When players in the current campaign of Strategic Primer, my strategy game, instructed their explorers to look for some specific things, I was entirely caught off-guard; I hadn’t expected them to want to know anything beyond what kind of terrain was where. But because players can do the unexpected, I accepted those orders as valid.
The solution I put together for the time being was to add an “event”—ruins, minerals, an independent town, or nothing—to every tile on the map (placing them randomly), and had the explorer “search” each tile for its “event,” reporting those “events” he or she found.
The problems with this are obvious in retrospect: I didn’t include enough of the sorts of things the players wanted their explorers to be looking for, and this made some important resources far too rare—but the way I set it up, there was no way for me to add more events or even change the ones I had.
To add insult to injury, I had explorers only report on the tiles they passed through; in previous versions units had vision ranges of several tiles, and tiles were an order of magnitude bigger.
For some time now I’ve been working on a replacement: real, proper encounter tables. Every time an explorer, hunter, or Food Gatherer passes through a tile—or spends time wandering around the same tile—there’s a chance he’ll encounter something. What he encounters will depend on where in the world this is (the “quadrant”) and what kind of terrain it has (forest, mountain, swamp, etc), along with some random factors and perhaps others I’ll think of later. One primary benefit of this system is that I can add to it later.
Along with encounters per se, this new system will let me tell the players what kind of trees a forest is made of, what kind of rock is beneath the soil, and even what kind of weather they go through. And instead of hunters and food gatherers producing just an arbitrary amount of food based on their skill level, they’ll search for and encounter animals and wild plants.
I hope to switch to this new system starting with the next turn (the ninth). Whether it’s then or later depends on how quickly I can write a helper program to generate encounters for me and otherwise run exploration and movement.
And I can still use new things for explorers to encounter … ideas?