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I am looking for a set of rules, (if possible a full game), that allow players to take an active part in changing the world, and its the world itself that's their greatest enemy. It could be a sci-fi game about colonizing an alien world, a near-future game dealing with climate change, or fantasy game about fighting an ice age. The specifics don't matter as long as it deals with the topic of terraforming, environment modification or changing the climate. Ideally, it would be possible to plug this system into any other RPG which would deal with actual adventures.

I would expect this system to provide consistent rules for the following:

  • Climate in a region and how it affects living conditions, food production, etc., and how that connects to PCs' resource management.
  • Means and effects of changing that climate, both immediately (do a quest to find a McGuffin) and via a long-term project (hire people to construct a dam). Therefore, it would also need some rules for managing man-power and other resources.
  • How changing the climate in one region affects other regions.

While all of this can be hand-waived by the GM, I would prefer to have a rule system that can guide my actions and allow players to make predictions about the consequences of their actions.

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As this is a game-recommendation question, please adhere to the FAQ, the rules for subjective questions as outlined in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and our rules for game recommendations. All responses must cite actual experience or reference others' experiences!

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None of the answers so far provide mechanics that can be stolen for a different system, as the question is asking. They mostly say, "you could play this whole game", and the games only "suit" because they are structurally capable of handling large-scope player actions, rather than because they have the kind of focused subsystem the question asks for. It might come as a surprise to some, but games that can handle large scale player actions are very common now; the ones you know of aren't special in that regard. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 18 '12 at 17:54
    
@Seven, the question begins with "I am looking for a set of rules, (if possible a full game)", I think it's quite ok to come up with whole games that can handle grand actions. As long as it is based on "experience, not opinion" –  edgerunner Dec 19 '12 at 21:18
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@edgerunner Yes, but only if it comes from experience for this exact use, per our meta policy linked in the first comment. The alternative would be that experience with any system that is structurally capable of handling large-scale player agency (which is hundreds of games) is an acceptable answer, which takes us into Bad Subjective territory and being back at square one with sys-rec being a dumping ground for people's favourite systems. Hence, experience with the particular use-case is necessary for an answer to be Good Subjective. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 19 '12 at 21:27
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@Seven, that is definitely a gray area. How specific can you get with an ice age? I just happened to play a game last weekend, where the said "ice age" was an element in the generic grand action mechanism. Would it count if it was about "global warming" instead? Would you consider it related if it happened to be about "unusual tectonic activity" ? Where do you draw the line? –  edgerunner Dec 19 '12 at 22:56
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2 Answers 2

The very new FATE Core has game mechanisms for the player characters to affect what's going on in the world. It can be easily used to model unusual climate conditions and the effect the characters' actions have on it. Support it on Kickstarter and you get the early access.

If you want a futuristic cyberpunk take on the subject, I may also shamelessly promote my own work-in-progress, the Edgerunner RPG, which is also based on FATE, but has more detailed mechanisms for dealing with world-changing events. As I said, it is a work in progress, so some things aren't in place yet but it is mostly playable as is, and I believe it may at least give you some ideas.

It happens that we just played through another playtest session of Edgerunner RPG yesterday, where the player characters were the mail-runners of an underground postal delivery organization in an Orwellian society, set in a near-future artificial ice age. They may discover any time that the climate control systems of the habitation domes work both ways, ie. they keep the inside of the domes cozy, while they ensure that the outside remains uninhabitable and cold, so that it is very hard to do anything outside government control. The game allows them to do something about it.


Edit: Brian's comment question

Situations and events are modeled as the world and progress in Edgerunner. A progress is a character-like entity that has a number of aspects plus two candidate aspects for the world, that have the potential of becoming world-aspects some day. Factions (which are also modeled after characters) in the game can try to determine the outcome of a progress by interacting with it through the regular FATE game mechanisms. Characters cannot affect progress directly but they can manipulate factions and coerce them into acting on a progress in a certain way. So in order to change the world (ie. replace a world aspect) a player controlling a character must align his actions so that the cascade below occurs…

Character → Faction → Progress → World

… and push slightly. It is elaborate but possible.

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Are any rules provided in FATE Core giving guidelines for large environmental changes like this? That if players do such and such a category of action, everyone within a region gets an aspect? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Dec 16 '12 at 21:48
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Not "everyone in the region" gets an aspect : The Region itself gets its "weather aspect" changed. That's part of the Fate Fractal, I'd say. –  Nigralbus Dec 17 '12 at 8:47
    
Also, not just in Fate Core. It's a concept inherent to Fate games since at least v3 (when the game got on my radar), but it was Strands of Fate which made it all click for me. –  Nigralbus Dec 17 '12 at 9:01
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There's nothing preventing the whole world from getting its weather aspect changed :) –  edgerunner Dec 17 '12 at 23:40
    
This sounds cool. Could you give me an example of how these mechanics work in practice? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Dec 17 '12 at 23:49
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I have three suggestions, at least two of which probably will seem like they're coming out of left field, but bear with me.

  1. The Quiet Year - This game isn't GM-and-characters, but all the players as a group control an entire community for their "quiet year" between wars. Very fun, though maybe a little board-game like for your tastes. It's very rules light and you don't really have "a character." But, the way it works is that everyone at the table speaks for the community as a whole and the game is very free form. When it's your turn as a player, you're able to start projects, have discussions, or discover new and interesting things for the community to deal with. If the main concern is "I want to have fun dealing with the heavy topic of climate change in a game" then this nifty little map-drawing game can do that, because it allows you to discuss anything
  2. Burning Wheel - Run a 6+ lifepath campaign for really high powered characters, agree in advance that your actions are world-changing, and then formulate your consequences such that they are. Totally doable.
  3. Polaris - I don't know enough about this game to really sell it to you, but I know it's easy to have world-changing consequences. In fact, the game is pretty much entirely about a civilization that is inescapably being brought to its knees by its own actions. Read that (probably too glowing) review to get the idea.
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What experience do you have running these games, especially for this purpose? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Dec 18 '12 at 0:00
    
Very familiar with The Quiet Year, and many years experience running Burning Wheel. I've never run Polaris, but I've played it a time or two and the game is about just this sort of thing. –  Zelbinian Dec 18 '12 at 4:07
    
Cool, can you explore how Quiet Year handles these problems with some examples? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Dec 18 '12 at 5:11
    
It's very rules light and you don't really have "a character." But, the way it works is that everyone at the table speaks for the community as a whole and the game is very free form. When it's your turn as a player, you're able to start projects, have discussions, or discover new and interesting things for the community to deal with. If the main concern is "I want to have fun dealing with the heavy topic of climate change in a game" then this nifty little map-drawing game can do that, because it allows you to discuss anything. –  Zelbinian Dec 18 '12 at 7:27
    
Zelb, edit this into your answer, if you would? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Dec 18 '12 at 12:40
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