Echelon Core Rules Draft Outline

So, October’s been rather lighter on posts than I really wanted. Between trying to get my act together health-wise (eat better, sleep more, work out better), a compelling project (Vale of Elsir map for Nik) and work (the next release of our primary service is now staging for release next month) I’ve been fairly pressed for time.

In an effort to get my writing kick-started again, and because next month is National Novel Writing Month, I’m adapting the NaNoWriMo plan for Echelon. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write, over the course of November, a 50,000-word novel. That’s not quite what I’m doing, and the subject of this post should be a pretty good hint as to what I’m aiming for.

I’m going to try to have a draft copy of the Echelon Core Rules together by the end of November. As appropriate for NaNoWriMo, I’ll be putting a less focus on perfecting things and more on getting content together. I’d like to be able to go to the table in December and actually try this.

D&D 3.x Outline

Originally I was thinking to model the Echelon core book after the D&D 3.5 PH, but I realized once I started the outline that doesn’t really work for me here.

  • Races? Don’t have them really.
  • Classes? Really don’t have them, though various character archetypes can be modeled.
  • Skills? Sort of have them, but it’s really not the same.
  • Feats? More or less gone, incorporated into talents.

I’m basically left with, out of the core rules, ability scores, character description, combat and environment rules, and spells… and for my first draft I expect to lean on the RSRD definitions of spells and not include them in my document anyway.

The D&D 3.x document model doesn’t quite work for me in Echelon.

RSRD Outline

The RSRD outline may work better for me here. Each major element of the rules was published by WotC in a different document. I don’t know that I would break it down quite as far as they did… hmm. Actually, the idea appeals to me. Let’s see what divisions I have that make sense, and then look at whether they can be reasonably merged.

Rules Elements

In no particular order:

  • Character/Monster Construction
    • Character Advancement
  • Combat Rules
  • Adventuring Rules
  • Environmental Rules
  • Traps and Hazards
  • Talents
  • Monsters (may include generic NPCs and the like, since they’re built the same way)
  • Genre Elements
    • Fantasy
      • Races
      • Archetypes (‘classes’)
      • ‘Description’ (alignments, etc.)
      • Magic Rules, magic items, spells, etc.
    • Sci-Fi (including as example, not doing now)
    • Supers (including as example, not doing now)

Monsters may or may not be genre-specific, actually, but let’s assume the ‘core monsters’ include more or less mundane creatures, at least.

This may look much like HERO System construction, and honestly I don’t mind that at all. Like HERO, Echelon is designed to be a very modular framework, and it makes sense to keep things that may or may not suit how a particular group wants to play separate. I can even see how some of the above could be broken down more depending on how a group would like to play the game – magic, for example, could be modeled in several different ways and one or more could be used in a single campaign.

Planned Outline

In the end, I don’t think I really have an outline. Each document is relatively homogenous, and fairly straightforward. If a particular document needs any non-trivial structure it might be better, at this point, to split it into multiple documents. For instance, ‘fantasy talents’ could be put into a ‘talents’ document, or a ‘fantasy genre’ document, or just put into their own document and I can decide later.

I like this ‘outline’, such as it is. Keep the pieces together when they belong together, but don’t be afraid to split something out. I can always recombine them later, but splitting them after writing them together can be harder. High cohesion, low coupling, my background as a software developer likes this.

Closing Thoughts

As described under ‘Planned Outline’, I don’t really have an outline. I do have topics I plan to cover, but there is not necessarily structure between the individual documents apart from the content being expected to work together. I think I’ve identified most of the key game elements I need to cover.

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  1. GreyKnight

    Excellent news! I was just thinking the other day that it would be nice if you got a ruleset up; I’d like to have a go at interconverting some characters between some different systems (Pathfinder, Echelon, and WRPS) to see how they look in terms of the different approaches. Actually, looking at the date on this article you must have already put this announcement up when I was thinking that… s’pose that’s what I get for not checking back.

    On your remark about modelling magic in several different ways, I have some commentary on that. It had vaguely bothered me that D&D provided so many different magic and magic-like systems (even within regular magic you have sorcerer-style and wizard-style, then add warlocks, and of course there are the Psionic and Incarnum users to complicate matters further). In WRPS I tried to unify everything under the heading of “Special Powers”, with specific modifiers that can be applied to the basic power system (which is itself most akin to Psionics/Sorcerer, I guess) to make it work like any of the other systems. For example, “power can only be used by preparing it in advance” gives you a Wizard-like system, while giving powers that manifest in a certain way (plus extra traits for “binding sites”) gives you an Incarnum-like system, and so on. And since they all rely on the same underlying framework, there’s no need for a “magic transparency” rule, or designing magical/psionic variants of powers that have the same effect, and so on. Sorry for the advertising, but I really liked this idea. :-)

    By the way, I’m also giving NaNoWriMo a try this year; have just realised a few days ago that I need to produce about 1700 words every day for a month, so I’m starting to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. Still, I’m sure we’ll both win, on account of we are awesome and stunningly intelligent. Not to mention modest as all-get-out!

  2. I haven’t created a NaNoWriMo account at all, I’m doing this pretty informally.

    It’s a little embarrassing, but I haven’t had time yet to actually work on it at all yet this week. Early in the week is really bad for my free time, with how much running around I do with the kids, plus trying to get reasonable amounts of sleep.

  3. That said, when I do write I expect to be putting pieces up here. I won’t show the same analysis I did for some of my other Echelon posts, more “look at this” than “here’s how it works”. I expect that I can put a cumulative word count up at the same time.

  4. I scribbled down a few character ideas today that I intend to use for my intersystem conversion test. You mentioned you might throw in some generic NPCs, so I linked them above in case you’re stuck for an idea; feel free to steal any that take your fancy. There is a decent variety of themes and properties, hopefully.

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