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  Mechanic #070 - Tiny World Cities

Category: Simulation
Posted: 12/21/07

A revisitation of the sim-RPG concept concentrating on developing characters by designing their city.


I've decided to break away from tactical RPGs for a while and wanted to revisit and older, popular idea. Both [#028 - Sim-MMORPG] and [#028 - Tiny Crawl World] touch upon the concept of a sim-RPG. That is an aquarium where you watch little sims grind and level up and go through their RPG motions rather than doing it yourself.

This sort of kingdom simulator has really only been tried commercially once (to my knowledge) in a game called Majesty. (Fun Fact: my wife got hired at the company that made it, but we decided to go with somewhere else - not long after they fired two thirds of their staff and left the game industry completely.) Unfortunately, Majesty plays more like SimCity than it really should.

I've decided to revisit the sim-RPG concept and try to make something out of it, leaving the whole micro-banner presentation of the previous attempts behind. I have to confess that I don't particularly play sims (especially The Sims), so it is entirely possible that I'm reinventing a wheel here. Hopefully not though. I don't usually like sim games since they seem to be primarily about the logistics of resource management and have very little actual gameplay outside of that goal. I'm going to see if I can't aim for something a little more aquarium and a lot less like doing one's taxes.

The theme of most sim games seems to be controlling the sim people through their environment, rather than directly. It's all about indirect control. However, RPGs tend to be about direct control because they are a mix of story (adventure) and combat (tactics), neither of which seem to benefit from not being involved in it. So, I've tried to come up with a system by which, rather than controlling sims through their environment, you customize them.

This is a three entry concept. This first entry discusses customizing the sim-adventurers by manipulating their town. The next one will deal with indirectly controlling the adventurers, and the one after that will discuss how dungeons and the adventurer's guild fits in to all of this.

  An Ingenious Plot (of Land)


You begin your city with an empty plot of land which is broken up into a small grid of plots. Upon each plot, you can build a building (any building you'd like, there's no dependencies requiring you to build A -> B -> C). Want to build seven castles? Go for it. This is not a competitive game or a structural one, so being creative and even a little bit absurd in your construction choices is wholeheartedly encouraged.

There are three basic structures that you can build, homes, workplaces, and social clubs. Each home contains a single adventurer occupant. They aren't builders or resource collectors. They are adventurers who go out and crawl through dungeons to go up levels and all that stuff. Their home is a part of the character. It is upgraded and customized over time and affects the character's abilities.

The workplaces exist in two varieties. The first is a simple business, like a shop or inn or something. The other is a guild. Guilds are places where you can assign each adventurer. If you assign Hank to the Warriors Guild, he's now a warrior. Put him in the Mages Guild, and now he's a mage. Each adventurer can be any class at any time by simply moving him between guilds as you see fit.

Guilds can be upgraded similar to homes, but it is a more communal effort based on its members (more on this later). Like homes, they should be considered part of the character design process, only focused on jobs. For instance, upgrading the Mages Guild will improve all mages that are a member of it.

THe third type of structure is a social club. These are similar to guilds in that you can assign characters to them, but a character can belong to more than one of them if he'd like. They bestow additional benefits on the character so long as he is a member.

There is one more building that all towns have that cannot be created or destroyed, and that is the Adventurer's Guild, which will be discussed in more detail in another entry.

  Home, Sweet Home


Let's start by describing the home. Each adventure comes with one. As the adventurer gains gold from doing his thing, he may upgrade it. It starts out as a fairly modest house, but you can add floors and rooms to it. You can also fill the rooms with items purchased. Both the types of rooms and decorations that can be added are dependent on the adventurer's guild rank (more on this later). These things are used to customize the character directly.

For instance, if you create a thief workshop (having at least a rank of 4 or higher in the thieves' guild), the character will gain access to a special ability for dropping smoke bombs. A warrior can build a training room, which will bestow stat increases for the weapons used in that particular training room (if you wanted to be proficient in swords and maces, you'd need two training rooms). A blacksmith can build a workbench where he can upgrade weapons and armor he brings home. A monster trainer can build cages to store his pets.

Each room is ranked and can be upgraded as well. Doing so will improve the affects they have on the adventurer. Upgrading the thief workshop may unlock the caltrops special ability or improving a warrior's training room to rank 2 may increase the stat bonus even further.

Since you can be any class you'd like at any time you'd like, you could potentially build all rooms. However, you are limited by the space available in your house. Also, building multiple rooms of the same theme (like three thief rooms) may instill additional thief-related bonuses when that adventurer is in the thieves' guild. If you run out of rooms, you can demolish old rooms and replace them with something else, but you'd lose all ranks.

  Work, Goddamn Work


On the other side of the fence are guilds. Each sim-adventurer may belong to a single guild, and this dictates their class. You may switch an adventurer's guild at any time that they are in the city (no changing jobs in a dungeon). Pretty simple concept. But like how houses can be used to customize characters, guilds may be upgraded to customize job classes.

Each member of a guild pays a tithe (which you can set). Every time they go to a bank and drop off their gold, they will pay 10% (or whatever) of the newly deposited gold into the guild's coffers. This gold is then used to purchase upgrades for the guild.

Guild's are upgraded much in the same way as houses. You purchase and upgrade rooms in the guild, and these will give stat bonuses and new skills - but this time, they are given to all members of a guild. If you buy a library at the Mages' Guild, then all members will get a bonus to their magic attack strength. If you buy a Firebolt Classroom, all mages will gain access to the Firebolt skill. If a member quits to join another guild, he will lose all benefits of the guild upgrades.

A guild is ranked according to the rank of the highest member. So, if you have a rank 12 Mage, then the Mages' Guild will be rank 12 as well. Certain upgrades will not be available until you get an adventurer in the guild to a proper rank. Likewise, some upgrades will only be available if you have at least 2 or 3 guild members of a certain rank or above. The highest ranking member is considered the guild master.

Changing guilds will not cause the adventurer to lose rank, but there will be a certain amount of guild points he would require to gain before he starts making advancement again (a sort of debt). Also, during this period, the adventurer can not be used in the guild ranking. He is not a full member until he's worked through the cost of changing classes first, though he still gains all membership bonuses himself (he uses the guild, but the guild can't use him yet).

For instance, Jimmy is a Rank 3 Warrior (the highest in his guild and thus the guild master). He's only got 10 guild points until Rank 4 (gained for killing enemies and finishing jobs), but he went over to the Thieves Guild for a little bit. Coming back, Jimmy retains the Rank 3 Warrior status and all his warrior abilities back, but the guild does not fully recognize him as a member until he has worked off his job change debt (something small and painless, like 5 points or something). Now, each guild point Jimmy earns goes toward the debt until it is paid off, meaning he'd need to earn 15 guild points to advance to Rank 4. Also, while paying off his debt, the guild can no longer build upgrades from Rank 3.

  Hell is Other People

The third type of location is a social club, like a church or an archery range. You can assign an adventurer to as many as you want, but each one requires a tithe and an adventurer can put no more than 50% of his earnings toward membership fees in anything. Social clubs are like non-upgradable guilds (the tithe is not collected for any additional purpose). They bestow stat bonuses and new skills to all members for as long as they are member, even if you change guilds.

Social clubs are less specialized than guilds in their abilities. Since an adventurer can belong to several of them regardless of which guild he's in, they instead focus on more neutral skills. For instance, the archery club will give all members a boost to their archery skill as well as the ability to buy special magic bows at discounted prices. They also buy bows for better prices than a general purpose shop.

Another type of social club is the church. There are actually six different gods and thus several different churches, and belonging to one is a social benefit to a character. Each shop, guild, and character in the game is associated with a God. The Gods exist in a sort of affinity tree, where liking one God will mean you dislike another. If an adventurer tries to purchase goods from another member of his particular church, he'll get a discount. If he teams up with another adventurer, if they share divine affinity, they'll work together better. Likewise, believers of opponent Gods will charge you more for stuff and you will do less damage in team situations. An adventurer can join up to three churches, but he cannot join the churches of the three opposite Gods (ie he can join one of each pairing).

There's also arenas adventurers can join. Members will occasionally get together and fight each other. They will gain some experience for it, but the winner will earn a lot of gold. Likewise, there are Monster Arenas where monster trainers can have their pets fight. Arenas don't take a tithe, but there is an entrance fee one pays before entering a fight.

Finally, there's the explorer's club. In the dungeons, adventurers may find special tokens that they can trade in at the explorer's club for unique loot. Only members will find these tokens and may only trade them with other members (trading will be dealt with in the next entry).




Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.