I defined Classic Campaigns in yesterday’s post about Modes of Play. Today I thought I’d talk some more about the details of what I have in mind.
The central (but not only) feature of campaigns is that a player’s force of men and aliens develops over the course of several games instead of starting afresh each time.
Experience is the key. Individual troopers that survive a battle can gain new skills and boost their stats as a result of their combat experience. This tells a great story, generates characters that are special to you, and gives you another layer of reasons for tactical decisions. Do you send forward the rookie trooper or the veteran? The vet might be better at getting the job done, but he’s an old comrade and you wouldn’t want to see him get hurt…
Deadzone feels like it could do with a tiny bit more detail in the experience system than usual. For this reason I’m experimenting with experience tickboxes per stat so that a model who uses mostly shooting gets experience in shooting stats/skills rather than melee ones. It’s a little more work to track, but in this case I think the system is easy enough to make the results worthwhile.
When a model has earned enough experience to get a bonus they roll on a stat-specific table to get something appropriate. At least a few of the factions will need specific tables for themselves, and it might be worth doing them for all of them. However, the important thing is to allow a difference when it is needed (Plague, for example) rather than to do it by rote. A human rebel and a marauder getting better in shooting are probably not a great deal different.
As a player’s force gets more experienced they will get access to a wider variety of equipment. This is another way of rewarding an experienced force and giving players something extra to look forward to. New kit can be issued to existing models in replacement for their original weapons and gear.
Units that fight will take losses, and unlike a DreadBall team which would have to buy them, the military units in Deadzone will have replacements issued automatically by their parent formations. This avoids the need for dealing with money per se, though a unit will have other resources to manage instead.
This military background can be used as a mechanical means to avoid some of the disparity between winners and losers and mitigate some of the normal campaign problems of what happens when a player loses badly and has filled a lot of body bags. How do you allow them to compete next time? The fact that you usually have to buy replacements means that games can be quite lopsided, and so some sort of handicap system is required. I doubt that Deadzone will be able to avoid this entirely, though the automatic replacement system will make it less of an issue. Needing something less extreme will make it easier to balance the handicap system too.
This form of classic campaign is a fun way to play Deadzone in a club environment or among a group of friends. What I’m focussing on in the rules is ways to enhance the individuality of the troopers as they get better and to allow the units to behave a little more like military formations, focussing on the mission, their training and equipment rather than managing cash. The fact that this quickly starts to generate real characters within the factions just adds to the fun and the storytelling among the players afterwards.
I’m still working on the metagame mechanic for this style of campaign, and how you win overall. Using the DreadBall structure would work but is very abstract and rather artificial for a military operation. I’m currently thinking of a system that is tied in with the handicap system so that beating a force that is much weaker than you is worth less than one that is your equal or better. This would mean that you would have to beat a lower ranked force much more completely to get the same benefit. Still, it’s not right yet. More to tinker with there…