Retro: Red Star, White Sun

2007 Mar 2

This game existed for all of two posts before it turned into something else. That’s pretty typical, I suppose, since I’m so ADD when it comes to design. But the idea is hot!

This was my third attempt at something for Frank T’s setting contest, the first one being a version of Folkways based on Clinton’s The Shadow of Yesterday and the second, Gridiron Gods. Red Star, White Sun eventually turned into Dead and Dreaming, a mini-game that was trying to prove the validity of some design ideas I had for Four Nations. Lord, these introductions are self-referential.

The basic premise is:

    There are four people from the same village, two men and two women. They have pre-established relationships. Maybe they’re married or siblings or lovers or relatives of some kind. And the Nationalists come through and draft the two men to fight on their side. And then, months later, the Communists roll through and draft the women into their Female Soldiers Detachment.

    And, eventually, both sides learn of this and are sorta trying to rescue each other, despite being on opposite sides. And the game ends with some sort of dramatic showdown where several of the characters probably die in trainwreck heartbreak fashion. And the ending moment is the announcement of the Second United Front, which means the Nationalists and Communists are going to work together to fight the Japanese.

The most interesting thing about the game, in my mind, is the system, which I described like this:

    Each player has a list of what are basically scene concepts. And these concepts are arranged in trees. And the trees interconnect with each other and are conditional with related scenes and the like. But there are clearly branches of the trees that share similar themes or plot certain paths. Like, maybe there’s a branch where one of the women is pregnant and there’s all sorts of complications related to that. Or maybe one character becomes a spy for the opposite side or the Japanese and that leads to all sorts of things. But then what if she’s a PREGNANT SPY! Then there are all sorts of possibilities in the middle that interconnect them.

    And you don’t have to head down any particular path. you can sort of work partway down one branch and fork off to the side. Or you could do a little bit of several branches. So there are a limited number of options, but near infinite combinations, especially when you’re playing with all four characters. And so the scenes are sorta like Keys. You do one and that opens up future possibilities. but it also puts limitations on things or maybe gives you abilities or takes abilities away. So there could be like a Sniper branch that you progress down to increase your skills as a sniper. But it requires bad things to happen along the way. Or just things that are not necessarily good.

I tried to implement this kind of rules structure in Dead and Dreaming, but stumbled across quite a few problems. But I’ll talk about those once I get around to writing a post about that project.

– 2006 Dec 24: Initial Discussion of the Concept
– 2006 Dec 26: Logo and Some Thoughts

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