Monday, April 7, 2014

Ivory RPG - Gamification

Every game needs rules, but you can't write rules if you don't know what you want.

Most of Ivory's rules are emergent. No rules need to be written. Budgets need to get made, food needs to be bought, and miles need to get walked. These are all well-understood real world tasks that need few to no rules to use in the game. Other rules emerge from requirements and decisions. If men are to be hired, they need to be fed and paid. If an object must be moved, a means to move that object must decided upon.

Rules themselves serve two purposes:
  • To focus players' attention on what the game is about.
  • Discourage focus on what the game isn't about.
To that end, I will begin with some basic rules.


Every participant in a combat rolls a d6. Add up the numbers for each side. The side with the largest number wins. The side that loses retreats. If you are unable to retreat, you are captured. Count helping animals (horses, dogs, small bears) as people, but grant dangerous creatures or machines (lions, kodiak bears, dragons, tanks) extra d6's based on your best estimate of their lethality.

Participants also use their combat roll to determine their fate. If the roll was 4-6, the participant suffers no misfortune. If the participant rolls a 3, the participant is lightly wounded. If the participant rolled a 2, the participant suffers a significant wound. If the participant rolls a 1, the participant was killed in the fight.

This rule serves two functions. First, the rule tells you how to run a combat. The second and more important function of this rule is that it makes combat so unappealing that reasonable players will avoid combat. (There are always players that don't want to avoid combat, or otherwise muck with the system at all cost, and those players should choose to play in a different type of game.) A third function of this rule is to be short, which tells players that combat is not particularly important to the game.

If you choose a real RPG game system to simulate combat, then combat may be a more interesting option, but will also hold a more significant status within the game.


Pick a year. Look up the weather for that day for a location similar to your expedition's. This adds an unpredictability that is steeped in realism.


Use the Gregorian calendar.


Use the financial system of your appropriate era. If you don't know the money system, leave it to your players to research. Money works like it always does. More is better, but if you have too much, somebody else will try and take it from you. Buyer beware.

Most expeditions have budgets. It is up to the expedition to spend its budget wisely or to resolve money limitations if necessary.


If modern, use the prices from a catalog of the appropriate era. If possible, use the prices of the era that you have chosen. Leave it to the players to research actual prices.


An understanding of the technology of your game is crucial to planning. Each technology brings its own implied rules set into the game. Horses need to be grazed and get injured, while cars can travel fast but don't do well off road. Embrace the implications of your technology.

This subject is so interesting that I'll write more on it later.


The expedition must meet some sort of schedule that is either laid down by the sponsor or created by the group.


The end of every expedition is a result. Expedition exist to produce a result. That result should be well defined at the beginning of the expedition. Failure to produce that result should include some sort of penalty.


The Expedition is the basic unit of exploring. This group of people organizes itself to achieve its goals.


Every expedition needs a team. It is up to the team to organize itself and solve its own problems.

Ivory RPG - A Hypothetical Pure Exploration RPG