So I was working on some ideas for a simple campaign system and map for use with friends in Firestorm Armada. I had created the map you see to the left when I thought, “Wait, why am I going to use all this energy for FSA when I could devote that brainstorming fury to Dinosaur Cowboys?!”. Of course I didn’t actually think of the words “brainstorming fury”, but you get the idea. The star map looked neat and all, and was loosely created using this creating Traveller maps tutorial. I had seen fantasy maps created with the same software before, and knew I could make something nice and jungle-y for Dinosaur Cowboys.
In terms of the software, I’m using Hexographer, a Java based program that allows terrain, features, lines, text, etc. to be placed on custom maps. There are a bunch of other useful features, but the end result can look something like the map below. And just a note, if the map doesn’t make you want to round up a posse and start delving into the jungle the rest of this post might not be for you.
So you can see I put some basic settlements, roads (the black lines are paved, the tan lines are makeshift trails), hunting grounds, camps, rivers, jungles, deserts, mountains, and more to make an exciting slice of the shattered USA of 2285.
Now a campaign system has been asked for a few times, mostly from players who had tried Mordheim or Necromunda (pretty common due to Games Workshop’s popularity), and enjoyed the “post battle wrap up” where you get new territory, roll for injuries, etc. Both of these games abstracted the territory management instead of using a hex map with defined movement.
With Dinosaur Cowboys I had been aiming for campaigns to be more like RPG style games, with an overall Sheriff organizing encounters, detailing travel, and basically handling everything the rules don’t. Currently there are some notes for overland travel (recommended using real world roadmaps compared to a custom hex map), encounter chances, healing, etc. But I’d like to expand on these and flesh them out, especially around example encounters and some other details of posse management.
To this end today I’ve made the test map above and I’m going to start brainstorming additional campaign rules.
- To start the campaign would be structured around either a single posse against the Sheriff, in a more open ended structure. The other alternative, that is a bit easier, would be posse vs posse with the victory condition of controlling all the towns/areas on the campaign map. This is slightly less dynamic than a game with multiple armies per player since you’d just be moving a single posse around. The idea of managing multiple posses is fairly interesting though.
- Control of towns would grant bonuses, for example Neodollar income per campaign turn, maybe bonus Improvement Points and equipment and so on.
- Towns and other points of interest would have a preset defense force of some kind. A camp may be protected by bandits, a town by lawmen, etc. The Sheriff would control these entities during combat.
- Overland movement would use the existing “By Ground” travel rules under Campaign Game in the rules, which says “Movement statistic is converted to Miles per Hour in a 1:1 to relationship”. Which means the scale of the hex map would be 1 hex = 1 mile, so 3 MV would be 3 hexes. Currently terrain has no effect on Overland movement speed.
- Encounter chance may be changed to be percent based (currently a D12), and also effected by the terrain that is passed through. For example a base encounter chance could be 30%. If a road is travelled on the chance is reduced by 5%. If a posse moves through a heavy jungle this percent might be increased by 10%. Then the encounter chance is rolled at the end of the travel, with all modifiers.
- After battle injuries are really tough to do well. Just flat out reducing stats (“Leg Injury, -1 MV” for example) can lead to a posse “Death Spiral“. What is a Death Spiral? Basically:
Something that can happen in games where your combat skill is affected by your health (or similar attribute). If you take a hit, your combat skill decreases slightly (making it harder for you to hit the opponent and/or easier for the opponent to hit you).
While there is a certain realism to this, it can often quickly lead to the “Death Spiral” where each hit makes it increasingly unlikely for the loser to come back, as they are getting consistently worse at attacking and/or defending.
In the case of Dinosaur Cowboys this would mean if your posse loses, they get injured, but then they are MORE likely to lose their next battle, thus suffering further injuries, and certainly losing subsequent battles, until basically it’s a gang of gimps incapable of winning.
Financial loss can be similar, since losing 100 Neodollars while the opponent gains 100 ND is closer to a swing of 200, and can significantly reduce a posse’s effectiveness in future combat.
But there should be SOME kind of penalty for losing. In a player vs Sheriff game this is less of a problem as encounters can be scaled down. But in a posse vs posse scenario this is tough to avoid and can make it so early losses can stop a posse from ever being competitive.
I’ve started a discussion on The Miniatures Page forum about this to see what ideas the community has.
Where to Start
I think I’ll start with player vs Sheriff style. What I envision is similar to the old computer game Strange Adventures in Infinite Space or even Flotilla where the posse travels around, has a bunch of random encounters and events, and has a set endpoint (in the case of both those video games it’s limited by game time or number of turns).
In the case of player vs Sheriff the goal could be “completing” a posse, which means reaching the cap of total Improvement Points (in v1.3 this is 400 IP). Since you start at 100 and get 3 IP per kill this would take a massive 100 kills! Perhaps setting a goal IP up to the max would be a better and easier way to customize the game length.
Anyway part of this would be working up stats for generic NPCs and enemies that the Sheriff can throw at the posse. So lots more dinosaurs, bandits, drifters, etc. that can be combined to create an interested battle. I’d also work up some additional deployment scenarios to represent different situations that might come up in a campaign (such as having your camp surrounded).
For now I’ll start small and work on cleaning up the overland movement, encounter chances, etc. All these changes will go into the core rulebook and be part of the next release. Depending on the length of the rules I could consider splitting them, especially if a list of enemies and encounters grows too large and bloats the rulebook. That’s a bit down the road so I won’t worry about it right now.
I’ll try to do more posts here as I develop the campaign system, similar to the volume I had when I was fleshing out the original core rules. That way everyone can see how the campaign system is developing and the choices and challenges I’m facing.