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2008-03-02, 06:39 AM
Evolution – Behind the screens
Written by Zweanslord, 1 March 2008

1 Introduction
Over the last two years, there have been numerous “evolution games” on the Giant in the Playground play-by-post part of the forums. I, the writer of this piece of text, have played in the first one and its direct successors. Throughout these two years, there have been many spin-offs, games that were set-up by people that saw the fun in those games and wanted to see it brought to the forums once more. At the time of writing this piece of text, the rules of the last ‘official’ successor games are not on the web for various reasons. I have written this piece of text to let future Game Masters (GMs) of evolution games an insight in how to tackle games and what the background of the rules is. With this, I hope to enrich the experience for future GM’s and players of evolution games alike. My intention is to only give an insight on previous games and how they worked, not to tell you how to run your game.

Within this piece of text, there will be multiple sections following. In section 2, a short description of the typical evolution game in its essence will be given. Section 3 after that will give a short history about the evolution games, though this is only for the reader interested in this, otherwise you can skip this. This is then followed by the most important points and tasks of a GM in section 4, which also include an important point for players and rule sets. In section 5, the most important goal for both players and GM alike will be underlined. The evolution games as has been run will be further elaborated and several extensions will be explained in section 6. This is then followed with a section about arbitrariness in section 7 and section 8 contains the final words of this piece of text.

Throughout the text there will be references to older games and in the last section the links to these older games and other references will be given. If you want your game amongst them, please send a pm to Zweanslord on the Giant in the Playground Forum [1].

2 A short description
An evolution game can be easily and shortly described in its core, though this will not be sufficient to run a game. An evolution game is a play-by-post game where the GM controls the world in which the players play. Players can usually either be a species or a god. As species, they control a certain number of individuals, all belonging to the species the player has control over. A god player only controls one individual, which in the beginning is very weak, even weaker than a demi-god and who must obtain worship from the species to gain power.

The game is split in turns, where each turn equals a certain amount of in game time and real time. For example, a turn could last a year in game time and two days in real time. In those two days or other specified time, the species and gods will need to post their actions for that year or other specified time.

Each turn, species get evolution points (EP) which they can spend in evolutionary categories. How much EP a species gets and what the value is of an evolution point can differ. For example, a species could get 100 EP per turn and 200 EP invested in spears means that they are equal to spears from the Roman Empire. Alternatively, a species could get 10 EP per turn, and 50 EP is equal to spears from the Roman Empire.

A God can usually make use of a turn to create artefacts. These can differ between weapons, armour or for example an item that creates water in abundance. The power of these artefacts and the available diversity of artefacts, again, differ on the used rule set.

Noteworthy is that while a game may contain both species and gods, which is usually the case, a game need not have both. This usually applies to an evolution game without gods, for within any normal evolution rule set a god requires the worship of species to gain power. Thus, a game of gods will need a different rule set and that will not be discussed here.

3 A short history
The evolution game concept this writer ever saw on the Giant in the Playground started with the fevolution game: “Evolution, a Game of Gods and Species”, a game run by redwingdragon [2], which started at 10 March in 2006. Lasting only 11 days with about 11 players, this game still produced 497 posts, averaging to 45 posts per day. This shows how active it was back then. However, there were Evolution games before that. It most likely started out with an evolution game called most likely “Evolution” in 2005 or earlier, which was followed by a spin-off on another forum, “Evolution: the game” [14]. This started at 15 February 2005 and ended at 20 March 2005. It had 85 posts over its duration. Unfortunately, the link to the earliest game is currently not known here, if you have any information about earlier games, do not hesitate to let it be known.

“Evolution, a Game of Gods and Species” was followed by “Evolution 1.5” which had a “Creation” thread [3] and a “Pantheon” thread [4] to play in. The Creation was the place for species where Gods could go down to, while the Pantheon was the home plane of the Gods, though this thread was not used a lot with only 22 posts. The game started at 29 March 2006 and ended 24 April 2006. It had more players and 466 posts over both threads. A map was construed by one of the players over time as geography changed.
Unfortunately, since both the first and second games were a long time back, I have been unable to find the status threads of both games so far.

The follow-up in the line of evolution games that were numbered accordingly was “Evolution 2.0” this time having another GM: Chrono. This one also had a split between the world of the species as IC thread [5] and Pantheon [6]. It started at 24 April 2006 and ended at 29 July 2006, but not before winding up with a 4th IC thread [7]. In total, 40 players have played in the game, but people left and came during the period. The pantheon had 550 posts, while over all the IC threads there were 2322 posts. Also, during the end of the playing period, the GMing was done by Zweanslord, taking over Chrono’s job mostly, though Chrono still ran a plot.
I can not currently find the OOC thread, but these were several threads as well with many posts.

A short Mini-Game followed, with Zweanslord being the GM [8]. It started at 16 August 2006 and ended at 1 September 2006, with only 68 posts in the Inner Plane Thread and 25 Outer Plane posts. This game was followed by thoughts about Evolution 3.0 [9]. The flavour of this was used in Evolution 2.5, with Arcanis Shivilrah being the GM [10]. This started at 3 November and ended at 26 January 2007. This was less popular, with only 708 posts in the IC thread and only 12 players.

The most recent ‘official’ follow-up was an Evolution Chronicles playtest for Immortals [11]. It started at 5 May 2007 and ended 18 June 2007. 783 IC posts were made over the course of the game by 17 players. However, the actual game never happened and the playtest for species had never actually started [12]. This was basically Evolution 3.0 to be run by Chrono, but he had too little time to continue.

Before this last game and after, the Evolution 2.0 and 2.5 rules have been on the net and many spin-offs have been made. These either used the rules of the site or even introduced new rules. Recent evolution game spin-offs have encountered that the Evolution 2.5 rules have not been on the net, where as Evolution 2.0 rules have been gone from the net for a longer time. Indeed, the Evolution 2.0 and 2.5 rules were on a different website due to the length of this and to show a better map using a database to the players. A few samples of spin-offs can be found at [13].

4 Main Tasks of a GM
As a person to run the game, thus, the Game Master (or Mistress), there are several tasks and responsibilities to confirm to. The basic and most important are listed below and the last part is important to players and rule sets. This point is in the last paragraph of this section.

• Recruit Players
• Update Turns
• Update Map
• Keep Balance

The first point speaks for itself; without players there will be no game, so no further attention will be paid to that point. Moving on to the next point, we come across turns. As was written in the short description of evolution games, an evolution game has several turns that pass by each few real days. It is the GM’s responsibility to make a post stating that the turn has actually passed. The reason for this is because players may get confused about if the turn has passed or not and it provides stability for the players as well. This means that, if the game has turns lasting 2 days, the GM has to be able to post every other day that the turn has passed, preferably at the same time as well, so that turns are indeed 48 hours if turns last 2 days.

Usually it is the case that the GM has to update the map of the world as well. This task can be done by somebody else as well, such as a player or co-DM. The reason for updating the map is logical if/when you have a map. Players want to know not only where they are, but they want others to know where they are and where the others are. The way the map is updated can be any feasible method. Updated pictures can be uploaded, a text map can be kept and updated or a website with php and a database can be used or anything else. The GM can decide to keep parts of the map unknown or have it all known to the players even if the species would not know. Both parts have their advantages; with an unknown map the players can not meta-game, but updating will take more time as the players explore the map.

The last point is keeping balance. This point is the most vital point of any evolution game and it is the GMs main responsibility to keep the balance between players. What this means is that no ridiculous things should be allowed by players (for example discovering nukes in the stone age) and that conflicts between species of players should be dealt with in a fair and balanced way, such as preventing godmoding and the like. Keeping balance is the most difficult task for the GM. The GM will have to deal with players that try something out of the rules, who do not understand the rules or those who want to abuse the rules. In many of the games, however, there will be players who understand the rules and help out by explaining the rules, noting other’s mistakes and keeping others in check. However, this all depends on your players. And to players reading this; make sure you are part of the latter named players, those who help the GM.

5 Main goal of the Game
Why is there a separate section dedicated to the main goal of the game? Because this is one of the most important points for GM and player alike. It is something that everybody must keep into account to make the game as good as possible.

The Main Goal of the Game is for EVERYBODY to have FUN.

That sounds obvious, right? Unfortunately, it is something that can be missed quite easily. Because it is not just the intention to have fun yourself, but it is just as important that others have fun. You may think it is fun to conquer the world within the first age, but it is guaranteed that not everybody likes that. Should that prevent you from trying to conquer the world? No. What you should keep in mind, however, is that when trying to conquer the world, be reasonable, realistic and try to make a conflict that encourages and enhances roleplay, not decrease it. Keep an open mind and try to stand open for possibilities. During roleplay, it may come to show that your species is actually moving away from the ‘conquer the world’ scenario or that other scenario’s are more fun for all involved. When this occurs, you might wish to reconsider your options. This, naturally, does not apply to just conquer the world but any. As species evolve during the game, so can your game experience evolve to a richer and more pleasant experience.

Furthermore, the GM is just as well a player. The game has to be fun for him/her too, so players should not try to make his/her work harder than it already is. Thus; abusing rules should not be done and be prevented by fellow players and GM alike in the ideal situation. As long as that is not possible, the GM has the final word.

6 Elaboration
Within this section, several points of a rule set and things noteworthy will be tackled and further advice will be given to GM’s and players alike as to what to take into account. However, there remains two things that one should always take into account:
• The main goal of the game is for everybody to have fun.
• Fairness by balanced and compelling gameplay enhances fun.
While the first point depends largely on the GM and the players, the latter point can be tackled. In previous games there have been several features and several advantages and disadvantages will be pointed out, advice can be given and insight in workings of the rules will hopefully follow.


What is EP worth?
This is one of the questions that players will wonder a lot, even if it is indirectly. This is also where the most mistakes are made. Usually, people tend to think that even low EP is worth quite a bit, not realising just how much EP they need to put into an evolutionary category to get it up the level of usefulness they want. A way to tell what EP is worth is by detailing comparisons. For example:

1 EP is the start of the technology – it is even stupid in the stone age.
20 EP is at the end of the stone age, comparable to the beginning of the iron age.
40 EP means that the category is comparable to a similar middle age technology.
60 EP means that the category is like a modern age technology.
80 EP means that it is technology such as we imagine for the near future.
100 EP in a category means that is comparable to science fiction.

As we see here, the comparison is drawn to technology and our own human reference. This comparison does not exclude magic, for the magic can then have comparable results to the technology. However, this also means that care must be taken by both players and GM alike, for drawing such comparisons can be difficult. One could also give references for specific categories so that a better judgement about the general picture can be gained, though this will be more effort on the part of the GM. In general, since no specific reference for everything can be given, such a means of comparison can suffice. It does mean that the GM will have to watch players closely, and other players can help by correcting others. Because even with such a comparable means, players will try to for example put 10 EP in Fireball and think they can toss said fireball very far and be able to burn whole forests quickly if enough people use it. Or have fire breath and expect they will not get burned by their own breath, which is naturally not true.

Alternatively, players might ask what the difference is between 6 or 9 EP in an ability. However, a GM should prevent being somebody who the players ask this continuously to. Each time the GM answers such a question, it encourages the player to ask that for everything. Players have a certain amount of freedom in making up what an ability does, as defined within the constraints. As long as the player does not go nuts and takes reason and balance into account, this should, ideally, work out fine. For cases when it does not, the other players and the GM are there to correct and aid players to gain the right insight.

EP Ratio Investment
In evolution games, EP can usually be bought in evolutionary categories at a 1:1 ratio. What is meant by this is that when you invest X EP in category Y, category Y is X worth. Alternatively, you could change this. In Evolution 2.5, the following system was used:

Between 1 and 10 the cost to increase is 1.
Between 11 and 20 the cost to increase is 2.
Between 21 and 30 the cost to increase is 3.
Between 31 and 40 the cost to increase is 4.

The reason this system was used was so that it showed that higher proficiencies with an evolutionary category were more difficult to obtain. This works well with the ladder of improvement in “What is EP worth?” so that the ladder can use a linear scale, but is has shown to be annoying. Why? Well, people will either not understand, forget about it and more importantly, they will have to record how much EP they put in it and how much it is actually worth. This hassle, plus the hassle of calculating how much EP they actually need to invest proves to be far more annoying. A better way to tackle the difficulty of more advanced technologies is by adjusting the ladder to be non-linear. For example, the example given in the above section could just as well be:

1 EP is the start of the technology – it is even stupid in the stone age.
20 EP is at the end of the stone age, comparable to the beginning of the iron age.
50 EP means that the category is comparable to a similar middle age technology.
100 EP means that the category is like a modern age technology.
200 EP means that it is technology such as we imagine for the near future.
400 EP in a category means that is comparable to science fiction.

So, to conclude, it is heavily advised to use a 1:1 ratio for EP investment and not use a very linear scale. Because with a very linear scale players will see that specialising is too good. Assuming the linear ladder of EP worth, take the next example example: Player A has 20 EP in armour, 20 EP in clubs, 20 EP in walls and 20 EP in shields while Player B has 80 EP in fireball magic. Player B will annihilate Player A in a cinch, despite Player A having spend an equal amount of EP in offensive and defensive categories. In this case, Player B is not just 4 times as good, but much, much more according to the linear ladder worth of EP, due to ages of human technology not being linearly worth the same.

Comparing EP
Species A has 10 EP in wooden spears and Species B has 10 EP in leather armour. Individual I of Species A attacks Individual J of Species B. What happens?
This is the difficulty when EP is compared. Does equal EP prevent damage from being done? Is there a chance the spear still hits? Is armour ‘damage reduction’ or ‘lower chance to hit’? Is this balanced? Unfortunately, I do not have the answer to these questions. This is because this is a complex question and either way will have consequences that might be exploited or seem unreasonable to one and not to the other. Even worse may be the situation where Individual I of Species A attacks Individual K of Species C, which has 6 EP in leather armour and 5 EP in wooden shields.

Earlier, a direct 1:1 ratio was used. Thus, physical defence counter physical offence. Fire resistance counters fire. Etc. In Evolution 2.0 [5-7] Toughness, Agility and Intelligence counted as 1/3 counter towards offences directed at that. Such as agility counting 1/3 for effects that would ‘count as a reflex save’ in D&D, toughness being a counter against other physical effects and intelligence works against mind effects.
Or consider a species that has Daze 30 EP, Change Emotion 30 EP and Sleep 30 EP. What if another species has Strong Will 30 EP or Intelligence of 90 EP? Is it immune to those earlier effects? As written above, it would be the case, but is it reasonable? Balanced? Again, I do not have the perfect answer for you.
Saying that you must invest in a perfect counter ability per ability, such as the categories Resistance versus Daze, Resistance versus Emotion Change and Resistance versus Sleep are not good solutions either. The reason for this is that Resistance versus those three effects will be so limited in function and it means that a species must build too much defence versus offence. Suppose a species is attacked by a fire breathing species and one using spears. Meanwhile, the species had invested EP in Resistance versus Daze which does nothing to it now. This measure makes building a defence too useless compared to improving offence. It is difficult not to think up a ‘bad’ situation for any of these rules.

What works and what does and how EP should be compared depends partially just on how the GM wants it and the world to work. There is no clear answer to what is ‘best’ or what is most ‘fun’. This depends on the GM, the players and the situation.

However, what should then be used? Well, an untried idea is that you could divide the offensive category by the defensive category and multiply this with fifty, giving the percentage of times the offensive category works. Another idea, which may be even more useful, is that the GM decides upon a way but does not tell anybody specifically and instead just resolves conflict. This way it leaves the players guessing, not as abusing the rules and gives the GM some leeway.

Starting EP
At the beginning of the game players get EP to invest in their species. In previous games, they usually get some minor ‘free EP’, at least 1, at the start in certain evolutionary categories:

• Intelligence
• Strength
• Agility
• Toughness
• Grasping Appendage
• Language

With the possibility to forsake grasping appendage and get that EP ‘back’. However, this usually confuses some people that come in after the first turn. Is that EP still free or included in the EP you gave? Note that being clear on that point will speed things up for new recruits. Furthermore, it is recommended that the free EP in the above mentioned categories is above 1 EP and is not a tiny part of the starting EP. For example, if the starting EP is 30 EP, the above categories could get a free 5 or even 10 EP. Furthermore, additional categories such as the following can be included:

• Vision
• Hearing
• Touch
• Taste
• Smell

The reason for this is that some might wish to get rid of those abilities and later in the game, the ability to regain the standard level of vision, hearing, etc, is not just 1 EP away. It shows that these abilities are quite important and represent something as well at the start, instead of just being able to put in a few EP and increasing strength to 500% just because you raised Strength from 1 to 5. It means that losing those abilities or decreasing those abilities will mean something, be a more real handicap.

Clarity of EP categories
A player should always give a clear indication of not only what the evolutionary category represents, but also what it does and what it may do in the future. “Fire Magic” is not a clear category, for it can have several meanings and can prove to be too diverse for a player. “Fireball” is a much clearer category, but even then, range and strength of said fireball should be described by the player. A good description also makes it better to compare categories with others and see what differences the species have in execution of their category.

EP Categories
In earlier games, evolutionary categories were often defined as belonging to either “Physical”, “Supernatural” and “Technology”. This was used often to aid categorisation and insight in what belonged to what, but did little in mechanics, besides placing a restriction on Technology. Further details about EP Constraints will be in that section, which is after the next section..

EP Stacking
“My race has 10 EP in Stone Houses and 10 EP in Stoneworking. Does stoneworking make my houses better?” In Evolution 2.0 [5-7], stacking was allowed. 10% of the EP invested in tools would be added to technological categories that used them and 30% of the EP invested in <material>working categories would be added to technologies categories that used them. While this seems more realistic, it can be annoying and confusing to keep track of EP this way: “You have 13 EP in stone architecture, but is that 13 EP you invested or 13 EP including stacking?” Especially since players need to keep track of this, mistakes can be made with them. Thus, to prevent confusion with that, it is better to get rid of that. Thus it is highly advised to not use stacking or any of such kind. Instead, they could serve as a constraint, which will be discussed in the next part.

EP Constraints
In previous games, there have been constraints to EP investments. What this means is that technological categories could not have more EP in them than the species had EP in Intelligence. In Evolution 2.5 [10], supernatural categories either required Intelligence, Toughness, or a category as power source, such as Absorb Light or similar categories that give energy to do your supernatural thing.

Instead of stacking as described above, one could use constraints to make things more realistic. For example, if you want to invest a lot of EP in Stone Housing, you have to invest a certain percentage in Tools and Stone working as well. After all, without tools or knowledge about how to work, how can you build complex stone houses and castles anyway?

Trading in Population for EP
In the first evolution games, one could trade starting population for EP. To future GM’s, it is highly recommended that you should not allow this. Why? Because usually population grows at a rate based on the previous population while EP does not. This means that a species that traded in half its starting population will, over time, not have half the population of others, but far less, while the EP gained in the beginning is but a small fraction of the total EP it has now. This means that the species has become much weaker. Some players might argue that they want a much smaller population, but this places them in such an unfair position over the long run that a GM should not allow this.

Language and Telepathy
Language is one of the categories people have the most problems with. Even if you tell them that 20 EP equals normal English speech, they will let their species speak with full sentences and complex structures while they only have 10 EP. The best way to remedy that is to make language one of the categories which you clearly specify how complex it can be at certain EP levels and give enough examples.
Telepathy or Hive Mind or however the player calls it poses difficulties often enough as well. With just a few EP, the player thinks a whole town can talk with each other or act as one since they are linked to each other or have a hive mind or such. A better way to tackle this is to let the EP investment represent the range of telepathy or the amount of individuals or at least some good qualifier as to what the telepathy/hive mind category actually represents.

Another couple categories are often left forgotten in the dust as well. This is hierarchy, infrastructure and social order. What I mean with this is not specifically those categories, but that inside the community of a species, people tend to forgot that having a system such as a monarchy, a network of traders or a certain established social etiquette that improves social efficiency also count evolutionary categories. After all, the species evolve, develop and learn those abilities over time. They are, as is, much like a technological ability, but then on the social plane. Thus, it should not be possible to have kings with 0 EP invested in any social hierarchy.

Furthermore, often there are a lot of friendly interactions within a specific species. Which seems fine, but as long as species have not encountered other species and taking into account that there are limited recourses, most species should not just be altruistic without a good reason, or rather, a reason. A species banding up against a common enemy is a good reason. A species that is wired to altruism in their brains is a reason, though these will not suddenly go to war with other species. Be reasonable here, and also take into account how species interact with other species and Gods. No species would just instantly worship a God just because he winked at them. No species would instantly recognise another species as being sentient and take as their holy mission to cleanse the world of them just because they stare funny.

One of the players will most likely want to have an aquatic species, a digging species or a bigger favourite: a flying species. Aquatic is fine, though a species will not be able to breath both water and air in the beginning, the player has to make a choice. If the species then wants to breath water or air, it will have to invest EP. Agility usually stands for the speed of the species, though if a species has wings said species should invest EP in wings too. The reason for this is that flying is a major advantage over walking and the investment in wings represents how high the species can fly and how manoeuvrable it is. A species that digs should just be slower than a walking species: Digging takes much more effort than walking. Hence, a species with 10 EP in agility will move much faster than a species with 10 EP in digging.

Water versus Land
It must be take into account that when aquatic species are allowed and played, that the proportion of water on the map compared to amount of land is important. If there is twice as many water as there is land and twice as many land races, the water species will have far more room to expend and will end up with a much higher population in the end. Further, aquatic species will have a harder time of crossing land than land races will have crossing water, since land boats for the aquatic species is not as viable as water boats for the land species. Also, if you have a map where the borders are water, the aquatic species will try to go beyond ‘the borders of the map’. Is the world round, flat or different? These questions will come up eventually.

In previous games, there has been the possibility to be other sizes. Usually, the D&D sizes have been used and species start out as Small. By investing EP in bigger or smaller, bonuses could be gained. However, in retrospect the rewards given by bigger or smaller were too large and size should be the goal of investment, not the means to get a much higher population growth compared to other categories. As described in the worth of EP, one could draw a comparison between EP and levels of technology, so can each level instead represent a size change in the case of this category.

Each turn, species get EP. However, from Evolution 2.0 [5-7], there have been ages; after so many turns the next Age would begin and the EP per turn would increase. For example, Age 1 the species get 10 EP per turn, after 10 turns Age 2 starts and the species get 20 EP per turn, after another 10 turns it is Age 3 and the species get 30 EP per turn, etc. The reason for this is twofold. First, human society and technology has made moved faster in recent history than it did in the stone age and second, when players have 200 EP after 20 turns, an additional 10 EP seems much less awesome and fun as it was 20 turns ago. Thus, in a way, it allows the player to have more options and get more out of the game as Ages go by.

There are several ways to deal with species population growth. There are numerous ways to think of a formula, but what has been the case in previous games has been that fertility of the land occupied has played a role. We will take Evolution 2.0 [5-7] as primary example as to how population growth could be. In Evolution 2.0, each square in the map represented a land type and had a fertility score. This defined how high your population could go before it population growth decreased.
Each evolutionary category would also count towards either adaptability, resilience or nothing. Adaptability are all the categories that provide food for the species or make getting food easier, for example hunting, farming, etc. Resilience is how good a species can survive in bad conditions against the wild nature, thus versus weather and predators. This means that offensive and defensive categories would count towards it, as well as categories such as housing and cold resistance.
For each X total EP in categories counting towards adaptability or resilience, it would increase with 1 level. Population growth was then based on a percentage in addition to a percentage based on the resilience level and a percentage on the adaptability level. The latter level was lower, because higher adaptability would also increase the effect of fertility, letting more people on the land.

However, what categories would count for adaptability and resilience sometimes confused people and there was one thing worse. Later in the game, keeping record of all the population in the many, many squares a species would occupy was a total nightmare. There was a calculator on the Evolution 2.0 in which you could input the population of a square, the adaptability and the resilience and it would give the population of the next turn. But when you have dozens of squares, this becomes annoying, especially due to the different fertility scores.

A way to get rid of that is to either make population calculation easier or to make it so that by for example adding all fertility scores of the squares you inhibit and inputting adaptability and resilience, the new population would be calculated. Even better would be to have a database with a map and an integrated calculator, but most people do not have those means. So, unless you have those means, keep population growth calculations simple enough that even later in the game it will not prove to be too much of a hassle.

Also, on a different subject than population growth, starting population is also an important subject. It will have a major impact on starting roleplay, whether this is just a few tribes or many, how quickly species tend to wind up in great civilisations and how fast the population will grow during your game. This also affects how much worship a God can have in the beginning and later on. Furthermore, it should be taken into account how much population can live on each size unit of the map and how dispersed they are over the size units of the map at the beginning of the world, dictating how big the world may seem.


A description of Gods
In Evolution 2.0 [5-7], Gods had three things: a Major Domain, a Minor Domain and a Supernatural Power. They could cast miracles with MP and create minor or major artefacts during their turns. In Evolution Chronicles the Supernatural Power was exchanged for a point method, defining their various powers and they could only make minor artefacts at the beginning. Miracles became per turn abilities. However, in both, they needed worship and this strengthens their power immensely.
Note that Gods can be even more freeform then races. While races will always be able to understand what a God communicates, it has more freedom. Since Evolution 1.5, Gods have their home in another plane, from which they can travel back and to the plane with the species. In their plane or Pantheon, they can make their artefacts of power.

The domain of a God can be anything, but they are more proficient with the Major domain. In general, a Major Domain is what they are, and a Minor Domain is what they (might) do. Examples are Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Architecture, Hunting, Strength, Order, Peace and so on. There are a few domains that should effectively be banned:
Life – too general, overlaps with other domains.
Death – see above, but overlaps with other half.
Technology/Process/Intelligence – bad concept and way too broad.
Magic – way too general.
Nature – Might be possible, but too often confused with life. Better to take Plants and Animals as your Major and Minor domains (or the other way around) or any other specific aspect of nature.

Supernatural Power
This one is rather tricky, for you have to keep track of Gods not taking a too powerful ability nor a too weak ability. Examples are: Flying, faster movement, passing through solids at will, exceptional strength, great warrior, speaking with animals, engulfed in flames, made of water/earth, etc.
Alternatively, the God can just be given EP each age to spend on his or her individual statistics in comparison to species.

In Evolution 2.0 [5-7], there were 10 Miracle Levels. Each turn, a God would get Miracle Power (MP) per turn based maximum MP, which was in turn based on amount of worshippers (which you would input in a calculator) and the God could use this to make short and weak effects in the beginning to strong and lasting effects later on. Gods could only cast miracles that fall within their domain. A fire god would be able to conjure up a divine fireball, but not conjure up water, illusion or anything outside of its domain.
Each higher miracle level would require more MP and different kinds of worship. To give an example, these were the requirements for the first three levels in Evolution 2.0:
• Level 1 Miracle – 10 or more followers
• Level 2 Miracle – 200 or more followers and at least one place of worship (ie altar)
• Level 3 Miracle – 1000 or more followers and three or more places of worship
Note that in Evolution 2.0 the species started out with 1000 individuals, but due to their primitive nature would be scattered, so the Gods would have to visit quite a number of settlements. Also, an individual of a species could not lend its worshipping power to more than two gods.

The disadvantage of the used system back then was that there were too few examples and rules of what a miracle could do per miracle, especially for higher miracles. Further, higher levels were not tested. Additionally, there was the problem of “What is the difference between a 4 and 5 MP miracle?”. It is easier and more pleasant to use a method of X amount of Level Y miracles (if you can cast from that level) per turn. That way, it encourages the Gods to use their miracles each turn and gets rid of the numerical MP’s and their troubles. However, make sure there are enough examples or guidelines on what each miracle can do.

Since Evolution 1.5 [3-4], Gods have had their home in the Pantheon, or Outer Plane, or however the GM wants to call this different plane of existence. Within, they have their rooms which they can shape to their own will and outside of that is a meeting hall. In Evolution 2.5 [10] there was a lot of flavour for the Pantheon and there was a crafting hall even. Within the Pantheon, the Gods can not harm each other.
From the Pantheon the Gods can traverse to the plane the species are on and teleport to it. They can not teleport between two spots in the plane of the species; they must travel by the Pantheon. In Evolution Chronicles, the gods manifested their avatar on the plane of the species instead. The appearance of a god can not change on the plane of the species (unless you are the god of transformation or make a disguise or similar). Furthermore, there should be some cool down time to teleport, else the god can just hop around as they like. This can be a day in game time.

Divine objects made in the Pantheon by Gods are artefacts, these are the only items they can take to the plane of the species, despite their ability to change the Pantheon around them. Crafting can be done each turn and it can not be saved up for later on. It only takes a God some game time to do it, but he or she can not do it more than once per turn. A minor artefact takes one turn while a major artefact takes three turns. These can be weapons, armour or any other useful item. Their power is, naturally, limited. A way to measure their power is by seeing it as either an item that gives a certain amount of EP to the user in the category they represent. Naturally this means that a major artefact will be three times as powerful or can have three different abilities. A turn can be spend to upgrade previous artefacts, but an artefact can only be upgraded five times. A minor upgrade takes one turn and a major upgrade three turns. A minor artefact cannot get a major upgrade.

When a God (or avatar as in Evolution Chronicles) dies in the plane of the species, it is not permanently killed. It is just send back to the Pantheon, not allowed to interact with the plane of the species depending on the damage done that ‘killed’ it. Usually this means that they are out of action for the rest of that turn and the turn after.
Permanent death is, however, possible. After a God gets followers, at any time he or she loses all these followers, he or she dies forever. This event has never really happened in previous games though. More likely is that the God dies by a ‘random occurrence’ or otherwise described as the player not posting anymore or leaving due to, for example, lack of time to post.

God Name
It may sound weird to have this section about naming Gods. This is not a reference as to how players should name their gods, but as to how the evolution game should refer to its Gods. One of the points is that the term “Gods” implies a lot. In Evolution 2.5 [10] and Evolution Chronicles [11], the term Immortal was used, but it was far less catchy then Gods. The reason why Immortal was chosen over Gods is that in the beginning, players with a God are weak. They are weaker than a demi-god. They are not even wielding epic power. Actually, they may just be wimps. But they are ‘Immortal’, because death does not permanently kill them. They will grow out to be as powerful as gods, but since they are not that powerful at the start, terming them gods may grow bad expectations for the players. Alternative names would be demi-gods, quasi-deities, heroes, avatars (of their domain), outsiders, etc.


Each turn lasts a certain amount of in game time and a certain amount of real time. However, due to the nature of play-by-post, it might mean that for example interaction between a God and a species lasts three turns, which is a ridiculous amount of in game time. However, such things are natural to this method of playing. An alternative is to just make time more fluid and not say something as specific such as a turn lasting a year, but this gives in itself again other things, especially when conflicts arise. Furthermore, a turn lasting a season, a year of 365 days or a year of 1200 days is quite the difference. It means that species have more to detail out what they do and effectively gives Gods less time to do something since a turn can pass swiftly, and with that, in game time. However, it also shows that time has passed more, so that evolution could have done more work. What to do is up to the GM, but take into good consideration what to do and how it will affect species, Gods and players alike. And, as it matters quite a lot, make sure this is defined at the start of the game.

Several times in the beginning of an evolution game there has been a small ‘plot’ for the species; they are faced with local predators and each time at the end of the turn this takes the form of casualties unless/until the species develop a way to deal with the threat. Such plots can be run by the GM and can be done later as well. The quantity and involvement of such plots depends on the GM, but there is also the possibility for players to ‘run plots’. What this means is actually interaction between species. For example, in Evolution 2.0 [5-7] there was one species that tried to get all species together. Gods are even more powerful for this purpose, since they can hop around, give ‘divine quests’ and the like and really add something to interaction with species. Even conflicts can be seen as plots in their own way that can be tackled in a fun and exciting way for both players. Interaction is a large part of the game, especially further in the game when species meet up with each other. Players can and should try to change things outsider their little community for this increases interaction and dynamicity of the whole game environment.

Further in the game
It may not seem at first like the far future is something to be worried about. But if the game is successful enough, suddenly you may find yourself three months later, with a still active game and 45 turns later. Then, everybody has tons of EP, all kinds of wacky abilities, the world is completely stuffed with population and there are food shortages for newborn (or the species decided not to breed much more than 1 child per person). Gods may or may not have used this time to grow in significant power and spark up intense divine conflicts. There may or may not have been immense conflicts. All in all, players and GM alike should take into account that if the game keeps running, it might go a long way. Think of the end-game, think of how much calculation may need to be done when the world is overpopulating, think of how powerful Gods might be with that kind of worship. Is space travel actually possible? Might not seem like a question worth asking at the beginning, but a few months later this question might, indeed, be asked. Be prepared for the unthinkable later on… surprises exist everywhere, especially with the creative minds of players. So be wary of decisions made and their consequences, because you might regret major decisions with unforeseen consequences later on.

Other Categories or events
The above list is not able to cover what players think of at all. There are many possibilities and the game is, in a sense, rather freeform in its execution. Hence why it bears so many problems – communication is key in such games. What does this do, what do you want it to do and so on. When a player does not know the difference between 6 or 9 EP in Fireball, he or she should not ask the difference to the GM, but make a proposal as to what it does and ask if he or she is right in that. When two species meet each other and find they both have knowledge about architecture and start learning from each other, a method of learning and mechanical advantages may be suggested by the players. The GM can, naturally, think of this as well, but a player should not ask “How would I do this?” or “What does this give me?” But rather ask “I thought of this and this, would it work or is perhaps that and that better?”. This makes communication between player and GM much more smoothly.

Roleplay Points
To stimulate players actually roleplaying instead of just saying “I spend 5 EP in stoneworking” and leaving it at that, the GM can award Roleplaying Points (RP) or Negative Roleplaying Points (NRP) in the case of bad roleplaying such as meta-gaming or posts without any in game events such as spending only EP. RP can be used by the player to make beneficial events; they are kind of like free species specific miracles. In Evolution 2.0 it could be traded in for EP, but it is recommended that this is not done. The reason is that most players will then just pick to trade for EP, which is too big of a reward. Too much accrued NRP would result in bad species specific miracles triggered by the GM, for example, a sudden food drought or disease spreading.

2008-03-02, 06:40 AM
Roleplay Advice
This is a part of text that was on the Evolution 2.5 site, granting a piece of advice on preparing a species.

Role-playing advice: Sit down for 10 minutes and envision your species.
• How exactly do they look? How does their body structure affect who they are?
• In your mind, run through a usual day of an average member of your species. What do they eat? Where do they sleep? How do they communicate with others?
• Run through one lifetime of an average member of your species. Where/how are they born? How are they organized (small or big groups, spread throughout the territory or centralized)? (most likely packs, but any order which is more complex than a pack leader must be evolved) What do they do with their dead (just leave them, eat them, pile a bunch of stones on the bodies? As burials come later and are faith-induced I would be happy if you role-play more complex burial schemes, though they do not require EP).

You really don't have to put all of the above in your species description, but if you keep those points in mind it would be much easier to roleplay your species throughout the game. While huge race descriptions would be cumbersome for most to read, remember that we only know about your race what you tell us, so make sure you include everything important.

Racial Tips
Give a description of all your skills you invested in and how powerful they are at the current level. Also make sure to give an adequate description of your race as a whole.

NPCs. They're wonderful. Use them en masse, it gives the Gods personalities to interact with, makes the race seem like more than a collection of numbers and box text, and makes internal interaction for a race much easier. Second, branching off of the internal interaction idea, have it. A group of thousands of sentients working in perfect harmony with no conflicts is a nice dream, but how often does it happen. I suggest those playing races think about having the haves, the have-nots, the gotta-gets, and all the groupings and subgroupings in-between, at least in their mind if not on paper. These divisions are what make races come alive. If things would natrually progress to it, you could even have a civil war, once your population is large enough. I know that in the beginning everyone works together for survival, but once beings gain power over their world, they will begin to squabble over who gets to rule that power. Civil wars are a great source of RP, population control, and an easy way to get your race to switch to a slightly different track.

Another good idea is to represent what kind of speech your race has with your current language skill if it is worse than English speech.

7 Arbitrariness
In several points of the Evolution sections above it has been said that the answer to that is not here either because it is a too complex issue or is dependant on the desire of the GM, players and situation. In the God description above, there has been less explanation about the why of the given rules. This means that a GM has plenty of freedom to adjust it to his or her needs and he or she can even make a whole new system for the Gods or alter EP rules significantly. And that is fine. This piece of text is not meant to dictate how an evolution game should go or to present rules. What is it meant to do is to give GMs and players insight how a rule set could work, what implications might be possible and what options are useful by giving advice on certain points. The way Gods were done is just a way; it could have been done differently which was shown in the difference between God rules in Evolution 2.0 and Evolution Chronicles, though both rule sets are not currently online.

Not only is there a measure of arbitrariness in the rule set, because you can change numbers a lot and neither would be better than the other, but there is also a certain form of arbitrariness the GM can introduce. By not revealing part of the rule set or setting of the world and resolving conflict on basis of that unknown without revealing the rules; for example dealing with species versus species conflict, it can help to prevent abuse of the system and people feeling unjustly underpowered even if that is not the case. However, this will also mean that the rule set or setting is not completely clear and known to players. While this can definitely be a good thing as it can lead to surprising and greater focus on fun instead of meta-gaming or rule set, it also introduces the possibility of favouritism from the GM. Thus, whatever you choice, think about it with care.

8 Conclusion
And now we end up with the final section. This has been a long piece of text about Evolution and I hope that it proves to be useful for GMs and readers alike. One of the basic things that this piece of text has wanted to make clear is that an evolution game has many variables to it and GMing such a game is not to be taking lightly. It will take time to run and keep others in check, however it has the potential for other people to have fun in as long as the world and its players is in balance. With that, a dynamic, evolving textual world can be created. Rule sets can change over time and some are not necessarily better than others. But effort put in them will show off and provide for a better and more structured gameplay.

There have been enough spin-offs of the evolution game genre where the GM did not see how much effort it would take or where some things were not taken properly into account. With this, I hope that future evolution games and GMs of such games will think twice about just diving in and come up with a good game instead of a game for the sole reason ‘to just be able to play’. Bad games can spoil the genre for newcomers, though new players excited by this concept can pick up this genre and make something beautiful of it. A game is, after all, only as good as its GM and its players.


[1] Giant in the Playground Forum: http://www.giantitp.com/forums
[2] Evolution, a Game of Gods and Species (IC thread), run by redwingdragon13: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=16411
[3] Evolution 1.5, run by redwingdragon13, Creation: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=16297
[4] Evolution 1.5, Pantheon: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=16311
[5] Evolution 2.0, by chrono, IC Thread 1: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=16216
[6] Evolution 2.0 Pantheon: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=16008
[7] Evolution 2.0 IC Thread 4: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=16004
[8] Evolution Mini-Game Inner Plane, by Zweanslord: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15904
Evolution Mini-Game Outer Plane: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15944
[9] Evolution 3.0 Flavor Thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2372
[10] Evolution 2.5, by Arcanis_Shivilrah, Recruiting: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=26467
Evolution 2.5 IC: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=26757
Evolution 2.5 Status: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=26466
[11] Evolution Chronicles (Evolution 3.0) - Immortals Mini Game I by chrono: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=42282
Evolution Chronicles (Evolution 3.0) - Immortals Mini Game I Status: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=43114
Evolution Chronicles (Evolution 3.0) – The eye of the storm: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=43113
[12] Evolution Species Mini Game I by chrono: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=42280
[13] Evolution Spin-offs
Evolution: Next Gen by Hoorex: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=36890
In the beginning… by Maldiem: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=31176
Evolution 9.9 by Emperor Demonking: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=56968
Evolution of a World by Talfrey: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=59862
[14] Evolution: the game: http://www.the-underdogs.info/forum/viewtopic.php?t=39821

2008-03-02, 07:01 AM
For me the main thing to remember is that planning and design that you haven't done at the start will come back to bite you on the butt later on. This is very important for both players (race/immortal design) as well as GMs (world/quest design).
As for GMs, the most common pitfall is this - if you allow something that's a little bit broken, it will be used again and again and soon it will result in major breakage. Examples: a race that was allowed to build a big wall with relatively little effort - soon enough half the world was walled in. A race was allowed to terraform the land and at the end game almost the entire world was terraformed. A single skill/category was allowed to be used for multiple types of damage and soon that player invested in this category only resulting in way too broken firepower. Thus for me game balance has always been a game of cat and mouse with the more creative players. Just keep in mind that problems tend to expand and explode (and they never ever go away on their own) and you may be able to prevent a lot of game breakage.
Evolution is still one of my favorite PbP games and me and Zweanslord are working to get the rules cleaned up and back online again (in a few weeks, have patience). I do this every time an Evo discussion thread is posted, so I'll do it again - to everybody who still cares, I'm still working on Evo 3.0 automated system and rules whenever I have time. It's just that I have a lot of real-life work as well as other projects that completely fill my day and distract me from upgrading Evo after 2.5.
So stay tuned - Evo is still alive in the minds of its major contributors and sooner or later we'll have another big long game running (or at least a fun spinoff).

2008-03-02, 07:08 AM
Interesting essay, but it has a big flaw: it got the early history of the game wrong. Namely, the first Evolution game (or at the very least, the planning of one) did not start in March 2006, but in fact much earlier. I don't remember the exact date, but the true first Evolution must have started in early 2005. I know this because I've run another Evolution game inspired by that one on another board (here) (http://www.the-underdogs.info/forum/viewtopic.php?t=39821&highlight=evolution), and that started in February 2005 according to the timestamp.

I don't know if the original GitP evolution game is still around somewhere, but as far as I remember, it was pretty close in style to the one I've run, at least as per the initial discussions. In other words, it was strictly about the evolution of an animal species, no sapient cultures and technology, no gods, etc.. Also, it was pretty freeform with no byzantine rules on gathering and spending points and the like.

I thought I should point this out.

2008-03-02, 07:18 AM
I think your clarification is a matter of term definition - for me evolution games that we speak of in this thread are defined by their ruleset (EP rules versus entirely freeform) and are heavily based on the idea of sentient species and (usually) gods.
So the game you mention, while definitely a precursor probably does not fit in the definition of Evo that Zweanslord describes, since many of the points he discusses are present in later games but not in the precursors.
Either way your comment is useful since I'm pretty sure most people who played Evo with me are not aware of those precursor games.

2008-03-02, 07:35 AM
You have a point there, but I just think that seeing how the original game was actually called "Evolution", it should be, at the very least, mentioned if the essay is striving to be historically accurate about Evolution games. I mean, it's like you can't talk about the history of AD&D withour mentioning OD&D, and you can't talk about the history of D&D in general without at least mentioning Chainmail.

2008-03-02, 07:49 AM
Thank you for pointing that out, it is now added to the post. Also had to shift the last subject of section 6 to the second post due to character limits of posts. I do appreciate that you pointed it out, because we have known little about other games before "Evolution, a game of Gods and Species", also because I think redwingdragon13 may not have seen the game you mentioned. At least, he never mentioned it. Typical that one of the first replies goes about that detail.

The Glyphstone
2008-03-02, 08:13 AM
Ah...yes....Evolution games....good times....

Sorry for an otherwise unhelpful post, but it was Armin PokeTheBard who created the original semi-freeform Evolution.

Emperor Demonking
2008-03-02, 08:15 AM
Did he, the first person I saw was Micah Davis (?), but yes the Chrone evolution games are a lot different from the poke the bard evolution games.

Helpful read by the way.

The Glyphstone
2008-03-02, 08:28 AM
Whoops - it wasn't Armin, it was PokeTheBard...:smalleek: Armin created the EverDream, the original "Gods" game - that might be worth a mention as a precursor to the 'gods as players' component of modern Evolution games.

2008-03-02, 03:22 PM
Well, that discussion really enlightened me to one thing.
I was sure some people (Armin included) always seemed to be playing another game while actually being players in my Evo version. Some of those players I know for a fact that never really got the concept, but that explains why one or two of them were really trying to take the whole game (rules as well as IC/OOC) on a different tangent - similar, yet different and always more freeform.