Archive for June, 2009

A Believable World

June 22, 2009

A game of Dungeons and Dragons is more than just dungeon bashing, picking up loot and killing monsters. It doesn’t have to be much more than this, but even a little effort to build a world can make a big difference.

The two biggest things to bear in mind are believability and consistency. Nail these two, and the rest will fall into place.

Believability is important. You are playing in a fantasy world, but that doesn’t mean that everything is different, or that nothing really happens for a reason. Start from the real world, think about what differences magic might make, and make those changes believable. Do Kings need magical advisers? How does Castle design change when magic is common? Street lighting and sanitation in cities, are they magically created? If you can answer these questions, you can put your players in a world that feels real, and that they are more likely to care about.

Consistency is making sure that things are the same when they should be the same. The King won’t change from week to week, if you name him, record it somewhere, so you can use the same name again. If things change, they should change for a reason, even if it’s not immediately obvious to your players, you need to know what that reason is.

If the characters sell their loot at a local town, use a recurring NPC (like the Jeweller) to build consistency and familiarity. This NPC can develop a character over time, and turn a mechanical experience (loot to money) into a roleplay experience. Once a rapport is built with a recurring NPC, the players might care about them. You can use this as a GM to produce new adventure hooks. Kidnapping or killing a favourite NPC can lead the PCs into an adventure, or series of adventures. Alternatively, the NPC can give quests to the PCs, with rewards tied to how well they have worked on creating a friendship with the NPC.

Consistency and believability are the keys to build a world that your players can have fun in, and can take a dungeon bash up to the next level of play.


Release early, release often

June 15, 2009

I’ve suggested that you should try and keep the rules of a game as fixed as possible once you’ve released it. It gives people a chance to learn them, to play on the same field, and to not have to deal with collating a difficult set of errata and rules updates into a coherent document.

When you are dealing with gaming aids and resources, there’s a lot more freedom. Here I think you should release early, getting a version out as soon as is possible, so people can start making use of what you’ve done. You should also release often. Add incremental features and content as and when it’s available, don’t save it up.

I’m following my own advice with the Map Tile Generator I’ve developed for DnD. It’s had a couple of improvements, so every map should now be guaranteed to include some doors, and to have the number of missing pieces you select. It also generates a map tile automatically on loading the page for the first time.

I’ll be adding more improvements in the days ahead, I’d like to make it so that the tiles are always fully connected, and I’ve got some work to do on the layout of the page. If you think of any other features you’d like to see, drop me a line, and I’ll see what I can do.


June 15, 2009

If you are working on a particularly complex set of rules for a game (anything over 20-30 pages), then seriously consider adding a glossary of terms to the document.

A good glossary will quickly define the major terms that are repeated throughout the rules. It’ll let you get on with writing the rules as coherently as possible, leaving these definitions to the glossary.

It’ll also be a handy reference point. Instead of hunting through all the rulebook to find out what something means, they players can look in one place, it’ll speed up game play, and hopefully reduce time pent discussing the rules (rather than playing the game).

A good glossary of terms will make you complex game play better, and the rest of the rules shorter and easier to work with. Adding a glossary will improve the quality of your game, you should do it unless there is a pressing reason not to.

Dungeons and Dragons: Map Tile Generator

June 9, 2009

I’ve just released the first version of a Dungeons and Dragons Map Tile Generator. It lets you pick a board size, number and size of doors and a number of spaces to remove from the grid. It will then generate a random board within these parameters.

It’s brand new, so can generate some strange and useless boards, but if it does that, just create another, until you get something useful. I’ve found that leaving the settings on random will generate a cool tile about once in every 10-15 attempts.

I’ve only tested in Firefox so far, please let me know if you have any problems, I’ll be improving this as time goes on, and I’ll prioritise feedback suggestions to give me somewhere to target my efforts.

Don’t forget to check out my other DnD resources for characters, scenarios and other ideas for use in your games.

Breaking out of the Echo Chamber

June 8, 2009

As well as concentrating on your advertising, you need to make sure that you can break out of the Echo Chamber, and find a wide enough audience to support you.

The Internet is a wonderful thing, and just being famous on the Internet can be enough to promote your game out to the wide world. That’s not always the case though, you might easily find yourself caught into the Echo Chamber of blogs and niche sites, not able to break into the big time.

You need to be aware of where your games are being discussed and played. Engage with this audience, but also look at ways to spread your ideas further.

Play your games out in the real world, consider donating copies to local schools or libraries that will take them, or to local gaming clubs. Make sure people can find you and your website when you do this.

Move in different Internet circles. Break out to some sites or forums you don’t usually spend time in, get used to their culture and foibles, and promote your games there.

Don’t just spam places or throw around advertising, as this will never build goodwill, but look for opportunities in related parts of the Web, and build on them when you find them.

Practice makes perfect

June 1, 2009

The only way to get better at designing games is to design lots of games.

Taking a game all the way from idea to production is a lot of work, and it’s not always worth it.

As well as walking away from bad ideas, consider just sketching out designs before diving in fully. Brainstorm through a lot of quick designs, take them a little way along the path and drop the weakest.

Spend time working on perfecting this process, if you can get good at sketching you’ll see where you develop into a masterpiece more quickly.

Try just sketching some game ideas, and see where it leads you.