I’m sure most of you have heard the idiom “save the best for last”. It’s sort of an odd one because it doesn’t really describe any particular bit of advice, it’s just kind of a statement of fact: dessert comes after dinner, the best part of the episode is the ending, the main attraction happens after the opening acts, and so on. In a lot of cases, saving the best for last is a great rule of thumb for pacing yourself and making sure you have something to look forward to–and conversely, making sure you don’t eat your dessert or watch the main attraction, then leave. I’d like to discuss whether or not this concept applies to game design though. I don’t think it does.
So, as pretty much anyone can tell you, what works in one medium does not always work in another. But usually you can create something close, right? Take a simple gunfight. In a movie, it’s the action itself which entertains us. We know how the scene ends before it even begins, but how it gets there entertains us. Guns! Explosions! Men screaming and falling off ledges! Glass shatters, sharks swim to the top tanks and grab the villain’s foot! The hero who hasn’t been on camera in a full minute shows up to save the day! Of course the heroes win, but we enjoyed watching it. In a book, a gunfight is a more blunt affair: less spectacle, because every tiny bit of spectacle takes an entire paragraph or even page to set up and follow through with, and you really don’t have that much space if you want to keep the action flowing. So it’s bang bang, shooting over walls, and the excitement comes from not knowing how the scene will end. In other words, suspense v. spectacle.
Well, here’s another translation problem. Car chases. Or vehicle sections in general. They work in movies because you can have the spectacle (crashes! Hubcabs rolling away! Fruit stands! Burning rubber!). They work in books because you have the suspense (Where is this chase going? What will happen next? Was that car behind our hero a second enemy car or just a passerby? Oh no, they’re going to the docks, will one of them end up in the water? Will it be the hero?). But in games, be they video games or tabletop games… they’re the most boring thing, because they’re just raw mechanics. So the question is, can we define these problems, and can we overcome them?
Alright, this is a weird one. It’s more musing than game design discussion. It’s based on a simple question: instead of dice rolls or even miniatures, can you make trig a game mechanic in an RPG? Read the rest of this entry »
I realize that when people are designing games, they frequently talk about core mechanics, but never talk about core funness. Probably because funness is questionably a real word and I just made the phrase up. But I have a point where I’m going here! I just recently bought Gloom after playing it with some friends. And I realized that it’s a pretty average game. The core MECHANIC of the game is just a simple series of card plays, which could be replicated with any 52-card deck. The core FUNNESS is what is layered on top of the core mechanic to make the game, you know, actually fun. It’s no less a mechanic than the core mechanic, but it should be distinguished from it.
So this is an interesting one, something that actually might require some real ‘musing’ rather than me trying to prove a point. In some games, it’s against the law for the Game Master to ever tell the players they did something they didn’t say they did. In some games, it’s encouraged. I’m curious what the merits are of each system, and how well they could be used in designing a game of a particular tone.
If you’re going to design a roleplaying game from scratch, there are a huge number of considerations to make. Basically, there cannot be a single line of text in your book that wasn’t placed there with great thought and intention and playtesting–otherwise, you end up with two pages of grapple rules. As my RPG is (after two years of development) finally moving from the conceptual theorycraft stage to the writing the damn book stage, I thought I’d provide some insight into the matter.
Oh, how long has it been since I last posted… way too long. I got distracted by a failed D&D game, followed by a distaste for thinking about Dungeons & Dragons, followed by life. But I’m back, and here’s a topic that interests me greatly, because it impacts my own homemade RPG’s design: minions! You see, 4th Edition had this great(ish) idea, where it would take those enemies in 3rd Edition that you would kill in one hit (like 1st-level orcs or goblins) and build an entire mechanic around them! People love one-shotting things, so it’s a brilliant plan, right? I would say it’s not quite so clear cut as that.