Game Design

Friday Snippets

Tabletop Gaming News - 5 January 2018 - 11:00am
Well, the blustery weather from yesterday is gone. Now it’s just cold. Hopefully the storm didn’t hit you all too bad. I’ve got various friends up north that are dealing with the aftermath, but it’s all not too terribly bad stuff. Though I doubt many are going to be heading to the LGS. Well, they […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

CMON Previews Princes Miniatures for HATE

Tabletop Gaming News - 5 January 2018 - 10:00am
It’s a tough life out there in the wastelands. But, apparently, if you’re good enough, strong enough, and eat enough other people, you can grow up to be pretty big. Makes sense, I suppose. What could be better for your body than exactly what it’s made out of? Well, if you’re a Prince in one […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

River Horse Previews Sunda Kastigir For The Highlander Board Game

Tabletop Gaming News - 5 January 2018 - 9:00am
Immortals come from all sorts of backgrounds. Some were born into nobility, others, not so much. Sunda Kastagir escaped from slavers in his early life, but soon met up with and befriended Connor MacLeod. The two remained together for a while through the Revolutionary War until parting ways. He’ll be one of the characters that […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Blood Bound Now Available From Fantasy Flight Games

Tabletop Gaming News - 5 January 2018 - 8:00am
It’s never good when vampire clans get to fighting. You think that regular gang warfare is rough. It’s just that much worse when the supernatural is involved. The war that’s gone on has left both sides near their limit. Both are looking to finish this off while they can. Only by finding the enemy leader […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Wyrd Previews Yarazi For The Other Side

Tabletop Gaming News - 5 January 2018 - 7:43am
Though it may be the new year, some things remain the same. I’m still in my same Friday shirt. I’m going to have pizza for dinner tonight. And we’ve got our regular Friday Preview from Wyrd. This time around, it’s the Yarazi for The Other Side. From the post: Not all of the Gibbering Hordes […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Gaming disorder? On throwing the digital baby out with the bathwater - by Leah Fredman

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 5 January 2018 - 7:30am
WHO is considering adding gaming disorder as an official mental disorder. In this post I examine reasons as to why this may not be a good idea, and how gaming addiction should prompt society to reevaluate familial gaming practices.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Free player movement and static worlds - by David Stark

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 5 January 2018 - 7:27am
A game can either have an open world where the player can move freely, or a world that changes as the plot advances. If it has both, the player will miss out on most of the game’s content. There are some approaches to deal with this, though...
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Complexity of UI Design - by Josh Bycer

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 5 January 2018 - 7:27am
Today's post is a high level talk about UI Design and why it's often overlooked when it comes to game development.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Psych Eval: Samus Aran - by Nathan Savant

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 5 January 2018 - 7:26am
A discussion of the personality of Samus Aran based on gameplay mechanics, and filtered through the lens of the Meyers-Briggs personality profile.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

High Performance Networking with a ‘Web’ of Peer-Peer Connections - by Sam Redfern

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 5 January 2018 - 7:24am
I discuss the peer-peer networking infrastructure which I have developed in an online-multiplayer game, in order to minimize both server cost and network latency.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

"Realistic" Movement in a Space Combat Game - by Andrew Greenberg

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 5 January 2018 - 7:24am
How do you have realistic movement in a space combat game? Well, unless we have actual battles between the planets, we really won’t know. Fading Suns: Noble Armada makes it a key part of the game
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Playable Ads: The Most Fun Ad Ever! - by Linh Le

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 5 January 2018 - 7:23am
Playable ads create an entirely new ad experience built around the player -- an ad that doesn’t feel like an ad and is actually welcomed by users.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

New Samurai Available To Order for Pike & Shotte

Tabletop Gaming News - 5 January 2018 - 7:00am
Warlord Games lets you play using far-Eastern themes in their skirmish game, Test of Honour. But what if you want to put entire regiments of figures out onto the board, instead of just a few? That’s where Pike & Shotte comes in. If you’re wanting to prove your honor on the battlefield there, you can […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

New Space Wolves Praetor Available to Order From Forge World

Tabletop Gaming News - 5 January 2018 - 6:00am
Puppies! We all know that I’m more of a dog person than a cat person (well, really, I’m a bear person, but you can’t find them down at the local pound too often). If you’re like me, and you want to extend your love of dogs to the tabletop, there’s a good chance you’ll want […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Chekhov’s +1 Longsword

Gnome Stew - 5 January 2018 - 12:00am

If your players get their hands on a +4 Sword of Ogre Slaying, give them some Ogres to slay.

In writing, there is a dramatic principle referred to as Chekhov’s Gun. This states that every element in a story should be necessary and anything irrelevant to the story being told should be removed. Basically, if you set up a loaded rifle being put on the stage in the first act, that gun better go off sometime in the second act. Your setups need payoffs.

Keeping this principle in mind can help make a story tight and cohesive, keeping your audience focused on the themes and messages of the plot. While binging on video essays on YouTube, I recently came across Lindsay Ellis channel. One of her videos talks specifically about the way Mad Max: Fury Road deftly uses setups and payoffs throughout. As with most things in my life, I began thinking about how to apply these concepts to running RPGs.

Now, it’s important to state up front that writing a story is drastically different from running a roleplaying game. Even if some writing is done collaboratively, there is still room to edit and refine before the final product is presented to an audience. In RPGs, our collaborators ARE the audience and there is no way to go back and edit things we decide we’d rather not use. If you try and use unmodified writing techniques to run a roleplaying game, you’re going to end up frustrating yourself and your players, and most likely be accused of railroading.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t pick the techniques apart and find what works for use in RPGs. Chekhov’s Gun makes an important point about following through on the elements introduced in a story, and this can be just as valuable in an RPG as it is in solo writing. A good GM knows how to bring things full circle in a game, giving their players the satisfaction of a good game and story.

Plant Seeds but Don’t Get Too Clever

When sitting down to plan a game, it is tempting to craft clever setups that will shock your players when they figure it all out in the end. Unfortunately, putting too many intricate and subtle details into prep usually leaves the GM disappointed as players remain oblivious and miss them. Even fantastic players miss subtle details through the course of a game, and that’s before the added complication of remembering details between game sessions. If you need to explain your cleverness to your players after the fact, that detail didn’t work. Keep your setups simple, something you can implement with broad strokes that can be echoed in later sessions.

One good example I’ve experienced, is a friend’s D&D 5E city based campaign. Much of his initial prep for the campaign made use of Pelgrane Press’ Conspyramid from Night’s Black Agents. Even just a simple outline of the connected threats in the city has allowed him to plant seeds that have come full circle and succeeded in making us players feel accomplished at beating the bad guys and shocked at how deep the trouble goes throughout the city streets.

Any special sword better end up in a PC’s hands.

Pay Attention to What Your Players Are Interested In

Keep an eye on what your players are focusing on. Plenty of GMs have lamented on how the players ignored their big plot hooks to spend time on things they considered inconsequential. In most cases, that should be telling you that your big hooks aren’t as compelling as you thought they were. Don’t just ham-fistedly push your players towards the main plot and ignore the supposedly inconsequential things they are actually excited about. Take the things they’re latching onto and run with them. When possible, just use those unexpected things they latch onto to tie back into the bigger plot you were trying to get them entangled with in the first place.

During the first campaign I ever ran, my players often pushed me into pure improvisation as they went way, way off the material I had prepped. During one session, while they were exploring the flying pirate ship they had unexpectedly stolen from a super villain, I made an offhand remark about a little black book among the belongings of the telepathic monkey first mate that had gotten away. It wasn’t meant to go anywhere or do anything, but the players loved the idea and decided to call some of the numbers in the book. From this was born the monkey’s girlfriend, Lisa Terrance, a high society debutante NPC that became one of their favorite sources of information.

Keep Track of What You Set Up

This one may be more of a reminder for myself than advice for anyone else, but keeping good notes on what you’ve put into play and need to follow up on is a good practice to help keep a game’s story cohesive and helps reinforce a cinematic feel for your players. For me, these notes don’t need to be extensive. Usually just a bullet point or two is enough to help remind me which elements I need to follow up on. In addition, never hesitate to ask your players to recap the game. It can be enlightening to see the things they’re focused on compared to what’s in your notes.

During my Eberron campaign, after a short hiatus of a few weeks, I asked my players for a recap of what they remembered. They all brought up, in excited detail, a fight they’d had with some cultists that I had completely forgotten about. I had mostly used the cultists as throw away bad guys to fit in a combat encounter, but I realized their presence meant more to the players than it had to me, so I made a note to follow through on that plot element to make it even more satisfying and relevant for them.

Even When Abandoning Something, Give it an Ending

When you inevitably come face to face with something that isn’t working, figure out how to end it with some sort of resolution as quickly as possible to get it out of the way. Not everything you bring to the table is going to go perfectly. Sometimes the players just aren’t interested and sometimes you’re just not feeling it as the GM. It can be tempting to just move on and pretend the struggling plot line never existed, but to maintain a cohesive world for your players, it’s better to do some editing on the fly and give that truncated element a clear resolution or ending. If you don’t, even if they didn’t like that story line much, it will feel like it’s just hanging out there, unsatisfyingly unfinished.

During my character’s introduction into a friend’s ongoing campaign, he had her have a run in with an NPC that was strongly hinted at being a serial killer stalking people similar to her and the other PCs. This was something both me and my PC thought was cool, so I tried following it up during several different sessions, but it quickly became apparent that the GM wasn’t interested in following up on that thread. I think he had simply intended the NPC to be a threat to my character that would drive her towards the other PCs. He obviously never expected me to care about that plot thread and was confused when I kept trying to investigate it. While I had fun with the rest of that campaign, I’m still a little disappointed that introductory element just fizzled and went nowhere.

Whether you’re running a heavily narrative-based indie game or a more traditional mechanics driven game, an understanding of how to set up and pay off different plot elements can help enhance a game. It may be impossible to pay off every set up we throw out there in an RPG, but follow up on the ones your players latch onto and you’ll give them a game they’ll remember.

Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Widow’s Tear: Cosmic Horror For Starfinder Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 4 January 2018 - 3:00pm
Starfinder takes the d20 RPG rules you know and shoots them out into space. And, as we know, in space, nobody can hear you scream. And there’s some crazy-terrifying things out there! What kind of things!? Well… that’s what The Widow’s Tear book lets you know about. It’s an in-depth look at the residents of […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Black Hole Council Board Game Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 4 January 2018 - 2:00pm
The secretive Council is negotiating the fate of planets. The negotiations are tense, as each Council Member has their own agenda. It’s not easy for the planets, either. They could be spared, or thrown into a black hole (that’ll certainly ruin your day). With each Council Member looking to become the Senior Councilor, you can […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

President Bigly Card Game Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 4 January 2018 - 1:00pm
The world today seems absolutely crackers, With nuclear bombs to blow us all sky high. There’s fools and idiots sitting on the trigger. It’s depressing and it’s senseless, and that’s why… you should check out President Bigly, a new card game that’s up on Kickstarter. Ok, so that’s not originally how Eric Idle finished out […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Tickets Available For Lock & Load Gamefest 2018

Tabletop Gaming News - 4 January 2018 - 12:00pm
Do you like Warmachine? Do you like Hordes? Do you want to play games with a lot of other people playing Warmachine and Hordes? Do you want to play Warmachine and/or Hordes with George Wendt? Will you be in the Seattle area in June? If you answered “yes” to most of those questions, you’ll want […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Paladins is stepping into the Battle Royale ring with Battlegrounds mode

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 4 January 2018 - 11:02am

Hi-Rez Studios is bringing a 100-player Battle Royale mode to its free-to-play, Early Access hero shooter. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

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