Design Games

Design Games

We talk about game design, especially tabletop roleplaying and story games. We're professional designers ND Paoletta and Will Hindmarch. We're glad you're here.

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    This is it. Our fiftieth episode marks the end of our long conversation about designing tabletop RPGs (and everything else we spilled over into). This episode addresses audience questions, the past, and the future. What do you do when you're done and the thing you've been working on leaves the workshop? Let's talk about it.

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    Funding Production

    You need funding. You might give your game away for free, but you didn't make it for free. Your time and work have value. How does that translate to cost and how does your product help fund itself and the next thing you want to make? Check out the full show notes for a link to Nathan's "Notes on Independent Publishing," too!

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    Production Tools

    Let's talk about some of the software that we—Nathan and Will—use for production purposes like layout and graphic design. More importantly, let's talk about how that impacts our game designs and workflow across the board.

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    Spheres of Production

    As you're proceeding into production of your game, ask yourself: What can I do myself? When should I ask for help? What would I say to externalize my vision to a hire? What you do yourself, what you expand your skills to accomplish, and when you hire experts — these are parts of the spheres of production. Support us on Patreon and help future episodes of the show come into being!

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    Form Factors

    What form does your RPG take? Is it a book? A deck of cards? A poster or mousepad or business card? Are you sure? Design Games is made possible by our supporters at Patreon, where you can back Nathan and Will, too. Every dollar helps.

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    Let's talk about another means of delivering random results and packaging information for players in your tabletop roleplaying and story games: cards.

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    Reflections 2

    Look around. Get your bearings. Take a look back at what's working and what you've learned, then move forward with the knowledge. That's what we're doing, this time.

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    Early Writing

    You've got a lot of notes, you've got rules and systems, maybe you've been writing for yourself. How do you start writing all of that out for other people in addition to yourself? Let's talk.

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    Say a thing. Say it again. A design isn’t right the first time, so we revise and restate and iterate. Let’s talk about that.

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    Game Chef

    Do you know about the Game Chef design competition? This time we talk about our experiences with Game Chef and what we know of its history and influence on games and designers.

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    Playtesting, Part Two

    (Episode forty?! Ye gads.) Here we explore more notions on the topic of your early playtests, and how to get information out of them, make sense of some of it, and prepare for revisions to your design.

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    Playtesting, Part One

    We’ve reach that time. Let’s talk about playtesting your design—specifically, how to prep and participate in the early playtests of your RPG.

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    Universality and Hacking

    We set out to talk about designing games to be ready for hacking and remixing by the end user, but first a stopover at a discussion of universal systems, too. Let it go, Will.

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    Let’s talk about how a game moves, functions, and adapts. Let’s talk about affordances.

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    On Visual Design

    Some game designs are highly visual. When does that work happen? How early is too early to think about art and a visual arrangement of ideas? We talk it out.

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    Risk and Challenge

    This time, we tackle a great listener-submitted topic about how to makes risk and challenges feel dramatic and satisfying in your RPG designs — and how to help players think about risk and challenge in play.

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    Player Alignment

    Another great listener topic, another episode wrestling with said topic. This time: we talk about designs involving Player vs Player and Player vs Environment mechanics and, y'know, some of what that means.

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    On Purpose

    Here we attempt to tackle another great question from the G+ community. This one’s about designing with purpose and how purpose can align with (or away from) content, context, vision, and more.

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    Bring It Together

    We’ve talked a lot already about design steps and techniques, thoughts and approaches. You’ve got vision and notes and notions. Now let’s talk about bringing it all together.

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    What even is a playstorm? We think we know and we dive into the answer in this episode, to consider what makes playstorming different from playtesting, what it’s for, and when we do it.

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    Success and Failure

    What is “a success” in play? What is failure? When do players’ and characters’ victories align? When do they diverge? And how do we talk about it all? Tune in and hear.

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    When we talk about “color” in RPG design, we’re often talking about texture and tangibility and how they interact with and express your game and what it is about. We think.

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    What do we mean when we talk about emergence? What’s emergent by design and what emerges anyway? We wrestle with the issue this time — and maybe not for the last time!

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    Space, in many games (and especially RPGs), is abstracted and metaphorical, letting the idea of space mingle with other ideas in exciting ways. What is “narrative mass” and how do relationship maps suggest or defy a space? Let’s talk!

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    It’s time to talk about time. This time, we make time to discuss real-time play, abstractions, and dramatic units of time in RPGs and other games, which takes us into territory about focus, abstraction, and player agency once again.

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    What’s the situation in your game? How do you flag, support, and inspire situations in play? RPG play can be as small as a single dramatic situation or as vast worlds teeming with volatile circumstances … but it’s for naught if the players don’t know how to interact with that situation.

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    Setting, Part Two

    Let’s talk more about settings and worlds for gameplay, including designing and recognizing links between your world and your game!

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    Setting, Part One

    How does your game’s setting interact with its design? How do you begin to design a setting? How does your setting suit your game — and why?

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    Mindfulness and Inspiration

    Let’s talk about influences on our designs and how we converse with them and with our own game’s vision and voice.

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    Return to Beginnings

    What are some early exercises and tactics for starting a new design?

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    This time, we look back at the show and reflect on 20 episodes of conversations. What are we happy with and what do we still want to attempt? What course corrections might we attempt for the show next? This approximates the kind of reflection we do as designers, midway through a design, and helps us identify what’s next for the show in 2016.

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    What is antagonism in play — we talk about the problems inherent in the term, what it means in play, and how you can think about it in your design.

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    Player/Designer Communication

    This time, we talk about communications between a game’s designer and its players—especially the GM—both implicit and explicit.

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    Game Master Influences

    This time we’re dropping names and game titles all over the place, focusing on just a few of the games that we’re feeling influenced by lately or over time — especially when it comes to GMing.

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    Game Master Authority

    This time we’re talking about designing for GM authorities and responsibilities in tabletop RPGs.

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    The Roles of the Game Master

    In this episode, we discuss the roles, responsibilities, and authority of the GM in tabletop RPGs and story games. It’s a role with a lot of permutations for designers to think about, plan for, and react to. What do you think?

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    Listener Questions, Part Two

    We’re tackling a few more listener questions this time — and it’s a bit of a challenge. These are great questions!

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    Listener Questions

    For our not-spooky 13th episode, we address a few listener questions we’ve received. Still, things get a little spooky.

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    Listen in as we discuss resolution mechanisms in RPGs, including musings about scope and scale and fictional time. How do you know when a thing has happened in your game? How do you know when to check to see if a thing has happened? By listening to this episode, maybe!

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    This time, we have a quick talk about the difference between a system and its rules. How does that affect your design and can a design change systems already in place? Let’s talk.

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    Reward Systems, Part Two

    We had more to say about reward cycles, systems, and mechanisms in theory and in practice, so this episode is about more of that.

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    Reward Systems, Part One

    In this doozy (doozy!) of an episode, we talk about reward cycles in design and play, from their core dynamics and philosophies to how they can befit or bemuse different players differently.

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    Let’s talk about the terminology of our games and how that influences the patois at the table. What lingo do you use in your game and what sobriquets develop over time? As ever: decisions, decisions.

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    Character Monogamy

    What is character monogamy in an RPG and what does it do in your design? Let’s talk about it!

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    Experience Points

    Here we look at the gist of experience points (XP) and character development, especially in tabletop RPGs, and how character progression can reward, reflect, and influence the play of your design.

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    This time, we talk about characters in theory, in practice, in play, and in design, with examples focusing on tabletop RPGs and some references to video games.

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    Recurring Questions

    Listen in as we reveal some of the questions and ideas that we consider and reconsider near the beginning of various game designs, like “Why is this a game?” and “How does it start?”

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    Here’s a big one. We spend an hour talking about dice, uncertainty, and information in analog game design and we still only manage to put grooves in the surface of the topic. This was a wonderful talk, though.

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    The Big Three Questions

    Let’s talk about how we talk about game designs. Let’s talk about how a game does its thing and how a design achieves (or doesn’t) its selected goals. What is your game about and how is it about it? Let’s do that by talking about variations on the “Big Three” questions of RPG design.

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    We, Nathan D Paoletta and Will Hindmarch, design games. Also, we talk about designing games. Sometimes that means talking about design outside of games and games outside of their designs, but always it comes back to how we make games—especially in the style of analog roleplaying and story games, as is our fashion. This first official episode is about ideas as the earliest parts of design.

    Music is “Dances and Dames” by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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