Much of my design work the last couple days has been focused on developing the idea of five main location types — the home, the center, corners, ranks, and files — borrowed and/or distilled from Chess.

Now, if you’ve been following my blog for long, you’ll know I’ve discussed terrain and locations a lot. The idea of an abstract battlefield that can be played, molded, destroyed, exploited, redeployed, and such is one that I really want to push for both the card game and the roleplaying game. I’m aiming for Worms-like malleability.

One of the first problems a game designer runs into when defining places in a game, is that they aren’t people. People don’t identify with places as well as they identify with people. Games, especially storytelling games, revolve around people, not places. If you want a great example, look at the generic lands in Magic: the Gathering.

Players aren’t expected to identify with places.

I’m of the opinion that locations are an important part of the storytelling process, comparable to the role of people. There’s been a push for detail of setting in Dungeons & Dragons, notable with the advances in movement-based powers. Randomized environments play a huge role in roguelikes and the Diablo series.

Knowledge and use of the terrain has played a vital role in military campaigns throughout history and often enough, a small force has been able to overcome a superior force by exploiting the terrain. (See also: The Battle of Thermopylae).

My current work is drawing connections between locations and the factions. Basically, the idea is that factions confer mission objectives, which in turn call for specific types of locations and terrain features. I already have some terrain modifier concepts, which I wrote about in “Planes, Portals, and Barriers.”

I hope to tie together the concepts of locations and terrain types, factions, objectives, and resources, without directly involving tactics. If everything works out the way I imagine it will, tactics and terrain features will have an inherent synergy without being dependent upon one another. This aim is about elegant design.