Arioniad: Gritty Reboot Retrospective

Posted: 23 September 2017 in Arioniad
Tags: , , ,

Gordon is sitting in a room with late 1990s decor, watching the TV – which displays Arion’s current activities – and eating popcorn. Another figure suddenly materialises.

“Oh hi, Alex,” says Gordon. “You’re female today, I see; it suits you. Popcorn?”

“Thanks. How are you getting on with the latest Arion fork?” Alex dips a hand into the offered popcorn bucket and scoops up a fistful, then begins to eat, slowly.

“To be honest, I don’t think this one’s going anywhere,” Gordon says. “It’s in phase one – you know, before the ‘turtles all the way down‘ speech – so I have a sub-partial running things. I just drop in occasionally to check up on it.”

“How many have you got active in phase two?”

“One hundred and nineteen. About a third of them choose to remember that they’re simulations, and think they’re in the real world; the rest have no idea what’s going on. I haven’t figured out how they make that choice yet. Although I have noticed something interesting; whatever the initial conditions for the run, if Coriander’s in the simulation at all, Arion always finds her eventually. It’s quite romantic, really.”

“Any of them made it to phase three yet?”

“What, this reality? No, not yet. I’m waiting for one of the ones in phase two to figure out he’s still in a simulation.”

“How long do you let them run?”

“I give them ten good years in their timeline. The more complex runs take almost a millisecond.”

“Wow. I wouldn’t have the patience for that. Even as a partial rather than a full instantiation.”

“Yeah, well, it keeps me occupied. And you’d be surprised how popular he is; I run the more exciting ones on Pay Per View to fund the project. Here, let me show you one of those…” The channel changes, and we see a new Arion, floating in deep space in an environment suit, apparently alone.

“But what about you?” Gordon continues. “Getting anywhere with the timing channel attack?”

“Nothing conclusive yet, but I’m pretty certain we’re in a simulation as well. Here, let me show you…”

When I started the Arioniad in 2009, it was purely an experiment; the idea was to try out new rules and ideas in solitaire play before unleashing them on my players, and also keep my hand in with Savage Worlds at a time when sessions were months apart. Since then, Arion has become one of my favourite characters ever; solo play has become a major part of the blog, completely separate from what happens in group campaigns; and I’ve found better ways of experimenting than reboots and retcons within an existing campaign, notably the Tryouts category.

28 Months Later and Talomir Nights have worked better as campaigns than the Arioniad. I think this is because they stick to one setting and (largely) one rulebook, exploring new possibilities by introducing new characters and storylines; they avoid retcons and reboots; and blog posts use in-game dates rather than episode numbers.

If I were starting the Arioniad today, it would be a very different campaign; one that didn’t laugh in the face of series continuity, one that didn’t hop gleefully from rulebook to rulebook, one that didn’t reboot more or less at random. Maybe I enjoy it so much because of those quirks, rather than in spite of them; certainly I was very pleased with myself when I worked out an in-game reason for it – ‘turtles all the way down‘.

So far, I’ve tried various combinations of Savage Worlds, Classic Traveller, Mythic, 5150 (both New Beginnings and Fringe Space), Larger Than Life, and Solo in at least four different settings – 5150, and three homebrew. There are several others I could try, but ain’t nobody got time for dat. Moving forward, I need to choose an RPG, a solitaire game engine, and a setting, and stick to them for a while. Note that Fringe Space is all three, while Solo and Mythic are each only one leg of the tripod.

  • Solitaire Engine: Solo wins here; playing at a higher level of abstraction gives it a real edge in terms of speed, simplicity, and ability to ensure specific elements appear in the story. Its roots in Traveller also make it easy for me to use.
  • RPG: It’ll take explosives to shift me from Savage Worlds at this point; although the simplicity of Fringe Space is admittedly attractive, 40 years of Traveller and 10 years of Savage Worlds give me an instinctive fluency with the rules that I simply don’t have with Fringe Space. Maybe later.
  • Setting: This was by far the hardest choice, but of the various SF settings I’ve tried here, I like the Dark Nebula the best, mostly because of the map, so it wins. Solo doesn’t really need a starmap, mind you, just some world stats and the idea that worlds are one jump apart.

Let’s try that combination, and see what happens. However, learning from the lessons of 28 Months Later and Warrior Heroes, I’m going to make this a hard reboot, possibly with a different category. But I have some other things to post about first, so expect that reboot in a few weeks.

  1. SJB says:

    Excellent news. Looking forward.

  2. I shall follow your lead next year and do some solo rpg-ing. I think for SF I shall use Mongoose Traveller 2e, since it’s clean, simple and frankly I am deeply deeply immersed in Traveller. I shall explore the Trojan Reach from Mongoose, since I really like the mix of minor oddball declined empires, heretical Aslan and the very slightest hint of the Imperium. For fantasy I shall follow you to 4AD, especially since I love Andrea S’s games so very much. I shall see how well I can play my very large T&T solo collection using 4AD, I suspect it will work fine.

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