I've loved Phantasy Star Online since I first played it on the Dreamcast in late 2000. I've always wanted to transfer it to the tabletop and I've finally got around to doing so, but as a role-playing game rather than the war game I had originally intended.
The Idea of the Game
The player characters are Hunters, highly trained explorers who are sent down to the planet Ragol from their orbiting spaceship home Pioneer 2.
They are tasked with finding the cause of the destruction of the Pioneer 1 colony that exploded as Pioneer 2 entered orbit. The characters will have to untangle the mystery of the Pioneer 1 colony whilst exploring a hostile planet inhabited with fierce beasts (and worse).
Designing the Game
Phantasy Star is a dungeon, even the 'open' Forest areas are clearings joined by paths with no freedom of movement beyond them. In essence the whole game is a single mega-dungeon made up of ten 'levels'. This is good since I've had an urge to design and run a mega-dungeon for some time but also a little strange because, now I've actually got around to writing one, it's made me think quite hard about why anyone would want to play in a mega-dungeon and what makes a mega-dungeon interesting and fun.
My conclusions so far are that the fun comes from two main things, discovery and character advancement; finding out what's around the next corner and getting better at what you do.
To this end the map layout has to be interesting and the loot drops from crates and monsters have to have a direct bearing on improving character effectiveness.
As play progresses he players have to decide how far they want to push on depending on how depleted their supplies are. Like all dungeons it becomes a question of risk vs reward and resource management. The characters can return to Pioneer 1 to restock at any time they're not in combat but returning to Ragol is only possible at certain locations which means certain sections will need to be cleared of monsters again before progress can resume.
The Five Room Dungeon
The five room dungeon concept of Johnn Four stood me in very good stead during the writing of my Black Hack campaign and I'm continuing that practice here. I'm treating each full page map as a single 'room' and creating each level of Ragol from five such maps. Each map is 'themed' in some way with all the locations interacting. Most levels will have supplementary maps for side quests as well. These side quests are one-time-only opportunities for the players to learn background information and garner extra rewards for their efforts. I'm planning to have two per level (except the very first level which doesn't have any).
Phantasy Star takes place on the Pioneer 2 space ship and on the planet Ragol. Ragol is split into areas; the Forest, the Caves, the Mines and the Ruins.
It will be nearly impossible to replicate the exact look of the game on the tabletop so I'm aiming to evoke the atmosphere and a general sense of place instead.
Pioneer 2 is a hi-tech space ship where the player characters live. The only things of note on the ship are the offices of the Hunters' Guild and the shops. No actual adventuring takes place here so I'm not going to spend too much (if any) time on recreating Pioneer 2. My existing sci fi interiors will probably do.
I'm certainly not going to try and replicate the city backdrop (which is only a backdrop in the game and is not interactive) unless I just mount a screen shot like the one below on card and prop it behind the action.
The Forest on Ragol is an overgrown area of plants and trees which have been fused with the remains of the Pioneer 1 colony Cleared areas are separated by doors and force fields from the colony that still work for some inexplicable reason (finding the reason is part of the game).
The Forest is split into two areas, the second darker and more dangerous than the first. At the end of the forest area there is a boss to overcome before the Hunters can access the Caves.
A Hildebeast and a Hildeblue slightly converted from Mantic miniatures.
The end of level Forest Dragon boss from Reaper.
These ruins are from Amera Plastic Mouldings. They're vac formed, very light and very cheap whilst still being sturdy. These are to represent the remains of the Pioneer 1 colony in the central dome.
An out of production Newbold World miniature painted as Ulala Banzai from Space Channel 5. She'll be a hunter.
Some Reaper werewolves have become Boomas.
A Monest and some Mothmants made from some plastic flies from China and a banksia nut.
Infinity miniatures for Hunters. These were all painted by Paul Cook (McYellowbelly), their smallnes and fiddliness proved to be beyond my meagre skills.
Savage wolves from Reaper.
A barbarous wolf, also from Reaper.
Some pioneer 2 scientists from Blind Beggar Miniatures.
Some scenery. Teleporters from CustomMeeple, a pod building from Warbases and switches from Micro Art Studios.
Rappies from Reaper.
My scratch built laser bridges.
Forest level doors from Battle Kiwi.
Group teleporter from Custom Meeple.
Forcefields from WWS.