What is this “Voyages” you keep referring to? 

Voyages in Eternity is just a little homebrew RPG rule system I’ve been playing with since my college days… my “dream design” as I more generally refer to it.

Yes, we had electricity back then.  Computers even.  Wise-ass.

(Ah, the lost joys of the paper punch tape…)


Anyway, there’s been some 20+ years of tweaking, poking, and prodding invested in this little diversion of mine so far.  During a recent expedition into my gaming files, I unearthed some of the materials from an attempt to run an early revision of the rule set as a pen-and-paper game, in 1984 or thereabouts (based on the strata those documents were in 😉 ).  That was an interesting session, as I recall.  The concensus from the players was that it “needed some work”… masters of the understatement, the lot of them.

I also put a version of it up on the web back in 1996/97, presented as a potential design for a “computer-assisted RPG”.  I still run across the occasional dead link reference to that rev on free RPG system sites, amazing enough.  The web never forgets…

And the focus of my posts on the blog here, of course, are how it might potentially be implemented as the foundation of an MMO.

The Principles of the Voyages design

As I’ve tweaked the design over the years, I’ve tried to abide by a set of core principles as a sort of framework or boundary for the effort.

  • Expanded Detail
    • I’ve always liked game systems with a lot of objective detail built in.  In pen-and-paper, of course, I’d simply ignore any pre-packaged detail I didn’t like, and substitute my own, so there was still a hugely subjective element to the experience.  In the MMO design space, however, objective detail is largely the only decision-making tool you have to work with (beyond coin-flipping).  Computers are notoriously poor at making subjective judgements, after all.
  • Genre Independent
    • Staying genre-independent forces a high level review of systems to keep them relatively abstract, and empower different styles of play.  It can also reveal the occasional less-than-obvious parallel between vastly different settings: how is an implanted cybernetic CPU similar to a shaman’s fetch?
  • Implement all Tasks as Processes
    • Or, as I usually put it, “if it is worth having in the game at all, it is worth making it a process”.  The original impetus for this principle was simple frustration at the long-term character development outcomes in “usage-based” games like Call of Cthulhu and the like.  However, it seems to me to gain even greater relevance in the MMO design space… see the economics of UO for details.
  • Emphasize “trying” over “winning”
    • Games which only reward “winning” inevitably lead the vast majority to pursue hyper-cautious styles of gameplay.  My goal was (and is) to encourage heroics verging on the cinematic, while still allowing for the possibility of failure.  ‘Nuf said.
  • Characters are stories, not numbers
    • This is the one that is the hardest by far to translate to the MMO design space.  Computers track and manipulate data… full stop.  These machines wouldn’t know a decent story if it got rammed up their CPUs, sideways.  The goal therefore becomes to give the players the tools to generate and tell their own stories, all without railroading them into your story, as opposed to theirs.
  • Diverge from D&D/D20 paradigms
    • D&D/D20 has simply been done to death.  On the personal level, I was tired of it in 1984 (having already spent vast swaths of my youth playing it, admittedly).  I want to try something new, while still retaining the core outcomes of the D20 design which have made it work so well, and for so long.
  • Knowledge is Power
    • Original D&D had an element of “collection”-style gameplay that I always found enjoyable… wizards had to locate and memorize their spells.  Finding another mage’s spellbook was the highlight of any adventure, because it would inevitably lead to greater flexibility in spell selection (and thus, more power.) 
    • In addition, in the MMO design space, “knowledge” creates a very different interaction paradigm once it becomes “sharable”, if only because, unlike equipment, I can share knowledge with you without losing access to it myself.

Catalog of posts

The following section is where I plan to simply list links to any and all of my posts related specifically to my dream design. (but not today).

In lieu of that, however, here is a link to a more complete description of some of the ideas involved in my dream design, in a loose “FAQ” format.