Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Sample Setting - Mars

Here are some notes for an example setting.  This is mostly to demonstrate how I would go about developing doctrines, factions, and so forth.  I'm not necessarily going to make this "my" game world or develop it any further.

My initial considerations:

1) I want to have an interesting world, with a variety of distinctive factions.  This is more of an intellectual exercise than a practical one, since I don't have the resources or skill to develop and market a range of models.  Most sci-fi games seem to live or die (and mostly die) based on their associated world. The worlds are really the driving forces. (Plus, just about every sci-fi startup has failed to gain much market in the face of Warhammer 40k's immense dominance..)

2) Each faction should have a different play style and role in the metagame.  In addition, I'd like each faction to showcase the versatility of the Doctrine system: so each faction will have sub-factions with different Doctrines. 

3) Players should be able to field an army from models currently on the market using a minimum of kit-bashing.  This shouldn't be too much of a problem.  Over the last few years, there's been an explosion of new plastic kits from a variety of companies covering everything historical from Ancients to WWII, and a goodly number of Sci-Fi and Fantasy offerings too.  So as long as I don't require anything too outre in terms of aliens or space, I should be fine.

As one of the three people who actually enjoyed the recent John Carter movie, my thoughts turned to Mars.  Or at least the Mars of Steam-Punk retro-Sci Fi. A Planetary Romance setting like Mars or the Planet of Adventure would allow me a variety of interesting quasi-historical, sci-fi and primitive factions.  On the downside, such a setting might not quite fit the ambiance of my not-quite-WW2 rules.  What the hell. We can always mix Mars and 1942.


Otto von Bismark brings peace to Mars.  (Wikipedia.)
In 1891, Belgian explorers locate an ancient alien city in the Congo. Within the city, they find the Zephyr Gate, a massive device that leads to another world - possibly Mars.  Facing pressure from all the Great Powers, including possible invasion by the new German Empire, Belgium agrees to allow representatives of all civilized nations to use the Gate.  The Berlin Mars Conference divides the new world into spheres of influence among the great powers.

The new colonists spread rapidly across the semi-arid southern hemisphere of this new planet.  (Which turns out not to be Mars after all, but by then the name has stuck among the colonists.)  There they encounter numerous ruined cities, similar to the one found in the Congo.  They also encounter bands of alien tribal nomads, and (in some cities) human beings. They natives claim to be survivors of a great war and warn the newcomers about the Ancient empire to the north.  Expeditions into the north reveal nothing, so the European colonists largely ignore these vile, superstitious rumors.  Soon, European colonists have resettled the major ruins and begun a regular trade through the Zephyr Gate.

In 1914, the Ancients descend from the north with their terrible warmachines.  They seize control of the gate and raze the northermost belt of colonial cities. The colonial armies fall back, crushed and defeated.  The Equatorial Dune Sea becomes a no-man's land patrolled by terrible Ancient craft.

The remaining shattered colonies rebuild and rearm, trying desperately to fashion warmachines capable of defeating the Ancients in open battle.  Now, at last, in the year 1942, they think they are ready, and the colonial armies march north -- whether to victory or destruction no one knows.


Shoot the martian devils!  (Wikipedia.)

The Colonial faction forms a baseline of mostly historical technology, with maybe a few Steampunk goodies.  It will look a lot like a WWI or WWII army.  Rifle-armed infantry form its mainstay, supported by machine-guns, artillery, cavalry, and primitive tanks. Some elite or special units may use sci-fi weaponry captured or reverse engineered from the Ancients.


The Colonial faction should be easily represented by WWI, WWII or 19th century ranges, depending on the player's taste and desire to convert.  I can easily see Napoleonic or Crimean plastics used in all their braided, froo-froo, Old World splendor.  Or I can see Bolt Action stuff  - particularly the French and British ranges. There are also plenty of 28mm WW2 vehicle kits out there too. 

Play Style

The Colonials will play like a conventional, combined arms force, without too many special rules or tricks.

Doctrines and Sub-Factions

Each Colonial nation will be a sub-faction, and have special national doctrines.  For example:

The French Doctrines will focus on the Shooting phase, especially artillery.

The British Doctrines will reflect tenacity, letting them avoid breaking.

The German Doctrines will focus on aggression and rapid tactical movement.

The American Doctrines will focus on on initiative, allowing units to act more independently.

Of course, these are all just stereotypes -- there's no reason you couldn't have Aggressive French, Tenacious Germans, or Shooty Japanese.

The Ancients

Zappity do da!  (Wikipedia)

The Ancients once possessed a mighty technological empire with outposts on many worlds. The bred or captured other races (like Humans and Brutes) and transplanted them to their colonies.  Then a terrible civil war destroyed their civilization and scoured the face of the planet, turning most of it to ruin and desert. The remaining Ancients retreated to their rival city states, pursuing lives of decadent and sadistic pleasure and the worship of their terrible gods.  When they go to war, they use advanced war machines, protecting themselves behind their armor.  Their infantry consists of slave troops, both Human and Brute, indoctrinated and driven ahead.  Their sorcerer lords cast mighty spells that defy Colonial understanding.


Anything evil and ancient looking should do for the vehicles: Giant walkers, Tripods, Flying Saucer things, etc. Enterprising players should be able to scavenge from 40k's Necrons or Dark Eldar, or from Warmachine/Horde's Cryx or Skorne.  The slave troops can be modeled in the same way as independent Human and Brute factions. 

Doctrines and Sub-Factions
Each Ancient city-state has its own traditions and way of war. So Ancients' players can choose different Doctrines, each emphasizing a different aspect of the background.  For example:

The Evil Magic faction Doctrines better access to blasty and necromantic spells.
The Slaver faction Doctrines enhance the expendable troops  - often at some cost to the troops themselves.
The Machine faction Doctrines enhance the Ancient's vehicles.

The Brutes


The Brutes faction are primitive nomadic tribes.  For long centuries they have wandered the wastelands, feeding their herd-beasts on the long grass, and maintaining or scavenging what technology they can from the Wild Humans and the Ancients.  The Brutes have some shooting weapons, but generally focus on melee. Their great advantage is their diversity: a Brute tribe contains many species -- some genetically engineered long ago or imported from other worlds. In times of war, their herd beasts can become formidable weapons.  Their priests and shamans cast spells of bravery, deception and nature.  Think Tharks. With Dinosaurs.


The best model ranges are probably the Kroot and Orks from Warhammer 40k, although other companies also make aliens of various sorts.

Doctrines and Sub-Factions
The Shaman faction Doctrines enhance the Brutes' magic.
The Melee faction Doctrines enhance the Brutes' close-combat and morale.  (To get them there alive.)
The Fusilier faction favors enhances the Brutes' primitive Shooting and Firefight.

The Free Humans

Inspiration from the master.  (Wikipedia)
The Ancients brought Humans to their world centuries ago. Following the Ancient civil war, Humans inhabited some of the ruined cities, learning what they could of Ancient technology.  Periodically, the Ancients cull the populations of Humans and Brutes, and destroy any major settlements they can find. The Free Humans congregate in the cities, where the walls and defenses keep the nomadic Brutes at bay.  When the Ancients come, the Free Humans use their ornithopters, cavalry, and stealth to strike and run, and rebuild what remains.

The Free Humans combine ancient and medieval "exotic" gear with high tech (but light) equipment.  They should have light fliers, good cavalry and deadly swordsmen, backed up by light infantry with ray-guns ready to hit and run.


I suggest plastic ancients kit-bashed to carry guns.  Biblical, Persian, Greek and Roman plastics are all for sale.  They just await some suitable laser bit.

Doctrines and Sub-Factions
The Priestly faction Doctrines enhance the Free Human's nature magics.
The Hit and Run faction Doctrines emphasize mobility and escape.
The Swashbuckler faction Doctrines emphasize swordplay and close combat.

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