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PTTG 10-14-2015 12:36 AM

Building the X-Com inspired campaign
 
Recently I've been working on putting together a grand campaign and drawing inspiration from Xenonauts and X-Com. If you're my players, consider not reading this thread?

In general terms, we have the invading aliens and the defending humans. Timeline is early 2018 (meaning it will probably still be in the future when the game rolls around.

I have a fairly firm mythos in terms of why the aliens are invading subtly as opposed to, say, dropping a rock or a viral swarm or just coming in guns blazing on day one.

What I don't have yet is a good background for the human (PC) organization that opposes the aliens. The Players will have two characters; one cast will be soldiers, the other cast will be the upper-echelon (scientists, engineers, commanders). They need to be global in scope, but have limited resources. They need to be seen as the unified face of humanity but have internal factions and strife to deal with.

Of course, in time the aliens are going to have more subtle plans than overt attacks or even surgical strikes- and some humans are going to see the value of changing sides...

So, my questions are:

1.) What's the best way to run a world-wide strategic game? Has anyone tried anything like this in GURPS before?

2.) How can I build info on my PC organization rules-wise?

3.) Lore-wise, what's a good way to have modern nations and organizations contribute to defend the planet from aliens?

4.) What's a good "first strike" from the alien forces? It needs to be serious encourage the world to go along with #3, it needs to be subtle enough to cover up, and it needs to ideally allow the PCs to come into play.

Minuteman37 10-14-2015 01:43 AM

Re: Building the X-Com inspired campaign
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by PTTG (Post 1943832)
If you're my players, consider not reading this thread?

Any chance I could be one of those players or is this an in-person/already full kind of game?

Culture20 10-14-2015 07:40 AM

Re: Building the X-Com inspired campaign
 
Get a copy of GURPS Black Ops. It's 3rd Edition, but a lot of the fluff is similar to X-Com.

PTTG 10-14-2015 09:30 AM

Re: Building the X-Com inspired campaign
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Minuteman37 (Post 1943841)
Any chance I could be one of those players or is this an in-person/already full kind of game?

I've got good news and bad news: I already have enough players, but I was thinking of looking for a good nemisis or two to keep them on their toes. It's still some time away.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Culture20 (Post 1943900)
Get a copy of GURPS Black Ops. It's 3rd Edition, but a lot of the fluff is similar to X-Com.

Sounds good, I'll look for it.

Phantasm 10-14-2015 09:42 AM

Re: Building the X-Com inspired campaign
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by PTTG (Post 1943832)
2.) How can I build info on my PC organization rules-wise?

I've been poking at Boardroom and Curia for a lot of that stuff. Haven't yet done any statistics, but it's not a bad place to start.

Rigil_Kent 10-14-2015 12:28 PM

Re: Building the X-Com inspired campaign
 
I was sort of working on a game like this a while back and this is how I was going to do it:
  • PCs would not start out as members of X-Com, but would rather be members of a PMC (private military contractor) using Action! templates.
  • The first op would involve the PCs going in to extract a friendly (see the Bruce Willis "Tears of the Sun" movie for basis) but would discover that their target site would be obliterated with unusual blast patterns.
  • En route to extraction point (perhaps with local hostiles in pursuit, ala Tears of the Sun), the PCs would get ambushed by a squad of Grays (using Monster Hunters 5: Applied Xenology stats). Depending upon the size of the group, this group of Grays could be 2 to 5 in number. Some of them actually may be injured.
  • Surviving PCs would be retrieved not by their expected extraction personnel but by X-Com personnel who reveal that this op was a job application to test how good they are. Now they're given the whole spiel - aliens have been around since the 40s; both NATO and the Warsaw Pact had anti-alien operators running around during the Cold War; with Perestroika and the retraction of US power, the anti-alien operators effectively created their own organization under the cover of a PMC (PCs may actually already work for them!) who specialize in anti-alien ops. Now PCs are given an offer they can't refuse: join the X-Com team and save the planet. Or else.
Many action or alien movies could be raided for stuff. Want a less action-oriented op? Use the Body Snatchers stuff. Survival-based? Shoot down their Skyranger while on the way back from an op so the PCs are doing the defense for a change (something I really think the newer X-Com games should have done.) What? All PCs were killed during an op? Surprise. The aliens were using tranqs and now the PCs wake up in freefall, ala the "Predators" movie (with mmm ... Alice Braga ... mmm ...)

That was what I was planning on...

Quote:

3.) Lore-wise, what's a good way to have modern nations and organizations contribute to defend the planet from aliens?
This is the lore I had in my background:
  • The aliens have been here for a long time. They originally arrived during the height of the Cold War, prompting both NATO and the Warsaw Pact to form their own covert action teams to combat them. These operators were drawn from the most elite military units and were among the highest trained soldiers alive.
  • As the aliens grew increasingly bold, the two organizations began coordinating their activities to best defend the planet. An entire mini-organization (that was neither condoned nor condemned by either the USA or the USSR) came into existence to handle these coordinated operations. In nearly all cases, the men (and then later, women) who became part of ‘Management’ (as it became known) were injured veterans who had faced the alien menace and successfully survived, albeit sometimes short a few extremities. It is darkly ironic that, during the periods of greatest tensions between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the anti-alien operators were more loyal to each other than their respective countries.
  • The effectiveness of these teams is undeniable and, by the mid-1980s, the alien menace had withered to almost nothing. ‘Management’ insisted that this was only a temporary status and that the aliens would return, but the politicians did not listen.
  • In the Soviet Union, the billions of rubles necessary to fund anti-alien operations were desperately needed elsewhere and the Warsaw Pact unit was disbanded almost overnight (though even that would not hold off the collapse of the USSR.)
  • American operations continued into the 1990s - who can forget Ross Perot’s ‘black helicopters’ comments? - but were gradually phased out as well as the Clinton administration focused attention on other matters.
  • In this hostile environment, the surviving members of ‘Management’ reorganized themselves into a private military company and concentrated on preparing for the next wave of hostile alien attacks. Whenever possible, they accepted contracts in regions they knew (or suspected) to be hotbeds of extraterrestrial activity. Although their public identity remained [INSERT PMC NAME], privately, they referred to themselves as X-COM.
  • And now, the aliens have returned.
Quote:

What's a good "first strike" from the alien forces? It needs to be serious encourage the world to go along with #3, it needs to be subtle enough to cover up, and it needs to ideally allow the PCs to come into play.
Best cover in this modern age is terrorism. Blame any and everything on extremists.

ericthered 10-14-2015 03:44 PM

Re: Building the X-Com inspired campaign
 
I've run a game with 'top and bottom' characters (space exploration, management and boots). I liked it. One effect is that players step outside of their characters a little more. Individual characters become flatter, but you get more a of team of mini-GMs. I actually told the players they got one 200 point character and one 150 point character, and gave out rank for free. I think the system worked well.

In modern times, military actions like this get volunteered funds and forces from government entities. Not all governments will be told -- some governments will be left in the dark -- but the only thing those ones are likely to contribute will be jurisdiction. Corporations are less likely to donate, but it should be easy to get them on board in exchange for rights to equipment. Oil companies pay for access to any energy-producing tech that might come up, and so forth. Powerful governments are likely to try and keep control of their own troops, and the forces of the actual organization will be small -- which is probably a good thing for the PC's.

When you say 'strategic', do you mean how to determine how the war is going in a simulationist manner? That's ... very dependant on the alien's goals and strategy. As a GM I'd probably ad-hoc it, but you appear to want a system. What are the win conditions for the aliens? for humanity? If they were doing the gun's a-blazing thing I could give you a system but until I know the stakes of the shadow war I can't really tell you. I've designed an subtle alien invasion campaign before, but that featured aliens trying to build alliances with human states so all they had to do was ship in the equipment. The campaign would either end with aliens giving up or launching their invasion -- depending on how well the PC's intercepted their envoys. But if you told us more about their goals, we might be able to give you a system.

You say the aliens have reasons for keeping things subtle. Do the humans? Are those inclusive reasons? If a British intelligence agent tells his Chinese counterpart, could the Chinese be persuaded to keep things quiet? Just making sure you have a reason there. If you have a sound reason there, everything should go smoothly.

The exact nature of the first attack depends on the alien's goals, of course, but I think something fairly dramatic in north korea can easily be covered up. That depends on the north korean's calling for help, but if things go badly enough I can see it happening. Action in a deserted part of the earth could also work. What's neccessary is to convince leaders that the aliens are real, that they are a threat, and that negotiating with them is a bad idea.

martinl 10-14-2015 04:23 PM

Re: Building the X-Com inspired campaign
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by PTTG (Post 1943832)
Recently I've been working on putting together a grand campaign and drawing inspiration from Xenonauts and X-Com.

I did something similar myself, although I threw in WWII and War of the Worlds and set it in 1930s UK.
Quote:

What I don't have yet is a good background for the human (PC) organization that opposes the aliens. The Players will have two characters; one cast will be soldiers, the other cast will be the upper-echelon (scientists, engineers, commanders). They need to be global in scope, but have limited resources. They need to be seen as the unified face of humanity but have internal factions and strife to deal with.
I will note that making such a thing plausible is hard, so let me recommend going with rule of cool and agressive glossing instead of worrying about plausibility. The PCs shouldn't worry about how their awesome organization is possible, they should worry about the alien menace. Get the Players to agree beforehand.
Quote:

1.) What's the best way to run a world-wide strategic game? Has anyone tried anything like this in GURPS before?
You could hack something GURPS-like together, but why not just use a Risk Board with the various army colors re-purposed to represent alien influence, xcom influence, weath, etc. Then PC missions and decisions affect how these change.
Quote:

2.) How can I build info on my PC organization rules-wise?
Rank table is probably worth making. Perhaps some PC and NPC templates would be useful. In my game rookies died a LOT, but there was a pick 1 option from four lists rookie template. Survivors got cool perks and upgrades, just like the game.
Quote:

3.) Lore-wise, what's a good way to have modern nations and organizations contribute to defend the planet from aliens?
Here's another plausibility problem. I'd gloss agressively.
Quote:

4.) What's a good "first strike" from the alien forces? It needs to be serious encourage the world to go along with #3, it needs to be subtle enough to cover up, and it needs to ideally allow the PCs to come into play.
Take out everyone's nukes.

PTTG 10-14-2015 10:29 PM

Re: Building the X-Com inspired campaign
 
That's a good point about the strategic simulation. What I'm looking for is a way to turn PC actions into some kind of large-scale results. As far a simulationist/abstract/ad-hoc approach, I'm mainly looking for a comfortable compromise that lets me focus on the PC action in detail and quickly determine actions occurring at remove. I'm kind of curious how others have approached geopolitics as something that PCs can influence.

So... some information about the aliens. Again, if I know you in person, major spoilers...


Let's see. First off, they are dimention-jumping life from a distant alternate earth - let's call it Alpha. In their home timeline, native life developed the ability to manipulate certain components of dark energy, which in game terms is effectively mana ("ambient dark matter level," replaces mana level). A few million years ago, the sentient Alphans encountered several different high-tech crosstime civilizations, all of which attempted to subjugate them (biological low-energy subatomic reactions being remarkable even in an infinite universe).

The Alphans eventually overcame and subjugated the other civilizations, and adapted their own culture to focus on defending themselves from potential future threats by controlling or destroying developing species.

The cosmos, in this setting, consists of a matrix of compartmentalized universes. Imagine that each universe is a bubble in a mound of foam, (of course, its a 9-d bubble with infinite internal dimensions floating in a 14-d foam, but this will do for now...) and that universes form and split and even merge over multiple millennia, resulting in a slow flow amongst the bubble universe.

Interdimentional travel consists of moving between adjacent bubbles by making use of parts of dark energy and dark matter.

Jump forward to a mere 250 thousand of years ago. Alphans (and members of their subjugated species) made early visits to our Earth- and let's just call it Earth for ease of reference- and saw a primitive sapient/sentient tool user with culture. They estimated that this species could discover dimension-crossing technologies, so they set about refining the potential threat into a useful tool. They made small changes (getting rid of excess body hair, a slight enhancement to symbolic thinking, and an integration of dark-energy catalyzing genes so they could control and power Alphan technology), resulting in the creation of modern humans at about the same time Neanderthal appeared.

However, shortly after establishing modern human breeding populations, a long period of low dark-matter (mana) levels set in on Earth, preventing travel between the earth and Alpha. This was not unprecedented- but Alphans expected to return to Earth and find it mostly as they left it. Their time horizons are... broad.

In the latter half of the 20th century, DM started reaching critical levels allowing brief or remote contact to earth - visions, visitations, dreams, impressions... even hallucinations, caused by attempts to examine earth remotely from Alpha.

In 1993, gradually-increasing Dark Matter levels allowed for a small apparition of some kind (The Beowulf Incident). This highly-controvertial event was widely considered a hoax.

So, in the present day of 2017, the big incident happens. The first stable return of Alphans to Earth, and it obviously caused some problems.

The Alphans' goals are to, if possible, eliminate modern human culture and reduce them to thralls. Happy, comfortable thralls, true. Nonetheless, all human culture would be erased and they would live as subservient members of the Alphan hedgemony. We'd probably be useful as high-endurance scouts and wanderers, because we have fairly minimal life support requirements relative to other slave species, we're accurate throwers, and we are good at improvising. Our technical aptitude is a surprise, but a welcome one that Alphans plan to integrate into our fate. Our Dark-energy manipulating genes are poorly exercised- they've been inactive during the long low-energy period consisting of our entire history- but that's just a tactical advantage they will rectify after the war.

However, they do not need us, nor do they need Earth. We're useful, and Earth is not terribly common among the uninhabited/uninhabitable parallels, but if a war with humanity goes poorly, they may consider drastic measures.

Finally: They want to keep the war quiet because they have limited resources and crossing the border is still difficult. A full-on attack now would weaken them and strengthen us (by uniting us and sacrificing the element of suprise,) forcing them to result to more expedient measures. They'd rather drive earth to surrender by using surgical strikes, then pervert human society over carefully-controlled centuries.

On the other hand, they want to stop humans quickly because they are unsure as to how fast humans are advancing and fear that we might leap forward again.

The humans are keeping it secret because a panic would definitely damage human civilization, and starting out, they don't know ANY of this. All they know is that there's some definite truth to alien invasion rumors.

The best-case endgame for humans is going to end with us keeping our independence but finding a way to co-exist; there's no way we could overcome the aliens alone.

Minuteman37 10-15-2015 02:40 AM

Re: Building the X-Com inspired campaign
 
Just out of curiosity what magic system do you plan to use for the aliens?


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