Echelon Development Pla^WDreams

I recently bought Adventure Fantasy Game, an OSR game by Paolo (tsojcanth of Lost Pages — how’s that for an inversion?).  When he sent me the PDF we ended up striking up a conversation that drifted into Echelon and he asked me where I want to go with it.

Ultimately I’d like to get it published, or self-published, if only to say that I’ve actually finished the thing. I’ve been working on this off and on for years, with a couple of (good, I think) major changes in direction as I realized what I was actually trying to do.

One of my later realizations, for example, was that Echelon is less a game than it is a framework to build several kinds of games on a shared structure. I hesitate to say ‘universal system’, since I’ve seen how badly that goes, but I have realized that this can probably model several kinds of d20/D&D-style games fairly easily. D&D 3.x is dead easy, since that where I started, D&D 4e isn’t too hard (drop the Training talents but keep the level bonuses), Mutants & Masterminds isn’t too tough I think, and so on. OSR-style D&D can be done with a little more fiddling.

The selection of talents available really changes how the game plays, while staying with the same core framework.

Apart from that, on the way I can see the following packages:

  • ”B/X’ rules. Basic and Expert tiers (levels 5..12 in Echelon, or 1..4 in D&D 3.x).
  • ‘H/M’ rules. Heroic and Master tiers (levels 13..20 in Echelon, 5..12 in D&D 3.x).
  • ‘C/L’ rules. Champion and Legendary tiers (levels 21..28 in Echelon, 13..20 in D&D 3.x).

Each package builds on the previous. The core mechanics likely stay much the same and the differences lie in their application. The talent descriptions become more complete, showing more tiers — I don’t think I want to require all three packages present if you’re playing Champion tier, I’d rather have just the one, even though many people dislike ‘duplicated material’. As a programmer I agree, Don’t Repeat Yourself, but as a gamer I don’t want to cart around and have to look in three different places to find the details, either.

The biggest difference between the packages is more likely to be in how to apply the rules. As you get to higher tiers, the crazier things get. That’s how D&D tends to work, and I think it’s why so many people think it breaks down around 12th level — it no longer conforms to expectation.

Apart from those packages I think I’d like to see some ‘quick start’ rules. I’ve talked about it at here, with a small core of rules needed to play, some sample characters, and a simple scenario to work through, complete with handholding and the specific rules needed to play it out. I can imagine several such packages, probably with each covering different rules elements.

In terms of development, I think I’d like to go:

  • very core
  • several ‘B/X quick starts’ to exhibit (and test) various rules elements that are not core
  • B/X
  • several ‘H/M quick starts’ modeling the transition from Expert to Heroic, then play in the Heroic and Master tiers, exhibiting rules that become more relevant and to test new parts
  • H/M
  • several ‘C/L quick starts’ (though that’s probably becoming a bit disingenuous given the amount of material I expect to be incorporated at this point) modeling the transition from Master to Champion, then play in the Champion and Legendary tiers, exhibiting rules that become more relevant and to test new parts
  • C/L
  • Rules Cyclopedia-style publication with ‘everything’.

I can see other possible products or packages along the way that model different modes of play.  I’m likely to first go after my preferred D&D, 3.x. I can easily imagine other supplements for different modes of play like D&D 4e, OSR, M&M, and so on that likely sit on top of the core material presented so far, indicating talents to drop or replace.  As I recall HERO System did something like this (third or fourth edition, I think), where you had the core rules, then genre-specific books covering how to model various tropes and modes of play.

This breaks the work up and gives me assorted milestones.  There are a lot of them, but I think each is doable.

Assuming that I have the time to work on everything I want to.  Sleep is just a bad habit for the weak, right?


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