Thanks again, dear readers, for thought-provoking comments on yesterday's post on domain-level play.
In particular, I was inspired by Rob Kuntz's comment:
“It's just open-ended play. That portion which extends on and on, and those specifics (like maybe ruling a planet and then fighting other planets, perhaps?) are not covered in the rules, though others may construct these as we did. The greatest aspect of our game in this OE (Open-ended) clime is that someone WILL do just that, some time, some where, and may even write about it for others to do.”
Why wait for Mr. Perfect Rule Set? Like Godot, he ain't coming. But in the here and now we can make our own custom dream projects by pushing ourselves and our imaginations.
In general, I like the idea of more products being geared as starting point components to open-ended play. Less supposedly-complete packages and more the kinds of things that can help launch new areas for GMs and players to shape into their campaigns.
In that spirit, here is my own dream supplement, semi-jokingly styled Secret Project X, that would custom blend “build-your-own” components for domain-level play. It's a thought experiment in progress--bordering on some experimental play and a write-up.
Providing Lower-Level Entry Points. Jeff Rients mentioned in the comments that the domain game can start much earlier in a campaign and didn't have to be limited to players as rulers. Looking back at the lower-level entry points of Empire of the Petal Throne, I am intrigued by this idea.
Ideas abound in another point of inspiration, the obscure En Garde-like roleplaying game Heroes (incidentally written by Dave Millward, a player in Bath's Hyboria). In that game, players with the right bribes and political manuvering were allowed to pick from long lists of low and middle-level positions in the court, city government, clergy, guilds, etc. One could, for instance, connive your way into being the Duke's falconer and work up to being the Master of Horse.
Instead of a locked-in system with all the worked out—and thus likely tedious and imagination-limiting—detail, I'd prefer lists and descriptions of historical and fantasy examples of such positions and how can they played out in a fantasy adventure game. (I like to flesh out this approach with other relevant pieces: types of governments, secret societies, religions, strange fantasy political/cultural formations, etc.)
Suggestions and Examples of Experiments with Multi-Level Domain Play. Besides not limiting this kind of play to name level we don't have to limit it to the standard somewhat-linear play of having one persistent group of player characters in a campaign as the only player actors.
In my conversations with Jeff Berry I thought Barker's original campaign had an interesting multi-level dynamic. On one side you had the Monday Night group, the more-aggressive power gamers who quickly got involved in domain-level play. On the other you had the Thursday Night group (Jeff's) who were more of your standard footless explorers. The actions of each group informed and shaped the shared campaign world, an interesting dynamic I'd like to see explored.
What about similar experiments, such as a player group that alternates between playing high-rolling PCs one session and low-level schlubs the next. Why not experiment integrating this level with the open world play we were talking about earlier this week?
Basic/Advanced Domain Management Rule Suggestions. Simply put I'd love to see a supplement provide ideas for building both simple abstract resource-point sets and the granular hex-based ones. Let people pick where they want to start with and add (or subtract) from there.
Mass NPC Generation System. Easy-to-use rules, modeled on Tony Bath's playing card driven system, to build out huge casts of NPCs complete with quirks. One thing I took away from Hyboria is how vitally important it is to build a world of characters that create their own living dynamic. More custom tools here are needed.
A Range of Ways to Simulate War. Tweakable rules for miniatures, cardboard games, mass combat rules, card games, Engle Matrix games—why not have suggestions for them all. More wide-ranging optional rules for campaign logistics, mobilization, movement, weather, fantastic events, etc. would also be nice.
Honestly with the wish list for this I could go on and on. But I guess that's the point with the endless possibility of open-ended play.