Idea Byre

For a game to be about a certain idea or topic, it must focus on that idea. Focus can be created in a few ways. One is through detail: with charts, tables, die-types, modifiers, etcetera, you can cause more time and thought to be centered on one aspect of the game. (It is easy to unintentionally focus to much on the wrong things, by adding too much detail to them.)

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In tactical fantasy RPGs, characters can be sorted into major roles like tank, healer, etcetera. Most of these specialize in one tactical pursuit during combat, like ranged damage; a few blend more than one pursuit, such as the off-tank support role; and in particular, magic users often employ several tactically-distinct types of magic -- mixing up those types will be the focus of this piece.

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Tabletop games can often only handle a narrow range of physical (or other) scales, but for some concepts, widely varying scales are relevant. WEG's old Star Wars d6 used different scales -- so people, speeders, and ships could all come into play -- using one method we'll look at.

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What does it take for a game to be good and also centered around an abstract dynamic?

For instance, can we have a game that "explores" or is centered around the idea of allometric scaling? (This is where relative strengths and weaknesses change disproportionately with changes in something's size.) Such an idea seems promising, but how can a game be made from it?

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The fighters launch from their carrier! They jink and turn -- shooting bogeys down as they go. Finally, they approach the enemy capitol ships. They fly close, fire torpedoes -- and escape, leaving behind billowing fire. Wait. Is this World War II or a space opera confection?

In this article, we'll consider how the size of ships affects how they can fight -- and come to some surprising conclusions.

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In my previous article on the geometry of empires, I considered two essential strategies for organizing the defense of a territory. In one, troops were positioned along the border, ready to intercept enemies but spread thin. In the other, a single, centrally-located force was powerful but slow to respond. These are extreme approaches, though, lying at the ends of a spectrum filled with intermediate strategies.

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The pre-modern state aims to defend its borders against enemies. The size of its territory, though, has profound implications for how it can do this; which may in turn influence how that state develops--whether, in particular, it seeks aggressive expansion.

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