Sunday, September 2, 2012

This Should Be Like The Introduction To Every GM Book Ever


You're a game designer now.


No, really, you are. You're not getting paid and, in fact, you had to pay us but still that's your job. Welcome to it.

See, what we did was we designed a lot of a game, like all the pieces you'd usually use if you play it the way we do, but really, realistically, you're not going to do that. You're going to play it the way you want to play it which will, because you are awesome, involve coming up with stuff we never could have dreamed of.

So we didn't bother to design every goddamn thing that could ever possibly happen in this game. If we did, we'd have only two options:

A) Simplify the game. Which would suck because the whole point of choosing this kind of game over a board game or video game is that everything matters that you can make matter and there's all these little nooks and crannies of weirdness you can put together out of the pieces we give you. I mean, video games are cool and we play them too here at the office on lunch breaks, but we do this too because sometimes you want fried chicken instead of a burger, right?

B) Write rules covering every possible situation ever. Which would suck because you'd have to either memorize a really long and (therefore) expensive rulebook or else look things up all the time. Or ignore the rules and then get static about not following rules that we only put in there in the first place so there'd be a rule not because we thought they added way more fun than just making something up that you--being awesome--know fits the way your group wants to have fun with these tools.

So yeah, we gave you an incomplete game and you have to finish it. If you think that sucks, we will give you your money back and you can play some other game for people like you, if instead that incompleteness reminds you of the Pandora's Box of potential we trust is in your introduction-reading noggin, then you are our kind of people and I think we will be happy together.

Now, hey, we're a business, and from time time we will try to sell you crap. This crap will essentially be suggestions about some more rules to add to the total corpus of rules (these rules plus your rules you made up) and, as with all suggestions, you either trust us or don't. Feel free to not trust us--we have never met your players and don't know you. This is like we sent you a suit in the mail without your measurements, maybe it fits, maybe it needs to be let out a little. We don't know--and if we did that'd be creepy.

So this is a warning: if you've got no tailor in you, play something else.

Now, it's always possible our company will be bought out by assholes (we might let them, game design doesn't pay so well), and they--in order to make money--will pretend these suggestions they're selling aren't suggestions and aren't just the best they could do without knowing you, but instead actual supergenius instructions from supergenius game-designing brains capable of accounting for all humans ever. Remember these people are wrong. You're still stuck being a game designer, and collaborating with us to have fun at your table with your pals.

Good luck!


  1. I feel like printing this off and strategically inserting it into copies of Player's Handbooks at Borders and Barnes & Noble.

  2. Indeed ... and following the logic the other way, this also explains why so many DMs are into sharing their game designs in the forms of house rules and heartbreakers.

  3. This "Every player/DM is a Game Designer" idea is great, and it took me some time to figure out, that and how I would like to re-design the game, yet I never was able to say it with these simple words.

    Thank you!

  4. I wish designers would include more info about the expectations and implications of various rules also. Since you know people are going to house-rule things, you might as well include info about second order effects and intentions. Sometimes people might find that they actually like the non-obvious effects of a rule they might have otherwise changed.

    Like, if Gygax had included something like: yes, XP for GP may seem illogical, but it means that players will have an incentive to avoid things rather than fight everything. That would have saved the fantasy RPG industry 20+ years worth of development time.

    1. I am fairly certain he did do that in the DMG.

    2. Where? I don't think he wrote that, but of course the DMG is a labyrinthine mess so I also might have missed it. I do know about this (page 85):

      Note: Players who balk at equating gold pieces to experience points should be gently but firmly reminded that in a game certain compromises must be made. While it is more "realistic" for clerics to study holy writings, pray, chant, practice self-discipline, etc. to gain experience, it would not make a playable game roll along.

      That's just about being "more fun" though, not about second order effects of the XP system. In any case, even if that particular rule was explained, I think the general principle holds, no?

    3. The principle holds. I am thinking Gygax's explanation is in the section about deciding how much xp monsters are worth.

  5. It's one of the reasons I love OSR gaming - it encourages heavy houseruling, instead of "optional rules" in secondary full-price rulebooks.

  6. Brilliantly put and I wish I had said it. This is the sort of thing we have in mind when we create our sourcebooks for use with Traveller.

    We present you with a world and we've done the "grunt" work so you don't have to fool with it. Now, tear it apart and enjoy!

  7. I wholeheartedly agree.
    So why don't we all call GMs "unpaid game designers" and then we call all traditional rpgs "unfinished product" ?

    Wouldn't it be great? :D

    1. You can call it what you like, I'll still play it.