Tuesday, June 27, 2006


I can't get it out of my HEAD

Now, the only thing I know about Gaunt's Ghosts is their unit writeup in the various Imperial Guard Codex's for WH40k.

But, knowing only that - I would do it with Carry.

IPR now providing preorders.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Carry Cover. Oh yeh, and preorders.

Here's the final cover.

Also, preorders are now open, from now until July 17. Details here. You can order via paypal, or through Indie Press Revolution, soon as Brennan gets it up for me. There will be linkage.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


RPG Design Handbook: Chapter 1

Table of Contents here.

Why Design?


Here's a statement: At some point during your time roleplaying, you have broken, ignored, modified, adopted, or otherwise changed a rule in the game you were playing. Maybe you decided that keeping track of encumberance in AD&D wasn't worth the time; maybe you realized that not once had you ever spent a point of Willpower in Vampire: the Masquerade. Maybe you created an entirely new monster from the ground up in order to surprise the heroes. Maybe you added a hit location randomizer to better simulate the vagaries of hand-to-hand combat. Maybe you settled everything in the game by talking instead of rolling dice, or the other way around.

Congratulations. You're a RPG designer.

Like anything else, there are a number of interpretations of the term. For the purposes of this book, it means just what it says: a RPG (I'll just use "game" from here on out) designer is someone who designs a game. By adding or changing the rules you use in play, you are designing right into the structure of your game, even if it's just a little bit. It's kind of like how an interior designer will paint a wall or hang a curtain, even though they didn't build the wall or install the window. Adapting your environment to your use is design.

I bet that you want to go further, though. You don't want to be the interior designer; you want to be the architect of the whole house. Right on. Since the beginning of our hobby, there has never been a better time to write and publish your own game. There are huge communities dedicated to design and play; services that enable you to publish texts with a minimum of effort and investment; and the infrastructure to put your game directely into the hands of the consumer or the retailer.

That sounds great, right? But there's one question that you will need to come back too, over and over again, throughout the entire process: Why am I designing this game?

There are a number of reasons, and none of them necessarily better than another. "Because there isn't a game out there that does what I want it to do." "Because I have this great idea, and I want to implement it my way." "Because I want to make money." "Because I won't be able to sleep until someone plays this game." The only wrong answer is "I don't know."

The rest of this chapter is dedicated to giving you the tools to answer this question coherentely and in a way that is useful for the rest of the design process. There are two critical components to consider when you first start thinking about designing your own, original game:

What are my play preferances? Everything you do is informed by your opinions and experiences, and game design is no different. Whether you are trying to fulfill or change your preferences for fun and fulfilling play, identifying those preferences in the first place is a crucial step.

What are my goals for this game? This sounds like an easy question, but its not. Further chapters will have a more detailed breakdown of this question into three, or nineteen, component questions. At the outset, however, you do need to think about your goals - not only for the game design itself, but also for who your audience is and how you will get your game to that audience.

Finally, this chapter will conclude with a breif overview of the design trends over the last 30+ years of the hobby. This is intended both to give you a reference point for the kinds of games that you tend to enjoy and the kinds of design that produced them, and as a resource that will give you a very rough idea of what published games to look at that had goals similar to your own.

One last word. As the term "play preferences" indicates, this book will continually come back to your own play, and how it informs your design. Actually playing games is the only way to learn the critical lessons that will lead to informed design. If you haven't really played that many games - well, maybe you should do some more gaming and see if there's already a game out there that fulfills you in play. Even if you have a wide experience, embarking on a design means you should play more, not less. Every game you play will teach you more about design, if you pay attention.

The philosophy of this book can be summed up thusly: The point of design is play. Without play, design is meaningless.

Now, lets get started.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Carry Preview Thang 2

So Mark Vallinatos is a badass, and turned up some more photos, one of which blew the previous Carry cover photo out of the water. So here's the new cover, also with a tweaked logo that I like more.

Also, here's a shot of an interior spread.

Oh! And I got this call from the folks at DexCon. Now, the original plan was that I was only going to be able to be there on Saturday and Sunday, due to some work I had lined up. Well, the project fell through, so I will be able to be there the whole time (woot). Anyway, I originally scheduled one game of Carry for Saturday night. Well, apparentely the organizers think that there will be enough demand for "more serious and different" games that they asked me to run two more sessions, which I, providentially, will be able to do. So there are now sessions of Carry on Thursday, Friday & Saturday, all 8-midnight. Check out all the other awesome Indie events here.

I look forward to teh awesome.

Friday, June 16, 2006


Indulging In Futurism

My predictions?

The changing role of the distributor will be the main pressure that changes how games get into the hands of customers. Distributors will begin dropping RPG titles that don't turn them a profit, concentrating on other hobby gaming things (CCGs, collectible minis, etc). Only the biggest publishers (WotC, maybe WW, maybe SJG) will be worth carrying - and I bet that those will start looking more towards mainstream book distributors, to expand their market. Hobby game distributors will either fold, or re-constitute themselves as only carrying high-turnover products. More services like IPR will spring up, each serving a different facet of the market. The FLGS will either begin talking directly to those kinds of services, or directly to publishers, or just stop carrying RPGs in general. Publishers will take advantage of direct contact with retailers and customers to more closely tailor their print runs to their audience, hopefully taking more time to create good product, resulting in happier customers and healthier, smaller, businesses. D&D will continue to do well, carried in bookstore chains and supported by its online iterations as well as the pen-and-paper game.

I hope to look back in 10 years and wonder why everyone got so bent out of shape over this crap.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


One Of Them Preview Thangs

So this is the current cover for Carry. You can click on it to see it larger. Thoughts?

Saturday, June 10, 2006


What Is Indie?

For better or for worse, "indie design" has become synonymous with "the Forge."

It's the same in music. "Indie rock" has become a label for a particular sound, not for the quality of being released without a deal with a record label. I'm willing to bet that, for most of the people who actually pay attention to such things, saying "I'm an indie game designer" is pretty much saying "I'm a willing participant in the Forge community," with the heavy implication of "I agree with/follow 'Forge Theory'".

My point here is not to say "indie is the new mainsteam" or "the Forge is a bunch of wankers," or whatever. My point is that, these days, it seems to me that the indie label is a marketing concern. There are people who will buy your games because they identify you as part of the Forge, and there are people who will specificially not buy them for the same reason.

So, if you read my last post, then you will see my concern with calling that rubric the "Indie Designers Guide to Game Design." Not to mention that lacking creator ownership doesn't mean that it doesn't apply to you, or something.

So...whats the most accurate way to express it? The Modern Designers Guide? The Small-Press Designers Guide? One Dude's Guide? The RPG Design Guide?

Second question. Would there be a point to such a project? Or is there something about going through the design process the way the majority of us have (really liking RPGs, tinkering with mechanics, stumbling across small-press games, designers and competitions on the internet, getting feedback and doing a bunch of reading) that would be lost in it?


Friday, June 09, 2006


An Indie Designers Guide To RPG Design

Table of Contents

1. Why Design?

- Identifying Your Play Preferences

- Idenfifying Your Design Goals

- Breif History of Design Trends

2. Core Questions

- Power 19

- Big 3

- Alternate 3

3. Methods & Conceptual Frameworks

- The Process of Roleplay
- System Does Matter vs System Doesn't Matter

- The Social Contract

- The Lumpley & Czege Principles
- Bricolage

- Threefold Model (GDS)

- The Big Model (GNS)

- Design What Matters vs Design (Away) What Doesn't Matter
- Freeform Play
- Asychronous Play
- Push & Pull

4. Authority/Credibility

- The GM Is Not A Person
- What These Mean For Play

- Examples Of Distribution

- Techniques For Distribution

5. Organizing Play

- Overall Play Structure

- Scene Framing & Techniques
- Pacing
- Story/Plot Creation

6. Organizing Characters
- What Is A Character?
- Players vs. Characters
- Character Advancement/Reward Cycles
- Relationships Between & Among Characters

7. Resolution Mechanics

- Karma/Drama/Fortune

- Manouver Resolution

- Stakes Resolution

- Probability & Expectations Of Probability

8. Mechanical Techniques

- Guages And Dials

- Currency

- [And other things from Design Patterns]

9. Playtesting
- The Purpose Of Playtest
- Organizing A Playtest
- Playtest Stages & Methods
- When To Stop Playtesting

10. Publishing

- Art
- Editing

- Layout
- Printing
- Advertising
- The Internet
- Three-Tier Distribution

- Cottage Distribution

- Conventions

- Promotion & Marketing

11. Annotated Index of Extant Games

Next Up: Should this really be called the "Indie" designers guide?