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17 December 2013 @ 05:39 pm
Post-apocalyptic Fallout sandboxing  
I've mentioned it before, but I'm running an ORE Fallout game for softlykarou and another friend. I've run a Fallout game before briefly, where I took softlykarou through part of the plot of Fallout 1 (which she's never played), but this time I was determined to break a bit out of my GMing rut. I'm typically one of those people who plots things out and has games with story arcs and dramatic revelations and conspiratorial machinations and so on, but right now I'm getting all my plot-based gaming urges out of my system with my mystery-focused DELTA GREEN game. For Fallout I wanted something different, so I laid down the goal for myself that I would make this the sandboxiest of sandboxes.

I read a lot of Old School Renaissance blogs even though most of the specific RPGs they play are way too rules-light for my liking because there's a lot of good ideas and play resources out there. And while it's not universal, a lot of them are focused on sandbox play as well and have some discussion of the best way to go about it. One agreed-on aspect of sandbox gaming is that while the game requires less pre-game prep, it does require plenty of resources for creative inspiration during the game. Fortunately, Reign, the basis for my Fallout ORE hack, already has randomness provided for in both the small-scale character rules and the large-scale Company rules, so I had a good place to start. I just had to adapt the Company rules to the Fallout setting.

I'm not usually one for random generation of anything, but reading this Grognardia post about the benefits of randomness for guiding the flow of a game convinced me to give it a try. After I wrote up the random Fallout Company rules, I grabbed some dice and populated the area around post-apocalyptic Chicago with organizations. The Elohim, who maintain the old rail network. Bartertown, the caravanserai for the Heartland region. Wrigleyville, the fortress town at 1060 W. Addison. The Brotherhood of Steel (of course). And several other groups that I never would have thought of if all I had was a blank sheet of paper, but given some dice and a little beginning inspiration, it was easy. And the more groups I made, the easier it became to fit new groups into the existing fabric of the area.

A couple sessions ago, I had an epiphany about the random Company table: it's easy to use it to generate random important events, too. Just adapt the benefits that each number gives to a company into an event. 1x is news from another organization, 2x is something the Company did having further effects, 3x is economic events, 4x is technological events, 5x is military events, 6x is attacks, and so on. Choose dice, the more dice and more severe the event is likely to be, roll them, and interpret.

Here's an example from my last session: The PCs are holed up in Wrigleyville for the winter, so I rolled once a month for a major event--I'd probably do more often in the summer, but nuclear winter means that things shut down for the winter. November and December turned up no matches, but January showed matched 7s. 7x is the land around the Company, so I ruled that it was a severe winter storm (though it was only 2x7, so there wasn't much damage) that swept down and buried the community in a bunch of snow, though I could just have easily have gone with a wild animal attack or a discovery of a new resource. Then since it had been a while, I rolled again and got 3x5. An attack in heavy snow didn't make much sense, I went with the miliary theme and had a Brotherhood of Steel patrol that had been lost in the storm come up to Wrigleyville and ask for food, shelter, and directions.

Now there's a Brotherhood patrol, that brings up added sources of conflict. What are they doing near Wrigleyville in the first place, and are they really as aboveboard as they seem to be? Is the apparent internal division between the patrol leader and the other paladin likely to lead to problems, or is just a front they're putting up in front of the outsiders? Are any of the inhabitants of Wrigleyville going to try to steal their power armor or advanced weaponry, or worse, kill them? Can the PCs extract maximum payment from the Brotherhood for their room and board without pissing them off too much? And furthermore, any other random event rolls can now take the presence of a Brotherhood patrol into light. If I roll military again, maybe the Brotherhood's presence and expertise provides a breakthrough for Wrigleyville's forces, and if I roll news from another organization, maybe another Brotherhood group comes looking for them--or maybe whatever group they were chasing, or running from, finds out where they went. If I roll external pressure, maybe one of the inhabitants has a problem with the Brotherhood of Steel and tries to pick a fight, or if I get a combo of internal identity and science, someone tries to steal the Brotherhood's technology.

There's all kinds of places I can go with this, and that's not even counting the new doors that the PC's actions will open up.

I also had the Brotherhood of Steel speak Latin among themselves, because an isolated quasi-religious group like that needs their own language. It's cliche, but another word for cliche is "archetypal," so I think it fits.

Honestly, the ease with which this all works out makes me want to use Dragon Reign and a tweaked random Company set for my next fantasy game, or at the least develop a random Company generator for whatever other game I do next. Even in a more plot-heavy game, it's a great source of inspiration.
Current Mood: jubilantjubilant
Current Music: Louis Armstrong - A Kiss to Build a Dream On
Bendrydem on December 18th, 2013 03:04 pm (UTC)
Randomness is something that I adore in game creation. Some element of pre-existing condition that you have to create within can lead to unexpected connections.
dorchadasdorchadas on December 19th, 2013 12:15 am (UTC)

I've even come around to it in character creation. Not for stats--I hate it when characters start out mechanically unbalanced--but for background connections, or random merits/flaws for everyone, or something like that.

In my Warhammer Fantasy game, the old innkeeper character ended up rolling Very Strong and Warrior Born as his random starting Talents, and that led to the backstory that he had served out a term in the Imperial Army, and a random roll to determine his home province meant he was from Stirland and had probably fought zombies from Sylvania as a borderguard and was less freaked out about traveling with a halfling and an elf witch than he might have been. I doubt any of that would have come up without those random rolls.