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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 159 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Role-Playing in a strategy game  (Read 1786 times)

Posts: 38

« on: March 23, 2007, 03:09:23 AM »

Hi all,

I have always had an interest in strategy war games, though have recently become 
interested in where they seem to merge with RPGs.  Most of what I've seen has been Games 
Workshop taking their strategy games, and designing them for drawn out campaigns (my 
personal favorite of these has always been Necromunda).  I've noticed that in an attempt to 
be more RPG-esque, the systems include the following elements:
1) Individual characters, often with names
2) Characters which are saved from game to game
3) Some type of XP or advancement system
4) Some type of injury system

Lately my drive to create has caused me to begin work on a game like this, and it dawned on me that most of these games were basically a strategy game, with a few slight RPG flavors.  I started wondering if such a hybrid system could include elements such as:
1) Character/personality development
2) Individual or group (or even world) story lines

As I thought about this, however, I started to wonder if it was possible.  My problem is that I want this game, at it's heart, to remain a strategy game, and in many ways it seems like when you give an RPG system to a munchkin, (s)he will turn it into a strategy game at the cost of character development and story lines.  That often it might not be strategically optimal to suffer from shell-shock, to leave an important position to save a friend, to seek vengeance at all costs, etc, but that things like this are what truly separates an RPG from a strategy war game.  When I sat down and thought about it, I realized that I think the game I want to make will have the following constraints:
1) multiple characters (this didn't dawn on me at first, but it often starts to become difficult to have an intricate back-story for each of your characters when you have 5 of them)
2) no GM
3) "fairness" (basically an all-players-created-equal system, because a strategy game where one person has an automatic advantage is not fun)
4) a desire to "win," and with that a desire not to intentionally do things to hurt yourself (i.e. no "well, it would be better for the survival of my party if Bob didn't become shell-shocked, but I think I'll do it anyways, just for the fun of it")
5) a mechanical rule system, that hopefully works without a GM and is fair.

So, here're my questions: given the constraints above, are storyline or character development possible?  Do some of the constraints need to be relaxed?  Is it only possible to have story and character development in campaigns set up at gaming stores or within a group of friends (and is it possible to do this without one person becoming an overseer who is not allowed to play, for a worry that this would be unfair)?

Thanks in advance for any thoughts you may have on this subject.



Posts: 582

« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2007, 04:52:54 AM »


You might want to check out the games on the "Lead Adventure" forum.


The style of game your describing does have some roots. I've been involved in historical miniatures gaming for many years and role playing has been part of that world dating back to D+D. The focus is usually on some competitive war event with player characters sprinkled over a pretty terrain board. The games have a combat system, usually short written descriptions of characters rather than stats, and players can do role plays between characters who are together as in any RPG. Over the yeras I seen Colonial games, spy action games, pulp games, and science fiction games use these techniques.

In the mid 80's Howard Whitehouse put out "Science versus Pluck" which heavily used role playing inside a battle game. One player is the reporter, others are military commanders, a few are native guides who often can't speak English so you have to pantomine role play. It is a hoot to play.

Engle Matrix Games grew out of that tradition. I give players a map, a cast of characters, a story opener, and a suggested plot track (so they have an idea what to do in the game). My rules are looser than most strategy games because each turn you make an argument for what happens next which is judged by another player for likelyhood of success. Players jocky for advantage with their arguments so it is competitive but at the same time people can role play, form teams and talk strategy at any time.

Some board games out now (Betrayal at House on the Hill) are also getting back to this.

I think the approach is a good one and worth developing. The challenges I see with it are in production. Strategy games are usually board games and board games are made very differently from books. I've been exploring this field for a while now and would be glad to offer information and answer questions as you go.

Chris Engle

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
Callan S.

Posts: 3588

« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2007, 08:18:31 PM »

Hi Simon, welcome to the forge!

Could you think of three reasons why you want a strategy game? And three reasons why you want character development? You don't have to list them here - it's more of a warm up excercise. Smiley

Philosopher Gamer

Posts: 18

Streetwise LARP

« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2007, 09:56:06 AM »

I love me some tabletop strategy games, and I usually do my best to roleplay when playing them.  For example, I often play Twilight Imperium (a massive game of galactic conquest and politics) with a fluctuating group of friends.  In this game, each race has a card with a lot of racial background history on it, detailing who they are and what goals they pursue.  When playing, I do my best to embody that race as best I can, acting out the role of an Ambassador, a General, and a Councilman separately.  I try to put the race before all other decisions of tactical importance.  "How would this merchant cat-man play this turn out?" as opposed to "how can I win this turn?"

I've found that in doing so, I tend to play a lot differently than I normally would, and I've started inspiring my fellow to do the same.  Additionally, we've had some crazy-awesome stories develop in our sessions (which are inherently one-shot), involving our assumed personas, their racial enmities and alliances, arranged marriages, etc.

So, to answer your questions, TI might not be the kind of game you are describing, but I think it is a good example of how roleplaying can be present in such a game with little pre-instilled effort.

- Nathanael Phillip Cole (NPC) -
Director of the Streetwise LARP
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