角色创造是任何系统的基础。千万不要忽视这一点。未来的GM也许会创造一些角色去明确这一效果。确保它能足够灵活，庄严且带有合适的描述。而对于玩家来说，这是他们第一 次与游戏进行互动，所以你必须确保有效地解释相关过程。角色创造不需要太快，有些玩家喜欢复杂的创造过程，特别是当玩家将经历较长的行动时。同时你必须认真地对待所提 出的理念。
《Chgowiz》使用了目标数机制的修改。为了执行行动，他们添加了属性，技能和滚动的骰子去与目标数相抗衡。即使属性和技能的集合超过目标数，他们仍然能够投掷骰子。不同 的是所有玩家将在中间放置一大堆骰子。当有人执行行动时，他们便会从中间拿走一个骰子。如此他们便能够夺走其他玩家的骰子。这属于元游戏机制，因为角色并不会意识到他 们即将失败–因为玩家用光了所有骰子！
摩擦是指我们在游戏过程中需要记住许多规则的感受。你应该尝试着去平衡一个包含快速战术决策的简单系统以及拥有各种选择，编辑器和特殊规则的摩擦系统。如果你提供给玩 家越少的战术选择，那么他们所面对的游戏系统也就越少。选择过多的话系统也会太过膨胀。简单的规则能够帮助玩家更快速地掌握，而摩擦规则能够更好地呈现出游戏世界。只 有你能够决定系统是否适合你在一开始就决定好的理念。
内容页面应该包含主标题和副标题。关于表格，图像和图解的列表则应该归属于附录中。尽可能将内容保持在1，2页内，必要的话去压缩字体或行间距而将内容全部呈现在一页上 。内容页面是用于涵括整体主题，如果它所占的范围越大，便会失去功效。我们可以压缩行间距让人们只看得到内容，因为他们也不愿意像阅读散文段落那样去浏览该页面。如果 你的游戏保持在7页内，那么便可以选择添加内容页面。
我们的封底拥有一些广告信息，如果是出于个人使用的话也可以添加一些有关印刷所的介绍。如果未来GM愿意印刷它并进行更好地包装，那么玩家便有可能看到封底的内容。切忌 说出这是世界上最棒的游戏，将会改变玩家的生活这样的话语，而是选择一些角色会做的内容，并尽可能有趣地描述它们。如果游戏是关于将巨大的宝剑插向机智的恶龙脸上，那 就在封底对此进行描述！
当你再次阅读前，先回顾第三章节的类型环节，然后再阅读整款游戏，内容，索引等等。在阅读的时候坐下记录，但是不要中途停下来进行编辑。检查图像上的所有说明以及图表 的标题。如果你为每个文件设置了链接（基于HTML或PDF格式），那就点击每个链接。也许现在的你已经厌倦了游戏，但这却是非常重要的一步，千万不要放弃。然后问自己以下问 题：
游戏测试是指通过玩游戏去判断它是否与你的理念相符合。我们必须清楚游戏测试并不是一款真正的游戏。大多数GM都会扭曲规则，即忽视部分内容只使用10个任务中的一半规则 。真正优秀的游戏测试必须具有精确的规则，并尽可能多地使用规则集。你应该在书籍的开始写下对于游戏测试者的感谢词。确保你的游戏测试群组是由目标用户所组成。你必须 在自己真正觉得游戏已经完成时才开始进行游戏测试，游戏测试不能作为一种测试工具，只能用于检查问题。
我们必须从那些尝试着玩游戏的玩家身上获得反馈。反馈是获得信息的最简单方式，但是如果你能够在一种轻松氛围下（例如酒吧）与这些群组人员进行交流，那便能够更有效地 获得相关信息。玩家们更希望专注于一些好的内容，所以你可以基于这种方式向他们询问一些特别的机制。在与测试者交谈时请记录下他们所提出的各种优秀的理念。不要相信自 己能够凭记忆记下所有细节。测试者不会介意你在旁边做笔记，因为这会让他们觉得自己的观点很重要。
虽然所有反馈都是有价值的，但却并非都有用。对于你所创造的每一种形式，你都需要对此进行分配，并使用你的理念去检查反馈是否有用。我们应该专注于玩家所提出的问题而 不是他们所提供的解决方法。作为游戏设计师，你便是专家。机制改变将意味着你需要重新开始测试机制（使用电子数据表的话便会更加轻松）。你需要做好心理准备，因为并不 是所有人都会喜欢你的游戏。你只需要感谢他们所提供的反馈，并且不能让自己就止步于此。
Eric Chris Garrison的自制RPG
RPG.net的Ads和Open Promo 论坛都是非常棒的。
The mechanics of your game provide the players with tactical and strategic choices. They will spend resources, take risks, win and lose. The mechanics must mesh with the concept of the game and support the setting. The first question you must answer is:
Do I use an existing system?
There are hundreds of free RPG systems available, all of which can be extended and modified to meet your needs. By choosing an existing system (especially a popular one), you begin with a solid, playtested base. However, you then rely upon your setting and rule extension being novel enough for people to want to play.
Before you dive in and create your own system, check the list of systems I gave in Part 2 and make sure yours is truly novel. It is much better to extend an existing system that start from scratch.
How to make mechanics
Only include mechanics for things you want the players to do in the game. Reward for the style of play you want to foster. Mechanics are a set of steps that achieve a specific outcome. You do not need to use dice, the steps can be purely conversational or use bartering with resources.
The three points of the mechanics spectrum are resource, traditional and verbal. Resource mechanics are where the player trades an in-game currency for control of the game or success. Traditional mechanics involve rolling dice and comparing to a target number. Verbal mechanics reward good ideas and rhetoric with success.
Your mechanic can be a mix of these three things. Traditional mechanics are the most widely used.
Your mechanic must give the player choice. They must choose to do something and be able to understand the likelihood of an outcome. Avoid mechanics where a single roll can cause the sudden death of the character. You do not need to have a random element to a character’s action but avoid making everything automatically easy.
Make the player earn a success though clever use of their brain, either by manipulating the mechanics, setting or putting effort into the game.
Often it is wise to work from the mechanic you are trying to achieve back to the statistics of the character. This will avoid you getting dump statistics. Write down what part of your concept (you decided in Chapter 1) you are trying to emulate then decide on a mechanic in words that satisfies that. Finally work out what combination of skills, statistics, feats and randomness will achieve it.
I want the characters to be able to hurt the monster in imaginative ways. They must be able to inflect more damage by clever use of their gadgets, skills and environment – shooting it over and over should not lead to a win. I will need a statistic for using gadgets, skills for different gadgets (to allow specialisation) and a mechanic to make it worthwhile combining ideas and gadgets together. I’m going to use a shared dice mechanic, so the players should able able to gain more dice for working together.
The Meta Game
The Meta Game is what player-to-player interaction is called. If two players are talking about the situation from their point of view then they are Meta Gaming. If the players talk in character about the situation then that is regular roleplaying. All mechanics sit on a scale between the in character point of view and the Meta Game.
Meta Gaming mechanics can add variety to your game but must be used with care as they are often outside the sphere of knowledge of the character. The upshot is that the character may be taking actions for which they have no justification. A mantra for many roleplay groups is “What would your character do?” and that is often broken by the meta-game.
Only you can be the judge of whether Meta Game mechanics fit into your system. The mechanic types listed below include how “meta” they are.
For Chgowiz, I have a Meta Game mechanic where the players share dice. The characters do not know about the pool of dice that is being used for their actions, so it sits firmly in the Meta Game. A description of it is at the end of the mechanic types section below.
What to make mechanics for
Only make mechanics for things you want the players to do in your game. Some typical ones are:
The creation of a character sets the benchmark against which everything in the world is judged.
The character interacting with the world alone are actions. These include riding a horse, sailing and navigation. In these cases, there is no-one opposing the character, its just the character against the world. These actions will be performed a lot.
Where a character is trying to do something and another character is trying to stop them. These include persuading an NPC to open the gate to the castle. A character is trying to get the NPC to do something and the NPC’s sense of duty is opposing it.
Combat can come in may different forms: unarmed, with close quarters weapons, ranged, vehicle, space craft and so on. Combat also should have a method of doing harm to the opponent. This can be the same mechanic as an opposed action. Combat is usually broken up into rounds where each character takes it in turn to do an action.
Help the players make quick choices and keep the game moving by presenting the choices in a combat action clearly. The player can then spend their thinking time working out what their character would do rather than what options there are.
Wounding and healing
Invulnerable characters are less interesting to play than vulnerable ones. Have a mechanic to keep track of how much hurt the character has been through and how much more they can take before they can take no more actions. Having a decreasing point value (Hit Points) is a traditional solution but you can also choose narrative effects that affect the player’s decisions. Taking damage might also incur a penalty to performing actions. Ensure you include a way for
the characters to heal too.
For Chgowiz, I want the effect of being damage to be more narrative. As characters take damage, they can pick up disadvantages – making it more difficult to play. As the characters are clones, dying is not a problem, so the damage affects can be outrageous.
Measure lethality as the amount of game time it takes for a healthy character to die with average weapons/equipment in an average fight. Is lethality so high that the player will never get a chance to retreat? If that’s not part of your concept then consider changing it.
Magic (or doing technical actions in modern/Sci Fi) does not need its own system but you can add novel flavour to your system with it. Ensure that the magic system related to the setting – a society based on magic being easy should not have a system where runes need to be drawn accurately over several turns.
Controlling the narrative
Controlling the narrative means that the players get to decide the outcome of things.
If the roleplaying game is designed to be run over a series of sessions, then it is important to hand out a reward that can be used to improve the character.
Character creation is the cornerstone of any system. Do not stint on it. A prospective GM might well make a few characters to see what it is like. Ensure it is slick, majestic and well described. For the players, it is the first time they will interact with your game and it is important that the process is well explained. Character creation does not need to be quick, some players enjoy an involved creation session, especially if the character will last through a long campaign. Be true to the concept you laid out.
Characters tend to made of some or all of the following parts:
Attributes – a fixed number of inherent abilities of the character. Include: Strength, Intelligence and so on.
Skills – a list of learnt abilities, often picked from a list in the setting.
Feats/Traits – extraordinary abilities that the general populace do no possess, these can be both disadvantageous too.
Health – a way of tracking the amount of damage the character can take before they fall over.
Fluff – description, character name, organisations they belong to, age or anything pertinent. It’s the only place in the RPG where fluff is acceptable and prompts the player to flesh out the character.
If you want the game to be learnt quickly, try and keep to familiar terms. If your game is more epic in scale, feel free to break out the Thesaurus and pick words more familiar to your genre.
Avoid adding one of the above unless there is a rule that makes use of it. If you have a ‘Psyonic strength’ ability and no psyonic rules then the Attribute will be useless.
Ensure you include an example character creation, explaining the choices made at each point.
Random roll vs Point assign
Most roleplaying games use either random roll, point assign or a combination of the two (sum the rolls of 10 dice and assign). Random roll mechanics lead to faster character generation but can leave the player with a character they didn’t want to play. Point assign creation tends to be slower, leads to optimisation but leaves the player with the character they think they want to play.
Flow charts or randomly rolled tables can be used to create the backstory of your characters. Some players might find it too restrictive, others liberating. If you include one these mechanisms, I recommend it is optional.
Some character creation mechanisms use play a way of creating a character. In these collaborative methods, players play out scenes. The outcomes of those scenes determine or modify the facets of the character.
For Chgowiz, the players will create a ‘Genome’ – a root from which each clone is then generated. The Genome will have attributes and skills and will be chosen with point assign. Advantages and Disadvantages will then be randomly rolled per clone. If the clone is difficult to play because of a tough combination Disavdantages and Advantages, it is ok because Clones are expendable.
Types of mechanics
There are an enormous number of variants of dice, resource and narrative mechanic. Below are just a taste of four of the simplest mechanics many systems build upon. Most roleplaying games depend on mechanics using character properties (attributes and skills) combined with a random element.Target number
Used for: Unopposed actions, Opposed actions, combat, magic
Format: Character Properties + Modifiers + Dice roll >= Target number
A target number mechanic is the simplest form of mechanic. A Character’s Properties are combined (such as the sum of appropriate Attribute and Skill) with modifiers and a die roll. The result is then compared to a target number that is set by the Gamesmaster. In most cases, the higher the target number, the more difficult the task. For opposed rolls, the target number is a roll of the opponent. This can be slower as two dice are rolled, two equations summed before the comparison can be done.
As long as the properties are kept in low digits, the calculations are easy. Avoid applying too may modifiers. Some systems use tables to set the target numbers, this improves simulation of the mechanic but can be slow.Speed can be maintained by having the result of some calculations written on a character sheet. These are sometimes written down as secondary statistics.
Easy to balance
Linear probability scale
Mathematics can be difficult with large numbers
There is a temptation to add many modifiers elsewhere (such as modifiers on weapons)
Does not foster communication at the table
This is not Meta Gaming because the rolling of dice represents the actual actions of the character.
Used for: Unopposed actions, Opposed actions, combat, magic
Format: Roll as may dice as you have in character properties, remove dice for modifiers, count the number of dice that roll over a given number. To succeed, you need a number of successes.
Dice pool mechanics rely on counting the number of dice that successfully roll over a number. This can be a length process when you are rolling 20 dice but the mathematics remains simple because you are not performing additions or subtractions. Modifiers are applied by removing dice (either before or after the roll).
Modifiers do not involve maths
Feels good to heft cupped hands full of dice
Can need a lot of dice
Counting can take longer than comparing a single number
Balance is more tricky
Does not foster communication at the table
Probability of success more difficult to estimate than for target number rolls
This is not Meta Gaming because the rolling of dice represents the actual actions of the character.
Used for: Boosting actions, controlling the narrative
Format: Character has a pool of points that they can spend when required
Resource pools reduce the randomness in your game by giving the player a tactical choice whether to spend the points from their pool or save them for later. This mechanic is sometimes used to allow the player to control the narrative. It can also be used to re-roll dice, boost outcomes.
Gives the player an tactical choice
Simple to understand
Player feels an element of control
Fosters communication at the table
Slower than dice rolling
Resources management tends to be a Meta Gaming task because it is not the character who is spending a point to boost an action, or taking hold of the narrative. The player is the one that is deciding to spend the pool point. If you use a resource pool for something that the character controls (such as a magical pool of energy) then this is not a Meta Game mechanic.
Used for: Controlling the narrative
Format: Players vote on the outcome
Voting reduces the randomness of outcomes by putting those back into the hands of the players. Some voting mechanisms are used with resource pools so that players have to use their votes tactically. Voting can be secret or public. This mechanic can add a level of competition at the table, make sure that fits in with the concept of your game.
Gives the players the feeling of more control
Adds tension and atmosphere to the table
Fosters communication at the table
Slower than dice rolling
Slows the pace of the whole game if used liberally
Secret voting even slower!
This is a Meta Game mechanic. Players voting on outcomes is detached from the characters themselves.
Chgowiz uses a modification of the Target Number mechanic. To do an action, they add Attibute, Skill and a die roll versus a target number. Even if the Attribute and Skill combined are more than the target number, they still much roll a die. Where it differs is that all the players share a pool of dice in the middle. When someone does an action, they take a die from the middle. By doing so, they are depriving other players of dice. This is a Meta Game mechanic because the character do not realise that they are about to fail because the players have run out of dice!
Crunch is the name given to the feeling that there are a lot of rules to remember to play the game. You should try and strike a balance between a simple system where the tactical decisions are quick and a crunchy system where there are lots of options, modifiers and special rules. Too few rules and you’re giving the player fewer tactical options, there is less game system to manipulate. Too many options and the system becomes overwhelming. Lite rules tend to be quicker to player whereas crunchy rules do a better job of representing the game world. Only you can decide whether the system fits the concept you decided on at the start.
Crunch often creeps into a system in the form of special rules for spells, monsters or equipment. These extra rules might look innocuous on their own but when the GM tries to apply all the caveats from different parts of the rules then the game grinds to a halt.
How to write a free RPG – Chapter 6: Organisation
In this Chapter, you’ll learn how to organise your free RPG. Organisation is very important because a poorly organised game can be confusing and will put people off playing it. An RPG is both read and referred to. It needs to be reference material as well as something enjoyable to read. To achieve this, you must be careful to choose a logical structure and a layout which is both pleasing and useful. This is an improved version of a previous guide to organisation.
Organise the game in a logical structure such that it reads clearly. Explain concepts (such as Attributes) before you use them (in mechanics). You game should include the following sections in this order:
At the very least, it must contain the name of your game. It does not need to be a graphic but the name is a nice font. You’ve put a lot of work into it, I do hope you’re proud of it so put your name on it, or use a pseudonym. If a GM is printing your game to convince their players to play, the better it looks the more likely the prospective GM will be able to run it.
A contents page should include all the major headings and sub headings. Lists of tables, images and diagrams belong in the Appendix. Try and keep the contents to a couple of pages and compress the font or line space to fit more on a page. Contents pages are used to scan from front-to-back for topic headings, if you make it too large, it does not become useful for this. Lines can be compressed as people will only scan through the Contents, they are unlikely to read it like paragraphs of prose. This is only optional if your game is under 7 pages.
Thank you / Version / Dedication
(Optional). Chances are you’re going to need to thank someone for helping you through the game and this is best place for it. Might be a spouse, girlfriend (if you have both, don’t include both here). Try and keep it to a page. Always put on a date. If you feel you need more than a date to uniquely describe your game, put on a version number. If you don’t like software versioning (1.1, 1.2 etc) use round numbers (1,2,3,4,5…).
The introduction is likely to be the first thing that the reader will go to after the cover, avoid fluffy marketing speak. It must include the following:
What is in the book? System? Setting? Sample adventure?
What is the genre of the setting? What are the major themes?
What will the characters do?
What sort of mechanic is it (dice/diceless/pool)?
If you game requires another book to use (such as Fate core rules), then say so here.
Begin this section by listing all of the steps so that the reader knows what is coming. Then describe each of the steps, giving examples when needed. Optionally, include a start-to-finish character generation. Make sure your example character will fit into the example adventure you provide. Don’t put your skills inline unless there is only half a page of them. Put them in the Appendix.
If you have designed your own mechanics, start with an introduction to them. What sort of mechanic is it? Target number? Dice pool? After this brief introduction, deal with each mechanic area in turn. Beginning with unopposed action resolution and then opposed actions. Combat / magic / narrative mechanics last. If you have a core concept that runs through them all (such as rolling dice to meet a target number), deal with that first.
For more information on writing the Setting, see the Chapter on Settings.
GM sections are important and at the very minimum include an Example Adventure. The example adventure should showcase your setting without relying too much on the system. Imagine the experience the roleplayers will have: They’ll sit down. Make characters and the GM will begin. Make the adventure simple to understand and also get the point of the setting. Perhaps give example characters too.
Additional setting information should also be included. If there are things the players should not know but the GM should, then include them. It is normally the GM that presents the game to play to the group so make it delicious for them too.
Any item that disturbs the flow of explanation should go in the Appendix. Lists are the biggest culprit. Put them at the back, they won’t get read through from start to finish and are used more like reference. It might feel a bit jarring to move the skill list from inside the character creation section but I assure you that it will be better off in actual use.
Examples of things that should really go in the Appendix are:
Charts and Tables
I would have a bit of advertising blurb on the back and perhaps instructions to the print shop that it is ok to print for personal use. If a prospective GM has printed it and bound it nicely, the players will soon go to the back cover. Avoid suggesting that it is the best game in the world and that it will change the way people live their lives, instead pick out things that the characters would do and make those things sound exciting. Is the game about sticking a giant sword into the face of a particularly shifty looking dragon? Great! Tell us on the back cover.Layout
Layout is a very subjective part of game design and as such, this section is really intended for those who do not know where to start. When deciding on your layout, take the following into account:
The first time your game is seen, it will be on a monitor
Many people still print the games for use at the table
Printer toner and paper are expensive
A stock layout
A stock layout is a portrait page with two columns evenly spaced. Images are placed within the text. Some packages allow you to curl the text around the jagged edge of the image (rather than being square). To maintain readability, leave a gap of at least 4mm between the graphic and your prose.
Margin thick enough to allow someone to bind the game.
Number of the chapter at the bottom in the middle. Putting it in the corner means that the person printing it cannot choose between single and double sided paper print.
Chapter names in the header are useful when used as reference.
Two columns is normally easier to read, long lines make it difficult for the eye to find the next line.
The above is portait, if you’re going for landscape then consider 3 columns.
The eye naturally tracks to the top left and bottom right of the page. Put text there to keep the reader’s attention. If it fits the layout well, aim to put images in the top right/bottom left of the page.
Your game needs to be tested before it’s devoured by the general public. Testing ranges from simple mechanics tests all the way through to a full blow campaign play test. If you do not have a group to test with and cannot find a kind group to test it for you, there is still testing that can be done. Testing takes a long time, be prepared for this step to take as long as the rest of the game design.
If you are following the “Release Small, Release Often” principle (described in the next Chapter) then ensure you state clearly that the game has not been tested when you perform releases.
A smoke test ensures that the system won’t catch fire when you try to use it. It will only find glaring holes, not mechanic niggles (see Mechanic Edge Cases) To smoke test the game, do the following:
Make 10 characters.
Write out 4 full combats step by step. Write out what everyone says and does and draw a battle map of what happens. Ensure each combat is different from your rule examples.
Find a non-gamer to read through the whole game to check for grammar and spelling.
Update the table of contents and index.
Check your table of contents and index by randomly picking 6 items from each, located at different places in the book and check the pages are correct.
Make sure that images are near the text that talks about them.
Print out some test pages, is it too dark or too light? Is the font large enough? If you’re using a background image, does it obscure the text?
Ask a friend in a different country to print out on a different size, if you’re in the US, try A4. If you’re elsewhere, use US Letter.
How does it look on screen? If a friend has a tablet device, check it on there too. If not, ask the internet, a friendly RPG geek will check it out for you.
Read it again
But before you read it again, check back to the style section of Chapter 3 then read through the entire game, contents, index, everything. Make notes as read through go, do not stop to edit. Check all the captions on the images and headings on the tables. If you are linking sections of the document together (in HTML or PDF) then click every link. You might be sick of your game by now but this is a very important step, so do it. Then ask yourself these questions:
Does it fit the concept I was aiming for? Go back to when you wrote it down in Chapter 1 and check each item off.
If it does not, have I still made something worth playing?
Does it feel like the genre I am trying to represent?
Did I solve the mechanic problems I was trying to solve?
What’s best about the game?
What’s worst about the game?
Can I add any more images to spruce it up?
Is all the information I need on the Character sheet?
You’ve used too many words to describe your game. It is normal to do that, your brain is not wired for brevity when it is describing concepts. Cut down every paragraph to its bare form. Is it still intelligible? If so, keep it that way. Your second draft should be 10% shorter than the first.
Mechanic Edge Cases
The success of a mechanics system can be judged on its ability to still operate when under stress. You can stress test your system by seeing what happens when the parameters are at their limits. You cannot test all possible edge cases (especially when it comes to combinations of spells) but you can certainly pick some example worst/best case situations.
For example, if the mechanic is combat what happens when a character has maximum strength, the best weapon, highest skill, excellent armour and so on. Do you have a monster that will challenge a character like that? How many rounds will it take to kill a character like that with medium monsters? How many medium monsters will it take?
A team of 5 people all firing guns that have been upgraded 5 times should be able to kill a monster in 5 combat turns. “Upgraded 5 times” guns do 5 damage, that’s 25 damage a turn. So a normal monster should have 125 hit points. Basic characters have weapons that do 1 damage will take a staggering 25 combat turns.
Ask yourself these sorts of questions for all the mechanics, paying particular attention to modifiers and special items. A sword might have a reasonable power but may unbalance the system when enchanted by more than one spell. If you find that it is difficult to find edge cases with your mechanics then perhaps the system is too complex and consider simplifying it. Spreadsheets can be useful for testing out the range of dice roles and probabilities but do not forget the affects of special powers or feats on the numbers.
A good way to test your game is to run an imaginary game. Take 4 of the 10 characters you created earlier and then run through your example setting and adventures. Ensure the characters have goals that fit your setting, is it easy or difficult to create goals that are possible. Try all of the mechanics, use the characters to defeat the monsters without using your imagination (by grinding) and using imagination. During your game, try and answer the following questions:
What is the quickest way to end an encounter?
What is the best combination of skills, spells, weapons and equipment to solve each encounter?
Is there anything missing from the starting character setups that make the game impossible?
Is it fun?
Play testing is the act of playing the game to see if it meets your concept. It’s important to remember that a play test isn’t really a normal game. Most GMs will bend rules, ignore sections and only use 50% of a ruleset in ten sessions worth of a play. A good play test should be precisely by the rules and use as much of the ruleset as possible. You should reward the playtesters with a credit in the front of the book, or a signed copy if you are feeling flush. Make sure that your playtest group is made up of your target audience (see Chapter 1). You should playtest only when you feel the game is complete, playtesting should not be used as a tool for design, only for verification.
A playtest pack is a ready-to-go pack of information that makes it easy for the playtest group to test your game and provide feedback. To get the best from the group running your game for the first few times, you must provide additional support. When compiling your playtest pack, you can do so assuming that the player knows roleplaying games well. It should include:
A form for the player to put their name and contact details on. Give them the opportunity to opt-out of being included in the book credits.
A one page rule summary detailing the main mechanics.
Character sheets. Both blank and pre-generated. Although character creation should be part of the playtest, the players may not have the luxury of making a character.
A sample adventure that makes use of as many of the mechanics as possible.
A feedback form (see below).
A summary of what is required by the playtesters.
A Non Disclosure agreement (NDA) – optional as this is a free game after all.
Your contact details for the player to leave with.
It is important to get feedback from everyone who plays the game. Feedback forms are the simplest way to garner information but if possible socialising with the group in a relaxed atmosphere (in a pub/bar) is a good way to dig into details. Players more likely to focus on the good things if confronted but at least you can question about particular mechanics this way. Have your notebook with you when talking to play testers, write down their good ideas then and
there. Do not trust your memory to remember the details. The playtesters won’t mind, they will appreciate their point of view is important.
Your feedback form is there for you to gauge whether or not you have managed to satisfy your concept. Player/GM fun is important too but it is important to note that not all players like new systems at first and the act of learning them can be tiring and less fun. You can provide two sorts of questions, check box ones and written replies. I would recommend having both as play testing can be tiring and lengthy prose without inspiration from pointed questions can be
difficult. Here are some example questions:
Questions to be used with tick boxes under the headings “Strongly agree, Agree, No preference, Disagree, Strongly Disagree”
The game’s rules are too light
The game’s system feels like [game's genre]
The setting feels different to other games
I understood the rules
The game looks good
I was surprised that the game was free
I would play this game again
Questions to be used with plenty of space to reply.
What I liked about the game was…
What I disliked about the game was…
What I thought was missing was…
What to do with feedback
All feedback is valuable, not all of it is useful. For each of the forms and notes you have made, assign them a priority and then use your concept to check to see if you feel the feedback is useful. Concentrate on the problems that are raised rather than the solutions that the players offer. As the game designer, you are the expert. Mechanics changes will mean restarting your mechanics testing (easier if you have used a spreadsheet). Be prepared that not everyone will like your game. Thank them for the feedback but do not dwell on it.
When to stop play testing
Play testing must end when you feel that the game meets the concept you originally set out. Play testing cannot be used to find every rules hole and it is possible to play test too much. Too much play testing is procrastination, pick an end date and finish your game.
Post play test release
Ensure that you schedule time after your play test is over to update the rules and put out another release of your game. Do not make the playtesters feel that you have wasted their time by sitting on the changes for a year.
How to write a free RPG – Chapter 8: Publish
Finish your game. Finish your game. Finish your game. Stop procrastinating and finish it. The act of creation can be exciting and a struggle but if you don’ t finish it, you’ll never know if it was any fun to play. Publishing is what you do once you have finished. So finish it.
Release small, release often
As a philanthropist, you do not need to wait until the game is finished before you share it with the community. By sharing early, you can draw upon the experience and knowledge of other philanthropists keen to share their knowledge. By releasing small and often, you reduce the cliff of work you need to scale before the joy of releasing. If you are having trouble finishing a large project, then release what you have. Be prepared for raw feedback early and then turn round a new version quickly. Do not dwell, sort out the problems and release again.
Licensing is very important. You might think that giving something away for free is simple but you could leave yourself open to problems if you do not slap on a license. For example, without a licence printed somewhere, print shops might not allow a prospective GM to print it! Furthermore, if you don’t add a little protection, then you might find someone selling your game.
Licensing is a personal and legal choice I am not qualified to assist you with, however I can recommend giving it a Creative Commons license. Creative Commons allows you to tailor your license to your needs and gives you a handy graphic that is rapidly becoming a standard. Most game designers choose BY-NC- SA, which means “Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike”. Creative Commons do a great job of explaining how they are used.
Uploading your game serves two purposes: sharing with others and backing up. When you back up, do not forget to back up the resulting PDF and the source files, images and notes. There are lots of places you can put your game for people to enjoy. If you are releasing small and often, you will want somewhere easy to update and accessible to all. If you have finished, you will want somewhere with exposure.
Backups and releasing small and often
Google Docs allows you to upload PDFs and ZIP files. There is plenty of space and you can keep revisions too. Privacy settings allow you to use it as a backup too.
Skydrive is the Microsoft solution, plenty of space and privacy options.
Dropbox cleverly automatically synchronises your files to the server. Ideal for backups and can share too.
1KM1KT 1000 Monkeys, 1000 Typewriters, the best free RPG community.
RPGNow and DriveThru RPG are commercial sellers that will also host your free game for you.
Lulu is a service that offers print on demand. I recommend printing at least one for yourself because it is a joyous moment to see your creation in hard copy.
Get it listed and reviewed
Make sure you let the following people know:
Me, ask for a review and to be added to my free RPG directory
Eric Chris Garrison’s Homebrew RPGs
John H. Kim’s free RPGs on the web
Ask on the 1KM1KT forum for a review.
Tell the Reddit Community, they like free stuff.
RPG.net (the big purple) have an Ads and Open Promo forum that’s worthwhile.
Enworld has a lively comunity but make sure you’re posting in the right place. They’ve changed their policy on promo posts in the past, so have a good look before you accidentally annoy anyone.
Update your signatures on forums to link to it.
Tweet it, Google+ it, slap it on Facebook. Be proud of it, you’ve worked hard.
Now what? Support.
Chances are a huge hole has been left by the completion of the game. Starting the process again for a new game might feel daunting so instead, support your game. Support is the act of engaging with the community to promote its play. Supporting your game will give it longevity not only in the eyes of the world but for you too.
Start a blog, posting up characters, rule options, new adventure ideas and people’s feedback. Most use either Blogger or WordPress.
Add Google Analytics to your blog so that you can see where people are coming from. It is really handy to see if someone blogs about your game so you can then reply – with thanks!
Create a Google+ Page for your game. Use a nice graphic for the logo.
If you’re really keen on regular updates, create a Facebook page and Twitter account. Make sure they’re used, though!
If it is a generic system, write another setting for it.
Find other free games like yours and contact the authors.