Game Design

Fantasy Flight Games Previews Yellow Cards From Empire at War

Tabletop Gaming News - 13 September 2017 - 7:00am
The color yellow, at least in certain cultures, has often been associated with being cowardly. “What are ya, yellah?” is something you’ve possibly heard in some old western movie. But the yellow cards in Star Wars: Destiny are hardly a bunch of cowards. Empire at War proves that with a bunch of new cards coming […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Best Indie Games Marketing Strategy for Solo Developers - by Kenneth Tran Blogs - 13 September 2017 - 6:20am
So the best strategy is simply to have a marketer early on and have them working just as hard as the developers do. I don’t need analytics or data to prove that.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Privateer Press Previews December Releases

Tabletop Gaming News - 13 September 2017 - 6:00am
We are partway through September. Seems like a pretty good time to take a look at what is coming up for December. As much as I wish it’d stay Autumn forever, we all know that’s just not the case. But Privateer Press is letting us know what will be coming out from them when winter’s […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Making Social Casino Games Fun for Everyone - by Daniel Kashmir Blogs - 13 September 2017 - 5:50am
As the social casino audience reaches saturation, developers must find ways to make their games fun for a broad range of gamers, beyond just their core audiences. We describe 5 important ways that developers can make social casino games fun for everyone.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

How to Tell a Lie: Interaction, Information and Conversation in The Hit - by Dan Stubbs Blogs - 13 September 2017 - 5:45am
Some side-effects of the interaction interface I'm working on: you'll be able to lie, tell if someone's lying (if you're observant enough) and get better at lying, both in single-player and multiplayer. Here's a few notes about that.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

100 Days of VR: Day 6 Survival Shooter Tutorial II - by Josh Chang Blogs - 13 September 2017 - 5:45am
Today in day 6, we’re going to finish the rest of the Survival Shooter tutorial creating the UI, attacking and moving the player and the enemies, and raycasting!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Players as Characters

Gnome Stew - 13 September 2017 - 1:00am

Composited from stock art and art by Juan Ochoa

If someone plays RPGs long enough, the thought of “What if I were a character in a game?” will inevitably pop into the brain. Most people shy away from this idea for fear of the introspection or the fact that they must be themselves 99% of the time and want to use role playing as an escape. I completely understand these inclinations, but I’ve been a player in a few games where my character was, well, me. One of them was a Werewolf: The Apocalypse game, and the other was a GURPS game. The Werewolf game was incredibly enjoyable because “me” was actually “me with werewolf abilities,” so there was the sense of escapism involved. The GURPS game, however, fell flat because there weren’t any fantastic or sci-fi or horror elements to the game. It was quite boring being a real person in the real world tackling real world problems. There was no true sense of escape or enjoyment.

I always get player buy-in on a campaign concept, and if one or two players are lukewarm about the game, I adjust things a small bit to bring them into the fold. If I were to ever run a “players as characters” game, I’d go for 100% buy-in. If even one person is uncomfortable with the concept of being themselves in a game, I’ll back off. Because of this very strict rule I have, I’ve never managed to actually fire up a game like this. I have gone through a few session zeroes for these concepts where characters are made, but at the end of the day, someone backed out.

Game Concept

In addition to getting the players to accept playing themselves, the GM must be extra careful with the game content. Most horror games trigger something in the players. When the players are themselves, this can be especially true. I highly suggest avoiding horror-themed games, but they can work if everyone knows what they are in for up front. I’d also avoid the “you’re real people in the real world” idea. We get enough of that as it is. Almost any twist on reality or change in location or time period can work for the group, so long as everyone is on board with it. This has to be a group consensus.

Sense of Wonder

There needs to be a sense of wonder or fantastic things happening to really immerse the players into the game. Dropping them into a fantasy world can be a nice touch. Also, using a historic period would be a great idea (take a look at Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court for ideas). Basically, displacing the players, as they are now, into a different and fantastic location, strange time (future or past), or changing the modern reality to be wondrous is key.

Another approach is to leave the real world as it is (maybe with a few twists), and change the players. These changes can be drastic or subtle, but need to come with benefits and hindrances that flow naturally together. As I’ve already mentioned, I got to play myself as a werewolf. That was great fun! I also wouldn’t mind seeing what I would be able to do with cybernetic enhancements or minor magical talents. These ideas really intrigue me.

Character Creation

Character creation is probably one of the hardest things to do in this situation. You’re not creating someone imaginary. You and your players are trying to emulate the players themselves in the game statistics and numbers. This requires an open mind, a dump truck full of honesty, and a cargo ship packed with acceptance of others’ opinions of you and your abilities. Some physical stats (such as strength) can be measured with relative ease. However, things like intelligence, wisdom, charisma, chutzpah, charm, or other mental/social abilities are harder to judge.

There are two approaches I’ve seen that work. The first is to have each player anonymously “vote” on one player’s stats. The GM then collects these votes and produces an average of the votes that the player has to accept. This prevents hurt feelings over a low score. Another approach is to trust the players to do what is right and let them self-evaluate. Some players have a hard time with this depth of introspection, so some nudging and guidance by the GM might be needed.

Lastly, I like the idea of allowing the players to add a point or three to abilities and/or skills. This will allow them to be themselves, but a slightly better version. This will help increase the fun of the gaming.

Character Balance

We’re not all created equal. We didn’t all have the same opportunities to improve or learn or practice. It’s just a fact. This means if you go with the “dead honest” approach, there will be some players that are more potent than others. This needs to be avoided. I suggest that once the characters are created, find the most powerful ones and either adjust them down closer to an average or allow the weaker players to boost up to be a match for the more powerful ones. This is very easy to do in a point-buy character creation system. With a race+class+level type system, this can be done via special items, more money (Congrats! You won the lottery.), more contacts/connections, a sidekick, a potent pet, and so on.

Character Death

This is touchy. What happens when a character dies? Normally, this is a great storytelling moment to make the death dramatic and impact the plotlines. However, this is a player playing themselves. I advise not to allow the players to have “plot armor” as protection just because they are playing themselves, but acknowledge up front that character death is a possibility and collaborate on what to do if this happens. Does the player then create a more traditional character? Does the player drop out of the game (it’s an option, but not one I like unless it’s a one-shot)? Do the rest of the players find a way to bring the dead character back to life? There are quite a few courses of action that can be taken, but I feel this needs to be addressed and planned for before it actually happens. I highly recommend going back a short bit in our archives and reading Avery’s article on how to make death matter.

Middle Ground

If you’re not interested in leveraging a normal RPG for representing the players as themselves, there is a series of games designed to be one-shots or short run campaigns from Fantasy Flight Games. They are called “The End of the World.” In the series, the players get to be themselves with whatever they have at hand in the real world to do battle against either zombies, elder gods, aliens, or the robot uprising. I’ve had the books for a while and have read most of the zombie version. It really looks like a fun game to immerse into for an evening, but I’ve not had the right chance to pop the game into a group due to adulting too much.

You can find more about these books at Fantasy Flight’s web site.


Have you ever been in or run a game where the players play themselves? What pitfalls did you run into? What were the high points? Let us know how things went!

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Double Eagle Games Launches Bulletproof Card Game Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 12 September 2017 - 3:00pm
Who wouldn’t want to run their own criminal empire? I’m sure some of you out there had a Scarface poster on your wall at some point in time. Well, in Bulletproof, you are placed at the head of a crime organization. It’s up to you, then, to build it into a real powerhouse empire. Collect […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Tickets Now Available For BonesCon ’18

Tabletop Gaming News - 12 September 2017 - 2:00pm
It’s never too early to start thinking about convention season. Nowadays, it practically runs all year. For example, BonesCon ’18 is only a mere 5 months away. If you’re going to be in Birmingham (in the UK, not in Alabama) from February 16th-18th, you might just want to stop by. Tickets are on sale now. […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Bungie pulls Destiny 2 item resembling white supremacist symbol

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 12 September 2017 - 1:22pm

Just shy of one week after launch, Bungie has removed an in-game armor piece from Destiny 2 after being alerted that the gauntlet's design strongly resembled that of a white supremacist flag. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Dragons Conquer America Introductory Adventure Out Now

Tabletop Gaming News - 12 September 2017 - 1:00pm
Burning Games will be bringing Dragons Conquer America, their new fantasy RPG to Kickstarter on November 1st. In the meantime, to get gamers informed about the world and excited to see more, they have posted up an introductory adventure, titled The Coatli Stone. You can think of it as Chapter 0 (they also call it […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Bailey Records Anniversary Sale Happening Now

Tabletop Gaming News - 12 September 2017 - 12:00pm
Bailey Records is turning 18. *snifflesniffle* They grow up so fast! But while it might be their birthday, it’s you who is getting the presents. They’re having a huge sale over in their webshop now. From the announcement: Bailey Records is celebrating our 18th anniversary with a 25% off sale at our boutique shop Licensed […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Worlds Adrift dev Bossa Studios secures $10M investment

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 12 September 2017 - 11:03am

Bossa Studios has raised an additional $10 million to further development of its ambitious MMO sandbox, Worlds Adrift. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Podcast Roundup

Tabletop Gaming News - 12 September 2017 - 11:00am
It’s Tuesday here in Atlanta. Thankfully, the city doesn’t seem to have been hit too hard by the storm. Hopefully all of you are safe and with power. I’m black in the office and looking to get back to a normal routine. That includes loading up some gaming podcasts to help make our way back […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Add-Ons Added to Wander: The Cult of Barnacle Bay Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 12 September 2017 - 10:00am
The Kickstarter campaign for Wander: The Cult of Barnacle Bay is doing well. They’ve made it over their funding goal and are working their way through stretch goals. To help with that, they’ve added on some add-ons, letting you get alternate heroes, extra dice, and (once they get there) a new expansion set. From the […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Dark Designs: Nightbane Sourcebook Now Available

Tabletop Gaming News - 12 September 2017 - 9:00am
In my opinion, there’s never too many options that you can have for your RPG. Everything is just another way to personalize your character and really make them unique and memorable. Palladium is helping with that for those of you out there playing Dark Designs. They have a new Nightbane sourcebook out that gives both […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Doomtown Reloaded: There Comes a Reckoning Expansion Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 12 September 2017 - 8:00am
The wild west is getting even wilder. Doomtown: Reloaded is getting itself a new expansion. It’s called There Comes a Reckoning and it’ll be adding 96 new cards to your collections (well, four copies of each of the 24 cards, that is). No matter what faction you’re backing, there’s something for you. The set is […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Dawn of the Archmage Relaunches on Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 12 September 2017 - 7:00am
Not every Kickstarter campaign makes it to their funding goal on the first try. There’s no shame in that, as I have seen many campaigns retool and make it even further the second time around than they could’ve ever hoped the first time. With any luck, that will be the case for Dawn of the […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Resources For Video Game Music Composers - by Winifred Phillips Blogs - 12 September 2017 - 6:47am
Video game composer Winifred Phillips offers a roundup of resources available to newcomers who aspire to enter the field of game music composition. Included: software tools, scholarly orgs, educational links, concert tours, and online communities.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Direct vs. Agency: The Complicated World of Influencer Marketing - by Michelle Shaw Blogs - 12 September 2017 - 6:47am
So, you want to get YouTubers and Twitch streamers playing your game, but aren’t sure where to start? Knowing whether to go Direct or through an Agency is a big question and depending on your situation, there might not be a clear-cut answer.
Categories: Game Theory & Design


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