When I set out to write Expedition, a goal that’s stuck with me all this time is to make it an RPG that’s easy to run online. Online means a lot of different things, but my ambition is to shoot for the absolute lowest level of tech you use when playing online: chatrooms and message boards. People can play the more complicated games over places like roll20s or VTTs like Maptools, but I wanted to make a game where I could play it in the online environments where, once upon a time, I played a lot of D&D 3.5 games and started off on RPGs. So what does it means for a game to be easy to run online?
There are a lot of different ways to accomplish this, but from my own experiences here’s what I want to do:
1) A player can resolve his or her action with minimal to no input from others. He or she always rolls against the same basic numbers and knows the threshold of success. If it is modified, this is known definitely in advance of the character’s turn. This means that opposed checks, which I had once wanted to add, are by necessity out of the game.
2) A player needs to make only one major decision in each turn. This means a complex action economy, while interesting, will not feature in the tactics of Expedition. Every character performs one Action each turn.
3) Tactical movement on a grid map, while optional, will not feature prominently in Expedition. Battlefields will be composed of abstract Landmarks of varying sizes, so you’ll know if you’re in “The Altar” or “The Steps.” Ranges will be abstract distances– close, distant, far and outlying are the current range increments in Expedition Beta 2. While it would be more optimal for there to not be ranges at all I feel there’s a way to make them a valuable as well as simple inclusion.
4) A flexible, story-based resolution system for tasks that can resolve narrative events as quick or as deeply as wanted by the group. If you’re playing via email, you can get the outcome of a task with one roll and feel that it fits the story you’re playing; if you want to make a more granular challenge with a lot of different elements, you can do that too.
Do you have any other ideas along the same vein? If you’ve ever played over a chat room or via Play By Post, what challenges did you face relating to the game system, and how do you think you can overcome them if you were to design your own game or houserule an existing game?