Monday, May 30, 2011

Sandbox Inspiration

I forgot to mention one of the key sources of inspiration to get back into the saddle with Army Ants- sandbox gaming! I’ve been following a number of discussions/blogs on sandbox gaming, and it got me thinking about Army Ants- and how you could run a sandbox campaign in a literal sandbox!

I knocked out a few pages of notes a few weeks ago on how this would work, and ended up loving it. Sandbox style play lends itself quite well to the Resolute ruleset, seeing as the ability to wing a lot of stuff on the fly is one of the strengths of Resolute. A lay-over of Army Ants onto the Resolute rules was very simple. I decided to even further streamline the rules, so when you take a look at the final rules for Army Ants and the final rules for The Splintered Realm, you’ll see that the fantasy rules are more granular and crunchy, while the Army Ants rules are more sparse and direct. Seeing as the world of Army Ants has fewer opportunities to boost abilities (no potions, magical items, or classic casters), I was more comfortable working out a number of situations where you’d get a modifier using shifts (straight up bonuses to the ability) rather than boosts (wherein you increase the CP value, and re-calibrate the rating as a result).

I know that the rules for Army Ants are breezy, so I wanted to let you know a few things in case you had questions after looking the rules over:

1. Specialties are gone. Okay, they’re gone from the core rules- everyone is a grunt. They are NOT gone from the game. One of the first expansions will be an Ant Forces book that will give a starter group of specialties and rules for rank and promotion. These things are central to how I see the game, but they didn’t fit in the core rules as it played out. I had four specialties for inclusion in the core rules, but I cut these in favor of an introductory adventure. It’s okay if everyone is a grunt for the first few game sessions; it’s not okay if you have nothing to do, or the referee has no idea how to design a quick mission. That was a higher priority.

2. Moxy is the Army Ants version of Resolve. Resolve is a much more complex and multi-faceted ability; moxy is simpler and will ultimately be used in different ways. This really reflects the world better, too- in fantasy gaming, your ability to persevere and overcome adversity through willpower is what makes you a hero; in the world of the army ants, you just have to have a set of brass ones and go for it. The differences in the two abilities and how they ultimately play out over character growth are important differences in the two games themselves.

3. The format of the core rules (something I see primarily as an 8-page micro book assembled from one sheet of paper) will be the standard for the system. This gives me a very distinct design limitation; my hard cap is right around 2000 words. This is enough to fully explore one aspect of the world of the ants, and that’s perfect. I have had ideas for YEARS for expansions that didn’t really justify a longer book (over 5000 words) and which didn’t fit nicely together with other, comparable ideas. This format meets all of the needs for the game at once. Right off the bat, I know I want to do a lifepath character generator built around boot camp, a book on the wasp empire, one on the sandbox, one on mysticism and the underground city of potato bugs, and one on the Army Ant version of the Vietnam War. Ultimately, I’ll be working out a vehicles book and a technology book. Somewhere along the way I’ll put out a referee’s guide. Each of these has a different flavor and will allow me to build the game slowly over time; and the foundation I have in place right now is exactly what it needs to be to make that happen.

Needless to say, I don’t see me getting bored!