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This article is based on a rec.games.roguelike.development thread on roguelike themes to which the following individuals contributed: Aercum Dagsson [Arcum_Dagsson@another.c.o.m] R. Dan Henry [email@example.com] element [firstname.lastname@example.org] Amy Vartdal [email@example.com] firstname.lastname@example.org [email@example.com] Bret Jolly [oinkoink+unet@MOOMOOre_xx.com] Ricky Bacon [firstname.lastname@example.org] Olli Willkman [email@example.com] Gerry Quinn [firstname.lastname@example.org] Some posts have undergone minor alterations to aid reading outside the original thread. Enjoy! /Bj????rn Bergstr????m STANDARD MEDIEVAL/FANTASY A world where you run around with swords hacking at monsters mainly pulled from D&D/Tolkien sources, with magic and cleric spell systems also mainly D&D based set in either medieval times, or another world, with roughly medieval-level technology and European-style fantasy. -- Aercum Dagsson ALTERNATIVE FANTASY THEMES The Arabian Nights would make for an interesting background. So might Mount Olympus, with a full pantheon of Greek gods. Japan and China have a good spread of legends to draw from, too. Japanese blood, flesh, and soul gakis would definitely make interesting monsters. Or there's Norse mythology, English fables and legends (Druids, or more contemporary). There are all sorts of places to draw from, really, as long as you're willing to do a bit of research, either through search engines, books of mythology, or both. The magic style doesn't have to be cliched, either. For ideas for magic systems, browse around any new age books store, or the occult/new age section of a regular bookstore. But then, there have been a lot of discussions about magic systems here. Voodoo might be interesting, too... -- Aercum Dagsson And if one can find the materials to do the research, I think India has the most undertapped mythology as far as "Western" fantasy/gaming goes. There are areas which have received even less attention, but none with the long history of literature and depth of cosmological invention found in India. -- R Dan Henry A magical wood where your heroic Red Squirrel Raider must bring back the Everful Bag of Nuts to win the game, risking Big Hairy Spiders, Mean Faeries, Jay Birds, Owls, and the World's Smallest Dragon --R D Henry URBAN FANTASY Elves, muggers, magic, and highly illegal weaponry, all on the streets of LA... -- Aercum Dagsson SCI-FI and DARK FUTURE Much room for cybernetic implants etc.. -- element To keep the focus of ranged weapon (at least in the start) I've made weapons scarce. The start'll be set in a Mad Max like dessert environment. Weapons are scarce and low-tech. Branches, iron bars, knifes, chains, etc will work as close-up weapons. As time progresses the player will enter more populated and higher tech areas, thus setting ranged weapons high on the list. Though things like stun guns and the likes will still require being up-close. -- Amy Vartdal The rulers of the society might have the country in some sort of enforced feudal state, with most sophisticated ranged weapons being highly illegal. The entire game could be taking place in cyberspace, with its own rules, or virtual reality (with the goal being to get back to reality). Or the technology might be so high that most missile attacks are easily thwarted, and most fighting comes down to hand to hand combat, possibly with large mecha. -- Aercum Dagsson I ended up deciding upon both Sci-Fi and Dark Future. IOW, imagine a cyberpunk world in the year 2050 or so, and then _that_ world gets nuked to bits. Like a post-WWIV universe. This way you have the neat cybernetic implants and cool cybernetic hand-to-hand weapons, yet you don't have to come up with ridiculous excuses for lack of ranged weapons. I figured, that if the nuclear war was bad enough, it makes sense that ranged weapons are very rare and ammo is scarce, sort of like mad max. I don't think it needs to be heavy on the ranged weapons. Basically in this world the common weapons would be very primitive, with rifles and such being very rare. Or, maybe they are common but ammo is very rare, cause there are no factories. Yet at the same time there can be little pockets of civilization where hi-tech weapons can be found. But considering the rarity of such places, it makes sense that people will prefer to buy fancy hand-to-hand weapons rather than ranged weapons which require ammo that, when you run out of it, will be hard to replace, without trekking all the way back to the "pocket of civilization". -- email@example.com In a tech-scarce world, cybernetic implants wouldn't prove more lasting than firearms. M-16's might be out but by the time the AK-47's finally wear out, all the cyberpunks will be dead unless they've got some sort of longevity treatment that doesn't rely on now non-functional technological infrastructure. And if you can do surgery to implant cybernetics, you can certainly make bullets. Even lower tech settlements should be able to manage black powder muskets. If you want to limit the use of firearms, make stealth very much worthwhile and account for the noise of gunshots. Or someone can always take my suggestion for a Barsoom-based roguelike where Martian chivalry allows the one who draws first to limit the weapons allowed. Or strong gun control laws made firearms rare before the big nasty happened, so there weren't many to salvage. This would mean only black powder weapons (most of which aren't that great -- a good crossbow is as effective and won't blow up in your face because you used too much powder and a bow has a much higher rate of fire) or if you want a *good* gun you need to take it off some soldier who doesn't want to give it up and probably has some buddies who feel the same way. -- R D Henry ASIAN Asia in general or maybe even anime, with classes like ninja, samurai or shao-lin -- element Combine this with the high technology theme, and go for MegaTokyo, or something similar. Then throw in lots of martial arts with silly special attacks, and blend in a healthy blend of magic. Essentially go for a blend of your favorite animes. The proper way to research this one would involve several weekends watching assorted animes along the theme you want, reading manga, and taking notes... -- Aercum Dagsson PRESENT TIME We know the most about. Set it to cities, make trains to take you from one city to another. Highlander spinoff anyone? -- Amy Vartdal DIFFERENT DIMENSIONS Make your own universe where you can mix and match whatever you want. Neil Gaiman has in his book Never Where a Underground system of people, who aren't noticed by "real" people, all major cities have an underground and there are rather eccentric people and lots of magical objects. -- Amy Vartdal Or you might have a space opera where different worlds in space are linked by teleportation gates, through which only the select few adepts can pass, possibly transforming the adept into a member of a race native to the target world. If you want to keep the technological levels pure, maybe the gates only allow naked adepts with no luggage to pass. -- Bret 1500-1800 CENTURY Though this might limit the number of monsters/weapons available. -- element STEAMPUNK I think it was the Ultima team that did a Jules Vernish game set on Mars. Recently Arcanum did a pretty good job of with steampunk. A setting that incorporates science and magic gives you a lot of room to work, and makes for interesting possibilities. Ranged weapons are present, but they can have a slew of problems associated with them. By making guns rare, expensive, cumbersome to load, etc. you can keep the gameplay from getting too unbalanced. -- Ricky Bacon STONE AGE Hunter-gatherer tribal setting, small early agricultural village, pastoral village, or advanced cultures like Aztec, Maya, Inca. -- R D Henry BRONZE AGE Greek Mythological or Egyptian probably the easiest to find source material -- R D Henry PIRATES -- R D Henry THE WILD WEST You can have a lot of enemies use abandoned mines or caves as hideouts if you want to include some traditional "dungeon" feel. -- R D Henry Add supernaturalities for flavour. Though that setting would have a bit too much emphasis on guns. The point with the supernaturalities is that it's quite hard to think of enough things to fight if you're limited only to criminals and restless natives. -- Olli Wilkman I'd suggest three things for research if you go ahead with supernatural: Native American folklore, Anglo-American folklore (especially "Western", exploration, or new settlement related stories -- the axe George Washington used on the cherry tree would be a cool artifact item), and the role-playing game Deadlands, which is a "supernatural Western" style game. Of course, I'd say look at Deadlands *after* you've whipped up some ideas of your own so you get in your own brainstorming first, then compare notes. -- R D Henry JAMES BONDESQUE Hunt down International Evil-Doers in their secret bases -- R D Henry RELIGIOUS/HEAVEN and HELL A clerical error sends you to Hell: you must escape to Limbo to file for a transfer to Heaven. -- R D Henry Add lots of angels, fallen angels, divine artifacts, sins etc -- Bj????rn Bergstr????m PARANOIA If you're familiar with the Paranoia role-playing game, I think that could be translated into a roguelike pretty well, while calling for some unique features. -- R D Henry BARSOOM Rip-off Edgar Rice Burroughs and make a Barsoom roguelike. There's a world that fits the "kill 'em by the barrel-full" roguelike atmosphere where Martian chivalry allows the one who draws first to limit the weapons allowed. -- R D Henry HORROR Well, you could always go for a gothic/Lovecraftian/vampire horror theme. Depending on personal preference, it could involve tunnels under the city with ruins, ghouls, vampires, ghosts, werewolves, graveyards, non-euclidean realms, and such. Gothic horror novels, Edgar Allen Poe, H P Lovecraft, Ann Rice, and so on would be good reading for this theme. -- Aercum Dagsson POKEMON goes RL "Gotta kill 'em all!". Every monster you kill gives you a special ability that increases with the level (e.g. killing a fire ant gives you a fire missile spell, but the salamander gives you a fireball. Other monsters may give you weapons and armour). As you tool up you go down levels to fight stronger monsters. The object is to kill the lord of every monster type. -- Gerry Quinn
The results of this thread were further boiled down and elaborated by R. Dan Henry as an ordered list of Roguelike Themes.