(font size is being fucky in this post. just ignore it I guess)
I have been thinking a lot recently about making a game where you play as colonists in 17th-18th century America, or a fantasy version thereof. This would somehow dovetail with the Comanche thing I wrote about here. Don't know how yet.
What I would ideally like to do is have a sort of dynamic hexcrawl system where the PCs move around the map founding new colonies, watching them grow organically, doing quests to help them along, defending them from the perils of the wilderness and the darkness of the human spirit. The flipside of this would be playing as the natives of the country, hereafter called "Indians", sabotaging the machinery of empire and trying to drive the invaders back into the sea. It would all be a bit like a tabletop version of Civ.
So here is a way of populating a colonial landscape with towns that develop a history over time, characters that interact with one another and a system of quests that naturally spawn and replenish themselves. The big thing it's missing is a way of handling Indians, who need to be exactly as developed in their characterization as the colonists. I'm still trying to figure out how to do that. There's more variety in social organization among the Indians than the colonists - the system below can handle Brazilians or French Canadians with roughly equal fidelity, but I don't have one that does both the Cree and the Maya.
(I'm calling them Indians because literally every source from the era calls them that, using Native Americans would detract way too much from the flavour of the period. What I liked about The Comanche Empire is that it treated Native Americans as basically the same as Europeans, organized differently and in possession of different skills but in many ways doing the same basic shit that Europeans did. I would like this game to capture some of that.)
|american colonial history. not pictured: the murdery parts|
Draw a map. Roll 1d3+1 for number of colonies on the map. Pick which one is the Capital.
Roll 2d3 for starting number of Citizens, then roll up that many Professions. Keep track of the order you rolled them in. The Capital gets an extra Citizen, but you don’t roll a Profession for her - she is automatically the Governor. Put her at the beginning of the list.
Go down the list and roll a Connection and a Relationship for each pair of Citizens.
Then flip a coin for each Citizen to see if they are an Asset to the colony or a Threat to it. Roll that Citizen a mission from the appropriate category.
A colony always has about a hundred people for each Citizen in it. It has anything its Citizens implies it has, so if it has a fort commander it’ll have a fort, if it has a lighthouse keeper it’ll have a lighthouse, etc.
Each month, flip a coin for each Threat to the colony. For each coin flip you lose, pick a Citizen at random. That Citizen leaves the colony. They might die, they might just go away. It’s on you. Then add 1d3-1 extra Citizens.
Whenever the PCs do the thing an Asset wants them to do, the colony gets 1d3-1 extra Citizens. When the PCs find a way to stop a Threat from being a Threat, that person stops being a Threat. Which is fairly self-explanatory. If you can cure the werewolf then the werewolf stops eating people and the colony is less likely to shrink every month.
The PCs can found a new colony by convincing somebody with an interesting job to set up house in the wilderness. They can also set up house in the wilderness themselves, but they will only start to attract more people if they have an interesting job. Colonies need a reason to exist. I don’t have a complete list of reasons for things to exist yet. Work it out yourself.
The six categories of Profession had a game relevance that I later took out. Something to do with towns having base stats like people do and each D&D base stat corresponding to a town stat. Might still be useful somehow.
- Parent and child
- Best friends
- Drinking buddies
- Fought in war together
- Worked together
- In jail together
- Sailed together
- Formerly married
- Fuck buddies
- Sharing a room
- Financial partners
- Partners in crime
- Childhood friends
- Romantic rivals
- Intellectual rivals
- Business rivals
- Political rivals
- A seeks vengeance on B for thing B forgot they did
- A idolizes B, much to B’s discomfort
- A is manipulating B for own sick amusement
- A finds B excruciatingly annoying and can only tolerate them with difficulty
- A is the only person in the world who can make B laugh
- A affects to despise B but secretly has tremendous affection for them
- A owes B a debt of gratitude that they can never repay
- A owes B a shitload of money
- A treats B with undisguised contempt
- A is secretly in love with B
- A owns the house B lives in
- A is responsible for the worst thing ever to happen to B. B does not know this
- A covets B’s most prize possession
- A believes a lot of bad stuff about B, none of which is true
- A will refuse to believe anything bad about B, no matter how true it is
- A and B look creepily similar
- A is raising B’s child for them
- A once saved B’s life and B resents them for it
- A would completely emotionally collapse without B around
- A murdered someone who was (roll again on table 1) with B
- Needs access to particular trade good
- Needs particular monster slain
- Needs particular geographic feature scouted
- Need particular book
- Needs information about culture and politics of local Indians
- Needs message sent to important local Indian
- Needs Indians converted
- Needs important local Indian killed
- Needs local pirate or highwayman killed
- Needs heresy identified and uprooted
- Needs traitor identified and uprooted
- Needs new settlement established in particular location
- Needs anatomical information on local species
- Needs trade route scouted and secured
- Needs water supply located
- Needs food source located
- Needs ruins explored
- Needs buyer found for trade goods
- Needs official persuaded or bribed
- Needs justice to be done
- Government has placed bounty on head
- Private party has placed bounty on head
- Has plague, is contagious
- Agent of a foreign power
- Petty thief
- Dangerously incompetent
- Under a curse, is werewolf or haunted or something
- Compulsively starts fires
- Self-appointed community leader, full of own importance
- Violent drunk
- Convincingly accuses other people of being witches and heretics
- Plotting to betray town to Indians, whether the Indians want it or not
- Picks fights with Indians
- Picks fights with other citizens
- Dangerous political beliefs
|there will also be rules for canoe fights|
The settlement of January River has four Citizens in it - a blacksmith, a silversmith, a sheriff and a minuteman (this last being a member of a privately organized militia). It also has about four hundred other people.
The blacksmith is the silversmith's brother and the only person in the world who can make her laugh.
The sheriff has started a business to compete with the silversmith, which drives her insane.
The sheriff and the minuteman are in some kind of criminal racket together. We can say they're shaking down travelers and fining them for minor offenses, leaving them unable to buy anything from the silversmith and other local merchants. The sheriff owes the minuteman a debt of gratitude, presumably because the minuteman once saved her life from an Indian ambush.
The two smiths are Threats. The sheriff and the minutemen are Assets.
The blacksmith has the plague. The government has placed a bounty on the silversmith's head, which is going to be tricky if she wants to stand up to the sheriff. And she'll do anything to save her brother's life. (Note that being a Threat does not mean you are necessarily a bad person, just as being an Asset does not mean you are a good one.)
The sheriff wants a monster slain. Let's say a wendigo has been eating kids or something. She's the sheriff and it's her job to look after that kind of thing. This is just a standard murder quest, you need those.
The minuteman wants an important local Indian slain, because the Indian is threatening to reveal that she was actually paid off to ambush the chief, thus giving the minuteman and his militia buddies the opportunity to get in good with local law enforcement.
A month passes with the PCs doing nothing. The blacksmith fails his coin flip. The silversmith catches the plague from him and dies of it. This is extremely sad. One new character arrives in town. He' a geologist who used to be married to the minuteman. The minuteman covets his prized geode collection. He's an Asset who is trying to locate a hot spring in the nearby mountains (which is technically a water supply, although you might not drink it).
Another month passes. An inquisitor arrives in town. She's business rivals with the geologist and emotionally dependent on him. She is also a Threat and a heretic. I am going to say she is a secret devil worshipper who believes the gateway to Hell can be found in the nearby volcanic mountains, which the geologist wants to dig up. She is super vigilant about inquisitioning because she doesn't want anyone to suspect her. Also they're dating. The minuteman is jealous. Remember he used to be married to the geologist.
Another month passes. Both the blacksmith and the inquisitor fail their coin flips.The geologist catches the plague and dies. The inquisitor emotionally collapses, as we have previously established she would do, and throws herself into a caldera. No-one mourns her.
This can be extended basically forever. You can even roll up two or three months worth of backstory before the PCs even arrive in town. You could also potentially use it for stuff that had nothing to do with colonial America, if you were so inclined.
|y'all need jesus|