Colony Ship RPG - early in development

Our long-term project is a colony ship RPG inspired by Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky. We want this game to feel and play differently from AoD. The core design (turn-based, choices & consequences, non-linear, text-heavy) would remain the same.

  • Character System

    Expect the same 6 stats (Str, Dex, Con, Int, Per, Cha) and 18 skills grouped in sets of three:
    • Melee (Fist, Bladed, Blunt)
    • Firearms (Pistol, Shotgun, SMG)
    • Energy Weapons (Pistol, Rifle, Cannon)
    • Science (Medical, Mechanical, Computer)
    • Speech (Persuasion, Streetwise, Trading)
    • Stealth (Lockpick, Pickpocket, Sneak)
  • Party-Based.

    It’s a fundamental change that affects every design aspect, most notably content “gating”. If you have 3-4 party members, most likely you’ll have all skills covered.

    Charisma will determine the number and quality of your party members. The party size will range from 2 to 5. Experience points from quests will be split between the human party members (a droid will have its own leveling up mechanics and won't cost you any XP), thus a smaller party will be able to gain levels faster.
  • Party Dynamics

    Typically, RPG party members serve a purely tactical role, giving your more bodies to control in combat and access to different combat abilities. In a sense, you’re role-playing an entire squad as outside of combat there is very little (if any) difference between the character you created and the characters you’ve recruited or created next.

    It works great in RPGs that are mostly about combat, but calls for a different approach when it comes to non-combat gameplay. The main problem is that party members offer nothing but combat benefits (occasionally, freaky sex to relieve combat stress and party banter), giving you very few reasons to treat party members any differently than the main character.

    In short, the problem is that in most RPGs party members are mindless zombies lacking any free will, agenda, goals, etc – the very qualities that separate an actual “character” from a zombie. Thus, our main design goal is to create proper characters that have a will of their own, as well as agendas, beliefs, goals, and other infuriating qualities.

    Unlike the player’s character, the party members will have a complex personality & beliefs system that would determine their reaction. Most likely these stats will remain hidden from the player and you’d have to figure out what you’re dealing with by talking to them and observing how they act/react.

    We're planning to go with 10 traits (values ranging from -5 to +5) strictly for the purpose of reacting to different situations and the PC's choices.
    • Religion (-5 means raging atheist, +5 means true believer)
    • Politics (-5 filthy liberal, +5 glorious conservative)
    • Loyalty (-5 treacherous scum, +5 loyal to a fault)
    • Volatile (-5 comatose, +5 always ready to fly off the handle)
    • Connving (-5 honest abe, +5 Miltiades)
    • Opportunist (-5 a man of principles, +5 what are principles?)
    • Idealism (-5 cynic, +5 starry-eyed idealist)
    • Greed (-5 above money, +5 can quote Gordon Gekko)
    • Altruism (-5 selfish bastard, +5 For the Greater Good!)
    • Agreeable (-5 doesn't play well with others, +5 gets along with Hitler)
  • Feats & Character Levels

    Your characters will gain levels using experience points from quests. When you level up, you’ll select feats, unlocking or improving your abilities. The feats will be an important aspect of character development (i.e. they won’t give you minor bonuses but help you develop your characters along specific paths: lone wolf vs squad leader, offense vs defense, gunslinger vs sprayer or gadgeteer, melee vs ranged, which will go beyond which skill to develop, etc) and make as much of a difference as the skills levels.

    We want the skills to determine your chance of success with certain tasks and the feats to define what you can do and how you can use these skills to maximum advantage. For example, not every guy with points in Pistol is a gunslinger, not every guy who travels alone is a Jeremiah Johnson when it comes to survival, etc. Basically, the feats will define your character much more than your skills.
  • Skills & Learn by Using

    You will not gain XP for killing, talking, sneaking, picking locks, using computers, fixing mechanical things and such. You will not increase your skills manually. Instead your skills will be increased automatically based on their use.

    Instead of counting how many times you did something, we’ll assign a certain value (let’s call it learning points) to each activity (attacking, killing, fixing, sneaking, convincing, lying, etc). So killing a tough enemy or repairing a reactor will net you more points than killing a weakling or fixing a toaster. Basically, it will work the same way as XP but go directly toward raising a skill that did all the work.
  • Gadgets

    While melee builds will be viable, most enemies will use guns. Ranged combat will be dull if everyone just stands there, firing their weapons and dodging bullets. It needs cover but we don’t want to place cover everywhere, which means we need gadgets to make your own cover (among other things):
    • Depletable energy shield (absorbs x damage)
    • Reality distortion field (THC penalty against you)
    • Optical illusion a-la Total Recall (chance that enemies will target the illusion)
    • Cloaking field aka Stealth Boy
    • Stasis field (holds enemy, no damage can be dealt)
    • Brainwave Disruptor (don’t leave your home without Psychic Nullifier)
  • Factions

    While factions will get a lot of attention and play a large role, you won’t join a faction but will remain an outsider, free to work for and deal with all factions, which fits the setting better as these factions aren’t guilds but different hubs. However, many quests would have conflicting interests and reputation would play a stronger and more immediate role than it did in AoD, so you won’t be able to please everyone for long.

    In addition to your reputation, which will play a much bigger role in the game (the main quest is sort of built around it), we’ll add two important stats that will be affected by your actions: faction strength & morale (your actions might increase or lower both or increase one and lower the other). More on that in the future updates.