A Question of Scale
When envisioning the game, I was immediately faced with the question of scale. I'd considered that I wanted each empire to be composed of different cities. They'd choose what to build in each city, and they'd choose what to do with each city. Unfortunately, this led to a lot of additional rules-related questions, such as "what cities are adjacent to one another?" and "how do you track everything you're doing in all those cities?" Again, these sorts of problems are solved in Civilization by having the computer automatically take care of the record-keeping. In an RPG, though, record-keeping tends to drastically slow things down.
An easy solution presented itself, possibly inspired by Medieval: Total War and the rest of the game series. It's a little thing I call "provinces". Instead of focusing your empire around a large number of cities, you have a small but manageable amount of provinces, groups of land that house cities. It takes the management level up a notch, and makes it easier to roleplay being an empire, instead of being an empire's accountant.
How a Province Works
A province has one major stat: Culture. This represents how much the province holds together, and how much influence the province has on the rest of the world. High-Culture provinces are very, very valuable, because they encourage research in your empire, help famous people to rise to prestige (conferring benefits on your empire), and make it easier for other provinces to come under your control. (Although I won't be implementing direct "culture flip" as in the Civilization games, cultural control of areas will be important to protect them. It's also required to colonize new lands.)
Implicitly contained in a province is its Population stat. Population naturally grows over time, with an end-of-turn roll based on your current population, with penalties for health issues. A province's Population is spread out among its population centers, which is a long term I coined, because I don't have a better one at the moment. Feel free to suggest one. Population centers are the true meat of this system, because they provide the means by which you can do things. Every population center has a size, and every population center provides an extra die with which you can accomplish Military or Trade goals.
That's the crux of the system. A province will make tests with a pool made up of its dice, which can be devoted to Military or Trade (or both), adding in bonus dice from its Dynasty (something I'll get into in a later post).
How Population Centers Work
A population center comes in three sizes: small, medium and large. In game terms, it can be a settlement, town, or city. The rules allow you to customize the spread of population in your province. Essentially, you can have more population centers with lower population, or you can have fewer population centers with higher population.
Population centers can be devoted to the spheres of Military or Trade, when you decide to take actions with them. Military dice wind up adding to your province's Defense at the end of the turn, and Trade dice add to your province's Income at the end of the turn. Before then, you can take actions with your Military and Trade dice pools in a province, such as conquering new lands, putting down a rebellion with your army, or even infiltrating an enemy via your merchant routes.
So, to answer a couple questions that were posed by Adonies in a comment on my previous post...
Research is a major part of civilization, will you include it in Culture?
Also, food-production (which leads to population growth) is not quite the same as manufactured production.
Research is indeed a part of Culture. At the end of your turn, Culture provides the basis for a Research roll you can make to try and discover the major technology you're pursuing. Or at least to contribute more research towards it. Paper Empires is about discovering major technologies within a specific historical era, so the tech tree will be much simpler. This also means that technologies are much more important and "big" when you discover them.
Food-production isn't so much handled here, except in the terms of bonuses provided by technology and the Traits of a province. As well as by Landmarks, which you'll find about later. Manufactured production is covered by the same things, but it's also simulated by some rules regarding population centers. When you have towns and cities, you get explicit bonuses to either Military or Trade, depending on the center's specializations. The rest of it comes down to how you wish to spread your empire.
I'm sure you all have plenty of questions. For my Tuesday post, I'd like to answer them. I'll be taking any questions you have in the comments, and picking ten to answer. The rest will go into the "question bank", to be plucked out for the next Q/A post I do. And so on and so forth.
Hopefully you enjoyed this look at Paper Empires!