Leviathans Primer Development Continued…

As you develop a brand new game with a huge, persistent universe, you always run into the question of ‘how much sourcebook fiction material to include?’ How much do you need to really immerse someone in the universe and how much is over-kill?

Obviously you run into the same situation with the rules. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been trying very hard to keep the game play simply and yet able to stage up easily to various levels of complexity. Part of that is splitting the rules into three rulebooks: Lieutenant’s Manual (Quick-Start), Commander’s Manual (Core Rules), Captain’s Manual (Enhanced Rules). Even under that system, however, I just made the decision to take several very cool rules that were in the Captain’s Manual and hold them for the faction expansion box sets we’ve planned for down the line…they were just that one or two steps too far for the first release.

Like the rules, you run into the same situation with your universe book…a give and take as you zero in on just the right amount of info. However, I think at the core you need to cover the following:

1. In a miniatures game with a “star” machine (especially if that machine is tweaked from what we know in the ‘real world’), you better showcase your cool machine and ensure that as a person finishes up reading that section ‘they’ understand how cool your machine is and buy into it (obviously in this case the leviathans).

2. Cover all your major geo-political factions. In an alternate-history setting that means showcasing where the divergence is and what makes a faction interesting. And you better make each faction different and cool, cause setting up a faction to be the “vanilla one” or the “one that kicks kicked” will haunt you for a life-time.

3. Personalities. You need to give a face to the various factions. In this case you need uber-characters (the movers-and-shakers for the large-scale political arenas). The British Empire isn’t simply a monolithic geo-political entity that straddles the Earth as its most powerful nation. Instead it’s composed by various people with their own agendas, such as First Sea Lord Fisher that fought against the entrenched British wet-navy traditions to help forge one of the world’s best air-fleets…and made a bevy of enemies along the way.

In addition to such towering figures you also need in-the-trench characters; the captains of ships and so on. Such as Tai-sa Kusunagi Sado, who was present at the Japanese fleet’s defeat at Tsushima and in place of committing seppuku remained in service, despite shame, and now commands the Kuroraikou-class Kuroitsuki (Black Moon)…an example of the rebirth of the Japanese Imperial Navy.

Finally, because the leviathans are also the stars of the show, clothe those stars in their own personalities. You don’t want them simply reading about a French Cruiser. You want them reading about the Dunquerque, which after a run in with a German battleship in 1907 sports “the scar” that tracks from her deck to her electroid tanks. A badge of honor her crew refuse to allow to be fixed.

4. This is a game about conflict. Provide some hot spots around the world of where the various empires are starting to but-heads. You can then, in the rules, explain how players can take that info and wed it to a scenario to move it far beyond a simple game of flying ships fighting over a patch of sky. Instead, your scenario for the evening is a desperate scramble between a British fleet lead by the HML Leviathan and French fleet lead by the Jean Bart over the Suez Canal…and win or lose the desperate battle might just ignite into a full-fledged war. When the “Leviathans’ world” stakes are melded to a game, a scenario is never just a scenario.

5. Make sure the very words you use accentuate the flavor of your universe. Now obviously you don’t want to go wild. If you threw in every colloquialism (both for the time period and country involved) it almost might be unreadable. But you sprinkle in just enough and it can make all the difference. And you also cheat where you can. For example, we’re using British spelling throughout the sourcebook…doesn’t do much for those in England that will hopefully pick this up, but for the American audience it’s a subtle trick that can pay big dividends in letting people feel the wind in their hair and smell the black powder and burning coal on the wind as they read through the book.

6. Never forget the power of art. As with all the fantastic full-color artwork, I’ve tapped Doug Chaffee to do all the black and white artwork for the interior…some wonderful scenes that really capture the flavor of this universe.

Now there’s a lot more subtle things that go into this…not to mention I keep thinking there’s one or two things I want to try and slide in and this is after the books already been edited and is on the verge of heading to layout…but that’s how it works. Never satisfied, always pushing and always hoping the end product is as cool as you see it in your head.

See ya next duty shift!


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