Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Higher Struggle

TLDR: I look at a cool, free game that could be used as a campaign sub-system to model the struggle between factions and powers.

One of the things that always impresses me when I read The Lord of the Rings is the time Tolkien spends setting up the higher struggle between great powers. Sometimes we see it in the form of councils and plans, other times we see it in the form of a conflict of wills. Galadriel or Aragorn contesting with the Eye of Sauron, for instance. This battle above and beyond the literal battlefield is fascinating. It informs the latter as well, allowing us to see in every clash of arms the larger forces at work.

What am I rambling on about?

Well, it's the desire for that layer in RPG games. Often GMs come close to it with recurring villains, rumors, off-screen events, etc. But is there a better way to model it?

I have seen political struggle represented in sub-systems before, or at least models that approach it. There is a nice social combat model in Diaspora, for instance. But I'm not sure I've ever seen anything as useful or simple as this little design by Mark Hunt.

Get the game here!

Scandalous Goons is a hack of Nate Treme's Tunnel Goons. The rules of the game are basically the same as Tunnel Goons, but instead of classes Mark supplies the stats of Reputation, Rumor, and Connections. And in place of inventory items we have assets like Military Honors, Spy, Blackmail Information, and Married Well. The final change is really about swapping out the health stat for a bank of Influence points.

Two things make this little game an ideal "bolt on" to about any campaign.
  1. It is very easy to adapt to your particular scenario. Change or add stats. Come up with new/different assets. Allow different factions to start with more or less Influence. An hour's work would probably be more than enough to totally customize Scandalous Goons to be completely in step with your group's campaign.
  2. It is easy to implement without interacting or interfering with the mechanics of whatever RPG you are playing. The nature of Scandalous Goons is to represent a relatively abstract political war that just isn't within the realm of most traditional RPG rules. You could use the game as a kind of more involved random table to determine how the political climate changes.
Oh, did I mention it's also free?! (I did, but it is worth repeating.)

I can't wait to take this game and use it to model the politicians, gang lords, and guild masters of a fantasy town. Or to play out some huge space opera game where star lords and planetary tyrants develop assets like warp drive levels, planetary defenses, cloaking devices, trade goods, super soldiers, etc. 

Thanks, Mark!

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