Adding Terrain Features

This is a post about the design and development of a currently unnamed Shipwreck Game. You can see the other Blog posts at the Index for the Game.

Terrain Features

I have eliminated the Terrain Characteristics draw, and combined it with the step of drawing for Terrain Features. This one action will now give a brief description of the terrain characteristics, as well as the main feature of that space. This is the method of modifying the blank cards in the deck, through features that can be collected, like items, or features that can encourage the development of a skill, like climbing. These items and skills come in two “types”; generic – that can be acquired just to survive on the Island, and specialised – that are needed to complete each of the Legacy scenarios. Whilst the Legacy scenarios can be completed in any order, the encounters in each scenario need to happen in a specific order, like the development of a story. We will visit those problems at another time, as this post is about the generic Island encounters, which seem like they might be simpler, but they come with their own problems.

Everyday Life on the Island

Players can encounter, and learn, generic items, and skills, in a completely random order. You can find a knife, and go searching for things to cut, or you can find something trapped in an overgrown mass of vines, and go searching for something to free it. A 2 step puzzle is equally satisfying approaching it from either end. In this way, the generic island discoveries can be totally randomised, and things can be found somewhat haphazardly. This seems to indicate that we could just have a look up table, similar to the Terrain table, and a random card draw can show us what we come across. However, we don’t want to have the same random encounter twice. There shouldn’t be two knives introduced into the game, or worse, two identical somethings trapped in an overgrow mass of vines. What’s needed is randomised encounters, that can only happen once.

Whilst pondering the question of randomised, one off encounters, I started to get ready to host Seafall with my Legacy gaming group.

Exploring in Seafall

I have only played the game prologue, so these comments are based solely on the basic game mechanics that they introduce in the beginning. I have no doubt there will be plenty to be gleaned from playing the game, and there will be more posts about it in the future, but the primary game play I want to focus on is the exploration of Islands. These demonstrate an elegant way of randomising encounters, but ensuring they each only happen once.

Seafall Island

The game starts with 4 partially known, but little explored islands, sitting in the waters close to the players home port. These 4 islands have one known site, where the native islanders interact with the players, and are willing to sell their goods. This site is indicated by a coloured square, and a matching coloured cube sits on top of it, representing a particular type of resource; yellow, in the picture above, to represent spices.

But there are 5 unknown sites on each island, each marked by a symbol (suns or anchors pictured above) that the players can attempt to explore. The numbered shield underneath each space is pertinent to the mechanics involved in exploring, but the important thing is that if you are successful in exploring a site, you get to look at the Explorer’s Map.

Seafall Explorers Map

The map itself is not representative of anything, or at least, it doesn’t have a larger meaning to me at the moment. It is simply covered in the symbols that appear on the unexplored island spaces, and they each have a number next to them. When you have successfully explored a space, you get to choose one of the matching symbols on the map, and look up the entry in the captain’s log book. So if we successfully explore an Anchor space, we could choose 49, in the top right of the map, and read what that entry has to say. You then cross out that number on the Explorer’s Map, indicating that it has been looked up, and it stops you from visiting that entry again. Totally randomised encounters, that you will only encounter once.

Terrain Features Table

So we can use something similar to the Terrain look up table, and reference it with a card draw from the deck. An example below has just filled in details for the Sand space we wash up on at the beginning of the game.

Terrain Features Sand

So when we wash up on the beach at the beginning of the game, we first draw to fill in the surrounding terrain, and then we draw for the key feature in our space, which is a Sand terrain. If we draw a 6, we can look up either Story Entry 18 or 35, and cross it off in this table.

18. “The soft sand extends some distance up and down the coast line, and raises to a small lip where the blindingly bright beach gives way to the vegetation of the Island. A CRATE sits just above the tide line, but a quick search shows it empty of anything useful. It is roughly a meter cubed, and you drag it further away from the ocean, in case you an find a use for it later.”

The number 18 is then drawn on that space on the Map, so that you can look it up later to see what you found in that space.

Not Enough Entries

Seafall’s design most probably has the same number of Log Entries for each symbol, to match the number of times they appear on all of the Islands. Each space can be explored, so you will need at least one entry for each symbol on the Islands, and there is probably no use in creating more Log Entries than you need. But in our shipwreck game, with the randomisation of a card draw, there will certainly be instances where you look up more entries than will have been created. It is possible that you will be in a Sand space, and you draw a 6, after you have already looked up entries 18 and 35. So a generic entry will have to be created for each terrain, that can just be written under each table.

Or “The sand is soft underfoot, but devoid of anything interesting.”

So I think that is a decent way to introduce generic elements into the game. The development of the Legacy Stories will be discussed in another post.

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One Reply to “Adding Terrain Features”

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