Sunday, December 4, 2011

I Used To Think I Could Design Games...


Well, every gamer goes through a phase. You might have already gone through it, or might be deep in the grip of it currently:

You've played enough games. You know what you like, and what you don't like.

Hey, I've got an idea! You should make your own game, and try and make millions selling it to a worldwide audience. What could possibly go wrong, right? You should start writing down your concepts, and also start working out, since you'll be carrying all those large sacks of money to the bank.

Right?

Don't worry.

I'm equally guilty.

Back in the late 90's/early 2000's, I was deep in "make-my-own-game" madness. Even playtested it, and offered it for review. Didn't have too many takers, but those that did seemed to like it. It was one of the cornerstones of my first failed venture, Hellion Productions. I was trying to do too much, and it collapsed. Such is life.

So, about the rules.

I called it the H.E.L.L.I.O.N. system. Why all the interspaced punctuation? I thought it looked cool, like a riveted effect. Hey, it was 10 years ago, bear with me.

The motto of the game was "One System, Many Universes, Infinite Carnage." Here's a quick excerpt from the introduction...

"My universal tabletop warfare simulator (read: war game system) is called The Hellion System, and it was designed to be as limitless and non-genre specific as possible. I personally like to use it for giant armored titans shooting and bashing each other to pieces, like you’ve seen in various Japanese animated series and movies. On a more personal level, it’s ideally suited for elite teams of power-armored Special Forces using small unit tactics to close with and destroy the enemy. Is it purely a sci-fi armor game? No! The versatility of the system enables players to field superhumans and battle psychics like those from comic books or movies. Likewise, historical or ancient fantasy battles can be fought. Battle magic can be used that rivals the most powerful particle beam cannons that science fiction can conjure. Perhaps more importantly, a universal system allows you to mix and match your forces, enabling you to go head to head against your buddy’s mecha team from another time period or genre, or his company of M-1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks, or an evil coven of battle mages. This tabletop warfare system was made from the ground up to accommodate every means of hellish warfare that man has come up with, along with the hundreds of those he has yet to invent."

Basically, a rule system is like a computer program. You plug in your statistics, data, and action. Those variables get processed by the rules. According to the rules, you get your movement, strike, or damage results.

I wanted everybody to be able to fight everybody. Physics is physics, right? No matter what era or genre you're a fan of, your tabletop units need to move, target enemies, shoot, communicate, have armor or protection values, be able to attack in close combat, and defend in close combat.

Knights on horseback, mech pilots in towering armored nightmares, superhumans streaking through the sky, crewmen in a buttoned-up M-1A2 Abrams, and zombies and SWAT teams in the street all have to do those things. They might do them differently (if at all), but they all have to do it in the same frame of reference, the same universal framework.

So, that's what I tried to do with HELLION. Multi-genre. Universal. Anybody from any setting can go up against any enemy. Things might not be fair, but war and conflict isn't fair.

So, for all you aspiring game designers out there, here's the HELLION system, along with a few sample units for trying it out.

Feel free to lift whatever concepts you want from the rules. Rules aren't covered by copyrights, after all. That's why there are so many Monopoly clones on the market.

Only the fictional written material, the "fluff," as it's known, is subject to copyright. I would ask that you respect my intellectual property, and let me keep my Superhumans from Earth 402, and other similar, unique concepts.

So, without further ado, here's the download for the Quick and Dirty of the Hellion System. PDF Format, about 10 pages long. It's a hybrid action phases/IGOUGO game, by current-day nomenclature. A "factor of ten" stratified damage system. Probably more paperwork than you're used to. A tinge of snark in the text, too, which reads as an insufferable version of myself from 10 years ago. Data and Stats are found after the individual unit description in following sample PDFs. I even left some wiggle room in there to plug in RPG stats and skills, for future releases.

Here's Armored Supersoldiers, a PDF for folks who wanted to convert their Gothic Future Marines (you know who I'm talkin' 'bout) to try out the system.

Here's Armed Gunmen, a PDF of average civilians who have armed themselves to defend their neighborhood, kill zombies, or ethnically cleanse the next neighborhood a couple blocks away. Basic armed civilians, with a hodge-podge of commonly available rifles, pistols, and improvised weaponry.

Here's the Superhumans from Earth 402, a zipped PDF. It's a scenario set in an alternate universe, where a team of mercenary superhumans are trying to take down a bad guy, along with his RPG-toting henchmen (Hey, an RPG might be the only thing that might pierce a supertough hide). I included paper figures to color and cut out on this one. Vintage pencil art from 2002. Wow. That was...really...bad. Thank God I went digital.

Here's The Modern Infantryman. Zipped PDF format. Tech level is turn of the century, 2002, so it's pre-war, and in need of updating, but hey, what-da-ya-want fer free?

Well, that's what I've got for now. If you're an aspiring rules writer, or an established one that's looking for something to laugh at, take a look. Maybe it will help, maybe it won't, but at least you'll get a look into what I was thinking about 10 years ago.

Best,
John Bear Ross
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