Monday, November 21, 2011

[A World in Ruins...] Developing the Idea

A World in Ruins... is an old idea I had for a post-apocalyptic RPG that I wanted to design.  I never did any serious design work on the project but I did mention a few details on this blog here and also here.  I would like to throw out a few ideas out about how to develop this premise into a full blown game.  If everything goes smoothly, this will be just the first of several posts that serve to put a little padding onto the very basic idea I put in one of my old gaming notebooks years ago.

Rules System
There's probably two different routes I would most likely take when it comes to the rules:

  • Use an existing open system (D20, Microlite20, etc.) and customize it to run the game.
  • Design a new system from scratch.
Regardless of the decision, I am more interested in playing these days than tracking a ton of stats, conditions, modifiers, etc. so it will most likely be a game of medium or low complexity.  I do want to use a system that will allow for variety in certain key areas - characters, weapons, etc. - but not be overly complex.

Every game needs a story and a big part of the story in this game is concerned with what exactly was to blame for the state of the game world today?  There are actually quite a few options:

  • All out nuclear war between the nations of Earth.
  • A catastrophic nuclear accident that spread from one central location.
  • A terrorist attack on several nuclear facilities that doomed the Earth.
  • An asteroid, meteor, comet, etc. crashed into the Earth, rotated the axis, and caused death and destruction world wide.
  • Something else?
As with the rules system, I am not worried about portraying "100% true to the science and facts of the matter" details.  I am simply concerned with telling a good story and providing a good background for the game world.

The World of the Present
It is now 100 years after the event that devastated the Earth.   Technology and progress has been set back dramatically.  There are pockets of civilization here and there but the human population has been drastically cut down.  The birth rate and survival rate is tragically lower than decades before.

Types of Characters
There should be several different types of characters to play in this game.
  • (Pure Strain Humans) Some of these humans will be descendants of human civilians that made it through the catastrophe and managed to stay alive.  Other humans will be descendants of military personnel that were locked away in safe bunkers; or, in homage to The Morrow Project, these military personnel could have been placed in some sort of suspended animation and awakened after the catastrophe to reestablish the nations of Earth.
  • (Human Mutants) People that were mutated as a result of the catastrophe.
  • (Mutant Animals) Several animal species could have been mutated and gained an intelligence level closer to that of humans.
  • (Others) There could be extraterrestrial or extra dimensional species available for play also.
Whatever the options available for player characters wind up being they need to fit with the background.  Obviously, the mutations would be better explained with a nuclear reason for the catastrophe.

There should be plenty of danger and obstacles for the characters in their fight for survival.
  • (Other humans) If the PCs are alive in this harsh reality, then why not other groups of humans that have banded together?  Some of these could be cannibals, religious zealots, or even worse.
  • (active robots) There could be places that still house old war machine robots that have come back online recently.  Maybe the programming of these robots got corrupted?  Maybe the robots do not recognize the players as humans if they are mutants?
  • (mutant animals and plants) If the radiation affected the human PCs then it surely affected the animal life also.
  • (other) Maybe the PCs could encounter life visiting Earth from other planets or dimensions?
  • (environment) radiation poison zones, old military complexes, etc.
That's a start with some ideas about how to design this game.  Of course, exploration and survival would be some of the major goals of the player characters.  I am sure I missed something in this brief exploration of game ideas but maybe I will think up some more details later...


  1. The setting you are describing sounds like a perfect fit with Barbarians of the Aftermath, an expansion for the game Barbarians of Lemuria. There is a free version of Bol available here:

    But BotA is a product for purchase (only $10) here:

    BoL is fairly rules-light, but it has an old-school feel and isn't really a Forge-y narrative type game. BotA adds a bit more crunch, but in a really modular fashion that you can pick and choose from.

    One of the nifty things about BotA is that it gives you a million ideas for what caused the collapse of civilization, and what that means for the survivors. Things like pole-shifts, alien invasions, zombie outbreak, or biblical apocalypse right along side nuclear/biological war.

    It's got simple rules for various human and mutant types including aliens and mythical and supernatural creatures.

    You should check it out. I only own the pdf, but there is a hardcover version available as well.

  2. I'm gonna check out BotA due to your recommendation and the fact that I ran into BoL quite a while back but completely forgot about it.