Midian: Dark Fantasy Role Playing Game Wiki

We've been working on the last half of the Books of the Apocalypse, War and Conquest. Here are summaries of a couple of the mechanics we're adding for each. I'm also wanting these ideas made public, lest some other game stumble bass-ackwards into something similar and I be accused of stealing.

For War, one of the biggest hurdles was in creating a workable mass combat system. We're calling Midian's the combat efficiency system. The goal is to allow for believable battles with any number of combatants, without requiring a complete retool of the combat engine or hundreds of dice, nor by using excess abstraction (like having one soldier's rolls stand in for an entire unit). We needed to allow for tactical PvP play, was still fun to do, and quick resolution options by characters with more strategic skill than the players. By far the greatest challenge has been in figuring out ways to address the simple fact that hordes of nameless warriors aren't player-characters, and thus we need some way to figure out how they react.

We first worked towards a system based on saving throws to determine if a unit had the confidence to obey an order to march into the jaws of death, or if they lacked confidence and buggered off. While we might finish this process up someday as an optional subsystem, for right now we've decided to put our efforts into something quicker and simpler. To this end we're using glitch dice as a morale check. After all, glitch dice can determine when something has gone horribly awry without providing specifics, and a breakdown of unit cohesion certainly qualifies.

To recap--especially since glitch dice aren't a mechanic found in the Codex--one die is rolled to determine if something bad and largely out of your control has occurred. The more chaotic the system, the smaller the die. On a roll of one, something terrible happens, and on a two, some lesser tragedy occurs. Rolling the maximum possible for that die instead means something maybe good happens. You may notice that there's twice as much suck as win. Welcome to Midian, where other people continuously disappoint you the way you disappoint your parents, and life is a series of miseries inevitably leading to you soiling yourself as you die.

Using glitch dice for morale is pretty simple. The size of the die used depends on how badassed a unit is; bigger dice are used for stronger units. More specifically, the training and experience, better equipment, and better led a unit is increases the die, while units that are unruly or forced to fight reduce the die size. Natural twos drop the size of the die, and a natural one means the unit retreats as well as dropping down a die size. Rolling the maximum increases the die, as the unit gets madder and meaner. If a unit's glitch/morale die drops below 1D4, then that unit routs. The throw down their weapons and shields, ignore all commands, and run to the hills as fast as they can. You roll a morale die every time a certain inciting event occurs. These include entering into combat for the first time, being on the receiving end of a cavalry charge, being hit by terrifying weapons (fire, guns, artillery, angry bees) taking casualties, et cetera.

We're still in the testing phase to see if this mechanic is going to hit the sweet spot. We're hoping it models a reasonable approximation of how long a unit will fight before the 'fuck this' reflex kicks in, rather than units balking at their own shadows or almost always fighting to the bitter end. Morale checks should be common enough to merit adding this subsystem, but not so often that big battles come down to throwing handfuls of glitch dice every single round.

In Conquest our priorities differ, even if there's some subject matter overlap. The big new subsystem is the cabal system for handling various dominions. The core conceit is that if you are a powerful lord of your own realm, then you don't have to do everything yourself. You can have it done. We wanted a system that allowed you to focus on the parts of running your own dominion that you wanted to, while allowing the parts that don't interest you as a player to mostly run on autopilot. We want to help you and the Game Master 'get to the fucking monkey'.

There are only five numbers involved in a dominion, on the simplest level. The first is scale. This is how big your dominion is, and is essentially the order of magnitude for the number of people within it. The other four numbers are your focus areas. Three of these--Mastermind, Savagery, and Statecraft--are skillsets: average values of different skills. For example, Mastermind is the average of operations, administration, and management. The fourth focus area, Homestead, is instead based on the total relationship points you have with people in your dominion.

Since a key part of the cabal system is having people handle things for you, you don't need to worry about your own lack of skills to have decent focus area scores. That is, the social butterfly who's everybody's friend doesn't have to worry about her barony being overrun because she lacks skill at war. She's got people for that. As long as the army is fed and paid well, and the marshal is a good tactician, our barony will stay intact. Player-characters can directly manage any aspect of their dominion that they want, and let their chancellors handle the rest, using said chancellor's skills. Don't worry if you don't have fully statted NPCs; we have simple ways to deal with that, too.

Speaking of focusing on the things you like, that's the other aspect of the cabal system that I like: it encourages you to drill down to focus on dominion management to the level of detail that you want, no more and no less, letting chancellors handle the rest. For example, if you want to tweak the tax code to draw the maximum amount of wealth from your kingdom while maximising your citizen's happiness, go for it. If, on the other hand, you just want to know if you can afford another unit of spearmen, we've got you covered. You don't have to worry so much about the day-to-day of being a ruler get in the way of your wargame, nor need you fear having the war effort un-fun your kingdom management simulator / Downton Abbey romantic soap opera game.

Dominions, by the way, are a rather generic term under these guidelines. These can be a more traditional manor or barony, all the way up to a global empire. Or, a dominion could be the surviving squad of veterans from a lost war hiring themselves out as mercenaries until they can afford to go back home. Or, a dominion could be a successful merchant empire, secret society, pirate ship, or or crime family. It's all up to you to decide what you want, and let the system help you achieve your goals... before your inevitable fall from grace, dismemberment, and death alone in the back of a wagon on some strange road.