- Background Story
- Character Races
- Character Classes
- Current Pending Design Decisions
You are a humble undergraduate student at a small state university in Pennsylvania. Your life has been generally dull and uneventful. Not being particularly physically attractive or socially adept, you've spent the majority of your time staring at computer monitors.
Your hopes for the future are no more exciting than your current state of being and the only reason you don't contemplate suicide is because you are looking forward to the next generation of MMORPGs.
The Affairs of Men is a hybrid role-playing/real-time strategy/sandbox game. It is designed to be open-ended as possible in gameplay, problem solution, and combat. It is hoped that a successful player can employ a variety of interesting strategies to overcome obstacles.
Instead of being yet another 2D isometric RPG, this game will have several features that on their own or in combination separate it from any current game, giving it a unique style of its own. These features include:
- A simulated and persistent world running in real time. All NPCs and objects will be statically defined (i.e. no respawning or random drops). If you drop an item somewhere, it'll still be there 2 weeks later when you come back (unless someone picks it up). Since the game world runs in real time, anything that changes in the environment off-screen will actually happen in the game. This is fundamentally the world simulation of MMO games but without the environmental immutability.
- Open-endedness. You can ignore the plot if you choose, and venture off on your own: for example, buying a house, collecting items, making money, or any other player-defined goal.
- Large quantities of text. This includes lengthy text descriptions for every single item in the game and readable books, papers, and textfiles. The plot itself won't be narrated, however, as it is simply a collection of events, interactions, and locations that can be advanced through in various ways.
- Generic actions and objects. All actions should be possible for all objects. If you want to talk to a lamp or kiss a toilet, you should be able to, even if the results aren't very useful.
- Deep NPC interaction. In real life, NPCs don't just have one thing to say, or repeat the exact same thing over and over. All conversations will be non-repeatable, though you can always talk to the same NPC again with different results, up to a point. Each NPC will have an array of conversation trees that will branch at responses or be dynamically appended to by topic introduction.
- Set in the present day. Though many video games are set in the present, very few are there that allow RPG-like gameplay.
- Open source development. Since the scope of the content is limited only by developer motivation, additional content and features will be accepted from the community. While I do reserve the right to turn down any submission I deem of particularly poor quality, since the source is available, the project can be forked to anyone's liking.
This document is a collection of design ideas. Full character creation info and sample content info is provided here, along with the concept art for various NPCs (click on the images to view full size).
Bonuses: +1 INT, +1 WIS
Penalties: -1 STR, -1 CHA, cannot start with chaotic alignment
Penalties: -2 INT, -1 CHA, must choose Vishnu for deity
Computer Science Major (Systems Programming Concentration): In
addition to the standard CompSci curriculum, Systems Programming
emphasizes the study of operating system theory, compiler design, and
kernel programming. As the default concentration for CompSci majors,
this also ends up collecting students who heard on TV that it was
possible to make money using computers somehow.
Starting items: vi quick reference card, cup of Instant Ramen noodles, manga titled "Sailor Moon: Infinity, Volume 8"
Computer Science Major (Software Engineering Concentration): In
addition to the standard CompSci curriculum, Software Engineering
focuses on design, the development cycle, debugging, concurrent
versioning, and the project management involved in creating real
software in a team environment. Students also learn how to identify
and then group with the especially nerdy guy who will do all the
Starting items: Laminated portrait of Larry Wall
Business Information Systems Major: Also sometimes called
"Management Information Systems," "Business
Informatics," or variations thereof, BIS is the study of
information technology systems from a systems design perspective.
BIS majors usually go on to become IT staff, network administrators,
Excel macro writers, or COBOL programmers.
Starting items: Pirated copy of VisiCalc (Apple II version), book titled "Teach yourself Visual Basic 5 in 15 Minutes"
Mathematics Major: Both a continuation of high school problem solving
and an introduction of new mathematical fields, the standard
undergraduate mathematics curriculum includes introductions to set
theory, combinatorics, vector calculus, numerical analysis, linear
algebra, among many other interesting topics. Though being an
exciting subject, only a small fraction of math majors ever find
employment within their field of study.
Starting items: TI-86 graphing calculator
The god you worship can affect luck rolls, dialog options, NPC reactions, spells available, and any number of other subtle effects.
Default deity. Publicly professing Jesus worship can grant an instant persuasion boost to the majority of NPCs and is an especially useful tactic for aspiring politicians.
Devotees of Vaishnavism (along with Shaivaism) are free from the ahimsa of other dharmic Mahapurushas and Satyagraha-esque darshanas. Not even the lotus-born Brahma can protect non-believers from the world-destruction of Stephen P. Vanier, the final avatar of Narayana, Rajneesh Chandra Mohan Jain, and Dorji Bachchan, and raja incarnate of Hari-Hara.
The former galactic overlord responsible for the 70 billion disembodied thetans currently floating around planet Earth. Xenu once owned the galaxy's largest fleet of Douglas DC-8s.
A giant floating stone head from the future that vomits firearms in exchange for harvested crops. Burly men in red diapers enforce Zardoz's divine will on believer and non-believer alike.
His holiness, Prophet Raël, product of a human mother and a Pleiadian cluster light being named Yz'Thuikrf'notp, was awakened to his true origins during a UFO encounter in 1973 where he received a subdermal implant that uses advanced alien technology such as transistors and lithium ion batteries. As the Maitreya Bodhisattva incarnate, Raël will naturally assume the dominate position during congregational group sex.
A massive, perpetually-reforming conglomeration of semi-viscous fluid contained within a lithe membrane from which appendages are constantly forming and falling back into the palpitating jaws of the central mass to be devoured. Sometimes the psuedopods break off into formless protoplasmic spawn which then worship that which wrought them.
When men slaughter and feast on blood, Zothique will fall, and the Nyogtha will be unleashed on Earth, heralding the final epoch of the Elder Gods. Nyarlothotep will reveal his true form, then slay and consume his worshippers. As the remaining Old Ones merge with Azatoth, the Primal Chaos, the whole of the universe will become filled with an obscene gelatinous ooze.
The reincarnation of Jesus Christ, residing in Cave Junction, Oregon. In 1968, the Anti-Christ manifested itself as a mannequin while Raymond was a security guard in Pacifica, CA, but he destroyed it with several rounds from his service revolver. Currently the target of a government disinformation conspiracy operating on Usenet, Raymond (also known as "the Kazoo") has held his ground against Satanic forces that would cause a non-Christ to cry. Since 1997, he has been under constant surveillance by several stealth vans and at least one toiletcam.
Though atheism has many benefits, such as saving a lot of time and money, it can be a conversation killer and won't make you very popular in suburban America, or anywhere offline for that matter.
Stats are based (very) loosely on the 2nd Ed D&D stat system. A score of 13-14 is average for any stat. Stats cannot be increased during level up. They can only be modified after character creation by items, consumables, buffs, and implants.
Base stats are as follows:
STR: Strength is the physical prowess of the character in terms of his ability to exert force on an object that has mass. It determines melee combat damage, encumberance, and ability to wear heavy armor.
11 - 12 = -1 melee dmg modifier
13 - 14 = +0 melee dmg modifier
15 - 16 = +1 melee dmg modifier
17 - 18 = +2 melee dmg modifier
DEX: Dexterity is the character's ability to move skillfully in his environment, manipulate objects, and dodge the attacks of his foes. It determines ability to hit targets in melee and ranged combat. High dexterity gives an AC bonus.
11 - 12 = -1 tohit bonus
13 - 14 = +0 tohit bonus
15 - 16 = +1 tohit bonus, +1 AC bonus
17 - 18 = +2 tohit bonus, +2 AC bonus
CON: Constitution is the ability of the character to resist environmental hardships. It determines starting HP and HP bonus per level.
11 - 12 = 1d6 HP on level up
13 - 14 = 1d8 HP on level up
15 - 16 = 1d10 HP on level up
17 - 18 = 1d12 HP on level up
WIS: Wisdom is the character's reasoning ability that has been gained either through life experience or dedicated introspection. It determines starting MP and bonus MP per level, allowing him to maintain buffs, perform apothecary rituals, or cast arcane magic.
11 - 12 = 1d6 MP on level up
13 - 14 = 1d8 MP on level up
15 - 16 = 1d10 MP on level up
17 - 18 = 1d12 MP on level up
INT: Intelligence is the character's ability to memorize long sequences of alphanumeric characters, perform complex mathematical calculations, and comprehend high levels of abstraction. It determines the effectiveness of mental tasks such as arcana magicka, deciphering encrypted and technical data, the number of advanced dialog options, and the max number of spells he is able to commit to memory.
13 - 14 = unable to memorize but can use printed spells
15 - 16 = +1 extra spell per level on level up
17 - 18 = +2 extra spells per level on level up
CHA: Charisma is the character's ability to socially engineer those he encounters into doing things they wouldn't normally do without well-worded persuasion. It is also how generally professional and competent he appears, regardless of actual skill. It determines persuade bonus.
09 - 10 = -2 persuade bonus
11 - 12 = -1 persuade bonus
13 - 14 = +0 persuade bonus
15 - 16 = +1 persuade bonus
17 - 18 = +2 persuade bonus
Derived stats are as follows:
dmg: In melee, once a successful hit is made, damage is calculated by: weapon dmg roll + weapon bonus + str bonus - -(target AC - 10) If result is < 0 then dmg is 0. For ranged and thrown weapons, damage is calculated by: weapon dmg roll + weapon bonus - -(target AC - 10)
tohit: In melee and ranged combat tohit is calculated by: base tohit roll + weapon tohit bonus + dex bonus, then a comparison is made against -(target AC - 10) If the former is higher than the latter a hit is scored. Throwing negates a weapon's tohit bonuses; tohit chance is calculated by: base tohit roll + dex bonus
AC (armor class): AC determines the likelihood of getting hit as well as the amount of damage that is reduced. It is calculated by: 10 - (armor bonus + dex bonus)
Lore: Lore is a comprehensive term for the total of a character's historical, scientific, technical, and other worldly knowledge, allowing them identify the more unusual objects they find. It is calculated by: (INT * 10) + (WIS * 20)
In the non-combat, real-time world, the game will spawn a thread for each NPC. NPCs can then have circular linked lists of timesink objectives or destinations they can use standard A* pathfinding to achieve. If motivation permits, their actions can be heuristically graded and dynamically assigned (i.e. if hungry, an NPC will place food acquisition before walking around aimlessly).
NPCs will have conversational and environmental triggers that will cause combat to initiate, which will put all nearby NPCs in combat mode. Distant NPCs or ones on remote maps will be frozen for the duration. If hostilities commence, then all NPCs involved in the situation will use their turns in their best interest. NPC triggers for hostile action include conversational aggro, walking into a room they are protecting, stealing items on the ground they consider their property, attacking them, or engaging in combat with their friends.
Combat AI of NPCs will be graded based on their intelligence. Extremely low INT enemies will only exhibit primitive combat strategy, such as charging in fighting or running away. As INT increases, enemies will stop fighting to heal themselves when low on HP, assist allies, perform more specialized combat roles, and start off combat will buffs/debuffs. Genius NPCs (those above 20 INT or even higher), will have additional preparations, such as grouping in complementary parties to begin with, exploding hidden claymores, and triggering pre-casted spell sequencers. A strong but stupid enemy can usually be easily defeated with the proper strategy. A much weaker, but intelligent foe can prove far more challenging.
The player will control only the main character. Any NPCs that join him will behave according to their own programming.
When an object falls to the ground, it will occupy the nearest free cell to the cell the object was targeted to fall on. if the target cell is unoccupied, it will fall to that cell. Otherwise, a circular search will be run for the nearest free cell. Object containers (shelves, drawers, treasure chests, corpses, etc.) can contain more than one object.
Any object in the game, when visible in the game area or in the character's inventory can be examined by right-clicking on the object for a detailed description. Hovering the mouse over the icon will display the object's title.
Left clicking on an object's sprite will perform the default action on that object. for items laying on the ground, the default action is to pick it up. For hostile NPCs, the default action is to attack with the currently wielded weapon in the currently selected mode of attack. A different left-click action can be selected via an action menu. Cursor icons will change to indicate what the current left-click action will be.
Objects must be picked up when the character or NPC is in an adjacent cell. Melee attacks must be made in the same manner. Ranged or throwing attacks can be made at any range, provided the target is visible.
Any NPC is a potential enemy, but here is a sample of a few of the groups that will consistently oppose your progress.
The goal of Pennsylvanian separatists is nothing less than the succession of the Republic of Pennsylvania as a sovereign country. This has caused sporadic border clashes between separatist militias and federal troops across the Mason-Dixon Line in recent years. Except in large groups, separatists are only a minor threat for skilled adventurers as they are usually wielding makeshift weapons or civilian-grade small arms.
Scientologists prefer to file lawsuits instead of engaging in physical combat, but will not hesitate to attack particularly blasphemous Xenu-slanderers and other enemies of Galactic Command.
The Fraternitatis Rosae Crucis, founded in the 17th century by German alchemist Christian Rosenkreuz, were originally an esoteric order devoted to the study of hermetic and occult magic. These days, they are often found in combat support roles for their powerful buffs and area of effect spells. Rosicrucians are also skilled at the magic schools of transmutation, conveyance, and divination, especially spells relating to alchemy and teleportation.
Historically known as the Knights Hospitaller, the Sovereign Order of Saint John, and numerous other monikers, the Knights of Malta were mainly administrators of Malta until the fall of Napolean, where they provided Europe with affordable Turkish slaves. Afterwards, their excommunication required a return to the Order's customs prior to settling on the island, a tradition which continues to this day. They are formidable foes in melee combat, usually wielding high enchant-level swords and protected by full plate mail.
Pinkerton Security provides risk assessment, security auditing, and security solutions, including CCTV installations and security guards. Pinkerton Security agents are usually armored in kevlar vests and wield military-grade small arms such as SMGs, assault rifles, and concussion grenades.
Since their founding during the First Crusade, the Templars have been at conflict against the chaotic forces in the world. Though unjustly persecuted during the 14th century, the Papacy and the surviving Templars have since made amends. Battle-hardened on Muslim hordes, Templar Paladins are among the most formidable of enemies and are typically epic level knights, equipped with full blessed and constant effect armor, and wielding the most powerful named uniques crafted in the ancient Dwarven forges beneath the Vatican.
The Freemasons are a fraternal order that makes up the 2nd tier of global control. They perform the industry and government level management necessary to engineer the current state of the world. Being high profile figures in their respective spheres, they publicly worship Jesus, but within Masonic Temples, GAOTU (also known as Jabulon) is the deity to whom sacrifices are made. Freemasons generally have poor combat abilities, and although typically seen with blessed robes and scepters, they mainly rely on combat-specialized companions.
It is rumored that throughout recorded history, the Illuminati have pulled the strings of men. Descended from an engineered bloodline of Austrian bankers, the Illuminati may appear physically unimposing, but their true power comes from their control of the majority of the Earth's human, industrial, and natural resources.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Baron Alphonse de Rothschild
NPCs (non-player characters) are all living characters in the game besides yourself. They come in all manner of persuasions and just like in real life, most won't have anything useful to say and some may not want to talk to you at all. A select few may offer useful information and possibly even join you in your quest. A few examples:
Openside flanker for the University water-rugby team. Though accomplished at both throwing and catching spheroids, Jock's hopes of being a professional aquatic rugby player were dashed when he recently discovered that no professional league existed. He's since resigned himself to asserting his heterosexuality at his father's investment banking firm after graduation.
Exchange student from the Pazardzhik People's Revolutionary Metalworkers Technical Institute in Septemvri, Bulgaria. Istvenijk can combine fishsteaks and cabbages you collect into sandwiches for a small fee.
Unemployed clown that really likes children -- a lot.
A frail, dewey twig, with but a single, lonely leaf.
Shippensburg University Math and Computer Science Department -
Pennsylvania State General Assembly Offices - Harrisburg, PA
The Bohemian Grove - Monte Rio, CA
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory - Batavia, IL
The Floating Skyship: UNS Rockefeller - 2 miles above Billings, MT
Long ago, primitive hominids discovered that inanimate matter in certain forms could cause more damage than their naked appendages. You will continue this proud tradition with the vast array of weapons available to you in this game. A few examples:
tohit bonus: -1
desc: A printer cable is used to interface a printer to a computing device via the parallel I/O port. The cable itself contains 25 insulated wires contained within a thicker insulating sheath. The comparatively heavy IEEE1284 adapters on the ends of these cables make them ideal for administrating copious amounts of blunt trauma.
tohit bonus: -1
desc: A network interface card (NIC) is used to interface a host to an internet or intranet. It receives and sends communication messages over the network medium and passes them to the TCP/IP stack implementation for further processing. NICs are available for several link layer protocols, including ethernet, ATM, and token ring. The 32-bit PCI interface bus on this card has been sharpened for combat purposes and will no longer transmit or receive data in its current state.
Sharpened RAID Controller
tohit bonus: -1
desc: A RAID controller provides a server or workstation an interface to a hard disk system (which, contrary to its name, may or may not be redundant). Hardware RAID controllers, like this one, can be managed outside of a host operating system. Provided the OS has driver support for the card, it can mount the array as a disk volume. This RAID controller card provides an Ultra-160 SCSI interface adapter and supports RAID levels 0, 1, 5, 10, and JBOD. The 64-bit PCI interface on this card has been sharpened for combat purposes, however, and will it no longer function as a host bus adapter. Due to its extended 64-bit PCI interface, it provides a larger slot bus, and can do more damage than a 32-bit PCI card.
tohit bonus: +0
desc: The M7 bayonet is the standard issue fighting/utility knife of the United States Army and Marines. It can be affixed to the bayonet lug of the AR-based assault rifle systems, including the M16, M4, AR15, AR18, and their variants. It typically is issued with the M10 scabbard, which you unfortunately do not possess.
Thompson Contender .22LR
tohit bonus: +2
desc: The single shot, break action Thompson/Center Arms Contender pistol is popular for metallic silhouette shooting enthusiasts and hunters given its ease of customization. This specimen sports a 2.5x30mm Leopold scope with long eye relief, a 14" .22LR Match barrel, and a stained walnut grip and 2-screw forend.
HK MP5K PDW
tohit bonus: 0
desc: The Heckler & Koch MP5K Personal Defense Weapon (PDW) is a compact, select-fire SMG that is ideal for close-quarters combat. The weapon system can be customized with a wide array of accessories, including a reflex sight, laser pointer, flashlight, and sound suppressor. It is designed as a sidearm replacement for artillery units, supply personnel, SWAT entry teams, and Unix administrators.
Ranging from simple clothes to powered exoskeletons, personal armor can help to dissipate the kinetic energy of weapons and projectiles.
desc: A single leaf of the ficus tree, which is also valuable for the fruit it bears. Though covering some of your shame, wearing only a fig leaf is still indecent exposure from most viewing angles.
desc: These triple-striped, calf-height socks are used to protect the lower locomotive structures of humans. They often are worn in combination with shoes but also alone in more domestic environments. While comfortable, they offer negligible protection in combat. Tube socks are also an important ingredient in crafting sock puppets.
Wine barrel with straps
Bonuses/Penalties: -2 DEX
desc: An empty wine barrel with two shoulder straps attached. Popular during the Great Depression, wearing wine barrels has since fallen out of style among the present-day homeless, probably due to their draftiness. Its bulky nature also incurs a mobility penalty.
Various objects that have mass and occupy space.
Men's Daily Vitamins: These capsules are specifically formulated to contain the dietary supplements needed by the average adult male in accordance with United States Food and Drug Administration recommendations. The anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals within provide the body with the ingredients necessary for neurotransmitter production, metabolism, and cellular mitosis.
1000mL IV bag: An intravenously administered electrolytic solution that can be filled with a variety of medications or fluidic nutritional substitutes. The contents of this bag are dripped directly into the circulatory system of the recipient. IV catheters are typically injected into the cephalic, jugular, or saphenous veins.
Dot-matrix printout: These printouts can contain useful information to anyone going through a dumpster for credit card and bank account numbers, but they are also well-known to provide plot-advancing clues to enemies of the global cabal.
Laying on Hands
Castable by: Christians
desc: This spell can cure Satanicly caused illnesses in a statistically insignificant number of cases. This spell seems completely ineffective on amputated limbs, however.
Castable by: All
desc: The caster inserts his index finger into his nose, coating it in a foul, translucent mucus. This finger is then applied to the target, where some of the mucus is deposited on their skin along with several thousand nasal bacteria.
Castable by: All
desc: A spell mastered by high level fraternity members. The caster summons forth a cocktail of masticated biomass, saliva, and digestive juices and launches it towards his hapless target.
Castable by: Hindi, Bhuddists, and Raëlians
desc: The caster enters a trance-like state of enlightenment, making him immune to rational debate or the internal effects of public humiliation.
MIRROR OF TRVTH
Castable by: Karczewskians
desc: A humiliating mirroring of the target's Satanic, thought-bound duality.
Castable by: All
desc: Wastes 40MB of RAM and steals 10% of CPU cycles. Only effective against computers, robots, androids, cyborgs, and nanoswarms.
Cone of AIDS
Castable by: AIDS carriers
desc: A powerful, high level spell that infects everyone within the area of effect with AIDS, causing them to die within 7 to 10 years.
The development of this game is a long term project. Being only in the design phase at the moment, this game will not be anything playable for many years. It also depends on having a reasonable amount of free time and surplus energy after work and various other projects. I may discover that its scope requires some reduction due to real world constraints along these lines.
More important than getting a finished game, at least for me, is the process of solving the technical problems involved in writing it. Like with most end-user software, by the time computer science filters down to games, it tends to have been bloated by several layers of pragmatic simplifications, to the point where the original ideas are unrecognizable. There are many (though, proportionally few) projects that have been able to manage large amounts of complexity simply by using smarter concepts. One can compare, say, 300,000 line C++ projects written by huge corporate teams to functionally-equivalent systems in a few thousand lines of Lisp or Haskell written by 2 or 3 people in a fraction of the time.
Along those lines, while I could start churning out reams of C++ or Java and start getting playable software right now, this would be analogous to manually performing some menial task instead of designing a machine to do it for me. While proven many times in other areas, maybe the underlying technology just isn't there to apply these concepts to a game like this, but that's what I'm largely in the process of finding out. Other independent games have used the standard process, but for me, 1000 nights of mindless code-monkeying is not how I want to spend my time.
Game engine - Need an isometric engine that preferably supports window-mode play and is easily extensible. Possibilities: GemRB, Exult, FIFE, Allegro. None of these are all that great for making anything original, however, so it's more likely that I'll have to use an FFI for something like SDL.
Real time vs. turn based - Real time combat is more immersive, but less strategic. The non-combat world should definitely be in real time. This document currently presumes turn-based combat.
Client/server model - Even if running on the same machine, this might make world abstraction easier to program and make the game more modular. Future clients could be written with different graphics or entirely different engines, and could allow for multiplayer play without much effort. The downside is having to write and optimize network code. Turn-based combat and MMO-like multiplayer are mutually exclusive.
World data - If client/server model is used, an external database makes sense. Otherwise, the world state can be dumped to a data file, or a run-time, deployable database can be used if relational data is too extensive to be hard-coded. This design currently would need a relational database.
Party-able NPCs - If added, these should be unnecessary for game completion, as computer-controlled party NPCs can often be annoying. This document currently assumes they will be added eventually.
Game written and developed, graphics created, and game text written by: Bruce C. Miller firstname.lastname@example.org
Stat and point systems inspired by D&D 2nd Ed rules, by Wizards
of the Coast.
Generic action system inspired by the games Nethack, Rouge, and derivatives.
Persistent world features inspired by various MMORPGs (e.g. Lineage 1, Ultima Online, etc.)
Some conspiracy theming inspired by _City of Pillars_, by Dominic Peloso. Invisible College Press. 2000.
The use of real life characters (Zbigniew Brzezinski, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Baron Alphonse de Rothschild, etc.) inspired by their own suspicious behaviour.
Events depicted in this game are fictional.
Source code released under the GNU Public License Version 2. See http://www.gnu.org/ for details.
Copyright (C) 1999, 2000-2007 Bruce C. Miller