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Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.

Roman Catholic, student of tabletop gaming, and someday soon I'll have my own designs in the field!

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Friday, December 31, 2010

Paper Empires: The Art of Succession

First, an update on my goals. I've run into a roadblock regarding the computer...my Windows partition went down, and I can't figure out how to install Scribus onto my Linux partition. I'll try some stuff, and if we're in luck, I do have an idea of what I can give to all of you. I realize that making a full, 200-page (or so, I don't exactly know) core rulebook in a month is hardly a very achievable goal for something I'm doing on my spare time. However, it's entirely possible to write up a "Quickstart" for the system.

Basically, that'll include empires to play in one specific setting, along with simplified rules for playing the game. From there, we can make sure that the game works, and then expand the rules into the full version, which I'm still releasing for free. So, then....time to talk a bit more about Paper Empires!

Like My Father Before Me...
It doesn't exactly make sense for you to have a single character who spans centuries of play. In Civilization, that's an abstraction at most. I also think that it's a bit rough to track different characters over that time period, when that's only part of the game. Such paperwork is better-suited to Blood Royale and similar games. Besides, so far the empire, not its ruler, has been the primary character. In keeping with that, the main unit of "characterization" is a dynasty.

The dynasty is the "character" of an empire. Whereas the provinces (and associated mechanics) are the fuel of the empire, and its power, the dynasty is the lifeblood of that same empire. It directs your relationships to other empires, gives a distinctive trait to your empire, and also influences the spread of your Culture.

Main Components
A dynasty is described by traits: simple descriptions of its aspects that give it bonuses or penalties. The traits of a dynasty are limited into two categories. You have one signature trait and multiple cultural traits. The cultural traits each give you some sort of small bonus, such as additional population or more dice per province. They also determine how easily your culture spreads to new provinces. Every cultural trait has an opposing cultural trait. If that trait is present in a province, attempts to spread culture to that province are penalized. Obviously, you can't have two opposing traits in the same province. A matching trait, on the other hand, gives a bonus to culture-spreading.

The signature trait, on the other hand, gives every empire their distinct flavor. It's a cultural trait, but it has a special ability attached to it as well. Once per game, you may expend that ability: your empire spends its resources to achieve a wondrous goal. You gain a temporary but powerful benefit. This is the moment where your empire shines; it's what your empire is known for, after all.

Traits, of course, are the backbone of the roleplaying in this game, and they figure heavily into the Diplomacy portion.


  1. Intriguing... Have you reached the point yet where you could post an example empire statted out?

  2. Not yet, unfortunately. I need to get cracking on that, among other things. However, I'll try and get something up, with the caveat that it will very probably change as I put the game through its paces and see how it stacks up, what needs to stay, what needs to go.

  3. First of all before anyone judges im not british or european for that matter cause i get that a lot... Anyway, i have read all of your OOTS comics and i have read this story layout...btw OOTS is awesome... back to the RPG... Dynasties and all is great but i think that your character should be the kings as they die and an heir comes to the throne.The heir could have a different attitude toward different things than his forefather. Therefore your character will change a lot
    and it will allow a great diplomacy effect.Some empires would join your side because they like the new leader however, some might leave because they dislike your leader... It was kind of hard to understand what you were talking about in this post and i had to read it a couple times but i dont like that you are a "dynasty" and that you have cultural traits... Im not sure if a dynasty is a person or... But having your character as a person who has different views in culture and diplomacy than his father would add an entire new aspect to the gameplay and it would give it a better RPG feel. I love the rest of the game but this part i think needs to be better explained before i totally understand what you are getting at...

  4. Lol oops i got this link from giant in the playground and i thought you were the guy who wrote order of the stick sorry bout oots reference lol

  5. No worries, Nigel! I must say, I'm a tad flattered that I've been mistaken as such. I'm most definitely a fan of Rich's work, so no harm done.

    I can easily explain that a bit better. In order to make the game more manageable, I'm distilling the leadership down into "dynasties". Essentially, a dynasty is a ruling line which extends down through centuries (give or take, depending on the dynasty), and which represents the general character of the empire. Sample dynasties in history were the Chinese dynasty of the Qin, the Hanovers of Germany and the English House of Lancaster.

    While it could be interesting to explore the idea of leadership shifts, it's a level of micromanagement and paperwork I'm not exactly wanting for Paper Empires. However, events such as the death of a popular ruler may indeed pop up as random events.

    I settled on dynasties as a nice compromise between games like Total War, where you track all the royalty (or, rather, the computer does), and Civilization, where leaders are entirely abstracted and ignored. You get the flavor of a ruling line, without the strong detail of individual monarchs.

  6. Have you seen my game Statecraft? It incorporates a few of these ideas, though not down to the sub-national level as much.

  7. Interesting stuff! It's definitely a different focus, but similar subject matter. I'll have to check it out when there's more development. (College has me pretty busy at the moment)


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