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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Paper Empires: A Little Chit-Chat

Diplomacy can be a funny thing. It's a very important part of empire-building, too. How you get along with your neighbors isn't just important for your international survival. It also shapes the character of your country. This is the other half of the RPG, and it's every bit as important as the empire-management half.

Diplomacy: Yeah, It's Like That (brief mild language)

Why Can't We Just Get Along?
I'm actually looking for some feedback on one part of the diplomacy system. Namely, I'm trying to decide just how much rules space to devote to it. I'm of two minds on this one. One mind says that there's enough rules already in the game. That I don't need to make it so complicated, that I should keep it nice and simple, with roleplaying something that the players are expected to naturally insert in. Another part of me, though, takes a look at games like Fiasco, and sees an interesting model to follow: a game mechanic that builds and fleshes out an elaborate tangled mess of relationships. There's not necessarily anything wrong with an involved, crunchier ruleset. To top it off, if the empire-management is streamlined, that leaves room for the diplomacy half to blossom.

The rules that I'm considering using would mimic Fiasco in part: you roll a pool of dice, and then swap your dice with other players to create relationships. In other words, treaties, hostilities, enmities, bad history, and so forth. After the stage is set, those relationship dice become a currency of sorts. I don't have it all mapped out, but the idea is that you can "cash in" on a relationship in order to get something good, or something of that nature.

Achievement Unlocked!
There is a part of the diplomacy half that I will be using for sure. It has to do with the agreements between countries, and the benefits and penalties therein. It also has to do with my philosophy on roleplaying, on how to encourage it and how to ground it in the rules. Of course, this can take on two forms: enforcement and the "carrot on a stick" method. I'm looking at using a little bit of both, actually. The enforcement method is the simplest: making unpopular diplomatic agreements (treaties with a sworn enemy, for instance) or breaking popular agreements will cost you Happiness in your provinces. That could lead to revolts, which are Bad News. There's another facet to this system, though, which I like even better.

It's inspired by "achievements", which are found in a number of multiplayer games, and also by the experience point system of World of Darkness, which doles out XP based on actions by the players that enhance the storytelling. (Character roleplaying, encounters with the supernatural, etc.) So, here goes. Every agreement between a country is an "achievement", so to speak, waiting to be "unlocked". It stipulates conditions and rewards on each side. When an empire fulfills its half of the bargain, they gain Progress, which can be used like experience points in other systems. You can buy up permanent boosts for your Dynasty, or you can cause world-changing events to happen, such as a research breakthrough or a cultural rebirth in a major province.

There will be rules for how much Progress you can gain, according to an agreement. It's a nice way to get benefits in-game, and to hold your fellow countries to that pact by dangling a nice juicy benefit in front of them. Whether they'll honor it...well, therein lies the turn of history, and of this game.


  1. Achievements is a nice touch. And I'd say that some rules for diplomacy would be ok. Not too many though...

  2. I figured Achievements would be a good idea.


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