Game Components

Sooner or later you are going to want to turn your game from idea into reality.  You might want cards, tokens, boards or dice to come with your game.  In the last year or two there has been a resurgence of publishing roleplaying games in a box, complete with dice and character sheets.  So even if you’re not planning a board game or a card game, the option for game pieces is still available to you.

In that light, an option that came my way recently is The Game Crafter.  Personally, I’ve had no experience with them for printing game boards and the like, but they have a wide selection of common game pieces and a catalogue of complete games.  One option for my game Siege is a game board, so I’ll be keeping my eye on this.

I’ve added this link to the Resources section on the front page.  Since the list is quite small at the moment it’ll stay there.  But as we go, this list is likely to get larger and probably earn its own page on the site.

But enough about my links.  What about you?  What resources have you found on the web to help with your games?  Do you know a great publisher for Print On Demand?  Do you know a great graphic designer to help with art or layout?  Add your find to the comments of this post.

The 3 Questions (+1)

Okay, I have made mention of “the 3 questions” a few times, both here and at the google group. What are they? They are three questions put forward by Jared Sorensen (designer of InSpectres and others), Luke Crane (Burning Wheel) and John Wick (Legend of the 5 Rings, Houses of the Blooded) put forward as tools to help as you design your games. Jared, Luke and John occassionally do a design seminar at cons and ask would-be designers these questions, attempting to scrape away at things like setting and fluff to get to the heart of what a game is about. By knowing what the “essential” element of your game is you can remove the unnecessary, avoid distractions and get on with making your game as strong as it possibly can be.  For example, you might (as I often do) get hung up on setting, a character type or some other element, shoe-horning it into your game when it neither fits nor is necessary. It’s about identifying your sacred cows and mercilessly slaughtering them!

The big three questions are;

  • What is your game about?
  • How does your game do this?
  • How does your game encourage / reward this?

John Wick likes to add a fourth question;

  • How do you make this fun?

Lets consider each in turn. What follows are my own interpretations of what the questions mean, accompanied with examples from a few games I am familiar with.

What is your game about? While most of us think of our games in terms of setting, plots and characters, this is not what the question is asking. This question wants you to think about what idea your game is about. This could be a theme, social issue, particular activity or anything else, but is NOT setting. For example, Dungeons and Dragons is about killing monsters and taking their stuff (this is not a criticism!); Space Rat is about winning the attention of the Galaxy’s most eligible batchelor; Cyberpunk 2020 is about surviving the dangerous city and looking good while you do it. Notice, each of those answers makes no or little reference to setting or character types. What they do mention, however, is what your characters do – pretty important in a roleplaying game!

How does your game do this? What mechanics or devices are in place to make your game about whatever you mentioned above? If you say your game is about “survival” but you have no obvious threats, then what are characters “surviving”? D&D is about killing monsters and aking their stuff and it provides lots of weapons, attack abilities and an entire book of monsters as a “core” product – almost all of which have “treasure” to take; Space Rat is about getting attention because the attention track is right there on the character sheet, and you only play characters interested in a romantic interlude with Jack Cosmos; Cyberpunk 2020 says it right there on the cover – Style over substance – and has a long list of weapons, cool clothing and cyber enhancements.

How does your game reward this? Mechanics are just one part of the game. The other thing you need to do is make players want to do whatever your game is about. D&D rewards you by giving you experience points to upgrade your character so you can kill bigger things and get better stuff. Lady Blackbird‘s keys reward you by giving you either XP or more dice to spend, everytime you act in character, really driving home the idea that the game is about the relationships of characters as they travel across the Wild Blue. Games do not have to reward you with XP and character advancement, though. Space Rat rewards you for undermining other players by refreshing your Luck pool; Spirit of the Century gives you Fate points when you “take a hit” in character.

How do you make this fun? Here is something that is sometimes tougher to narrow down. What is fun about killing monsters? In D&D it is the variety of forms of attack, the uncertainty of whether you will hit or not, and the slim chance of getting a critical. For some, the resource management of hit points, spells, and other special abilties are also a lot of fun. In Space Rat it is never knowing when pushing your luck will mean losing out. In other games it might be the cool powers available, the types of play opportunities provided or something else. Often this will depend on the needs or interests of the players, so it is also important for you to be aware of your target audience – are you trying to appeal to “hack and slash” players, people interested in deep immersion, or a play group that like diceless, freeform play?

This is just my brief introduction to these concepts. The “big 3 questions” won’t be for everyone, but I do think they are worth considering, even if you don’t actively sit down and write out an answer to each of them. Finally, I have collected a few interesting links that deal with these questions. Check them out;

I hope this stuff is useful to someone!

One week old

We’re celebrating the first week of the Stockade project by a frenzy of activity by the Challengers.  Steve D has posted the core system and setting for his game on the Google group, Nathan and Michael have both decided on their game names, and we’ve been joined by Bev, who is going to write a game called Society.

Happy first week, Stockade.  May you have many more!

EDIT: Bev’s new blog has been added to the Challenger list.

Pep talk anyone?

Hey Challengers! To celebrate the fact that I have actually made a decision on the kind of game I intend to write, I thought I would share some thoughts. We have seven challengers so far, but have it on good authority that at least one more person will be joining us shortly AND we haven’t heard from all the people that sat in the hot seat at the Game Design Round Table AND I carried on about the challenge on the latest episode of Here Be Gamers! (due out today, but I am writing this instead…). So I expect we might have more people join in our little endeavour. Welcome aboard everyone!

Now that you have put up our hand and said you are going to participate in this crazy venture, I encourage you to tell as many people as possible. Tell your mum, best friend, work colleagues and priest, ring the local radio station and hire a plane to write a message in the sky this summer. Boast about how good your game is going to be, while your at it. Tell people it’s the next Spirit of the Century, Dogs in the Vinyard, Savage Worlds, Mouse Guard or (if they aren’t a “gamer”) Monopoly. Once you have done this you should find yourself in the grip of fear, pondering the ridicule and taunts you will recieve should you fail your mission. Cold sweat? Furrowed brow? Load in your pants? Excellent! Use that fear and get working! You don’t want to be embarressed now that you have done all that bragging, do you? It is time to scribble down a rough draft, play it with your friends, make the necessary adjustments and do it all over again. Afterall, you now have less than 52 weeks to finish!

Peter Blake has a design blog

The subject says it all, except the URL.  Point your newsreader to http://fictionreveals.wordpress.com/ and keep up with Peter’s work.

Another challenger

If it seems that all I do is announce new challengers, that’s because we have a roomy bandwagon here at the Stockade and we’re driving steadily enough to let them leap on.

Michael Wenman has joined the challenge.  No details are available yet about his game, but I can certainly point you towards his website, Vulpinoid Studio.  He already has a few games to his name so click around and find them.  It should give you an idea about what to expect in the coming year.

Even more challengers

Twice in one day!

Say hello to David Pidgeon and his game called Dirty Princesses.  David sat first in the hot seat at the Game Design Roundtable and copped the first round of questions.  His design blog is up and running, albeit only barely off the starting blocks.