Creating a New Table-top RPG System, Part 2

Where do we start?

In Part 1, I reviewed several major RPG systems and described what I do and don’t like about them.

I want to build a new Table-Top RPG System that is:

In this article, I want to discuss my own thought process on how to build a system. I did a little online research and am completely dissatisfied with what I found. Very few of the articles I found answered the fundamental question: Why?

Here are some links I found that are worth reviewing:

These articles link to others, so depending upon how lazy or proactive you are, feel free to review them. I don’t want to say their advice is good or bad; I just want to say that it’s all part of the experience.

Let’s tackle the rhinoceros. Why build a new RPG game at all?

It’s easy to come up with a lot of reasons not to: it’s been done before; there are already thousands of games (most of which I’ve not played); there’s no real market for new games; blah, blah, blah.

What are some other reasons? I don’t like the existing games that well; I think I can do better than those guys; I’m a creative type of guy and I like building new things; Maybe if my game is good enough I can market it and make some money; etc.

What about me? What are my reasons?

As a game designer, I want to build a tabletop role-playing game that fits my perspective of what a role-playing game should be. Presently, I am unaware of any existing system that achieves this hypothetical model. I believe my experiences in game design will allow me to create a system around a core-mechanic that is fun and easy to play. As a creative person, this is something I’ve been wanting to achieve for a long time, as evidenced by several attempts over the past 30 or 40 years.

Where do we start?

Obviously, I’ve already started by going through very important steps: reviewing what’s already out there and clarifying why I’m doing this at all. The next step is theoretical, which goes against the advice offered by at least one of those linked sites listed above.

If I don’t discuss theory, I’m left with my choice of these three “Next Steps.” In my oh-so-humble opinion, skipping theory is a dangerous idea. What are these “Next steps” to choose from?

1. Building stat-based characters.
2. Creating a core mechanic.
3. Establishing a setting.

Why not start with one of these? There are a lot of reasons, so let’s discuss them briefly.

Stat-Based Characters
In this model, as described in the WikiHow article, we come up with a list of core stats to describe a character. We think of basic things like “Strength,” “Intelligence,” “Dexterity,” and so on. For the games I’ve seen, this list is as few as one single stat to as many as 20 or 30. We go through and somehow assign a number to each stat and decide, arbitrarily, what is “average” and what isn’t. From there, we expand into a set of mechanics, which then helps define the setting rules that are needed. If you’re reskinning a different game, this approach is fine. If you’re building a new game, this approach is tired and overused. Very quickly, as a designer, you fall into a myriad of traps that can only be addressed by more rules and more mechanics.

Core Mechanic
Starting with a Core Mechanic may seem like an effective way to get around the pitfalls of a stat-based core design. Unfortunately, this leads to a rabbit-hole full of different problems. If the mechanic is too broad, it becomes too abstract for many of the challenges a character might face in an adventure. Using the same mechanic over and over may get boring. Adding flexibility to the mechanic turns into another set of rules, and likely, more mechanics.

Starting with a Setting takes the approach that if we decide what setting the characters will live and adventure in, we can build all the mechanics and the characters around this design. While this is certainly a more holistic approach than the other two, we quickly find ourselves asking questions about the setting we’re not prepared to answer at the earlier stages of design. Furthermore, building a setting-specific system limits the audience of players to those who are only interested in that setting, whatever it may be. If you want to drag your setting-specific system into a different setting or genre, kicking and screaming, you are forced to fill the games by, you guessed it, adding more mechanics.

Perhaps now you understand why I want to discuss Theory, first. Once again, I turn to my friend, Google, for some perspective.

These links prove I’m not the first person to ask these questions, though I do appreciate the sentiment found in one of these links, “Organizing the fun out of gaming.” I want to create a game experience that is first, and foremost, fun. Likewise, it is impossible to make a game that is fun for all types of gamers. The GNS theory outlines three basic types: Gamism, Narrativism, and Simulationism. I get that not everyone agrees with these categorizations, nor does every individual gamer fit into any one of them. However, they do provide a reasonable starting point to discuss the theory behind the game I want to create. Go to the related sites for their definitions. I’m going to re-interpret them to suit my needs in my discussion.

The explosion of Euro-gaming over the past two decades is a clear example of gamism at its finest. Euro-style board games are presented as family games that create an environment where all players start as equals and have roughly the same chance to win or lose, depending upon the decisions they make during the game. Randomness is minimized, though not eliminated. Many of these types of games are single-mechanic engines. In an RPG, these types players like mental and strategic challenges, a variety of balanced options, and they want to know that their decisions are meaningful – not just in the short term, but in the long term as well.

This model recognizes that characters grow and change over time. These players thrive on the moral and relativistic quandaries presented to them. It’s all about the story, and, like a good novel, these players want to ride the same kind of narrative rollercoaster.

This is all about how mechanics create the illusion of reality in the form of simulation. Players who like “crunchy” games more likely fall into this category, because they like the tactical layout, the math (even if they aren’t good at it), and the virtual struggle their characters experience. While balance is a factor, it’s less important to these players because they want to excel. This starts with how they build their characters and how they improve their characters over the course of the adventure.

The question I have, as a game designer, is can I cater to all three? Can I find the sweet spot in the Venn Diagram where all three of these categories intersect, and while doing so, not alienate or ignore their proclivities? As a player, I know where I fall. I know what is more important to me, which means whatever I end up designing, it’s going to be within that vision.

As a mental exercise, I’m going to attempt to roll these three categories against the three game-design approaches. I hope I’m not biting off something too big to chew.

As I outlined this section, some of the combinations seemed like natural fits. This is one of them. A Gamist will likely enjoy the challenge of a point-build character construction system where they must choose how to assign their stats, weighing the positives and negatives of each choice.

Not quite as natural as the first, this is still a good pairing. The Gamist wants fair, predictable, and consistently-applied mechanics. The less randomness, the better, meaning rolling “smaller” dice types like d6 or d8, compared to d20 or d100.

Some Euro-style gamers don’t care about the setting at all. In my experience with Euro-style board games, sometimes the setting seems tacked on as an afterthought. This is further evidenced when the same mechanic is used in a variety of settings. However, a good foundation often lends to a more complete and more satisfying game experience. For the pure gamist, though, all setting does is provide context for the flavor text.

The fewer stats, the better. When all we care about is plot, numbers are almost meaningless. Can a character can be described using words? Rather than saying “My Strength is 18,” can we instead say, “My character is stronger than an ox”? There’s no such thing as balance and the toughest decision during character creation is coming up with a name.

The game master can roll dice behind the screen to help drive the plot. The players don’t need dice at all. Everything is descriptive and imaginary: Theater of the Mind. There are some gaming systems that thrive on this approach, but they severely lack the crunch that a lot of gamers enjoy. The narrativist wants nothing more than to see his character improve over time, but without solid mechanics, it’s hard to quantify.

This is the natural fit for the narrativist. The setting can be as narrow or as broad as the imagination permits, but the rules of the chosen setting permeate the experience. A gritty John Wayne-style Western will be distinctly different from a steampunk Wild-Wild West-inspired game. Once the overarching decisions are made, the expectations of the players become predictable and formulaic. This doesn’t mean creativity is lost, it just means that we have a clear framework to express it. And it’s done without numeric-based mechanics.

Numbers are everything, and all we care about is creating the best character possible. I once watched a player roll 4d6, take the best 3, in groups of 6, over a hundred times until he rolled a set of stats (for Pathfinder) that he found acceptable. It is extremely predictable for these types of players to assign their highest rolled value to the stat that gets the greatest bonus and choose their character class where this stat is primary. This, in many circles, is known as “Min/Maxing.” D&D 5e offers hundreds of character-build options, yet, every day I see questions on Facebook asking, “What’s the best build for a…?” In terms of what? Combat? Probably.

Every action must have a rule and a mechanic to resolve it. Simulationists like to calculate the odds and potential outcomes for each of their options in a given situation and will always choose the best. If this means repeating the same action over and over until their character or its opponent is dead, that’s okay. This is what’s fun for them. A good mechanic, or set of mechanics, is key to a good simulation, making this the third natural pairing.

As I’ve mentioned previously, setting creates a framework around the mechanics and characters, establishing limits of reason and logic. Just because you won’t see a Panzer rolling into a fantasy battle, there had better be rules (and mechanics) for how an armored warhorse is handled. For the simulationist, everything conceivable within a setting needs to be covered. They don’t want game masters making up rules on the fly because it’s unpredictable and too-easily biased.

As I dance through these theoretical concepts, various ideas flit through my brain. Things I like, things I don’t, things that don’t matter, things that do. I’m not yet ready to start (restart?) building my game, though. I think the next step is to summarize what I presented in Part I by adding some additional context and perspective. I’m going to get a little more personal as to what I do and don’t like. Hopefully, from this exercise, clearer ideas will begin to form.

As I review my previous article, I realize that several components are covered from different angles. I’ll try to walk through each component in a logical fashion.

Task Resolution Mechanics
Task Resolution is the heart of simulationism/mechanic game play. It must be predictable and consistent. Other games approach this in a variety of methods, some of which are clearly “better” than others. The primary take-away is that all major games have this component and is generally considered the game’s core mechanic.

To understand task resolution, one must have a general concept of probability. I’m not talking about university level courses and complicated math equations, but more along the lines of “how likely is my character going to succeed or fail a given challenge?” This is Boolean by definition, even when the yes/no paradigm is insufficient. I wrote an article about this a year ago here:

This typically starts with the supposition that a person with “average” skill will succeed an “average” challenge fifty percent of the time. Whatever randomized mechanic is chosen, be it cards, dice, drawing lots, paper-scissors-rock, or I-don’t-know-what-else, fifty percent is always going to be fifty percent. The extension of this supposition is that if a person is better than average, their chance to succeed will improve. If the task is more difficult, their chances are diminished.

The next piece is determining the scale. Do I want a tight system with a small amount of variation, or do I want a highly graduated scale with many levels of variation? Fifty percent is the same whether I’m rolling a single d6 or d100. However, a d6 can’t handle 53%. The push-back asks how much do the minor variations matter?

When we talk about success or fail, we must acknowledge the extremes. Some games refer to this as “critical hit/miss” chance. In this case, the minor variations matter quite a bit. A lot of systems arbitrarily decide that the maximum roll is an automatic success and the minimum roll is an automatic failure. Life is unpredictable and strange things can happen. Even though the odds of me hitting the basket from the far foul line is infinitesimal, there’s still the remote chance that it could happen. Likewise, if I’m standing on a 10’ step ladder next to the goal, there’s still a chance I might miss. The question we ask, in a narrative, RPG setting, what should those likelihoods be? One in twenty? One in a hundred? One in a thousand? The problem with this determination is that it can never be applied consistently or logically in all circumstances. Admittedly, some RPG systems are better than others.

The system I want to design must follow the same basic logic of success and failure. However, I want also to acknowledge degrees of success and failure. Likewise, I want my mechanic to be dynamic enough to consider skill and difficultly accordingly.

Character Generation
I’m of two minds here. I love random the character generation process, but I recognize the inherent imbalance of it. Point-build systems fix the balance, but characters end up getting built the same way. I don’t know yet if there’s a happy medium. I certainly haven’t found one in published games, though the random character generator in one my prior attempts almost succeeded at this. In that system, cards are drawn that determine the stat values, but the cards are not recycled into the deck until the generation process is completed. On the positive side, you get a randomly generated character that is somewhat balanced. On the negative side, you let fate determine the type of character you must play.

One aspect a lot of games use is the concept of “derived” or “calculated” stats. I’m not a fan of this because it’s an added layer of math that I don’t think should be required. Why not just use the stats as they are? Of all the systems I’ve played, Savage Worlds handles this the best, despite the huge flaw of scale. The D&D/Pathfinder model is the worst in that the primary stats are never directly used. For anything.

The next layer of calculation and complexity is the concept that skills and stats are built upon each other. It’s a layer of specificity that has both good and bad points. Remember that assigning numeric values to stats is an arbitrary abstraction used to facilitate simulation. It makes sense that some skills give additional depth to a character’s individuality and uniqueness. However, in practice, how many of those skills that you’re forced to take are never used. Or, if they are, aren’t used effectively. Also, how often do you wish that some of those skills aren’t tied to the attribute the rules put them to? Sure, the rulebook may say, “instead of Wisdom, you can use Intelligence or Charisma… blah blah blah” but in practice, you’re always going to use the stat that gives the best bonus overall, if you’re given a choice. And if the stat bonus is the same, it doesn’t matter either way.

The final aspect of character generation found in other systems I want to discuss is the concept of feats, talents, or specialties. For the most part, these options offer situational bonuses and penalties that typically have a rather narrow application during game-play. Rulebooks typically devote ten or more pages to these special abilities, whether they are driven by race, class, level, or just plain fiat. Players will almost always look for ways to use these special modifiers in every conceivable situation, and it’s a common bone of contention when the game master decides the situation doesn’t apply.

Is there a way to handle these issues? My friend’s game, Chapel Fjords, takes an inventive approach. Rather than assigning numbers to stats, the player decides, during character creation, which of twenty-two characteristics are most important, and ranks them accordingly. This highly abstracted system falls apart quickly when trying to apply a randomized mechanic, but conceptually, it has a lot of merit. I’ve played a couple of prototype systems where a smaller set of stats were ranked in the same manner, and they fell into the same trap Chapel Fjords does, just quicker. Their way of handling it was to abstract and virtualize the game play as much as possible so that the impact of the stats was lessened.

Another approach, which is more in line with what I’m favoring, is to identify only the stats that are meaningful. To this end, there are two game-play aspects that I’m considering handling differently. The first is the simulation aspect, covering tactical combat and task resolution. For this, we need combat-related stats, like Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. The second game-play aspect is social, which can be described narratively. Rather than giving a Charisma a number, why not say the person is “Outgoing and Impulsive”? By not using numbers, players are encouraged to role-play their character in social situations. The game master may still roll dice to gauge an NPC’s reaction, but it’s more of a scale than a true/false, success/fail Boolean.

In a lot of ways, combat is an extension of task resolution. Generally, there are two types of task resolution: opposed and non-opposed. Opposed means I am actively working against someone (or something) else to achieve a desired outcome. Non-opposed means I’m facing a static, environmental challenge. Using a rope to pull a rock off the top of a cliff is non-opposed. Playing tug-of-war is opposed. My chance of success in either case is going to hinge upon several factors – my strength, my knowledge of ropes, my footing, and so on. Is it possible to consider all factors when determining the probability of success? Theoretically, yes. Practically, no.

Combat is the highest form of opposed task resolution, even though most systems treat it more as a non-opposed type of system. Consider D&D/Pathfinder, for example. In D&D, you, the player, make a roll to hit against the target’s Armor Class. The Armor Class is hardly more than an arbitrary number based on the armor being worn and the defender’s dexterity. Some character decisions and modify this number, both in favor of the attacker and in favor of the defender, but ultimately, it’s a static target. However, if you want to grapple your opponent (in D&D 5e), it’s now an opposed roll where both parties roll against each other. Why isn’t normal combat like this? I think it should.

In the system I want to design, both attacker and defender roll simultaneously. Modifiers are applied and whoever rolls higher wins.

Races and Classes
In my prior article, I list these separately. In the rough draft, I had them together but was forced to break them apart for clarity. I can lump them together in this discussion.

As a game mechanic, I find these to be artificial contrivances players can use to further min-max their character builds. While it will be impossible to break from the min-max mentality, I think that race modifiers should be minimized, if they exist at all, and classes should be completely free-form. So far, I’m proposing a system where the only numeric stats are those related to task resolution – specifically combat and other physical tasks. Social tasks, on the other hand, should be role-played.

Traditionally, dwarves have always been considered stronger and tougher than humans while elves are more agile. Within the framework of the character build system, there’s no reason a player can’t create a “weak” dwarf or a “clumsy” elf. My perspective is to allow them to assign points to whatever physical stats they want, and whatever they assign is what they are.

A dwarf’s natural sense of rocks and mining doesn’t make sense for a dwarf raised on a pirate ship. That sense comes from cultural upbringing and experience. I can draw the same types of conclusions for all the traditional (and non-traditional) character races.

The same argument is made for classes. Why can’t I have a cleric that is adept at sneaking? Some systems allow builds like this, but mechanically, they end up relatively weak. The traditional systems reward specialization, so long as the adventuring party is sufficiently balanced. But is that expressly necessary or realistic? Why does every adventuring party require a tank, a finesse fighter, a healer, and a crowd-control artillery character?

In the system I want to create, I don’t want to impose any limitations based on class or race during character creation and subsequent character development. One might think this will encourage min-maxing, I submit that by separating task resolution and social interaction, players will be forced to consider building a more balanced character.

Character Advancement
Speaking of development, this is an area where I think most games fall short. As stated in my prior article, it drives me nuts that a character can learn something new and unrelated when leveling up. My preference is to completely dispense with levels in favor of a spendable-experience model. On the task-resolution side, experience can be spent to improve those traits, but only if the process makes sense. On the social-interaction side, experience can be used to refine a character’s social skills accordingly, but this is hard to quantify if the system isn’t based on numbers.

I still have a lot of thinking to do.

As a theoretical approach, I believe I’ve made some progress in this discussion. Each character has two sets of stats, abilities, or whatever I want to call them. The first set is oriented toward task resolution. It represents what the character is good at from a physical perspective. It would cover concepts like strength, agility, and health. The second set is focused on social interaction and is, by design, narrative in nature. Aspects like intelligence, charisma, even appearance, are covered not by numbers, but by words. I’m not sure yet if I want to create the list of words or if I want to let the player come up with them. Alternatively, I might create a list then a sort of questionnaire, akin to a personality profile.

Simulation mechanics will be drawn from the task resolution stats with an eye toward realistic probability and opposed actions. Finding the right scale as well as allowing for incremental effects is what I’ll strive for. At the same time, I don’t want the math to be overly complicated. I want the game to accessible for players who are more interested in the narrative aspects, yet still appeal to those who enjoy a good tactical simulation.

4 thoughts on “Creating a New Table-top RPG System, Part 2

  1. The game you are going to build starts to sound interesting.

    In addition to where to start: 1)Building stat-based characters, 2)Creating a core mechanic, and 3)Establishing a setting other ways to start building a game could be 4)focus on how the game builds stories – a story construction approach and 5)a game focused on handling abilities well.

    My goals are to:
    1) Make a game that isn’t evil
    2) make a game that’s fun and easy to prepare and run
    3) make a game that’s more realistic
    My most recent game systems each do 2 out of 3.


    1. I might argue that 4 and 5 are subcategories of 2. There are games built around those concepts – I’ve even played a few of them. Your goals are lofty, but my push-back on #1 is that you can’t control who plays your games. It’s true that some games are designed around expressly evil concepts while others are designed around good, the problem we run into is that different people have different definitions of good and evil than we have. Even yours differs from mine on numerous points. Regardless, an inanimate object is neither good nor evil. It’s the people who use it who have to make that choice for themselves. Either way, few people will ever be interested in a game that blatantly forces an ideal. We can get away with subtlety – – if we’re careful about how we do it.


  2. My idea of good mostly has to do with avoiding demonic involvement. SOmthing D&D has had problems with. There are worse games.

    I thought of yet another approach to start: 6) design an RPG around the concept of song lyrics.


  3. Here are my answers to the same questions for my two games:
    CF: Chapel Fjords – a serious, realistic game.
    GW: Goofy Wizards – a silly, light-hearted game.

    What is the game about? *
    Can the description be distilled into an elevator pitch? Sometimes it is best described with a metaphor.

    CF: Time travelers race through time to fix anomalies before they take down history.
    CF has one or more time line ‘settings’ which the story teller creates and characters adventure in and among them. CF is a generic Christian game that can also support more than 100 other genres which relies on realistic characters and stories. CF uses the Bible to keep the creeping evils associated with most other role playing games at bay.

    GW: Players play goofy wizards and other deranged and humorous characters in a faux medieval setting for laughs. Character set-up is quick, and combat is simple. The game is based on a flexible model of spell casting that covers most spells that you might find ins a swords an sorcery game. Players can make up new spells on the fly and try new and hilarious things in interacting with denizens of the universe

    How does your game do this? *
    Is it another game that has been hacked or reskinned? If it is a new system, it must be play-tested and must have an editor (An editor is NOT a proof-reader, and the editor CANNOT be you. An editor is someone who will challenge every decision you’ve made.)

    CF: CF is a new game system that relies on various kinds of intelligence and how they interact with game systems. Each kind of intelligence is created by a prioritization of 22 intelligence characteristics with their shorthand letters in a different sequence for each character. Resolution is conducted by rolling a 24 sided letter die below one two or three relevant intelligence characteristics for each situation. Characters with strong abilities will be able to try multiple times to make this roll. This is called their level in that ability. The system is weighted heavily towards ability checks and away from combat.

    GW: This is a new system. One die is rolled, and the relevant bonuses added vs an opposing die roll to check for success. Some traits provide bonuses on these rolls given the situation. In addition, miracles can add additional non-stacking bonuses. All things in the game are rated on the same set of traits from houses to people to legendary adventurers. The system is weighted heavily towards miracles and away from non-miracle combat. Everything is based off of a traits table which doubles as the character sheet. Traits range from 1 to 6.

    How does your game encourage and reward this? *
    CF: The intelligence characteristics of each character make that character a unique individual in all of creation, supporting realism and role play.

    GW: Players can make up new miracles on the fly, the system lending itself to a loose and light hearted game without undue restrictions.

    What is the mechanism supporting the style of play you’re trying to get? *
    CF: players get bonuses for applicability of their Bible verse, for the unique combination of intelligences their character is built from.

    GW: Rolls are single d6 rolls which make things simple and quick. All damage is one point to a trait
    making damage simple and quick. Each character can take one action per turn making things simple and quick. also d6s with all 6s, d6s with all 5s, d6-4s etc. for easy addition.

    What is the carrot for the players and their characters?
    CF: Serious immersion and practice for Real Life (try stuff out before you try it for real).
    GW: Simplicity, hilarity and fast paste adventure. Oops, fast ‘paced’.

    How do you get players to do something interesting and avoid the “easy” path?
    CF: There is no easy path. The game is a challenge from beginning to end. There is generally one event that the players have to identify and figure out how to deal with. Even the realism of the character builds makes it challenging to understand your character.

    GW: All paths are easy. The game is played for laughs and humor. Humorous situations, characters, names, puns, goofy enemies with ridiculous flaws etc. all make the game fun, simple, and easy.

    Missing or omitted rules are an important consideration.
    Leaving things out is just as important a design decision as putting them in.

    CF: CF leaves out traits for combat prowess. ll is based on intelligences and abilities.
    There is little equipment, magic items, social status per se. All of these are ‘abilities’.
    GW: GW leaves out multiple damage points, all damage is a single point trait reduction.
    There is no physical damage mechanic.

    How do you make it fun and engaging? *
    CF: history, tension, and challenge.
    GW: humor and fast paste adventure.

    Subject matter
    Don’t try to please everyone. Make the game fun for me. Make the game I want to make.
    Does this game already exist? If so, go play it!
    CF: NO
    GW: NO

    Don’t try to change the market. You won’t succeed.
    CF: tries to change the market by going around it to the Christian mothers market. It tries to change the market in three ways 1)it is a Christian game., 2) it is a time travel game. 3) it uses 24 sided letter dice.
    GW: does not try to change the market. It is yet another swords and sorcery game.

    At this point, the seminar discussed something they called “Old Forge Theory.”
    Resolution systems
    a. Random chance CF & GW
    b. Drama (aka Narrative) CF
    c. Karma (fixed) GW

    Structure components CF GW
    —————————— ——————————- ————————————–
    a. System: mechanics and rules d24 letter dice for everything 1d6 for everything
    b. Setting time lines/settings, apocalyse villages, towers, wizards, monestaries
    c. Situation: Villain/chance messed with time village in jeopardy, monsters and such
    context, the time stream in deep doodoo a simple world without much law
    why? Time travel was-is-be invented ?
    d. Subtext: intentions ? ?

    (Sidebar question: What is the endgame or ultimate goal of the system?)

    CF: Fix or repair the time line, or save my own time line.
    GW: Defeat the evil sorcerer, save the village, rescue the princess, end the curse, clear your name.

    Who is leading the story? *
    CF: the story teller sets a time-puzzle, the players solve it
    GW: players meet whacky characters/monsters, that challenge and interact with them

    What role does the designer have? *
    CF: Setting examples and time stream building systems, and how to build the alteverse
    GW: ?

    Setting expectations
    CF: all of history, past present future, alternate time lines, logical or apocalyptic TPK possible, not the just the party, all of history dies (TUK – total universe kill)
    GW: sort of safe and fun, fast to roll new character if you die however
    [Character building is a problem in both games]
    [Goofy Wizards could use a very different combat system]

    Don’t lie to your players.
    CF: Start at the beginning telling how serious the situation is.
    GW: Make up ridiculous names for NPCs so the players know it is a silly game.

    Before you start, know where you want to end up. What is your dream? Your goal?
    CF: a Christian answer to D&D, and all RPGs, fellowship, God’s kingdom, evangelism, online/computerized potential.
    GW: a simple game to build by computer to try out various story generation approaches.

    It is estimated that the entire table-top RPG industry is worth $55 million.
    Half of which is D&D and Paizo (Pathfinder).
    There’s room, but don’t expect to be big.

    CF: an input to my professional Level 3,4, and 6 programming career.
    GW: an input to my professional Level 3,4, and 6 programming career.

    The industry rewards longevity and building on prior successes and failures. Reinvest in yourself.
    Expenses (be willing to barter – trade services for services, but value both sides accordingly)
    a. Freelance writers charge MINIMUM of $0.05 per word. If you’re a writer, don’t work for less.
    b. Editors and proofreaders. You NEED a development editor
    a. Clarifies vision, etc. This should be the First person you hire
    b. Has a holistic view
    c. Artist create a huge value-add to your work. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” (Do the math).
    Also, know the language of artists, terms like Bleed, DPI, etc.
    CF: cover art
    GW: cover art
    d. Layout Artist. Don’t use MS Word.
    CF: MS Word
    GW: Excel
    e. Printing:
    a. P.O.D. via RPGNow, good for <100 sales (GW)
    b. Digital Run, good for 500 sales
    f. Kickstarter
    g. Distribution and retail
    CF: Christian game distribution, module building, prublish modules for other games, online char/story gen site site.
    – time travel MUD
    GW: personal use, module building, prublish modules for other games.
    h. Shipping (it is ALWAYS more than you think it will be)
    i. Marketing

    Final question: Do I want to be a publisher?
    CF: NO
    GW: NO

    Know WHEN to step away. Do I want to be in business, or just be a designer?
    At what point am I willing to cross that line? What is my level of tolerance?
    CF: programmer 1st / designer 2nd
    GW: programmer 1st / designer 2nd

    Speaking of the story, I’ve decided to hold off working on it right now,
    in favor of a couple smaller projects I want to get off my plate.
    Prioritize! Arg… Tangent off the side track: What are my current priorities?

    1. Get Final Exam into a publishable state. Speaking with Steve Crompton, representing Flying Buffalo,
    this T&T solo needs to be broken up into two separate adventures.
    As of this writing, I’m basically done with Part 1 and ready to forward it to Steve
    – though I’d like to run through some play-testing first.
    [I’m happy to playtest]
    – Gnoephoe’s Lair?
    2. Keep up with the blogging.
    3. Keep up with the two D&D groups. Fortunately, most of the work is done. However,
    I do spend a couple hours each week adding new material and making sure everything is prepared for upcoming sessions.
    – build universes situations and villains for CF and GW
    4. Publishable Supplements: There are a few things I can publish, or work toward getting published,
    5. SligoDB. This is the database application I’ve been working on over the past several months.
    – keep up with InfoLib
    6. This RPG development project. I have an ulterior motive.
    It’s not necessarily that I want to publish a new game and become a successful, world-renown designer,
    but I want to create a sustainable system that will work for my D&D setting…
    – I want to mechanize it.
    – and mechanize my own games.
    7. Kabize: And here’s the rub. I DO want this story to be publishable!
    8. Neuith: In support of the RPG and Kabize’s story, I’d like to turn the entire Neuith setting into a

    How does your game do this?
    There are two basic, core mechanics: Physical Task Resolution and Social Task Resolution.
    Physical task resolution will be covered by opposed die rolls where the actor (attacker, active player)
    rolls a die and the acted-upon (defender, inactive player) rolls a die.
    The die rolls are compared, and a single chart is consulted to report the outcome of the action.
    Social Task Resolution is handled by role-playing.

    CF: physical and social task resolution – how to help the players know their characters?
    GW: miracle task resolution, not much social, simplified physical
    – how to help the players imagine their characters?

    How does your game reward this?
    Again, “this” can mean a lot of things. Other than the “rewarding” experience of playing the game,
    SligoRPG will have a robust and sensible character development and improvement system.

    CF: adding abilities, moving characteristics, tallys of characteristic uses
    GW: adding build points for clever spells, role play, clever actions, voting each session

    How do the mechanics support the style of play I’m striving for?
    One of my primary goals is to eliminate die rolls for social interaction encounters.
    I want to encourage players and game masters to role-play through them.
    The easy path is for a player to say, “I want to intimidate the guard into letting me through the gate.”
    Dice are rolled, and the GM gives a binary response – pass or fail.
    In this system, the player needs to speak for their character and the GM needs to speak for the NPC.
    CF: players need to say what characteristic they are using and why it is appropriate
    – this works some for the Bible verses because the benefit is so big.
    – move away from too heavy reliance on abilities for resolution, use more simple resolution
    GW: Most Traits are so non-social and so simple, social interaction rolls are rare.
    Striving for imagination and fun.
    – making up spells on the fly, no memorizing, no spell counts.

    What makes this game fun and engaging?
    Since there are no social stats, stats are only relevant to combat abilities.
    This prevents the min/max philosophy of the “dump stat.” By extension, characters will be better balanced. I believe having balanced characters is the first step toward a fun experience.
    The over-arching story is key to a fun game, which, as the designer, I have limited control.
    Conversely, there are parts I can control. The physical task resolution system is abstracted to a level that doesn’t require a degree in math to resolve, yet still retains the better aspects of tactical board-game combat.

    CF: thrives in MIN/MAX, this with dump stats are a fact of life. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, some serious.
    – each game pick one characteristic to highlight, players will get to know it from experience.
    – a realistic game gets people to know themselves, the world and the effect of strengths, weaknesses better.
    – a teaching and Christian enlightenment game
    GW: dump stats don’t buy you much, better to have a good character that gets experience.
    – fast paste and goofy.

    Can you explain the resolution systems?
    Random chance is a major component in physical task resolution.
    As stated before, it engages both the actor and the acted-upon.
    Even if the acted-upon is an inanimate object, it still gets a die roll.
    There is never a “fixed” difficulty level.
    The resolution chart is scaled so that both differences in skill levels and the differences in the die rolls are considered.
    By using this chart, we’re able to go beyond the binary yes/no or success/fail resolution
    because the result considers the spread between the two die rolls.
    The greater the spread, the more effective (or ineffective) the result.
    CF: roll below the appropriate mental characteristic on d24 letter dice.
    balance is not that important since failure means the world ends.
    GW: roll 1d6 add stuff and compare.

    For social task resolution, this is all at the discretion of the players and the game master.
    It is narrative based, and the players must role-play their characters to succeed.
    CF: ditto
    GW: ditto

    Who is leading the story?
    Ultimately, the game master establishes the story and the plot.
    The players participate by taking on the roles of the heroes.
    Their decisions and actions should always be a primary driver of the story as they progress
    from one scene or encounter to the next.
    CF: story teller establishes the puzzle and timeline.
    GW: story teller establishes the setting, villains, and annoyances (impacts on the party), players can do whatever they want however.

    What role do I, as the designer, have?
    I aim to create a system that can be used to support the what I’ve outlined.
    The last thing I want to see is for the rules to get in the way of the narrative.
    I believe a solid, lightweight system where there’s a good balance between abstraction and detail,
    is critical to achieving my stated goals.
    CF: generic system, timeline builder, simple system challenging to master.
    GW: miracles are king, designer gives advice on how to make characters
    settings, situations, miracles, monsters, cratures, villains etc.
    (common sense)


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