Days of High Adventure
Stop Complaining and Make Your Own Game

David Hill | 26 Nov 2009 21:00
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Step Three: What Stands In Your Way?

Now you have a fundamental setting, and an idea of what the player characters are. Now, you develop the struggle, the antagonist.

The next step is the antagonists and conflict. We have our motivation, what stands between our characters and their goal? Let's come up with a list of seven ideas.

These might be actual antagonists. They might be setting elements that drive plot. You want some variety here. The purpose of the list is to come up with a few good ideas between all of them. Discuss a little. Debate a little. Once you have a nice, solid list, rip it apart. Pare it down to somewhere between one and four things. You don't want the final product to be too complicated. But keep the noted ideas. If you flesh out the game later, you might mine some good ideas out of the list.

The most important note here is to keep things general. Avoid specific, named villains unless it's absolutely to the setting you've established. Leave room to develop later antagonists based on the types and organizations you're creating here.

Step Four: Making a System

You have the basics of plot. You have a setting, you have protagonists, and you have antagonists. The foundation is there. But for the full pen and paper RPG experience, you need a system. The easiest way to go about this section would be to adapt another game's system, and there's nothing wrong with this, but working up your own core mechanic can be very fulfilling. We're going to assume you're going homebrew. Also, for simplicity's sake, we're going to assume dice will be used. This is one of those things that can be edited heavily in post. Right now, you just want enough to tell the stories developed in earlier steps.

Now we make a system for resolution. What do we want to represent with the system? Gritty realism? High drama? Action? Horror?

The most important goal in game system design is making the system represent what the rest of the game material expresses. High adventure isn't well-suited to a system where one-shot kills are commonplace, for example.

What are the core elements most important to what our characters can do? Let's pick five.

Five is an arbitrary number. The goal here though is to encourage the group to make a comprehensive group of base traits. Due to the limited time available, you'll have to work with those five traits for your simple resolution mechanic. You want to be able to cover everything your characters should want to do.

Now, how will we use these traits and the dice to resolve challenges?

Let this part develop. There aren't any hard or fast rules. If the group isn't coming up with anything they seem to like, suggest something simple, like a target number system where each trait has a number rating, and a roll of a die is added to that rating, if the target is achieved, the task is successful. But this should be an organic development. It's important you come up with a mechanic, it's not important that the mechanic is good. When you play the game, when you see your mechanic in action, you'll be able to change it from there. But you can't evolve a good system from nothing, this creates your jumping-off point.

Step Five: Selling It

You have the basic game. There's a good chance that by now, your group is excited about the premise, the characters and the potential stories. This last section finalizes the past work.

We're almost done. Now, we have to take everything we've talked about tonight, and we have to wrap it up into two things: A name, and a sentence describing the game. The sentence should be able to sell the game. It has to be descriptive enough to tell people what the game is about, while not being long and boring. We want something that, if someone heard, they'd say, "I want to play that!"

This last section cleans up the mess on your note paper. You're making sales text. You're coming up with the true premise for the game. Once you're done with this, that's it. Now, you get your group back together to playtest and tweak things.

Congratulations, you now have a game.

David A Hill Jr is a freelance writer in the pen and paper and MMO RPG industries. He dedicates his career to opening the hobby of gaming and the craft of game design to new audiences. You can find more on him and his material at http://www.machineageproductions.com/.

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