Your brain is fizzing with ideas and you've projectile vomited the thought froth at full throttle into a word processor, PDF'd it and launched it onto 1KM1KT. You've joined the all-too-jolly clan of internet philanthropists. Well done!
Then you're bathed in stark daylight, every wrinkle deepening. You're pounded by a heart thumping worry and cold perspiration. Will anyone play it? Have I got my idea across?
Sometimes great ideas get buried by the author not due to bad writing but through poor organisation, which is a shame because it is a relatively easy facet to fix. I'm guilty of most of the below but I am working on changing to this format. Don't forget that an RPG is both read and referred to. It needs to be reference material as well as something enjoyable to read.
The StructureA game should be organised in a logical structure and so that it reads well (more below in my section on style). To help illustrate my point, I'm going to use a completely fictional game from someone who really didn't know what I was up to. These are the main sections I would include:
Thank you / Version / Dedication (TYVD)
As the RPG is going to be used as both something to read as well as used as reference. With that in mind, I recommend describing your setting from the top and work down. For example, describe the world, the countries, the towns, the rulers and so on until you reach the campaign area for the sample adventure.
Additional setting information should also be included. If there are things the players should no 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.
Examples of things that should really go in the Appendix are:
- Charts and Tables
- Character Sheet
On styleIn this section I talk about a few stylistic points about your RPG's organisation. Style is more ethereal than structure and as the beholder, your eye is king here. If you have no idea, then try these steps as a starting point.
- Two columns is a must. Unless you're printing a pamphlet.
- Use facing pages as most people will print on both sides of the paper. Be careful where you put your page numbers as they might end up in a crease. If you're not sure stick them in the middle of the page.
- Put images in the top right and bottom left as a preference. The top left and bottom right parts of the page is where the eye scans to most easily, so best to put your text there.
FluffFluff is what I call any words or content that does not directly assist player or GM in playing the game. Fluff can appear in the following ways:
- Examples that do not demonstrate meaningful bits of the system
- A chatty style of writing can add hundreds of words.
- Justifications of why a particular rule was chosen over another
- Marketing speak about how revolutionary and epic the game is. It is ok to describe why it is different by over the top adjectives is fluff.
- Over-elaborate detail regarding a small part of the setting
Choosing good examplesExamples will help the GM firmly grasp your setting and mechanics. A single example should highlight a single facet of your mechanic or setting if possible. Examples can chain together, but each example should stand on its own too so that people can get a flavour of the example when refering it. Ensure your examples are fluff-free.
Calling all designers!
- Anything I've missed?
- Any horrid travesties here?
- Am I being too harsh?
- Do you know of any other tutorials outlining similar ideas?