The Steps to Design an RPG

edited October 2010 in Stuff to Watch
I just produced this article over on my website and I think it might be of particular interest to some designer-type folks. I just posted a link over on the Forge, but I figured I might as well provide it here as well. It's far from perfect, but I think it gives some general guidance on how to design and publish an RPG in case someone is new to the process.

The post on my site is at This link.
The PDF available over Here.

Cheers and I would love to hear your thoughts!

Comments

  • Haven't read it yet, but skimmed the first couple of sections & i'm excited to read it. Thanks!
  • Did you consider all 65 of those questions before you embarked on writing the first half of the Spark RPG?
  • edited October 2010
    I feel like that is a bit more complicated than it needs to be.
    1. Write as much as you need to write in order to play it with friends.

    2. Play it with friends. Talk about how it went.

    3. Edit text, rings and repeat until you feel someone else could play it.

    4. Give it to someone else to play. Get a recording of how it went, watch how it went or listen or ask them.

    5. Edit the text based on the feedback.

    6. Play it with strangers. Play it at cons. Play it with your parents. Play it with everyone you can grab.

    7. Play it with people who are familiar with the thematic content.

    8. Play it with people who are not familiar.

    9. Edit the text.

    10. Edit the text some more.

    11. Once the text is set, now you have time for marketing and all that. Also, getting people to play it, playing it at cons, talking about the process, earnestly taking part in the RPG design community, that helps, it gets the word out.
  • Posted By: Luke WheelDid you consider all 65 of those questions before you embarked on writing the first half of the Spark RPG?
    Did I answer all of the questions before I started writing the game? No, and I am currently suffering a few challenges because I had missed a few of the early questions. The questions are meant to be addressed over the course of the design, so that you can focus on the aspects that really matter at this point in time.

    One of my current problems is that I am currently somewhere between steps 6 and 7 on my current project. I seem to be distracting myself with questions of layout, art, production, planning for sales and marketing. I am putting the cart ahead of the horse because I didn't have a structured foundation to work upon. I realize now that I need to focus on the playtesting and editing tasks.

    Thanks for reading!
  • Posted By: JuddI feel like that is a bit more complicated than it needs to be.

    *clip*
    Agreed, it's long and overly complicated. That said, it is meant to pass on a few tips to very new designers and make them consider a few factors that might not immediately come to mind. When I started off, I didn't realize that there was any option _other_ then Offset, that there were multiple kinds of playtesting or the value of a one-line mission statement for my game. For anyone with experience, this list is fairly unecessary as you have likely already internalized most if not all of the questions.

    Thanks, especially for your more succinct list!
  • I'm wary of mixing design and publishing in the same checklist.

    For your first design, don't you think all of those options get in the way of the actual design? Shouldn't you focus on the design first and then worry about publishing and marketing later? I mean, it's highly unlikely that you'll want to publish your first design anyway.
  • I understand, part of the reason why I included the questions is to point out if certain designs should _not_ be formally published. A good number of the questions are also in place to help with the core design process by defining your design goals.

    I likely did a poor job of explaining how that document is best used. It is meant to ask the production, sales and marketing questions after you have finished all of the design work and refinement. That said, your methods of production might affect your design in a significant fashion. Time & Temp was clearly designed in a fashion to match that production method.

    If it can help a single person design their game successfully, I will feel my time was well spent. At the very least, I don't believe that it is actively misleading anyone?
  • For your first design, don't you think all of those options get in the way of the actual design? Shouldn't you focus on the design first and then worry about publishing and marketing later? I mean, it's highly unlikely that you'll want to publish your first design anyway.

    Totally.

    If it can help a single person design their game successfully, I will feel my time was well spent. At the very least, I don't believe that it is actively misleading anyone?

    Well, you're making it inordinately complex and weighing the wrong parts.

    Start with play. Start with something you wish could be better, whether it be homebrew, GURPS, or whatever. Take out everything you don't like. If things you like rely on things you don't like, put new things in for the things you like to rely on.

    Play with people who don't mind the flexibility of changing the rules so you can modify them as you go.

    Abandon the project if you don't know how to make it work. Maybe you'll figure it out later.

    If you're getting it to work, start going to cons to play with strangers. Take notes. Listen carefully to questions. Never get defensive.

    Keep doing that until it's good.

    Then do the marketing and publishing stuff.

  • Jason, thanks for putting this together.

    Before answering those questions a designer need to know... why do they want to design? What is their goal?

    I suspect your intent was that someone would come up with the "why" as they tried to answer those questions.

    I'm a firm believer that whether business concerns should be part of your design process completely depends on what your goal is. For certain goals, making design decisions based on business restrictions can be very beneficial.

    Settlers of Catan completely revolutionized the modern boardgame world. But the designer's original game was a Frankenstein that merged the base Settlers game, Seafarers, and Cities and Knights into 1 monster game. It would have not been such an amazing success if the designer published it as is without external considerations. Luckily the designer was working for a company who had them rework the design based on business goals and the game was much, much better for it.

    For me the problem with marketing / publishing concerns mixed with design is when a person doesn't really care about making money or isn't designing a game for anyone other than themselves of their friends. This happens quite a bit! Being clear about your goal helps you from wasting time. Many people design as a mental exercise. It's fun! Mixing business into that exercise probably won't help them. But if someone wants to make money, that's a completely different situation.
  • Game Design: Steps to Publish an RPGStep 2: Market Research
    Never skip this all important step; this is where you find out if some kind soul has _already_ written your dream game. Dreaming of a game of amnesiacs seeking to regain their lost memories with improvisational-theatre inspired mechanics? Just buy “A Penny for my Thoughts” and you can devote three years of your life to other pursuits. Market Research can also allow you to find your competition and learn from those products.

    4. What are the essential elements of your concept which make your game unique?

    5. Does a similar game exist? Would that game be close enough that full development of a new game would be unnecessary?

    6. Could you hack or modify an existing game/system to meet your needs?

    7. Is there any significant external audience for the game, or is it simply your play group? No need to formally publish something if it will only be appreciated by your own home group..
    Another way to look at this...

    What problem are you solving?
    It's not a problem if someone else solved it.

    Whose problem are you solving?
    It's not a problem if no one else cares.

    Why are you the person to solve it?
  • Jason, the questions are interesting as a retrospective insight into your design: "Things I wish I'd thought about".

    But that's what they are, I think: a retrospective analysis, rather than questions to ask when designing a game.
  • I think that my fundamental mistake was the specific title; it is really meant to cover the steps to Publish an RPG when I look at it from a distance. Even then, I didn't intend on inserting quite that much of a business slant into the document. I want to support those who are planning on formally publishing games and earning revenue in turn, but equally support non-profit design efforts.

    Note to self, double-check the titles next time so that I am delivering what I am claiming to deliver.

    Thanks!
  • Why are you the person to solve it?

    I don't think this is the right question. It's not about you, it's about your game. A better question might be, "Why is this the right solution?"

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