My friends and I are doing something that we've never tried before. Something that might give our hobby more productive uses besides fuel for creative writing. Yes, that's right. We're designing our own role-playing game.
The working title of our game is "Istoria", the Greek word for history. It's meant to be a long-form game focused on world creation and the stories told within that world over its history. I've seen many worldbuilding games over the years and played quite a few of them, but I've never come across the idea of one game encompassing both worldbuilding and role-playing stories within the world, switching back and forth between these two. We've taken pieces from some of our favorite games, made them our own, and mixed in many of our own ideas to make a universal system for use in any sort of genre, but uniquely suited to the worldbuilding, long-form game we're trying to create. We are in the middle of playtesting it at the moment, and so far have gotten a considerable amount of work done on the short-form system used to play the intimate stories when you zoom in. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
This is how we imagine the game playing out: A group of friends get together and start drawing a map. They sketch out continents, oceans, forests, deserts, mountains, and everything in between. They come up with a general concept for their world. What is it like, what is different from our world? Are the seasons longer, is their more volcanic activity? How many moons are there? Once these things are decided, history begins.
Each player plays a godlike figure called a Steward, with powerful abilities tied to what part of the worldbuilding they are in charge of. Through these characters, the players create non-sentient creatures and plants, form sentient races with culture and civilization, and control history's flow with disasters, important historical figures, magical abilities, and technological advancement.
And then things get interesting. There comes a point of change. A great war, a change of dynasty, or even something as simple as an exploratory expedition to a new land. These are campaigns. The history-making slows down and zooms in, and each player creates a new character, mortal this time, to change history from the surface of the world itself. After this campaign, which is run very similarly to any other role-playing game campaign, history has changed and our players zoom out to the megascale once more to see what has changed. And then they continue on with the normal flow of history, at least until they zoom in again. And on and on until the megaplot of the world begins to unfold.
This is Istoria. A game of history creation on a scale as massive of an entire world. And we're building it. Back to crunch, then.
As I said, we've mostly finished with our main game system for the zoomed-in role-playing campaigns, and I have to say, I'm pretty proud of it. The system has a remarkable amount of symmetry that will only get stronger as we refine the rules. Its focused on storytelling and role-playing characters, a simple narrative structure but a dynamic range in rules. The experience system is directly tied in to the strength of the narrative and with the overall history system. I could go on and on about the specific rules, but they could change drastically over the course of our play-testing, so it's probably safer to just give you generalities.
We are in the process of playing some more worldbuilding games for inspiration for our own system for the worldbuilding aspect of Istoria, but most likely we'll be trying to make it as similar to the campaign system as possible. Symmetry in the rules if one of our primary goals with this, and so making the history mode and the campaign mode similar is very important.
If you would like to playtest the rules at all as we go, please let me know. We're definitely going to be reaching out to people as the project gets further and further along, as we'll need a lot of input from the role-playing community to make this as great as possible.
One more thing before I go. This system is directly based off of our ideas for our mega-universe that supports all of the fantasy/sci-fi books we are writing (and by we I mean me, my brother Connor, and our friends David and Trevor, though our friends Becca and Jared have been helping with the play-testing). As such, we have a specific focus for the way the worldbuilding works. Its very "internal logic" focused, meaning that even if there are fantastical elements in the worlds (which there undoubtedly will be, seeing as this is very fantasy/sci-fi focused), it will all make sense internally. There will be rules. None of us are very much a fan of magic systems that do whatever they want and don't really have limits, aka a lot of "fairy-tale" sorts of magic, and those kind of systems don't tend to be good for role-playing games anyway.
It will take much more designing to get this right, but as we continue creating the game, we'll be trying to make it easy for people to create systems of magical abilities and effects that will not only have its own internal logic, but fits a planet-wide theme that makes all of the magical abilities seem to have their own mega-internal-logic. But we'll get more into that in a later post.
If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments of any kind, feel free to tell me below! Thanks for reading.