Gameplay

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PARPG is a classic cRPG game with a focus on gritty realism and survival in a harsh environment. The Player Character (PC) interacts with the world and his character through various interfaces controlled by point-and-clicking. There is a Main Plot Driver which acts to (gently) force the PC through various areas or Locations. Although some areas may be inaccessible ("locked") to the PC until some accomplishments are made, the game is generally non-linear, and available Quests and Locations may be completed in any order (with the caveat that some are dependent on others).

Contents

Surviving in the world of PARPG

Most cRPGs drop the player into a world and just let him pump the local populace for information, without regard to any real "situation". PARPG is a little different. Much like a strategy game, the PC must figure out how to keep himself alive in the harsh environment of the game. First off, he needs food and possibly shelter. Then he needs to avoid becoming a victim of predators both animal and human. There will a few different strategies available to the Player, and both have their drawbacks and advantages. The general approach of the game is that the PC must trade Game Time for resources that he needs to survive. The basic mechanics are fairly simple, and once a strategy is set it can be readily automated, exchanging some amount of "day time" for a sufficient quantity of food and or "surplus". This surplus (which would be made available as some sort of trade good or currency) can be used to trade for information, equipment or anything else the player wishes (assuming he can find a willing NPC trade partner).

Get a job!

For some examples of this, see: Professions. Note that some "jobs" are "townie" jobs ("Bodyguard", "Doctor") and can only work in a more civilized area (because they require interactions with other people), while others are "outdoorsy" jobs ("Hunter", "Scavenger") in which the PC "gathers" something out in the wilderness and sells it or uses it himself.

"Town" jobs can be obtained using a "signboard" mechanic in any town. The "signboard" will list stuff like: "Firewood wanted", "Bodyguard Wanted") and the Player can sign up here. Generally speaking, the "work" is all done "off line" simply subtracting a set number of hours from a day (or from each day) and "paying" the player by putting the agreed payment in his inventory. Outdoors-y jobs like Hunting, Gathering, Scavenging will have an interface from the wilderness map, wherein the player selects an "area" to exploit and a skill - then trades Game Time for a skill or "Task" roll which will garner him something. Not all areas are "good" for all skills.

Random encounters

While the player is "working" or "traveling" (see Wilderness map) very little real time (~seconds) passes for the Player. However, some types of jobs have some chance of something interesting and random occur (usually dangerous) which will dump the player into a "Local Map" situation at the appropriate (Game) time.

Local Map game

This is the 2D isomorphic "core" of the game where the player interacts with people and designed areas. Some local maps may be randomly generated from templates if they are "off in the middle of no where". Quests are designed around Local areas -- although some types of "resource accumulation" (hunting, for example) will be controlled from the world map. Of course, a Quest might send you "away" to a nearby area, or even on a round trip to another Location, but the business of the quest as well as the usual "question all the NPCs" mechanic would be implemented on this map. Combat and other "conflict resolution" would likely be handled on this same map as well, with a strict turned-based combat mode being triggered by (either party) opening hostilities.

Each Location is a few different local maps (a Map Set) in which the PC (and his "party") may walk or run around to different buildings or sub-locations. The dev team is currently exploring the difference between having each building be a separate "local map" (PS:T style) or to have some of them be embedded directly in the larger local map (Fallout style; with disappearing roofs). See Creative_vision#Art_direction for more on this subject and Combat Scale for another approach.

Distance Scale

Given ~1x1m Tiles, the size of the Local maps is determined primarily by the RAM of the machine, which in turn determines the distance scale of the local maps. Locations (Map sets) should be traversable by the player in "real time" on the order of 1-2 min. Larger locations could be connected with "teleports" (essentially going to a map screen showing the entire (known) location that has various points of reference for the player to choose from and be teleported instantly too.

Time Scale

The time scale of the local map should pretty insignificant to the game play. What takes "real time" (i..e., "glacier time") is stuff like healing, sleeping, training, traveling, and "working" (performing a service for money or barter). Running around the map and talking to people should not really "cost" the player much time.

Option: Combat Scale

One problem with standard cRPG "combat" in 2D systems is that the Local Map scale is compressed to allow for fewer graphics, "denser" interaction with NPCs, and shorter travel times. When ranged combat takes place on this compressed scale a realistic balance between, for example, guns and swords gets totally thrown out the window.

As an example - consider a high powered hunting rifle with an effective range (in the hands of a trained use of ~500m). At 70px x 70px corresponding to 1m x 1m tiles this is a range of 35,000 pixels, which requires a VERY large screen. Further note that if said rifleman can shoot 1/sec while aiming, and an average guy can run 10 kph (corresponding to ~3m/s) then he can be shot at 120 times assuming rifleman has to switch clips for 3s every 10 shots, before he gets to hack at the rifleman with his machete. Assuming the runner even knows where the shots are coming from. This example is somewhat contrived, but even if you divide by _10_ it's still 12 shots to 1. And 50m is very short range for a modern gun or even bow/crossbow.

That's without getting into serious military support weapons like machine guns, mortars, or sniper rifles.

The obvious answer is to use a different distance scale for combat. It seems impractical from a graphical assets perspective to actually "scale" entire towns and locations... BUT maybe we can go even OLDER school and and make isogeomorphic semi-random combat maps. So, we would have combat maps of the proper scale, but different random terrain for outdoor (tundra, taiga, forest, village, town) or indoor (ruin, hovel, etc.). This also gives us good potential for "mixed" maps where PCs are assaulting a stronghold (or vice-versa...).

This also handles the art asset problem inherent in using "Fallout style" see-through ceilings and allow us to keep every building as a separate map.

When combat is initiated between 2 sides, the game will use some kind of heuristic to determine which NPCs in the "local map" area are close enough to be "involved" and if they are friendly/enemy to the PC or neutral. We could also have NPC-NPC fights, with the PC/party as neutral. Some NPCs in the local "area" will be close enough to "note" but not close enough to be in the fight. These could arrive in later rounds as reinforcements to one or the other antagonistic sides (probably there should be some "belligerence" check for the NPCs, so you don't get grannies involved, etc.)

See Combat System for more details

Wilderness Map game

If the 2D RPG map is the meat of the game, the WIlderness or World map is the backbone. In addition to providing a large scale map to allow the player to navigate between "locations", the meat of the "survival" mini game takes place here. This means, resting, food gathering, shelter building, weather prediction, tracking, and "trip planning". What all of these game functions have in common is that they are very abstract. There is no "wood chopping" animation or "duck hunting" game. There is just a little pop up window that reports to the player the inputs and (approximate) outputs of various survival tasks. This requires a specific "control panel" style interface.

Internally, this means that the "World Map" is divided into '"Tiles" that have a set of properties that such tasks act upon, You can view this as each tile having "resources" that can be harvested by the player, given a certain set of skills and equipment, and having allocated a certain amount of real time to them. Some tiles would be "generic" (forest, snow pak, frozen late, farm land, mountain, snowpack mountain, swamp, etc.) and some would be more specific (locations of some type). Climate and Weather determines the "exposure level" of the area (that is to say, how long can the PC stay here -- given various amounts of shelter -- before suffering ill effects). Each type of resource accusation / sklll usage is a Task.

The player can also mark "caches" on the map where supplies can be dropped or hidden. These may be subject to theft or spoilage (depending on how mean I am). The marking system can also be used for things that the PC finds or loots, but cannot carry. Back "in town" the locations of the these caches have some trade value (depending on the goods reported, and the PCs reliability)

Finally, on this map is where the PC plans his travel - by clicking on a "distant" area, he will get an interface that estimates how long it will take to get there, given his current transport and food stocks. There would be an option to "forage" on the way which will slow the travel down, but allow the party to travel without carrying all their food. The accuracy of such predictions depends on the PCs' skills. The "forage" value of each tile is part of the tile properties (either generic if it's a generic "Tundra" tile, or something more specific)

Locations

PARPG has a something resembling the standard set of 2D isometric RPG locations. These locations are embedded in the Wilderness Map and are each made of one or more Local Maps.

Settlements
Towns and villages, the most populated areas of the game.

Settlements are living, functional places with inhabitants. They are either self-sufficient or they trade with other settlements. Settlements typically have some administration, be it tribal, democratic, feudal, autocratic or whatever. Open settlements are reasonable safe for the PC; if he keeps his nose out of trouble he won't get waylaid (although a larger settlement might have a "bad neighborhood"). Trade and work opportunities are plentiful, the "cost of living" (how much the player has to work to survive) is greater. Some crowded settlements are breeding grounds for infectious disease, and certainly harbor their share of thieves. You generally cannot forage for food in a town or settlement; scavenging is usually called "theft" and while the goods you get might be better, you are likely to make enemies doing it. There are more training opportunities and it is generally easier to do any significant crafting, due to available of more and better quality materials, tools and even workshops.

Dungeons
Instead of true "Dungeons" (underground map sets filled with monsters and phat l00t), PARPG has some areas centered around "pre-war" sites (for example, ruined cities or battlefields) where the scavenging is rich.

These areas are not (yet) picked clean because there are significant dangers. Either "Wild" or Predatory humans, vicious animals, or significant NBC hazards. Some sites are well known (the PC learns about them from talking to NPCs) and others are pretty well hidden. (Note that even if "cleared" by PC or party; such areas can present a transportation problem the deliver the "Loot" to somewhere it can be traded.

Wilderness
A combination of generic, generated wilderness locations, and special locations.

Wilderness areas are where the player performs most Foraging tasks. The fall of man has lead to a commensurate rise in animal life, meaning that (outside the dead of winter) a successful forager can do quite well for himself. The downside is that even the spring and summer in PARPG are pretty harsh and a sudden cold snap or storm can leave the PC is a bad position To mitigate this somewhat, a player can set up a temporary "camp" or base of operations, which will act as a "mini settlement", providing some protection from the elements and marauding animals and humans. Finally, the Ice age mechanic means that foraging in wilderness areas gets progressively worse and worse as the game goes on - this is implemented by Wilderness "tiles" becoming "Tundra" or "Ice" terrain types.

NPCs

Interaction with the people, other survivors, is the heart of the "role" part of "role playing game". The NPCs of PARPG are real people, with real issues, real problems and real feelings. The PC interacts with them primarily through the Dialog interface, but can also recruit, trade with or fight with them. NPCs have a dynamic relationship with both the PC (and party) and other NPCs. A group of NPCs (possibly including the PC) that have a tight, friendly relationship are said to be in a Faction. The reverse of a 'faction' relationship is one of "belligerence". Generally NPCs in the same faction share belligerence(s) with each other and this forms the basis for "opposing sides" in combat.

Talking to NPCs

NPCs are the primary method for the game to deliver information to the player. This information is delivered via a "conversation" between the NPC and the PC. This conversation is a standard dialog tree whereby the NPC makes a statement and the PC chooses from a few responses. The PCs responses (and new NPC dialog "branches") are not static, but dependent on both the Survivors#Personality relationship between the the PC and NPC, what the PC "knows" (according to the game), the status of any #Quests, the PCs skills, and other "game state" variables. Generic greetings, questions, and answered will be drawn randomly from a set of "small talk" dialog snippets that depend (somewhat) on the NPCs personality, relationship with the PC, and background. See Non-Player Characters for more details.

Recruiting NPCs

NPCs, if they are friendly (or at least neutral) to the PC may be recruited into the #Party. Recruited NPCs are NOT the PC (Player's) sock puppet; they still maintain a degree of independence. They are essentially the PCs "employees" or "partners". Depending on their skills and the PCs leadership abilities and charisma, the NPCs of the party will be in a more or less dependent relationship. While in the Party_interface the Player can "order" the NPCs around, but really he is just making suggestions. He can view their public inventory, but not freely "trade" with it. The NPCs still own their stuff, so you have to trade stuff they value to them if you want what they are holding. However, given their friendly disposition and general eye towards team work, they will probably give the PC a good deal. The more "powerful" the NPC (relative to the PC) is, the greater share of loot or higher wage he will demand. One way to think of this mechanic is that Party NPCs are just like regular "friendly allied" NPCs, but they travel with the PC. If events occur that offend the NPCs sensibilities (either PC/other party member actiions, or not getting paid, or perhaps getting too dangerous for him), he will leave the party. This could be a mutual "breakup" with no repercussions, or he might up and leave during his watch in the dead of night. He might steal something of value to the party - he may even attack! There is a perpetual balance mechanic between the additional power of banding together vs. the the probability of betrayal. To give the poor player a chance, the game will usually drop "hints" that things aren't going so rosy.

Trading with NPCs

The heart of the PARPG economy is barter. Some major "city states" may issue some kind of currency or script - but this is utterly valueless away from that location - in general, no governments are powerful or stable enough to support a real currency. The lack of a credible police/security force makes loans impractical. Generally speaking - utility is king. Stuff that people need to survive (food, medicine, tools, weapons) is always in demand. More stable locations that have some "excess purchasing power" will put some value on luxuries, and "pre-war" items are highly coveted for nostalgic reasons (some for their utility as well). You can offer to trade with any NPC that you are on at least "speaking terms" with. You don't even have to speak the same language. Now, of course your relationship with that NPC will determine the "price" that you get, and furthermore each NPC has a (dynamic) "wish list" of materials he willing to trade FOR. NPCs have a vector for various classes of items which represent the relative value they put on things. For some things (or classes of things) this value is actually 0. For others (typically something the NPC will not give up by choice at all) have an "infinite" value.

Fighting NPCs

There are three ways whereby the PC (and his friends) might get into a scrap with NPCs (in this case, including animals). The PC might attack the NPC (converting the relationship to belligerent); an NPC (or group) might -- given the correct situation (NPC-PC relationship, NPC tendency/alignment, and physical situation) attack the PC group. Note that an NPC will NOT attack unless he "figures" that his chance of winning, is in fact, high. This might be modified by the "desperation" of the situation. Once a fight starts - it's not necessarily a fight to the death, or even incapacitation (although given the effectiveness of weapons this will not be uncommon). At any time, either side my attempt to break off the fight and "flee". Note that because the NPC AI tells them to only fight when they have the advantage, it can be quite difficult to force an engagement unless the sides are reasonably even. The other way to force a fight is to physically confine (trap) the NPC (or PC!) in a place where he cannot flee. Another possibility is to attack something that NPCs are willing to die for (or at least chance it), for example, his home, family or lively hood. Finally, one can launch a surprise attack which may allow you to "win" before the opponent has a chance to run -- or even set up an ambush where you lure NPCs into attacking because they think their strength is superior (typically requires a few "hidden" party members, and ideally an enclosed location. Finally, as alluded to above - some NPCs are more willing to fight than others, and some will even overestimate their own abilities.

Items

"Stuff" in the PARPG world can be divided roughly into two classes. Pre-war manufactured goods and Post-war handicrafts. The former are much more rare, somewhat unreliable (on average), but can be extremely functional if kept in good repair. Post-war handicrafts (in contrast) are reasonably common and useful, but are rarely of superior quality or function. The Crafting mechanism is used both to repair and maintain "old" stuff and build "new" stuff from raw materials.

PARPG is not a game where you carry an entire general store (with a weapons counter) on your back. As such, there is often not a huge functional difference in sub types of what you could be using. For example, a reproduction sword might be a little better than a fire axe, but not substantially so. Shooting someone - with anything bigger than a .22 LR round will probably put them on the ground - no matter if it's a .38, .357, or .44 magnum. That being said - weapons (and other equipment) will have some differential effects.

For more on types of items see: Item Types.

Caches, Storage, and Transportation

Since the PC cannot carry everything he wants on his person, and cannot use NPCs as pack mules (or rather, he can't if he expects to get that stuff back 'for free'), how does the Player handle "excess". Well, just like in life, you can't (always) take it all with you. The basic mechanisms for dealing with this are:

Caches & Storage

The PC can essentially hide piles of stuff in wilderness. These "caches" are marked using the wilderness map interface. Certain items may experience Spoilage or Theft. In a more civilized place, "caches" are simply referred to as storage. These function more or less identically, but are less likely to get plundered. They also have a certain "cost" associated with them (for example, maintaining an "apartment"). If such "rent" is very cheap, then these function almost exactly like caches in the wilderness.

Transportation

The PC can obtain a vehicle to help transport his stuff. There are lots of different types of transport available. Pack animals, carts (for traveling over roads), sleds or pulks (pulled by the PC/party or animals), possibly even powered vehicles (cars, motorcycles, snow mobiles, boats, perhaps even planes). No special vehicle combat or animation (movement) is planned for parpg - vehicles will just be a static helper which improves travel times (assuming the terrain you cross is allowed) and increases carrying capacity.

Time

Everything takes time. The Encroachment_of_Ice_Age sets a finite limit on the amount of game time available for the player to "do stuff". In particular without experience points, the PC must budget his time spent on activities, because time spent "using skills" is how the PC improves these skills. Similarly, it will take time to collect sufficient resources to go "cross country", and these trips themselves take time. It takes time to heal wounds, and time must be allocated to sleep. As mentioned above, the PC will probably be allocation some fraction of his time to "work" - either being paid by someone or simply collecting food or scavenging the ruins. The main plot might enforce a time limit.

Player character

The Player can choose from a variety of "origins" and progress in several skill areas (groups of which roughly correspond to "character classes"

PC or Party Activities

These is a list of activities that the Player (and friends) do in order to "progress" in the game. This includes not only "finishing quests but also working in the game sense of "getting stuff" (some baseline amount of which is necessary just to survive).

Dealing with People

Here are listed types of activities that are primarily centered on the PC interacting with NPCs. Because they are more interactive, there can often be resistance to the PC "exerting his will" on someone else. In essence, these activities can be profitable, but can also make you enemies.

Fighting ("beating stuff up")

Combat between PC and NPCs is not treated the same as it is in most cRPGs. The realism of the combat system is designed to make the Player think twice (or three times) about getting into a fight. A knife fight can be deadly, to say nothing of a crossbow or gun. While it will be possible to make "bandit" or "body guard" type characters where fighting is part of the job, most of the time "combat" is what happens to you when diplomacy fails or you get caught burglarizing someones' lean-to. To this end, there are not a lot of "aggro" NPC peoples and "monsters", which will allow character builds with a low level of "self-defense" (depending how good they are at avoiding combat). One important difference is "non-fatal" endings to combats. For one, both the PC and NPCs will usually have the option of "fleeing" battle with little consequence. If you really need/want to kill someone, you will have to trap them where cannot escape. In addition, "unconsciousness" will be a more common stopping point in a fight then death. What happens afterwards is somewhat up to the player. These mechanics work both ways, keeping both PCs and NPCs "alive". The summary is, if you want combat -- choose your battles carefully, and fight when you have the clear advantage.

Diplomacy / Schmoozing / Leadership ("talking to people")

Talking type skills are often neglected in cRPGs, but not PARPG. There are different skills (not just "speech") for trying to:

  • keep the peace ("Diplomacy", and "Foreign Languages")
  • improve trade relations ("Barter")
  • recruit NPCs and command them in combat ("Leadership and Tactics")
  • various forms of deception and trickery ("Bluffing and Conning")

Talking skills will sometimes work as specific "quest solvers" -- that is, some quests will have some solutions that use particular "talky" skills. But otherwise these skills can serve as "enhancers" (or the opposite, if your skill is bad!) for other types of transactions that involve others you can communicate with (e.g,. trading, fighting, stealing).

Stealth / Subterfuge ("sneaking around")

These are your standard "thief" skills - move in shadows, breaking and entering, forgery. Now, in the lawless wasteland none of these things are strictly "illegal", but anything that generally falls under "stuff people would get mad about if they knew what you were doing" is in this category. Note that some kinds of skills have some use in simply avoiding conflict or getting into or out of a sticky situation. These activities and their associated skills combine well with "Talky" characters (The Con man or Flim-Flam artists) or "Fighty" characters ("The backstabber"). In general, when stealing stuff you should have a back up plan (talk or fight or run your way out of it), should the situation go awry.

Economics

Here are listed types of activity for the 'independent' Player Character. Their effects are primarily built around the PC interacting with the game world directly, rather than through NPCs. Often times, what the PC creates/extracts will have to be converted (via trade) to something more useful - or at least more portable.

Foraging ("hunting, gathering, fishing")

This is the art of simply extracting food (and other animal and plant products) from the wilderness. It's very simple and very practical. The downside is that large amounts of food are not very portable and they can spoil (Ironically, you would think all the snow would help keep things fresh - but the colder it is, the worse the foraging -- so it tends to balance out. In addition to food, "raw materials" like fur, skin (leather), textile fibers, wood can all be foraged from the wilderness. As mentioned, the Foraging interface is hooked into the "World Map" interface, essentially selecting and area, a "skill" and allocating time to get stuff.

Crafting ("building and improving stuff")

The art of using your labor (time) and skill to convert something(s) into some other thing(s). Some things you "craft" are temporary - like an outdoor shelter. Other things are more permanent - making garments out of leather and fur for example. Repairing items falls under this category, and as such crafting meshes will with both Foraging (making stuff out of stuff you find) and Scavenging (repairing old stuff you find). The stuff you craft is either used yourself, or traded for stuff you need/want.

Scavenging / Stealing ("finding stuff")

This is "foraging" but applied to pre-war ruins/battlefields rather than Wilderness areas. The results are generally much more random (you can't expect to get 5 days of "rations" searching a burned out town for 8 hours, although you might bag a deer if you were Foraging), but his variability means you can find all sorts of cool and interesting stuff. A lot of the stuff might be unusable as is - but nearly all of it is at least good for raw materials. Especially for a Crafting PC or NPC looking for rare manufactured bits.

These correspond to various Player Character Types/Builds

General flow of the game

According to the current story framework, The player starts out somewhere along the northern most boundary of the map. It is currently "late spring" on the calendar, but the long-awaited thaw has not occurred yet, even though last year's was the latest thaw anyone can remember. As the game progresses, the world gets colder and colder, starting from the north. Northern areas eventually become "ice/snow pack" with essentially no wild food available. The has the effect of forcing the player evermore southward. The further south the player travels, agriculture becomes more viable, and civilizations become more organized and technological - presenting a different set of challenges to the player. Once the player reaches the southern most part of the map (Germany / Poland) he can trigger a few different game endings.

The whole content of the game cannot be circumvented by simply "driving south" as fast as possible. "Natural" plot barriers and story "choke points" that the PC has to "beat" control the flow of the game between major areas (groupings of #Locations. These are designed to be "beaten" in the Avellone sense of have 3+ ways to solve (Fight / Talk / Sneak / Skill), with no "single minded" character build enough to get through all the choke points.

Stayin' Alive (Survival)

Exposure

There will be a constant Kampf ums Überleben (struggle for survival) for the PC (and by extension, NPCs). While the general climate is cold and unpleasant it's not in and of itself, dangerous (all "Survivors" can be assumed to have collected adequate winter garments and wear them when necessary). However, the microclimate ("cold snaps") or storms can be quite dangerous for anyone caught outdoors with no shelter. Characters generally have basic survival skills, but it could be "expensive" (in terms of fuel or raw material) to get caught out of doors if you are not an expert. The crafting system handles construction of basic shelters. Extreme winter gear may be rare but available, which will increase the amount of time you can stay "active" when the weather is extremely bad.

Starvation

In addition to exposure, the PC and his party has to eat. The "rations" section of the party_interface sets up the rate at which the PC and his party consume food, while the "Foraging" interface on the Wilderness map sets up the rate at which food is collected (essentially trading gametime for food supplies). If you wish to go a long time (say long distance travel) without spending a lot of time foraging, you will have to accumulate a surplus of food (by either foraging or trading). Note that some places you may travel over might have ~zero foraging (ice fields). The default setting for "party" rations is neutral, or "100%"; you eat exactly what you need to keep healthy - no more no less. You may set this rationing to a lower number, which will damage the party (stress, exhaustion, and eventually physical damage) causing their skills and stats to degrade. This will eventually result in "incapacitation" and death. Yes, you can eat the guy who falls first. Such hardships will stress the PC and his party, possibly causing the party to fragment. Obviously if you set out on a 10 day journey with 8 days of food, you will have to go on 80% rations. Setting your rations to >100% will recover stress and other starvation related damage much quicker. Note that if you are "in town" and working - you can set a "standard deduction" to buy food daily with your earnings (as long as it's actually available).

Injury and Disease

There is no ER in the post apocalypse. There are no "medikits" or "healing droughts" that restore one to perfect health after suffering an axe wound or a broken ankle. First aid treatment will stop the bleeding, and a decent field doctor can stabilize all but the most grievous wounds, but these things can take time to heal. Worse yet, any substantial break in the skin can lead to an infection - and almost all serious anti-biotics were manufactured before the war. Still, there are some herbs/chemicals that might prevent a shallow infection. Hopefully the PC or his friends won't need any real surgery.

NBC hazards

The inhuman weapons of mass destruction of WWIII have left relics scattered across Europe. While most bomb sites are no longer substantially radioactive, nuclear reactors (either used for powering cities, research stations or naval vessels) will often have suffered catastrophic meltdowns, polluting the earth and water for miles around. Similarly incredibly toxic "superfund" sludge sites still remain, and cannot be safely traversed without serious protection (big rubber suit). The most insidious threat of all, however, are the deadly viruses spawned in the waning days of WWIII as a desperate attempt at victory, or more realistically, revenge. Most survivors are essentially immune to the most common of these bugs (that's one of the reason they are still alive) but occasionally mutations have arisen that blight an area and it's human (or even animal) inhabitants.

Quests

A quest (sometimes called a "mission") is essentially some specific sequence of events that is logged by the game. Usually, the start of a quest is logged by talking with an NPC who tells you about a local "issue" that needs solving, or simply asks or hires you to do something for him. In a typical cRPG completion of a quest gives "experience points" to the PC - but PARPG doesn't have experience points. That means the player can evaluate under taking any quest based on it's own merits. If it's a paid job, he can haggle over the price. If it's a "get my cat out of the tree" nice-guy quest, he can do it or not do it if he feels like it. Perhaps his reward is a better reputation in the local community. Most of the deep story telling in the game is done through successive "quests" - the PC meets someone, he talks to him. A problem is suggested. It might be the NPCs personal issue, or it might be a community issue. It might be a simple economic transaction - "Hey, I am looking for a reparable single stroke engines - have you seen any". If you find one, it turns out the NPC is putting fueling them with his still and building go-carts to start a racing/gambling league. In PARPG - the PC (and party) are typically "wanderers" - and the local communities don't always take to strangers. The expect them to contribute to the community somehow - and many "town" locations will require a service or at least "demonstration of loyalty" if the PC wants to do anything beyond visiting the local trading post. The other main type of quest will be faction related. Any major location is likely to have one or more personal power struggles going on, and will try to use the PC to gain leverage.

Most Quests take game time to perform - so there is an implicit "cost" to the player for undertaking them. They will also usually require the PC to exercise or more skills - which of course provides a chance to improve them. Major quests should be have "solution" paths for more than one skill or character archetype. The "Avellone rule of three" is that any quest should be able to be solved by Fighting, Sneaking, or Talking. Given the reduced role of combat, and it's relative deadlyness - PARPG quests should be solvable by 2 or "non combat" paths with "Fighting" generally being the fall back option when stealth/diplomacy/guile/handyness fail. The exceptions are quests like "Stop the Bear from harassing us" or "Kidnap the son of the opposing faction" (note that the latter would require judicious use of "non-lethal" combat to complete successfully… and simply *murdering* the boy would cause an enormous shit storm.

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