Game Design

A bug has tanked Team Fortress 2†™s Steam Marketplace economy

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 26 July 2019 - 12:11pm

And since items in Team Fortress 2 can be bought and sold on the marketplace for Steam Wallet Funds, the hiccup is already causing major issues. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

PUBG Corp says it has buried the hatchet with Fortnite dev Epic Games

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 26 July 2019 - 9:48am

Despite past animosity, PlayerUnknown†™s Battlegrounds developer PUBG Corp says there†™s no bad blood between it and Fortnite developer Epic Games. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Game dev survival guide - by Matt Woodward Blogs - 26 July 2019 - 7:52am
The goal of this guide is to help you, a humble game developer, make plans to deal with the ever-present threat of layoffs. Along the way it might also help with other things.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

NPC Backgrounds

Gnome Stew - 26 July 2019 - 5:00am

Back in March of this year, I wrote a series of three articles about PC backgrounds. You can find part one, part two, and part three with their respective hyperlinks. Today, I’m going to be talking about NPC backgrounds. You’ll notice that this is going to be roughly one-third the size of the PC background series. That’s because GMs have enough to do without creating a five-page dissertation on the NPC’s past starting with their first memories and leading up to today. This means that we’ll be tackling some “quick ‘n’ dirty” backgrounds for the NPCs.

How Much Is Too Much?

It’s all about return on investment (or return on time, which is more accurate for what we GMs are doing.) If an NPC is going to be frequently recurring or even traveling with the party for a while, then I delve a little deeper into the NPC’s backstory. I won’t go the total depth like I do with a PC, but there’s some good stuff in there. Borrowing from my PC background series, I’ll briefly sketch out the following details:

  • Name
  • Societal Role/Rank
  • Physical Details (height, weight, eye, hair, scars, tattoos, etc.)
  • Personal connection to at least one party member (if possible, perhaps tangential)
  • 1-2 Quirks
  • 1 Like
  • 1 Dislike
  • Goal
  • Motivation for said goal
  • 1 Fear (optional)
  • Limitation(s) if necessary

This is about the max that I’ll do. It’s gotta fit on an index card, or I won’t use it at all. Basically, if I can’t flip to their card and remind myself of a detail within a handful of seconds, then I’ve developed too much information for the NPC.

 It’s all about return on time. Share82Tweet1Reddit1Email

If I plan for a character to have less “screen time” with the party, then I’ll drop a few of these off the list, starting at the bottom of the list. Sometimes the NPC’s goal and motivation really don’t matter to their interactions with the PCs.

If you need to prepare more information than what’s on my list, that’s fine. Some people need more to hang their hat on. However, I would urge you to ensure whatever quick reference system you’re using allows you to ingest all of the details about an NPC in a single glance. (I’m about to make Phil SO happy about this next statement.) Index cards are your friends. If you can drop the information in a legible format on a single side of an index card, you’ll be doing just fine.

How Little Is Too Little?

 If you struggle with the quirks aspect of NPCs, turn to a search engine. Share82Tweet1Reddit1Email

Using my list from above, my minimum NPC prep for one that I know I’ll be using (beyond “transactional NPCs”) will be the first five bullet points. Once I have a quirk down on the list of minor details about the NPC, I’m good. I’ll stop there. If I stop at the physical details, I know the NPC will come off as a “cardboard cutout” of a character, and that’s the best they’ll ever be. Just by throwing in one quirk, I’ve given the NPC some personality and a detail for the PCs to remember the NPC by.

If you struggle with the quirks aspect of NPCs, then hit our benevolent information overlords… Er… I mean Google, and search for “rpg random personality quirks”. You’ll find a whole slew of options to pick from for generating some quirks.

Is Random Okay?

If you’re creating an NPC (especially if you hadn’t planned on creating many details about them) and that NPC is a “one shot” NPC, then it’s perfectly fine to turn to the countless “random NPC generator” tables, web pages, and so on that will create 3-5 little details about the NPC to make them a little more flavorful.

If the random table(s) you’re using only determine height, weight, eye color, hair color, and one physical affectation, then I’d recommend moving on to a different set of tables or adding to the resources that you’re using. While physical descriptions are fine for some basic characteristics, they really don’t define the character and how they act toward the world and react to stimuli. I’d much rather know that an NPC is brave and impulsive than knowing that they are tall and fat.

How Did You Meet?

This is a great opportunity to leverage the creativity and imaginations of the players at the table. If they invent a situation where an NPC is introduced to the party or just flat create the existence of an NPC on the fly, don’t panic. You don’t have to stall the game while you create an NPC from random tables or think too deeply about the NPC’s goals and motivations.

 You truly want to use leading questions here. Share82Tweet1Reddit1Email

Simply ask the player the created the NPC a simple question: How did you meet [insert name/label here]?

Of course, this isn’t going to go very far because it’s open-ended and non-leading. You truly want to use leading questions here. Give them some bait to entice them to bite deep into the “backstory hook.” Here are some sample professions for NPCs and how you can lead a player into a brief introduction of the NPC.

Barkeep: Why did the barkeep throw you out that one time?

Grocer: What did the grocer do when he caught you stealing an apple from him when you were five years old?

Weaponsmith: You apprenticed with the weaponsmith for a few months, but things didn’t work out. Why not?

Stablemaster: You helped save every horse from a stable fire when you were a wee lad. How did the stablemaster reward you?

Innkeeper: She caught you kissing her little brother/sister when you were thirteen. How did she react?

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Discord de-clutters its sidebar by adding drag-and-drop server folders

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 25 July 2019 - 2:23pm

Discord's latest update introduces the ability to sort different servers into custom folders, something the company says has been a highly requested feature for some time. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Game Master's Toolbox: Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery 5th Edition

New RPG Product Reviews - 25 July 2019 - 10:26am
Publisher: Nord Games
Rating: 5
Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery is part of a series of books by Nord Games that provides a very handy list of characters of various race, background, class, and alignment. The book contains character sheets for each character at level 1, 4, 8, 12, 16, and 20. The character classes include bard, barbarian, fighter, warlock, and ranger, covering roughly half the class options in the Player's Handbook. There are 10 races represented, excluding sub-races, featuring most of the standard races, and even a shapechanger! There are 30 characters in total, with some tables that a dungeon master can roll on to get a random character. There are even tables by alignment in case you're looking for a charatacter that's good, neutral, or evil-aligned.
However, this book doesn't have to be for dungeon masters alone. If you're in a pinch and need a character for a game, say at a gaming convention or a pick-up game, this book is very useful. Since the character sheets take up one page each for the characters at each level, you can simply print up characters from the PDF file or photocopy them and hand them out when needed. The character's backstory is even included. This can make the game easy for those just getting started who don't yet understand the character creation process.

On top of all of this, the book has a few pages at the end with some nice equipment options. Much of these are items are things like enhanced tools, kits, and musical instruments that often give bonuses to tool proficiency checks. There are some very interesting items, such as the 'Book of Blackmail' that gives bonuses to persuasion checks against nobles listed in the book who don't want their secrets exposed. Items like this require some DM judgement as to how they are to be used. There are a few weapons listed as well, including the 'powerful crossbow' and 'scalpel', which have some special rules for dealing extra damage. These are things that a DM should be aware of before allowing them in their game. As well, there are some new poisons and magic items to add some flare to your game. There is also a handful of new spells, most of which are really useful. Some of the spell descriptions, such as for the spell 'Donnybrook', which causes a crowd of at least 15 creatures to start fighting each other, are also open to DM interpretation. Most of the spells nicely match the book's theme of skulduggery, giving some nice options for thiefs, such as the 'Sticky Fingers' cantrip that grants advantage on Sleight of Hand checks.

Overall, this book is greatfor DMs. You can use it to introduce a new NPC when you need to, and have stats for that NPC as they rise in level. You can use it for extra characters when you have new players. You can use the items as treasure for your party, and you can surprise and vex your party with spells that they haven't seen before. This is a great book if you're looking to reduce the prepwork before your game, and I can't wait to see what other books Nord games offers in this series.

See the full review at [!](
Categories: Game Theory & Design

FPS Maker - Preview 01 - by Kévin Drure Blogs - 25 July 2019 - 7:21am
FPS game engine in development. First preview
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Gnomecast #71 – Life’s Time Crunch vs. Gaming

Gnome Stew - 25 July 2019 - 5:00am

Join Ang, Jared, and J.T. for a discussion about how to keep gaming when it feels like life has other ideas. Will these gnomes be able to make time to escape the stew this week?

Download: Gnomecast #71 – Life’s Time Crunch vs. Gaming

Follow J.T. at @jtevans on Twitter and check out his work and other social media info on his website,

Follow Jared at @KnightErrant_JR on Twitter and check out his blog, What Do I Know?

Follow Ang at @orikes13 on Twitter and see pictures of her cats at @orikes13 on Instagram.

Keep up with all the gnomes by visiting, following @gnomestew on Twitter, or visiting the Gnome Stew Facebook Page. Subscribe to the Gnome Stew Twitch channel, check out Gnome Stew Merch, and support Gnome Stew on Patreon!

For another great show on the Misdirected Mark network, check out Bone, Stone, and Obsidian!

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Don't Miss: The art of the tutorial

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 24 July 2019 - 2:50pm

Experienced devs from across the industry share their perspective on the best way to make people feel comfortable the first time they play your game. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Grand Theft Auto Online's new casino is limited by gambling laws in some countries

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 24 July 2019 - 2:20pm

Grand Theft Auto Online opened up an in-game Casino this week, but players are reporting that not all of the new content is available in every country, likely due to region restrictions on online gambling. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Twitter for #GameDevs - by Ashley Kreuer Blogs - 24 July 2019 - 7:54am
So you’re a #GameDev and you’ve heard about this great social platform called Twitter. How do you use it? I’m not some marketing guru but I do have 500+ followers on Twitter and I only joined Twitter in May 2019.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Data Structures Part 1: Bulk Data - by Niklas Gray Blogs - 24 July 2019 - 7:53am
Examines the options for storing object arrays.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Female Representation in Video Games: How Are We Doing? - by Jori Hamilton Blogs - 24 July 2019 - 7:52am
The profile of the average video game consumer has changed drastically in the past decade. Now that women make up a significant portion of the gaming population, it's worth taking a look at how the industry is looking to include a new demographic.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Sorted sets in C# and performance. A mystery remains. - by Jamie Fristrom Blogs - 24 July 2019 - 7:48am
While trying to work with sorted sets I've discovered some interesting things about dotnet core performance, but am at a loss to explain all of them.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Tetsumo Party and the story of "naked buttocks" - by Krzysztof Zarczynski Blogs - 24 July 2019 - 7:46am
When making a game, sooner or later you will have to face the age rating organizations. There is nothing to be afraid of, but the effects of this on your game can vary. Tetsumo Party went through this process and I think it makes for an interesting story.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Creating Conversion Rules For All Your Toys

Gnome Stew - 24 July 2019 - 6:56am

Here my D&D players hunt a Barovian witch on a BattleTech map.

 It would be a shame to not use all your toys in this situation simply because you reasonably limited your campaign to one rule system… Share43Tweet4Reddit1EmailIf you’re like me and play multiple games from different companies, you probably have multiple products for different game systems lying around. Perhaps you have maps from the Conan board game by Monolith, some model train terrain, and D&D 5e dungeon tiles; however, you’re currently trying out the Pathfinder 2.0 Playtest rules, but you also want to run that Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay adventure book Lure of the Lich Lord that you impulsively purchased two years ago. It would be a shame to not use all your toys in this situation simply because you reasonably limited your campaign to one rule system; this is why we need conversion rules. Now I’m not necessarily talking about creating a homebrew that’s a hybrid of multiple rule systems. I’m talking about taking a product designed for a different table top game than the one you’re currently playing and giving its features meaning within the rule system you’re currently playing.

I discovered a method to creating conversion rules that I can demonstrate to you by explaining how I made my conversion rules. Share43Tweet4Reddit1EmailI did this with BattleTech terrain maps throughout the entirety of running D&D 5e in The Storm King’s Thunder and The Curse of Strahd adventure books. Both of those campaigns have great dungeon maps or indoor maps where combat may take place, but those maps required time for me to draw or buy digitally before game day. What’s more, most of the combat spontaneously occurred outside because my players were traveling murder hobos, and I wouldn’t let them fast travel. My players traveled regularly from one edge of the world map to the other. I rolled for random encounters for every half hour of game time. As a DM, I couldn’t prepare for where a wilderness terrain combat would take place or even what kind of wilderness the combat would take place in. So, my large collection of BattleTech map sheets came in handy. Those map sheets contain a hex grid on top of terrain for all kinds of wilderness, but they’re made and labeled for a very different rule system from D&D 5e. This necessitated my creation of conversion rules for the BattleTech map features to D&D 5e rules. I discovered a method to creating conversion rules that I can demonstrate to you by explaining how I made my conversion rules.

How To Make Conversion Rules, Step 1

Start by analyzing the kind of features you’re converting over to your current campaign’s rule system. They will likely be for combat or role play. I used my terrain based BattleTech map features for combat, so my conversion rules had to do with combat and how terrain affects combat. Then, gather data on what your current campaign’s rule set contains to deal with the kinds of features you’re converting. In my case, terrain affects combat in D&D 5e by adding movement penalties or altering attack modifiers. The concepts D&D 5e has to deal with terrain and combat include difficult terrain, half cover, three-quarters cover, climbing, and swimming. Learning those rules thoroughly and labeling them for quick reference was important for me, and it is important for you to do the same with whatever system you’re working with before moving on to the next step.

How to Make Conversion Rules, Step 2

This BattleTech map held a battle between Columbus and Toledo in Ohio’s ongoing BattleTech civil war. Notice the different hex terrain types that I converted over to D&D.

The next step requires identifying the converting features. For example, BattleTech maps yield an abundance of terrain: level 1 hills, level 2 hills, level 3+ hills, light woods, heavy woods, depth 1 water, depth 2 water, depth 3+ water, and rough terrain. At least know the definitions of your converting features. In my case higher numbers represent higher level hills or deeper water depths; light woods contain few trees with less cover; heavy woods contain more trees with great cover, and rough terrain simply contains some kind of debris.

How to Make Conversion Rules, Step 3

Compare your current rule system’s concepts from step 1 to the features’ definitions in step 2 and hope everything lines up somehow. Fortunately for me, things lined up nicely.

Walking onto any non-clear terrain hex on a BattleTech map in D&D 5e simply converts to difficult terrain for movement purposes. It’s also intuitive to see that a D&D 5e character in a light woods hex should receive half cover, and a character in a heavy woods hex should obtain three-quarters cover. A character in water of a certain depth needs to swim and traversing hexes with a level change of a certain height requires climbing.

Once you see what generally needs to be done, write down the specifics and really get into the nitty gritty of everything. Be prepared for the worst from your players. Give them a page or two of the conversion rules that relate to their character, and give them the full rules you made also. If you made your conversion rules well, everything should be close to the rules as written in your current campaign’s rule system.

Check out my conversion rules if you desire exemplification of what I mean by, “getting into the nitty gritty of everything”:

I also made a YouTube video over my conversion rules that you can check out here:


On The Importance Of Writing Down Your Conversion Rules

Writing down rules can be a pain. I didn’t write down my rules at first. This led me to inconsistently apply how things in my world worked. My players did not enjoy that. One week moving about my world worked one way, the next week a different way. They couldn’t use their past experiences to help them plan out what to do in the future, and I want my players planning their move before their turn comes up. All that changed after I wrote my rules down and handed my players a page over how their characters may move across the BattleTech terrain with their D&D 5e characters. The game ran faster. If I made a mistake, a player could point to a sentence in my rules and remedy the mistake; this is always nicer than hearing a player complain: “Hey, that’s not how it worked last week!”

See the full witch hunting ground, provided by one of the latest BattleTech maps. I used modular terrain because the witch prepared some high level illusion spells, but my D&D players didn’t know that.

Do you have any conversion rules that you want to make? Have you made any conversion rules? What other different toys could we combine together in a campaign? Let’s talk about such things in the reply section below.

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Smart & Casual: The State of Tile Puzzle Games Level Design. Part 1 - by Darina Emelyantseva Blogs - 24 July 2019 - 3:29am
Darina Emelyantseva, Lead Level Designer and Game Economy Designer at Room 8 Studio, shares the peculiar secrets of level design: like why the industry sticks to manual craft, and what are the latest know-hows.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The one metric you SHOULD care about when launching your game - by Simon Carless Blogs - 24 July 2019 - 12:07am
I have good news for you. There’s already a way to work out if your premium, non-F2P game launching on Steam is going to be a success or not. And I really feel like many people don’t understand this.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Sponsored: Designing effective but fair free-to-play subscription plans

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 23 July 2019 - 3:16pm

Xsolla's experts look at industry trends to determine which features should be included in F2P subscription plans to reach an ideal ROI. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

FIFA's loot boxes don't count as gambling, says UK Gambling Commission

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 23 July 2019 - 2:27pm

The UK Gambling Commission maintains that a lack of rewards with real-world value keeps loot boxes from tipping over into gambling. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design


Subscribe to As If Productions aggregator - Game Theory & Design