classes began.  The worlds wealthiest feared the competition for resources and began to see the poor in society as being a burden that they no longer wished to support. So it was, that in the year 2081, many of the world’s wealthiest nation states decided to enact “the great segregation.”  In this time, those unable to create more wealth than they used, became labeled, “The Irredeemables,” and all deemed such were ostracized to penal colonies, called Purgatory. Purgatories were completely unsupported and unpleasant territories established in many nation’s least hospitable lands. “The Enlightened,” as the upper class called themselves, remained safe behind walls and armed guard. It was decided that if an “irredeemable” were able to survive purgatory for 5 years, keep lawful record of their financial actions, and in that time prove productive and wealth gaining ability, that they would be allowed back into the mainstream. This totally unrealistic and unfair “bar” was not acceptable and furthered resentment in the ostracized community. This resentment grew, not just among the exiled poor, but also amongst many nations who disagreed with the harsh and inhumane treatment of people based solely upon class status.  As Irredeemables began to wage guerrilla war against the wealthy nation states, they earned the allegiance of some sympathetic nations.  As factions became more desperate and damages more severe, nuclear weapons began to become deployed. Suicide bombers traveled through teleporter’s around the globe annihilating most people and high technology.  In their pride and wrath each side became determined to seek out the others total annihilation. Thus World War IV, also known as the Teleporter War began and ended in mere days, both sides nearly accomplishing the total end of life on Earth. Those left behind were a ragtag element of war abstainers who were far from the battles and now forced to survive among the wreckage with even less resources than either faction had before. The human race had thus been reduced from creators, producers, and consumers to mere scavengers of what once was.


Only one nation, Greenland, was not involved The Teleporter War. When trouble began, Greenland’s government shut down all teleportation devices, effectively cutting them off from the rest of the world but sparing their lives.  Now this resource poor and oft thought unsustainable landscape, practically overnight became the richest nation on the earth, and the only place suitable to support human life.


In the wastelands through out the rest of the world, many more died in the first few years as starvation, disease, and radiation poisoning took its toll.  What was left behind was a mistrusting community of individualists. Despite that, many realized that their chances for survival depended upon team work and organization. Small feudal communities began to build walled townships to protect its inhabitants and the small wealth that they were able to collect and save.  This way of life could sustain a new society for a time but all survivors knew that someday, the wastes would be gleaned of all that could be found and the scavenger way of life would come to an end and with it the last remaining survivors.  The only hope anyone knew of existed in Greenland. It was from this hope that a plan sprung forth from the council in the township of New Springfield.  To send forth a group of explorer’s to find a route through the wasteland to Greenland. To find a new home, a new way of life, and salvation for those condemned to die.


The council of Springfield is determined to make this last ditch effort for survival successful, so they provide some food, basic equipment, essential travel components (boat and hot air balloon parts), and a map.  The map had been drawn from the records of an early underground railroad for Irredeemables that had been established before the onset of war.  Since the war no one had dared to travel so far but necessity has bred the need to attempt the journey now.  From this map players know that they need to travel the wastes till they reach The Great Lake Huron. They must cross the lake till they reach the other side and then begin their journey fording the rivers of Ontario and Quebec. Eventually they would reach the cave passages in the foot hills of The Otish Mountains.  The underground passage way leads them under icy wastes above protecting them from harsh elements for a short time but the passage eventually opens at the base of the Torngat Mountains.  Finally they must traverse the brutal high mountain pass of the Torngats so that they may reach the northern tip of the Labrador Peninsula, where they will be far north enough for prevailing westerly winds to assuredly carry their hot air balloon to Greenland.

The Process


That is the premise that I wrote the day I first imagined this game. The premise felt so rich and vivid in my mind that the game and its characteristics started to take shape in my mind right away.  


Some of the first questions that I needed to consider were surrounding the games format.  


Q: What type of game will it be?  

A: RPG


Q: How will the games rich environment be conveyed?

A: A DM, in this game called the Overseer.


Q: Will player’s play cooperatively (PvE) or competitively (PvP)?

A: Both.  The challenge of the game will require cooperation but I certain amount of deception and back stabbing may be required to finish the victor.


Q: What randomizers will be employed, dice, cards, other?

A: The game will employ different color dice with progressive success chance based upon a player’s skill in the challenge that is rolled for.  I encountered this model used for rolling combat in Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel.  It worked really well in that game, providing clear benefits for attempting rolls of higher skill and demonstrating success or failure without any need for charts and basic math to determine the value of rolls.  In Warriors of the Wasteland, its not only combat that is rolled with this method, but skills checks for nearly every consequential action in the game.  Skills such as travel, carrying capacity, and defense are fixed abilities dependent on character skill level but actions such as scavenging, engineering or repairing weapons from scavenged materials, ranged and melee attacks, survival attempts, mutation checks, even attempts at coercing others in your party to commit acts against their will are all assessed by die rolls. The higher the characters relative skill is, the better the built in probability in the dice used.  To eliminate excessive skill checks I also included the possibility of catastrophic failure.  Every die has a 1 in 6 chance of catastrophic failure which incurs a challenge specific consequence.  

So you can better understand the simple efficiency of the dice, the table below shows the varying different skill levels and the color die a player would roll using a skill at that level.  The table also shows the odd for success.

Skill Level

Die Color

Success Odds

Catastrophic Failure Odds

Poor

Yellow

1 of 6

1 of 6

Average

White

2 of 6

1 of 6

Good

Red

3 of 6

1 of 6

Best

Blue

4 of 6

1 of 6

Q: How would this system play out for fairly for different characters.  How could it be employed in developing iconic characters that players could relate to?


A:  After consideration I decided to have each character be Best at one skill, Good in another, Poor in one as well.  All other skills they would be average.  The only exception is with Jack (of all trades).  His character is average in all skills.  


This efficient method of defining skill quality easily shows how each character has a series of strengths and weakness that can fit their back story and actually play out with some accuracy in the game.  To show you exactly what I mean, posted below is a basic back story of all the characters, each presented with a table showing their skill levels as well as a special ability unique to each character.


Characters:       

skill die key : Poor : Average : Good : Best


Hazel – The Scout:

Hazel was born to two struggling artists in the Purgatory Zones just after the Great Segregation and before the Teleporter Wars broke out.  Her parents survived the initial war but didn’t have the skills and know how to make it for long.  Left alone as a small child, she was taken in by the New Springfield enclave and given the slim chance for survival they could offer.  She is young and has the optimistic spirit embedded by her parents but she is hardened by having only known life in a perilous world.  She is charming, fast on her feet and highly perceptive but being small she’s not very tough in a brawl.


Ranged : Melee : Defense : Travel : Scavenge

Carry : Survival : Repair : Mutation : Coercion


Special Ability - Far Sight: If Hazel is in the party, the Overseer will reveal the locations of Targets of Interest, Radioactive Spills, and Enemy Factions (not hidden) that are in the map tile ahead of the party.



Bligh – The Tracker:  

Bligh was a tour guide in the Australian outback in more peaceful times before Segregation. At the onset of war he was recruited as an irredeemable suicide bomber.  He was Teleported into the United States on his mission but despite his passions regarding the great injustice, he could not take the life of innocents and decided to abandon his plans to destroy the Enlightened Zone.  Instead, he fled, going deep into the Canadian wilderness.  He lived there, safely weathering the onset of war and the first troubling years after.  Eventually becoming tired of his reclusive life he wandered down into the American Midwest and found the township of New Springfield to be a welcoming group to his versatile skills.  Bligh is a superior scavenger and tough in a scrap.  Having spent much time in the less damaged wilderness areas, he has learned a vast deal regarding animal communication but hasn’t developed the tolerance to radiation that many of his peers have.


Ranged : Melee : Defense : Travel : Scavenge

Carry : Survival : Repair : Mutation : Coercion


Special Ability – Animal Mimic: Bligh can stun any quadruped for one round with his animal mimicry skill by making a sound familiar to the beast.



Jarhead – The Soldier:  

Jarhead was a Special Forces operative for the IAF (Irredeemable Armed Forces) before the total destruction of governments and society.  While heavily recruited by the survivalist league, he could not live with their ruthless and self serving morality.  He chose instead to offer his services as militia leader to the township of New Springfield, an offer they gladly accepted.  Jarhead is one tough guy. He’s a lightning quick shot with great aim and he knows how to turn a shoulder to dodge many a deathly blow that would kill others. If he has one lack it would be that being the protector of others, he never really learned to scavenge very well.  Instead he has always been able to rely upon the gifts of those he protects.


Ranged : Melee : Defense : Travel : Scavenge

Carry : Survival : Repair : Mutation : Coercion


Special Ability – Double Shot: Jarhead may take one extra shot after a successful roll.



Boz - The Pit Fighter:

Boz has been solving his problems with his fists since he was a teenager.  He grew up on the streets before the Great Segregation and eventually ended up vying for survival in the wastes, so being a big tough guy has always worked for him.  Now he has matured and decided to become a productive and useful citizen of New Springfield.  Despite his good intentions, many were glad to see him chosen as one to leave on the Greenland mission.  Getting along peacefully in groups was never really his strong suit and his brawn will prove useful in the perilous trek.  Boz is clearly the best melee fighter in all of New Springfield and his great strength means he can carry a lot of gear.  Unfortunately, relying on his fists has not done much for his ranged fighting abilities.   


Ranged : Melee : Defense : Travel : Scavenge

Carry : Survival : Repair : Mutation : Coercion


Special Ability – Dirty Fighting: He can trip any bipedal opponent in melee range once per combat taking away an attack opportunity.



Claire – The Doc:  

Claire was a doctor in the Enlightened Zone who lost her license due to an unfortunate malpractice suit. This left her bankrupt and the Enlightened sentenced her to a life in Purgatory.  This tragic loss for her was a great boon to the Irredeemables as her skill in general medicine is phenomenal.  Living for years in the wastes has educated her further still making her a more resourceful and highly skilled field medic.  Many in New Springfield were troubled to see her chosen for the mission, fearing her loss to the community at home, but no one could deny the necessity of her skills in a mission as important as the trek to Greenland.  Her knowledge of the application of medical arts makes her the superior member in survival skills; her deft hands and quick mind make her quite good at repairing serviceable items as well.  If she has a weakness, it’s that being a peacemaker and healer at heart has done little to build toughness needed in a fight.   


Ranged : Melee : Defense : Travel : Scavenge

Carry : Survival : Repair : Mutation : Coercion


Special Ability – Heal Others: Anyone can heal themselves but Shama can attempt to heal anyone in her space.



Jenna – The Engineer:  

Jenna was the young daughter of sympathetic engineers who volunteered to help the exiled citizens in Purgatory to survive.  Unfortunately, they did not survive the war and Jenna had to rely on the skills she taught them and the mechanics field manuals they left behind to teach herself how to become a successful post war survivor. She has an unparalled knack for repairing and crafting useful gear out of what others might consider junk and has gained great skill while scavenging for useful items in the wastes. Unfortunately, while out on a scavenging trip, she foolishly carried a damaged gamma core on her back which caused cellular damage in her spine. Claire removed the cancerous cells from her back but the damage left scars in her spine that make it quite difficult, not to mention painful, for her to carry heavy equipment.


Ranged : Melee : Defense : Travel : Scavenge

Carry : Survival : Repair : Mutation : Coercion  


Special Ability – Combo Device: On a successful role, Jenna can combine two of any equipment to create new items that have the combined functions (and weight) of both.



Mugwort – The Mutant:

Mugwort is a young mutant, born in the wastes to regular human parents after the war. His gestation in the womb was exposed to radiation, as were all born after the war.  And like all other cases, this caused mutation.  Most mutant children are so grossly deformed that they do not survive.  Others are abandoned by their parents who cannot deal with the harsh realities of survival and caring for what they believed to be monstrosities.  In Mugwort’s case, he was lucky.  His parents did care for him, and while his mutation was obvious and not appealing, having a greenish tinge to his skin, odd eyes, and random hair growth, he was at least functional in the body and mind. His parents were able to successfully appeal upon the mercy of the people of New Springfield and they were allowed a place in the community.  It has proved a wise choice for the citizens, as Mugwort, now of working age, has shown his great use in the quest for much needed power cores.  Unlike most humans, exposure to radiation typically does not hurt him and occasionally even makes him stronger.  Having to protect himself in a world that is also unfriendly to mutants has made him pretty tough as well. His gross appearance, on the other hand, does not serve to build trust or make him friends very easily.


Ranged : Melee : Defense : Travel : Scavenge

Carry : Survival : Repair : Mutation : Coercion  


Special Ability – Positive Radiation: Up to 3 times in the game, Mugwort can receive the benefits of upgrading a random statistic when he has a successful radiation roll.



Fudd - The Grunt:

Fudd is a simpleton.  Enormous and incredibly strong, he has the intellect of a dim witted six year old.  He was the victim of some of the harsher realities of the Great Segregation, an example of how those who needed assistance in living the most, were denied human decency and exiled to a likely death.  The gentle giant survived though, mostly upon his sweet nature and his ability to carry large amounts of scavenged material for those in the community.  While a dullard, it has become clear to those of New Springfield, that his great strength could be quite useful on the long trek to Greenland.  His massive body also seems to absorb radiation without too much ill effect as well.  Unfortunately, being slow in the mind makes him pretty useless when it comes to repairing his belongings.

Ranged : Melee : Defense : Travel : Scavenge

Carry : Survival : Repair : Mutation : Coercion  


Special Ability – Unburdened Soul:  Fudd can always move two spaces when burdened.



Nyx – The Agent:

Nyx was an Enlightened government covert operative before the war.  She was falsely accused of a traitorous information leak and exiled to purgatory as a consequence.  Since then she has survived on lies and manipulations.  To let anyone know of her former identity would brand her as the enemy so she has used her cunning and silver tongue to weave a complex false past. She has successfully convinced the people of New Springfield that she is an angel deserving of mercy and they took her in. Since then she has served as a reconnaissance scout for the town, making her an obvious candidate for the mission.  She is quick on her feet, subtly coercive, extremely stealthy and excels at getting what she wants. Since she commonly relies upon manipulation to get others to do tasks for her, she is not particularly skilled in matters of survival.

Ranged : Melee : Defense : Travel : Scavenge

Carry : Survival : Repair : Mutation : Coercion


Special Ability – Stealth: Nyx will not be targeted by an enemy until she attacks them first.


One Eye – The Sniper:

Old One Eye is a former sniper who, long before the Great Segregation, was honorably discharged for injuries incurred in a training accident which left him lame in one leg and with damage to his left eye. Unfortunately, his military pension was not enough to keep him out of gambling debts and he was exiled like so many others. Now the old codger stays alive through his great aim and the strong vision of his one remaining eye. While he has difficulty getting around, his skills as a hunter are unparalled and have encouraged the town council to select him as one of the mission’s candidates.


Ranged : Melee : Defense : Travel : Scavenge

Carry : Survival : Repair : Mutation : Coercion


Special Ability – Infallible Aim: One Eye can re-roll one catastrophic fail on any ranged attempt.



Jack - of All Trades:

Jack is a charismatic well rounded guy; a natural leader born out of adversity from exile.  Jack has propelled himself to a lead role in the council of New Springfield.  When it was time to announce the mission and ask for volunteers, Jack was unanimously chosen by the council to make the announcement and he was also the first to volunteer.  While he excels at no particular skill, he has no weaknesses either. What’s more, his charm and ability to breed confidence in his peers makes everyone around him better.


Ranged : Melee : Defense : Travel : Scavenge

Carry : Survival : Repair : Mutation : Coercion


Special Ability – Leadership: Can inspire others to have plus one (RMD) if they are in the same square.

Q: How will you motivate player behavior?  

A: I decided early on that I wanted to make the game both competitive and cooperative.  I wanted to include some game mechanics that would ensure a balance of both natures. The cooperative play is encouraged due to facing the challenges of the game with limited skills.  If a party is communicative, bargains can be struck between players. For example, a player strong in repair can assemble useful items for the team and trade them with another player in exchange for helping them carry some of the needed parts.  The introduction of an impetus for competitive or more selfish motives comes from the condition for victory.  In order to win, a player would need to earn Leadership points.  They can be earned through votes at the end of game, typically given to the most supportive player but they can also be earned through morality cards.  The morality cards give in game goals for players to accomplish.  While some moral objectives are positive, the accomplishments that earn the most Leadership points are ones that drive players to sabotage their teammates.  This encourages a player to wrong their teammates selectively, retaining solid allies while having a potentially menacing relationship with others.  


Q: How are you going to incorporate the morality cards into your game?

A: Players will be given two morality cards at the beginning of the game. They may use an in turn action to exchange cards or draw additional cards as they complete their objectives.  As far as integrating them into the Warriors of the Wasteland setting, the first things that came to mind were Tarot cards.  I decided that designing cards in that image would make sense, both in how they determine player fates but also in their style.


Below are a few tarot card style mock ups.  To make these, I used Renaissance period paintings for imagery.  In round two of my design I would like to create a series with art that is related to the face cards in a deck of playing cards.  This will carry the Tarot concept into the games wild west iconic style.  


Here are three Morality cards, from left to right, The Courier, The Thief, and The Executioner. As you can see, the good deed has a leadership point value that is less than the bad deeds.  The greater the risk, the greater the reward!


Q: What are some other methods of player motivation built into the game?

A: When imagining this world I began to envision a place where any thing of value must be scavenged.  A place where basic survival is the number one goal and the greatest challenge is coping with scarcity.  As player’s journey through their quest, they will encounter randomized locations called “Targets of Interest” where they are likely to encounter menacing forces.  At these locations and on vanquished foes, players may attempt to scavenge. When scavenging successfully, a player may draw from a relevant pile of basic stuffs and scavenged parts cards.  Finding basic stuff will provide things like ammunition, food, and water needed for survival. Scavenged parts will provide valuable items needed to repair equipment or even engineer newer, more superior equipment.


Shown below are a few example of my preliminary design for equipment cards. The samples shown are weapons but there will also be equipment such as armor, boost mods, tool kits, metal detectors, weapon optics, and more.

Shown above are two Equipment cards, the Plasma Scythe, and the Grenade Launcher. A person could assemble or repair these items provided they had all of the components listed at the bottom of the cards.


Q: How will you enable the DM, or Overseer to convey this rich environment and still manage all the potential complexities of the game?

A: When I started this process I wanted to be sure that the games organizer would be able to focus on conveying the story that is experienced as players traverse the various landscapes en route to Greenland.  I didn’t want the Overseer to spend a lot of live game time organizing materials and looking up stats on charts and tables.  One  solution has been for all the encounters managed by the Overseer to use the same efficient die system that the players use.  This will speed up action as the enemy forces managed by the Overseer will simply roll success/fail attempts on attacks and damage will be fixed based on their attack level.  


I’ve also begun to create a narrative for every encountered location and enemy.  Overseers will be able to assemble all the maps for the game from beginning to end with strategic placement of random chosen encounters native to each zone in the game.  A player may play the game dozens of times and never encounter the same buildings, wreckage, or enemies and if so certainly not in the same places on the map.  While the encounters, locations, and objects used are random, their placement on the map is prepared ahead of time by the Overseer so that they can give just the right amount of challenge to the players they will entertain.  With all the work done ahead of time, the Overseer will be able to dedicate his/her efforts to delivering the narrative thus creating a suspenseful and active world.  

That’s all for today’s Q and A.  I still have a lot of work to do on Warriors of the Wasteland.  I have character art to commission, Morality cards, Equipment cards, Basic Stuff and Scavenged Parts cards to design.  I also have a ton of narrative to write for every potential encounter in the game.  I’ve done a bunch of this work already but the sheer volume of the work is akin to the writing of a novel so I don’t expect to be done soon.  That said I am excited.  I truly believe Warriors of the Wasteland has the potential to be fabulously epic and fun to play.