Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Orthogenesis

Neat idea for a game just hit me while typing up a page on Arcana Wiki about Orthogenesis, a discredited alternative to Darwinian evolution. Orthogenesis proposes linear evolution, instead of branching, so that no two species share a common ancestor. It's kinda silly.

But let's, for the sake of gaming, take it as true. You could run a game with a very limited gene pool, just a few dozen species fighting for survival. Player Characters might be reincarnated, or you just might play an entire species at a time. Point being, each PC is a different species. After every major plot point, the time line is advanced by 30,000 to a million years. When this happens, you spend your experience points evolving your species. I suspect this is going to need a competitive structure - defeating other players in the short term gets you the points to evolve in the future. Eventually, though, the divide between PCs would get pretty big, at which point the GM invokes an external threat to even the playing field (or just hide the difference). Or, perhaps as you evolve to fill niches, your xp awards change. Yes, Mr T-Rex gets points for eating me, but as an r-Strategist herbivore, I get points for hiding, eating plants, and having sex.

At the beginning of the campaign, there's no culture, or language, or tool-use. Those are things you can choose to evolve, along with gills, limbs, venom, camouflage, psychic powers, etc. Obviously, the game system would need to be pretty flexible, yet at the same time have defined options for adaptation.

Ooh, adaptation! How about, at the end of the story arc, you get to propose one evolution for each way you died. He keeps eating me, so I evolve poison and bright coloration in his visual range.

3 comments:

SiderisAnon said...

While the core mechanics are poor because it's Paladium, the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles roleplaying game had rules for evolving your character from animal to near human. Each character had X points to use, depending on background, so you could have one character who is basically a bear with human capability hands and another who can pass for human in bad lighting.

You'd have to go further than they did, of course, because the jumps are too big for the kind of game you would run. However, it could be a starting framework.

Do the game as play by post or play by e-mail and I'd give it a try. :)

digital_sextant said...

Or perhaps it's a game of intelligent design? The tools you have are an undefined way to influence natural mechanics, but since you can push your creatures to evolve to fill niches, it would explain the urge to evolve in a way that isn't strictly controlled by natural selection.

Your last idea, though, is useful -- why some members of the species survived and others didn't is tied to how the ones who failed died.

r_b_bergstrom said...

Your last idea, though, is useful -- why some members of the species survived and others didn't is tied to how the ones who failed died.Unfortunately, it's Darwinian. It has nothing to do with Orthogenesis, which is what started me on the thought of this game. And in a Darwinian game, you'd end up with branching, which would complicate the structure I proposed. I'll need to think more on this. I suppose I can just pitch the Orthogenesis idea, and convert it to tried and true Darwinism.

Actually, that could be pretty cool. In the first story arc, there's only PCs. NPC come up later, as other branches off of PC species from previous rounds. I like how that would grow the game world over time.