Tuesday 23 February 2016

When is my RPG finished?

In this post I offer a practical way to find out if your RPG is ready to be played by others. I am going to assume that you've read my guide How to Write a Free RPG and that you have a strong concept in your mind. You must have this concept tied down if you are ever going to know if you're finished.

Is a game finished when you can play it?

A worthy sentiment but not useful. Most people can play their own game relatively early in the development. You skim over the gaps that will bring others to a halt. I shared the early version 2 of Icar online but I doubt anyone other than me would be able to run it. So, the ultimate test is to get someone else to run it. Experienced designers "just know" when a game is finished, an intuition built over years of play and design. Experienced designers are busy designing, so it can be difficult to get feedback from them.

Are you finished questions

I wanted to attack this subject with a list of practical tasks. Follow the questions below and if you answer positively for each then your game is ready for others.

Do your mechanics cover the cool things in your concept?

This is the most important question. If you can't justify this one easily, you're nowhere near finished. Go back and make sure you mechanics allow the players to do the cool actions in your concept and remove any mechanics that do not help that concept forward.

Have you got examples for each of your rules?

If you can't explain it with simple examples, either you've not thought of a good way of explaining it or the system is too complex.

Can you build a character for it?

For many players, character creation is the first contact they will have with your game. Don't expect them to read the rules, chances are only the GM has.

What will the GM do for and during the first session?

Write a paragraph about the literal steps the GM has to do before and during the first session. Are there handouts to print? How do you imagine the GM will describe the rules? Will the GM need to create a setting?

Have you been through my Testing guide?

Go through the steps of my testing guide as this will help point out things you might have missed.

Things to avoid

Do not model the mundane unless it is a focus of the game. Every sentence in the background should invoke something in the mind of a GM: a plot line, an NPC idea or a place to visit. Those invocations should be in line with your core concept, if not then cut it out and paste into an "other ideas" document.

The "My Game is Never Finished" Procrastination Fallacy

I, like the rest of the internet, is thrilled that you will continue to work on your game after its release. PDF games have the magical power of being easily updated (unlike their steadfast print cousins) and as such are living, breathing documents. If you find yourself arguing that a game is never finished then the ugly scent of procrastination tends to fill the air. Just finish the game, get it out there and stop procrastinating. As sports shoes are known to proclaim: Just Do It. I'm always keen to hear your feedback. Is there a practical measure you use to tell when you're finished? Please do let me know in the comments or discuss over on 1KM1KT.

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