Finally! I’ve been working on a couple of secret projects for the past couple of months and I’m now at the point where I can reveal one of them.
It all started because of a conversation with Tom in late August when Reaper started the CAV:SO Kickstarter. We got talking about the CAV2 ruleset and I was inspired with an idea for a mechanic and started scribbling down a new system for a tabletop skirmish wargame. I assumed it’d go the way of most systems I design – discarded and forgotten within the week.
Almost two months later, I’m still working on it most days. Today I’m making pre-release 1 available for those who want it (drop me an email and I’ll send you the pdf). It’s not actually the most up to date version and it doesn’t quite represent a playable version – but more about that later.
What is Amethyst Burning?
Amethyst Burning is a narrative campaign driven tabletop skirmish game. It takes place just over a hundred years in the future in a version of our world where climate change happened harder and faster than anyone imagined possible. Nations fractured and fell – the United States, China, Russia, and Brazil are no longer recognisable. India and Pakistan had a nuclear war with each other. From the darkness emerged a few corporations with new, clean energy sources. They ushered in a new era of peace and stability. But it only lasted a few decades. Humans are nothing if not greedy and foolish. World War 3 broke out and the world suffered yet more losses.
During this Amethyst, one of the energy corporations, created a tri-city on the no longer sub-antarctic Kerguelen Islands. In October of 2127, the Core Reactor that powered one of the tri-cities exploded, setting off a chain reaction that destroyed the other two. Most of the city’s 12 million inhabitants died in the blasts or in the chaotic few days that follow.
You take control of a force trying to recover technology and information from the ruins of Amethyst Isle barely a week later. Your force consists of combatants and non-combatants and you battle it out at a campaign level with squads of 4 to 20 models fighting on the tabletop.
A key focus here is on the narrative elements of gameplay. There will be a relatively open campaign system, but I expect the best campaigns will be ones that are adjudicated by a game master or by the players trying to tell a story together rather than being solely in competition with one another. I also intend to write (and, indeed, have started scribbling notes for) a number of heavily narrative campaigns with a lot of branches and twists.
The game is also being written in such a way that it can form part of a telescoping game system – where you’ll be able to jump around from playing it as a one-player-one-character role playing game all the way up to commanding divisions in an entire operational area in a war.
What’s in Prerelease 1?
A two-page synopsis of the history of the world. I have a lot more written up, but as I edited and edited it for this first release I realised it was too patchy and too much a list of disconnected events for anyone to want to read. So, I put it aside and wrote a brand new two page synopsis of some of the key points.
The rest of the 23-page document is the rules for tabletop play, minus a few key things – there’s no equipment list, no character creation or force selection rules, and no scenario rules. The list of actions, stances, proficiencies, and traits are also very bare bones.
I do have a small equipment list and parts of an introductory campaign sorted out, but playtests today showed that these weren’t nearly ready to be shown to the world. Also, I’m finding Scribus to be… lacking… and have decided to switch to In Design and it seemed somewhat pointless to learn how to wrestle with tables for the equipment in Scribus and then again in In Design.
Character creation and force selection are in constant flux at the moment, though I’m narrowing in on a set of rules that will allow people to take any size force up to around 10,000 people and only need to actually create some of it. The ultimate goal is to have several levels of play – from the skirmish that I’m starting with up to clashes where the basic units are entire battalions or even divisions. Some of these rules are already working – and quite well – but others are a giant mess. So, I’ll be holding off on releasing that until I’m ready.
Another important thing that’s missing is a write-up on the four key power sources and an explanation of what a NeuRec is. See below for the extremely abridged versions of both of these.
Prerelease 1 is also very poorly balanced. Think of this as a very early pre-alpha build that’s more about seeing the broad concepts that I’m aiming for rather than actual gameplay. For those who are interested in seeing it and are okay with clearly work-in-progress stuff, drop me a line and I’ll send you a copy. Feedback is most welcome, but please limit yourself to feedback about general concepts and approaches – I don’t need to know about typos, grammatical errors, or that some gun is way over-powered at the moment.
What’s Coming Next?
First things first – I’m making no promises about the order in which I do things from here on out. When I decided a few weeks ago to do the first release so soon, I wrote a list of what I needed to include in it. That list has been the bane of my life these past couple of weeks. I don’t want that again. I want to be able to work on things in the order that makes sense to me and not have to try to do character profiles for the intro campaign before I have a character creation system that’s remotely stable 😀
Having said that, here’s what I’m working on at the moment:
- A 4-scenario campaign that starts with two 4-person patrols trying to recover intel from a downed UAV and turns into a race to a cache of advanced tech. At the moment it pits one of the Green Consortium’s Hostile Acquisitions forces (with their enstar weapons) against marines from the True American States (with their traditional gunpowder weapons). However, I’m thinking of changing that as some other changes in the setting make it less reasonable that TAS would have forces here this early. Regardless, this campaign is intended to be a bit of a tutorial and is much, much more rail-roady than the actual campaign rules will be.
- Character creation rules that force you to make characters – for those familiar with the life paths used by MechWarrior, it’s very loosely based on that system.
- These rules are being written in such a way that the system could also be used as an rpg, so you get traits that aren’t necessarily directly helpful in the tabletop game.
- Force selection rules that let you detail a sizable force without having to actually provide the details until you need them. These are actually coming along really nicely and I’m surprised at how easy it was to come up with a system that requires very little detail up front but still creates a sense of character and imposes useful restrictions when you do get around to detailing it.
- A list of common equipment, including enstar and traditional weapons but not plasma or core weapons.
- A detailed write-up of the history of the world – the one I’m not showing to people yet is currently around 10,000 words long and doesn’t really touch on unimportant things like world war 3 😀
- Artwork – I’m in the process of talking to a couple of artists about doing some concept art for me. I’m hoping the next release will include a few pictures.
My current vague intention is to do the next release in mid-November as I’ve got the first couple of weeks off from work.
There are four main sources of power in the Amethyst world. Well, actually, some places still use coal, oil, gas, and the like. Classic green energy like wind and solar are also used a little, but the massive climate instability throughout much of the 21st Century made their use difficult at best. The four main sources are enstar, plasma, fusion, and core. With the exception of fusion, they’re also used as power sources for personal weapons. Enstar is the most flexible of the power sources. Plasma is harder to control but more powerful. Fusion strikes a balance between enstar and plasma. Core takes a long time to get started, but once it does it’s very powerful. Also, people are a little scared of it, what with it having just destroyed three cities.
NeuRecs are a technology in the game that I added so that it was a bit harder to lose your favourite character and to add some cool tactical decisions to gameplay. Many characters have NeuRec implants, which is short for neural recorder. A NeuRec can be implanted into a clone and transfers all the memories, knowledge, and skills of the person it was harvested from. Removal of a NeuRec is guaranteed to be fatal, so generally it’s only retrieved after a person has died. There’s also a time limit – the most recent versions are only usable for up to 72 hours after death and only have a good chance of full recovery of memories within the first 24 hours. Earlier models have even shorter windows.
Obviously, a lot of the in game specifics of this are still being worked out. But basically, the idea is to make it so that death isn’t always permanent for your favourite characters and to give you a reason to make sure you retrieve that NeuRec rather than leaving your downed comrade where he fell.
Is This All Just Vapourware?
Probably. I mean, what are the odds that I keep working on this like I have been the last couple of weeks? But, I’m pretty determined to actually finish one of my projects for a change and I’ve already survived a couple of demotivational moments.
If you like the idea of the game, get involved in playtesting (when it’s ready) or provide me feedback on my ideas and approaches (I’m especially bad at not realising when things are unnecessarily complex) or if you’re super keen, come talk to me about working on some parts together. I’m definitely looking for artists (and have a small budget for that purpose), but I’d also love to work with some people on game design, writing the setting, and the seven thousand other things that go into creating a project like this – and I’ll find the budget to do so if the right people come along with the right ideas.
But here’s the cool thing. I’m not making this game for other people like I have most of my past ones. I’m making this game ‘cos it’s the one I want to play. So, I’m not too worried about my motivation waning. If anything the problem will be its ever-increasing scope 😀