Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

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Tyrel Lohr
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Aug 04, 2015 12:03 am

Influence in place of Corruption would help to combine all of the different types of underworld empires together, and there could be slight differences in what they could do based on the type of underworld empire. For example, the Pirate UE could have access to Pirate Bases, while the Corporate UE could still build Convoys and such. I worry that it would spiral out of control (kind of like the 2007 version) and end up as an entirely new subset of rules that no one would want to deal with. If things were kept simple, however, it would work.

That has really been the key starting in the final push last fall: keep things simple and try to cut out a lot of the more confusing elements of the rules and push them to the optional rules. And I still find myself going back through the proto-2e rules and hacking away at them like so much overgrown ruins to find the core elements to keep and cutting away the more overwrought portions of the rules.
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby wminsing » Tue Aug 04, 2015 5:50 pm

I agree with aelius re: it's all Influence, one way or another. Also I view the UE as the very definition of optional; they are vital to represent certain types of NGE's or polities in some settings, and could/should be totally ignored in settings where they don't exist (or aren't important). So in this case I think a little complexity can be built in.

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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby aelius » Wed Aug 05, 2015 3:20 am

I have been thinking about my "second set of Intelligence rules" comment, and I think that would be a good way to handle most of the non ship or base functions of a UE. It keeps it to one set of rules that re already in the game, it just adds new missions for UE's.
The missions could be customised for the type of UE, along with the special units mentioned by Tyrel.
This way you really are only adding the core Influence rules as actual new rules.
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby WunderBullub » Wed Aug 05, 2015 7:49 pm

Having run a 1st ed campaign that had 5 conventional empires and 2 different UEs I have a little experience with how well they integrated into campaigns and some of the issues that developed.
One thing I found was that with a little imagination and selective changing of terms (like swapping influence for corruption which is what I actually did in the campaign in question) the UE rules were very flexible and could be used to represent almost any type of NGE.

In my case one UE was a large mega corporation that largely operated in the open going so far as to publicly announce where they had "influence" (or branch offices in terms of the in-game fluff) and would get permission from the "host" governments to expand.
The other UE was a subversive religious cult/terrorist organization whose only goal was spreading chaos and destruction.

On the whole it worked rather well but there were three basic issues that cropped up.
Two that were problematic for the UE players and one for one of the conventional players.

For the "legitimate" UE, there were some difficulties with their ability to acquire and maintain a standing escort fleet for their trade and transport fleets.
While I allowed them to buy civilian units at normal costs it was initially very difficult for them to acquire any actual warships.
Ultimately we had to allow them to engage is some limited diplomacy so they could sign contracts analogous to appropriations treaties with player empires to be able to purchase and maintain escorts.
I think it might be a good idea to include some sort of limited diplomacy ability for UEs to allow "legitimate" ones to actually have official relations with governments more easily without forcing campaign moderator's to bodge together a house rule on the fly.
Perhaps having a more concrete set of black market rules or some other mechanism to allow UEs to buy older military units off the shelf would be good too.

For the terror cult the above was not that much of a problem as he had no intention of building any units.
His main issue was the ease with which he was discovered.
Empire "A" would always know the moment one of his worlds was corrupted (when UE corruption reached 50% of census) due to the sudden loss of income (even if it were only a single EP).
The random 10% chance of exposure each turn for a corrupt system never came into play.
The moment he started to lose income he could even work out the location of the corrupted world to a list of usually no more that 3 systems.
Not that I can think of a way to do this but some way of helping a UE stay hidden from uber micro managing players might be warranted.

The last issue is the trickiest one, one of the conventional players ended up having serious problems and was greatly frustrated by the cult once he started being targeted by them.
Admittedly the player of Empire "B" has a very poor ability at reacting to unconventional tactics and so had no idea on how to respond to a protracted campaign of hostile intel actions that had no other purpose than to annoy and cause chaos.
But over the course of more than a dozen turns it became readily apparent that the UE had a marked advantage in staging offensive intel actions especially when they were assisted by elite officers kitted out for spycraft.
The UE was able to spend significantly less and yet have much greater effect in the Intel war against the conventional player, some way to correct this imbalance might be a good idea assuming the changes to how intel works have not already done so.

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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Thu Aug 06, 2015 1:23 am

The UE rules I have on file have a much more extensive Black Market system, but I think for non-pirate organizations it would make sense to have a slightly different take on the situation. That or rename it to the "Grey Market" and let it straddle those two worlds, but I think there are enough things that the civilians would be doing differently that it warrants a separate take on the situation.

The Corruption detection mechanic was changed by removing the Corrupt system, and instead having each point of Corruption just be a constant drain. So you'd know how much Corruption you had, but not where or who controlled it without running some Intel missions. If this changes to a unified Influence system, I'd be inclined to have the corporate UE's Influence be obvious and known to the player, but then the criminal UE would be hidden and have the economic drag on the player.

I'll take another look at that system plus my other notes and see what I can break apart and make work, or if I need to consider expanding the content considerably to cover all the bases.
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby japridemor » Tue Oct 06, 2015 8:14 pm

Well, if it looks like the 2e Companion will be coming out next. I vote for updated Sector movement rules and exploration rules for such. Prototype rules would be nice as well even if its just a simple doubling of the price of the initial unit. A lot of stuff from 1e Companion seems to fit well already with 2e.

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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Oct 27, 2015 9:39 pm

I talked about that with Jay today, and 2e Companion really does have to be the next project out the door for me. The other books are going to lean on it enough for rules consistency that I need to have it in stone before anything else can be finished up.

I've (finally) finished my move to Ohio and can start working on VBAM again (it's been a long two months!), so expect to start hearing some rumblings from my direction in the next few weeks.

Sector movement is on the list to comb through the old rules and make it a bit cleaner than in 1e and focus on grid based sector maps and how to translate movement over into that environment. I have an entire chapter dedicated to exploration rules this time around, building on the 2e CG rules and giving some more options that were cut from the CG along the way.

Prototyping is in an interesting place because while there is still room for rules like Jay's original from 1e, I think the more interesting route is to randomize unit stats a bit after a class is introduced. But a version of both rules are going to be included in the Companion (I revised them while on vacation in August).
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby wminsing » Sat Feb 06, 2016 2:35 pm

Any updates on this? I'm itching to kick off a new solo campaign with the 2nd edition rules but it would be much more interesting with exploration and prototyping, among other things. :)

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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby BroAdso » Sun Feb 07, 2016 4:19 am

wminsing wrote:Any updates on this? I'm itching to kick off a new solo campaign with the 2nd edition rules but it would be much more interesting with exploration and prototyping, among other things. :)

-Will


Agreed, I'd love to get exploration rules and particularly some of the government type or social trait rules from the Menagerie in 2e. Many of the Menageries rule are more or less directly transferable, but not all (particularly the ones that give a bonus or negative to experience level), so trying to apply them to 2e is tricky.

Also, some kind of command rating/cost system and more detailed orders for ground combat in the works? It doesn't seem too tricky to make it parallel space combat in more ways.

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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Feb 08, 2016 5:03 pm

Finalizing With a Purpose and getting that from manuscript to product took about 2 months of my time, unfortunately, and that has set me back on my own VBAM projects. I've went back in to the Companion and been trying to get a better picture of where things are at and finish up rules and develop the missing content. Here's what the organization is looking like now:

Chapter 1 > Introduction: standard into fiction and About This Book stuff

Chapter 2 > Running a Campaign: some notes about how to run a campaign, things to watch out for, how to setup and run a solo campaign, etc.

Chapter 3 > Star Systems: the advanced star system rules, including multi-planet systems and anomalies like nebulae, black holes, and more. Most of the rules I had originally intended for Atlas of Nearby Stars are going to end up in here, with Atlas going back to being just a book of maps and system stats.

Chapter 4 > Exploration: expanded exploration options, including rules for running an exploration focused campaign.

Chapter 5 > Movement & Supply: A few new rules that didn't go into With a Purpose, and updates some of the 1e Companion movement rules. Expanded communications rules.

Chapter 6 > Politics & Diplomacy: The updated NPE rules are central here, but it also includes quite a bit of extra rules and guidance for things like tribute, neutral zones, protectorates, and releasing new empires.

Chapter 7 > Combat: More optional combat rules, including some variant unit traits.

Chapter 8 > Research & Technology: Low tech empires, a random force list generator, prototyping, and contagions are all here now. I'm personally debating how much of this would be better served in the Engineering Manual instead, but I think keeping this core sampling in the Companion is going to be valuable.

Chapter 9 > Credits

That's a breakdown of where things look for that book. We've had players looking over the rules and editing the text, and while there are sections that still need completed it is getting closer and closer to being finished. I have quite a bit of the art for the book finished, the intro is almost done, and I'm really hoping to be able to jump in and finish testing the NPE rules this month with an eye towards having everything completely finished by the end of March.

As I've been developing this book I have split off some content that I either don't think we'll have space for or that deserves being expanded upon separately. Specifically, the elite officer rules were already moved to their own book (Those Who Serve) which is itself more or less waiting for the Companion to be done so we know where everything is at to finish it up. And the underworld empires (now called independent factions) rules are being moved to another book (TBD) to allow for more development and inclusion of the content for some of these factions (like pirates).

It is looking like a lot of the unit design and construction rules are going to end up over in the Engineering Manual, and that means that there is a possibility that some of the stuff I have in the Research & Technology chapter right now might get ported over to that book instead. It all depends on how much content we end up having versus space.

Talking about book lengths, I'm trying to keep our book sizes down this edition, which in theory should make the print versions of the books a bit cheaper. With a Purpose for example was around 100 pages, and the Campaign Guide was 160 something. I won't want the Companion to be bigger than the Campaign Guide, and right now it looks like it shouldn't be.

I'm also mindful of the fact that some of the content that was in the original Companion is now being split into multiple books, which makes the cost proposition worse for the players. That's why I think it might ultimately be better to have 3 @ $20 print books than 2 @ $30 books, as then players can at least ignore the content that they don't have any interest in (like the elite officers). So it's a balancing act.

I should have more information available in a week or two once I've had the chance to go through and make final determinations on what rules get cut or what needs updated.

@BroAdso: I wasn't sure if anyone even used the detailed ground combat rules from the 1E Companion. If there is a strong desire to keep those rules around, we can definitely look into it. I'd need another developer to lead that up, but we might be able to find someone that would be willing to update that to 2E and test it for release.
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby murtalianconfederacy » Tue Feb 09, 2016 10:05 am

So it's still looking like Companion is a must as well as Engineering Manual, with Those Who Serve and the UE book being e-book only (as those are 'would be nice' not 'absolutely essential' for me)
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Feb 09, 2016 11:08 pm

We are going to experiment with releasing some other smaller products here and there, too, like some map or empire packs as time permits. Those kinds of things will be cheap add-ons that people can pick up if they want some more variety and don't want to generate things themselves.

I'm planning on releasing a "formal" newsletter and blog post either later this week or early next week to go over where Companion is and lay out the future plans for Second Edition as more of the books start to come together. I'm shepherding the campaign rule books while Jay works on the tactical conversions.

Slowly but surely!
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby BroAdso » Wed Feb 10, 2016 11:47 am

These look like some awesome future plans! I am seriously looking forward to all these books, but most especially the detailed NPE/Neutral rules in the new Companion.

I never did use the detailed ground combat rules, largely because the elements/groups distinction was just different enough from space combat that it felt clunky. If a new version of it were to appear, the trick would be to make it back-compatible to the units as they're currently built in VBAM 2e unit creation rules, or with a simple addition like giving units a default CR and CC based on their cost.

Basically, I'd like the 'one side piles on one unit, the other side piles on one unit' model of ground combat to get a little more complex without finagling which elements are in which group and what abilities the group has versus each element and so on. That's not to say the current model of ground units and combat is inadequate - VBAM is already a complex beast with lots of moving parts, and ground combat performs its role really well in that context already.

I'll brainstorm a little and post some thoughts later this week.

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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby japridemor » Wed Feb 10, 2016 3:56 pm

I agree that of all the proposed additions to the game, a more detailed ground combat is the least exciting for me. I feel that the current form is more than adequate. If you control the orbitals, how much organized resistance is really viable? Iron bars and rocks from space can devastate formal organized units. Now maintaining control in the face of a disaffected populace and guerrilla movement would be tough. Crack down too hard and destroy the economic incentive of controlling the planet(s) could be the result.

That being said, the additions to the game look great and seem totally designed to separate me from my money. The Companion, Engineers Manual and Near Stars sound awesome!

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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Feb 10, 2016 10:18 pm

One of the stumbling blocks during 2e development was the early goal to try and make the space and ground combat rules consistent with each other. I had several working prototypes for this, but it never ended up working right. I mean, at one point I had it so you could build wet-navy warships and have them interact with the rules. It was crazy.

I never used Steve's element rules from the 1e Companion even though I kind of liked the direction he was heading with some of it. My middle ground was to just "head canon" that each ground stat was tied to certain type or quality of troop type and run with it from there: Attrition = Infantry, Defense = Armor, Attack = Artillery, D Factor = Air Support.

I suppose one way to address the problem would be to have each player have to line up a battle line and then have special rules for which units can attack or aid each other. That amounts to the same thing we have now in some ways, but also introduces problems for those units that have DEF values that are too high to be damaged. That would require the units to be changed more like the XCOM2 Armor values where certain enemy attacks could "shred" the DEF and weaken it over time.

I'd appreciate any ideas you have about how that could be expanded upon!

The books are coming together bit by bit. The hard part was getting the Campaign Guide finished and those rules in stone. Now that the core Companion is nailed down it is going to be easier to fill out the remaining optional rules and assemble the rest. I have sections of rules developed over the last 8 years that I'm updating for 2e and revising and then plotting out where they go in all of these books. It feels good to be this close to the finish line on a lot of these rules!
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