Here are all my X-Com posts in chronological order. Some of the ideas and details in earlier entries have now been modified. Enjoy and please give me your feedback! I have compiled a workable System Reference Document, and am making some final decisions before alpha testing it.

If you’re not familiar with Cortex Plus, you can check out the Primer linked below the articles. Also, if you want to play the originals for computer, I believe you can find packages with the whole series on Steam for about $5 (I could be wrong). Another way to play this game is by downloading the free UFO: Alien Invasion (check out screenshots below.

X-Com RPG articles:

  1. Theory and Initial Ideas: Stories that Shape Us – Vulnerable Heroes
  2. Initial Ideas: Drop-Team Gameplay (with video)
  3. Theory: Design Decisions: Building Tension with Time
  4. Beyond Combat: Running the Organization
  5. Game Structure: So How Does this Work?
  6. Game Structure: Play Progression
  7. Game Structure: Campaign Considerations
  8. Research: Embracing an Infinite Tech Tree
  9. Character Generation: Making the Grunts Matter
  10. Trooper Combat: Mayhem & Madness: Morale & Injury
  11. One Roll Invasion Pool

Not familiar with CortexPlus?

Want to Play Some X-Com?

Either snag the oldies on Steam on the cheap or check out UFO:Alien Invasion, which had its first stable release in Nov 2010. It looks beautiful, though I haven’t played it. See for yourself.

Geoscape and Sun (image from UFO:AI)

Farm Raid with Skyranger (from UFO:AI)

Night Mission at Bunker (from UFO:AI)

Geoscape Nation Overlay (from UFO:AI)

3 Responses to X-Com RPG

  1. Hello all – I just read that an X-Com RPG was being considered earlier this morning, and it got me to thinking about how introducing an online element for funding to the classical RPG battle-squad/tech tree elements might be of interest to those players who like not necessarily online multi-player, but online community elements into their game.

    So as I remember it – and its been several years since I’ve played original X-Com game, the team funding came from donations of about 20 countries. At beginning of game all countries gave a certain amount based on population and/or wealth. As the game progressed, those countries would increase funding based on how effective the XCom folks were at taking care of alien activity in their country. If the team did well, funding was increased by that country. If a country was ignored, that country would reduce funding, and ultimately stop funding altogether as it “sided” with the aliens.

    This seemed like a very simple and effective model for the XCom computer game, but if you were to build an RPG game (or movie series, or any other sort of medium) this “funding for the team” seems like the sort of thing that could be ripe for re-development.

    One idea I had as I read that an RPG was being considered, was effectively making an optional rule that blended the pnp-style RPG elements with an online community element to have funding based on the free-market rules of supply and demand of any one country to have the alien encounters dealt with in their territory.

    I would have to do more noodling on how the actual mechanics would be implemented, but I’m thinking something like how the website “Hollywood Stock Exchange” http://www.hsx.com works by putting a commodity value on taking care of a given region at any given time based on player interest in certain regions, and gameplay. I think this might afford some interesting social game play elements as well as ingredient of randomness for those GM’s choosing to adopt such elements.

    So again, just some thoughts, but, let’s assume if players wanted to as an optional funding rule , they could register at a website for their team on the Global Alien Crisis Website. TeamA becomes a privateer-squad created to help defeat the Global Alien Crisis (AGC) and advanced $100K by one of the AGC funding venture captial funds. They would register where their base is.

    Looking at the current state of the AGC website Team A reads what different countries are paying to fight terror in their area
    USA paying $25 per sectoid, $40 per SnakeMan, etc.
    China paying $30 per sectoid, $50 per Snakeman, etc.

    The website would also show what other teams are fighting elsewhere:
    Team X (based in SanFrancisco) is fighting Alien engagement near Hawaii
    Team Y (based in Norway) is fighting Alien engagement near Oslo

    When TeamA sits down on a Tuesday night to play an encounter with their friends, they go to the website and say “Where are the hotspots” – the website grinds out a list of potential engagements in different regions (3 small sightings in US, 5 medium sightings in Europe) along with an ID for those encounters. Depending on what sort of material the GM had prepared for the evening, and how they think they may best profit, the select, “Team A is now fighting a medium encounter in Europe with key xyz” – this then get’s posted to the website, and now effectively the “demand” for more privateers has gone down for Europe.

    Team A plays it games, rolls some dice… has some fun, and when their game night is finished their GM submits a report that says “Team A went to encounter xyz has killed 6 sectoids, and captured one snakeman in Europe”. The simple algorithm would then spit out, The AGC thanks you and pays you $2500 for your service”. This then get’s registered, and the DM uses this figure as money as part of the reward for the players.

    Factors that could influence how much supply/demand factors could include:

    * How many Teams have registered bases in any given area (if no one has registered a base in Iceland, it might pay better…)
    * Activity of teams (if team A only plays 1x per year, their base becomes idle and therefore payouts may increase for that area
    * Obviously “supply” could be managed by the system admins for the website, based on how many teams they see playing the game online (the more teams that are playing, the more potential encounters to choose from)

    You could also start gradually introducing elements to effect different parts of gameplay on the system i.e., alliances between countries and aliens that might affect how many encounters are available, etc.

    The goal would be not to make it mandatory to require this service, as money/experience could easily be doled out by a GM who wants to manage the state of global conflict themselves but merely introduce another element of potential randomness and color and give player’s a sense of community.

    Anyway, just some quick thoughts I had, if nothing else I hope you guys find it an interesting read.

  2. thickskulladv says:

    So I was able to read through more of your posts this morning to see what you’re thinking on the XCom RPG. A great and welcome distraction from the D&D module I’m in the final stages of writing. I think it is a brilliant idea and I apologize if my thoughts might go against what you’re already thinking/planned as I just discovered these sites and it piqued my imagination. I will also say that as a long-time player of D&D (1st edition up through 4th) and strategic board games, my background may be biased there. That said, I did play XCom and XCOM 2 a lot when they were first released, so I’ve got a pretty good grasp on the game mechanics in that game, and have played several of the spirtual sequel games (UFO:AI, Aftermath, etc.) so I can also give a bit of insight of what those games did well vs. not as well vis a vis the original.

    So, if you guys do value my perspectives and would on this I will commit to learning CortexPlus and see how to incorporate those principles.

    Without further ado, let me first comment on topics you’ve already broached in your posts:

    • Tactical Squad Combat: I think this would probably be the easiest to implement at first, as I agree you could probably do some sort of derivative of D20 modern. Now that said, I’ve never played d20 modern, but having a squad based combat which was very dependent on placement on a map, against monsters with different capabilities seems like a very natural extension of the 4ED D&D rules I do play fairly frequently so I have to imagine this will carry over. I think you are right that you’d want to add conditions to the characters of Panicked (similar to how 4ED has Dazed, Prone, Unconscious, etc.). It looks like your CortexPlus is the mechanic you’re going to base the game on, which looks like it will be well suited to tactcical combat. I think it’s a very good idea to base the tactical combat off an existing – and hopefully open source or openly licensed – system as I think the biggest challenge ahead is putting the other parts of the XCom universe into RPG land
    • Licensing: Before you go much further, I suspect you have already thought that obtaining a license to create a game branded x-Com may be difficult and/or expensive. That may not be a problem, but I think if you could obtain the license you’d automatically have a strong marketing draw (that’s always the “pro” of marketing.
    • Time: I actually disagree that time mattered much in the tactical combat (in fact in the xcom game, and specifically xcom 2) the tacticl could draw on forever if you had an alien hiding in a closet on a large map. How often in XCom2 did I spend an hour or more searching some large cruise ships every nook and cranny before the encounter would end??? In the “other” parts of the game, though, I think time will have more impact, but would be an element not often see in most RPGs so that may introduce some interesting new rules. I specifically think the time rolls out side of turn-based combat will not work out that well once playtesting begins. I have more ideas on the “outside of combat” later.

    Now, if I were to look at the macro level XCom, you have several things going on that I think you’d need to address:
    • Character Creation – these would be the PCs used in tactical combat as addressed I think this is a straightforward process based
    • Base Mgmt – like the PC game, this is also straightforward process as far as money and map – a PnP conversion from the PC game could go smoothly – the challenge will become funding
    • Funding: This will become an all import element for the RPG, but once the mechanics of How do my player’s get money is worked out, it should be relatively straightforward. I think this is part of the experience that gets delivered at the beginning of a game session – see my other post for more thoughts on how you could also include elements
    • Technology Research: I will comment on this later, but I agree with other threads that this is where improvement could be made. At the end of the day, the squaddies will need different types of weapons that affect alients with different types of strengths and vulnerabilities. One thing I did NOT like about PC game is that if you hired more scientists, research would happen faster – that’s now how the world works. I do like that certain research could not happen until you’ve discovered or interrogated certain weapons, corpses or live aliens – this was part of the genius of original game design.
    • Manufacturing: similarly, I did not like how more technicians made tools faster. This is where RPG could improve.
    • The Aliens – I think you can actually use a standard set of aliens (at least in the beginning) monster manual style, but also with “levels” – this is also how its handled in PC game. In the beginning when your players are first level, you only throw sectoids at them, they won’t start seeing “higher level” monsters until the PCs are higher level (see here as a potential starting point)
    • The space fights: these mini-games were the weakest part of the XCom PC game, and I think could be avoided for now, or handled with some sort of simpler mechanics of how you actually “bring down” a large UFO spotted over Japan…

    So I think a standard evening of play could go like this:
    • GM gives update on the world terror market – where is the most activity, which countries are paying for xcom protection and hiring (privateers)
    • Optionally: GM could say at the beginning of the game that the Base Commander needs to report to UN Security Council – this would add some elemtns of traditional RPG NPC interaction
    • GM gives player’s a pile of money based on previous experience, or as venture capital funding if it’s a new game
    • GM then determines if new weapons may be available (I need more noodling here)
    • GM reviews active Terror Encounters
    • PCs pick an encounter to go to (and to be clear, most GMs will probably have one encounter already pre-defined, but based on what the player’s choose from the pool, will add additional traits such as location nuances, NPCs, etc.)
    • Player’s then do their standard based “encounter” similar d20 modern combat encounter
    • Upon completion, GM takes the traits of the completed encounter (how many monsters killed, did they bring back new technology, did they bring back live aliens, which country did they kill these aliens in) and then put those factors back into the Security Council readouts which will then affect how much money they get at the start of the next game cycle.


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