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Author Topic: New RPGs - Order of Design  (Read 1157 times)

AgentBJ09

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New RPGs - Order of Design
« on: March 07, 2020, 08:40:31 PM »
I'm curious to know, when designing new RPGs, once the basic idea is decided upon, what is a useful design priority to follow.

Here's what I have been trying as an example:
1. Attributes and Skills, or equivilent
2. Derived Attributes and How To Calculate Them
3. Some, not all, Special Systems
4. How to build a character
5. ...

At the moment, I'm stuck trying to figure out if I'm missing something by step 4, or if I need to fully plan step 5 and onwards. (Hopefully what gets posted here can help other designers as well as me.)

Spinachcat

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« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2020, 10:36:37 PM »
Are you building a new system from scratch?
Or using an existing system?
Or modifying an existing system?

And if you're building from scratch, what systems are you imitating or rejecting? Few things are new under the sun.

AgentBJ09

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« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2020, 04:39:22 AM »
Quote from: Spinachcat;1123659
Are you building a new system from scratch?
Or using an existing system?
Or modifying an existing system?

And if you're building from scratch, what systems are you imitating or rejecting? Few things are new under the sun.

Yep. The oWoD STS was initially in my sights given the basic idea, which is three creature lines that can be mixed and matched, but after some thinking I went with a mostly from scratch system that uses a D6 pool style.

It is currently using a similar Attributes system to Fallout and Wasteland 2's SPECIAL/CLASSIC system, which is rolled instead of point bought, and starting skill points/some derived attributes like base Health are determined by how young or old the character is, as well as skill investment maximums. Traits were a favorite part of classic/New Vegas Fallout, so a variant of that came along as well.

I know the STS, like a few others, are Theatre of the Mind kind of games, so deciding between that and GURPS' hex system for movement is a bit of a conflict, but the turn system would function like most: 3 seconds per turn by Initiative order.

That's most of what I've got so far.

Slipshot762

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« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2020, 11:03:01 PM »
Quote from: AgentBJ09;1123663
Yep. The oWoD STS was initially in my sights given the basic idea, which is three creature lines that can be mixed and matched, but after some thinking I went with a mostly from scratch system that uses a D6 pool style.

It is currently using a similar Attributes system to Fallout and Wasteland 2's SPECIAL/CLASSIC system, which is rolled instead of point bought, and starting skill points/some derived attributes like base Health are determined by how young or old the character is, as well as skill investment maximums. Traits were a favorite part of classic/New Vegas Fallout, so a variant of that came along as well.

I know the STS, like a few others, are Theatre of the Mind kind of games, so deciding between that and GURPS' hex system for movement is a bit of a conflict, but the turn system would function like most: 3 seconds per turn by Initiative order.

That's most of what I've got so far.

might i recommend the D6 system by west end games, the pdfs for star wars and the later produced fantasy/adventure/scifi are available for free and they are released under the ogl of 3e D&D fame. I'd considered making a fantasy setting for D6 fantasy myself but the more i look at it the more my ambition gets scaled back to just making a companion or supplement for such, since all thats really missing for it IS a setting or a more nailed down companion book that presents things more hardline than the free form toolkit format D6 is presented as. They tried to make it a sort of unisystem fantasy/scifi/adventure ruleset toolkit, and it reads as such, making it hard for many to see its true potential and leaving them full of questions, questions whose answers are "it depends on the game/setting/genre/tone/them you wish to run, it can do anything yo".

AgentBJ09

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« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2020, 11:57:00 PM »
Quote from: Slipshot762;1123909
might i recommend the D6 system by west end games, the pdfs for star wars and the later produced fantasy/adventure/scifi are available for free and they are released under the ogl of 3e D&D fame. I'd considered making a fantasy setting for D6 fantasy myself but the more i look at it the more my ambition gets scaled back to just making a companion or supplement for such, since all thats really missing for it IS a setting or a more nailed down companion book that presents things more hardline than the free form toolkit format D6 is presented as. They tried to make it a sort of unisystem fantasy/scifi/adventure ruleset toolkit, and it reads as such, making it hard for many to see its true potential and leaving them full of questions, questions whose answers are "it depends on the game/setting/genre/tone/them you wish to run, it can do anything yo".

I bought those three PDFs on DriveThruRPG a few years ago. They would be a useful reference for system design, and as you pointed out, they're mostly missing a setting/companion book...

I'll look into using those as a basis for what I'm working on, though I'd still like to design something of my own with a D6 basis.

And I know others have done so for other games/settings. Cases in point: Talislanta and GURPS - Werewolf the Apocalypse. The former has three editions, each with the same basic information, but each using different rule sets like 5th Edition OGL or the aforementioned D6 Fantasy. The GURPS version of Werewolf is just that, so if you like GURPS more, have at it.

AgentBJ09

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« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2020, 02:12:51 AM »
Quote from: AgentBJ09;1123650
I'm curious to know, when designing new RPGs, once the basic idea is decided upon, what is a useful design priority to follow.

Here's what I have been trying as an example:
1. Attributes and Skills, or equivilent
2. Derived Attributes and How To Calculate Them
3. Some, not all, Special Systems
4. How to build a character
5. ...

At the moment, I'm stuck trying to figure out if I'm missing something by step 4, or if I need to fully plan step 5 and onwards. (Hopefully what gets posted here can help other designers as well as me.)

Figured I'd give a bit more detailed post to explain my thought process, and what I'm getting at with this thread.

Since all characters in RPGs have a skeleton to them by way of Stats, I would start my design process (Step #1) with the core aspects of a character. D&D 3.5, the edition I started with, began with deciding on a class, rolling 3/4D6 to decide Attributes, and then deciding on Skills based on which Class was chosen. Since my game has no classes, only creature lines similar to Old/New World of Darkness, I'd start by coming up with the Attributes and Skills.

In this case, 7 Attributes and 24 to 28 Skills.

For Step #2, I would decide on what Derived Attributes all characters would have and how to calculate them. In my case, the Derived Attributes are things like Attribute Dice (When rolling 3D6, certain sets of three numbers, like 11, 12, and 13, mean you get a set number of dice to roll when that Stat is tested), Base Skill Points (If your character during creation is aged 18/19, you get only 12 Skill Points, then certain age thresholds from there give more), and Health (Similar to Skill Points, age determines the starting pool). There are other aspects to this that came into play later.

For Step #3, because I now have the basics for a human template, I can begin adding Special Systems directly related to the creatures a player can choose from. These get some basic mechanics as well. Example: Control Shape for Werewolves (New and Young Werewolves begin with a pool of 5 dice, which decreases with age and moon cycles. All dice must roll a certain threshold (5) or higher to cause a shift. Getting slapped or feeling like your life is in peril drops this to 4. If something is making you upset or angry, raise this target to 6.)

Once the basic Special Systems are decided on, I went to Step #4. This is when I started making slight alterations to what was done in Step #2, things like adding extra Skill Points based on the number of Attribute Dice for certain Attributes, and making some refinements to creature specific abilities/stats (more Health and slight instant regeneration for Werewolves after and while changing shape).

This is where I'm at, and why I asked is it better to get the initial four steps as good as I can before moving on, or should I move on and just keep in mind "Edit It Later".

Chris24601

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« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2020, 11:49:42 AM »
Quote from: AgentBJ09;1123650
I'm curious to know, when designing new RPGs, once the basic idea is decided upon, what is a useful design priority to follow.

Here's what I have been trying as an example:
1. Attributes and Skills, or equivilent
2. Derived Attributes and How To Calculate Them
3. Some, not all, Special Systems
4. How to build a character
5. ...

At the moment, I'm stuck trying to figure out if I'm missing something by step 4, or if I need to fully plan step 5 and onwards. (Hopefully what gets posted here can help other designers as well as me.)

For me the order of design is this...

1) Concept (you've said you've got this worked out).

2) Design a core task resolution system: when a character tries to do something, how do you determine success or failure. dice total vs. difficulty? Opposed rolls? Percentage checks? Success counting dice pool? card draws? trait bidding system?

It doesn't have to be the same for everything, but having the right system can either work with (ex. using playing cards for a Wild West game can be quite thematic) or against (ex. rolling on a table for a LARP-based game) your concept.

Also important at this stage is figuring out odds of success using your system for an average unskilled person, a skilled expert and the best-of-the best as these will help you gauge the values you need for attributes, skills, difficulties, etc.

3) What does a character in your setting need to make checks for?

Make a list of what you think most characters will need to make checks for and, if there's a bunch, rank them in terms of how common those checks are (numeric, stars, whatever works).

Then take your list and start grouping tasks together into similar categories with an eye towards creating three to eight "piles." These are going to the attributes your system needs with individual tasks becoming either skills (for a highly detailed system), parts of a skill (for a less detailed system) or a general task (for a system that doesn't want the detail of skills at all or where you think skill should never apply).

Pay attention to particularly small piles and/or those with many low-ranked tasks and for piles that contain lots of high-ranked tasks. Those could end up as universal "dump stats" or "super stats" respectively. Try moving some tasks around until the piles are fairly even if you want your attributes to be about equally useful.

4) Make your attribute and skill lists and figure out any other traits you're going to need (ex. hit points and damage to measure the success of combat task checks) and how to determine those (ex. From one or more attributes or skills, randomly rolled, set value).

5) Figure out how a character is built. If you've got superstats or dump stats you should look at either random generation (ex. old school D&D) or different costs using build points (ex. HERO System). If reasonably balanced with each other, then a more general point-buy or attribute array system might be where you look (or go completely random since you'll still theoretically get something playable on average).

A Lifepath system can be used in relation to any of those.

Your concept will help a lot here. If campaigns are intended to be short or characters fairly disposable, then random generation can speed up creation by removing a lot of choices from the player. Games where players will expect to be using the same character for a long haul then giving them more control via point buys or arrays will make them more invested in the resulting character.

6) Now start filling in all the supporting details: opponents, allies, terrain, equipment, special abilities, etc. For these sub-systems you just need to run through steps 1-5 within a more focused area (spellcasting for example) to figure out what's needed and then figure out how that attaches to the main system.

At least this is the approach I've followed.

AgentBJ09

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« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2020, 10:48:05 PM »
Quote from: Chris24601;1124447
For me the order of design is this...

1) Concept (you've said you've got this worked out).

2) Design a core task resolution system: when a character tries to do something, how do you determine success or failure. dice total vs. difficulty? Opposed rolls? Percentage checks? Success counting dice pool? card draws? trait bidding system?

It doesn't have to be the same for everything, but having the right system can either work with (ex. using playing cards for a Wild West game can be quite thematic) or against (ex. rolling on a table for a LARP-based game) your concept.

Also important at this stage is figuring out odds of success using your system for an average unskilled person, a skilled expert and the best-of-the best as these will help you gauge the values you need for attributes, skills, difficulties, etc.

3) What does a character in your setting need to make checks for?

Make a list of what you think most characters will need to make checks for and, if there's a bunch, rank them in terms of how common those checks are (numeric, stars, whatever works).

Then take your list and start grouping tasks together into similar categories with an eye towards creating three to eight "piles." These are going to the attributes your system needs with individual tasks becoming either skills (for a highly detailed system), parts of a skill (for a less detailed system) or a general task (for a system that doesn't want the detail of skills at all or where you think skill should never apply).

Pay attention to particularly small piles and/or those with many low-ranked tasks and for piles that contain lots of high-ranked tasks. Those could end up as universal "dump stats" or "super stats" respectively. Try moving some tasks around until the piles are fairly even if you want your attributes to be about equally useful.

4) Make your attribute and skill lists and figure out any other traits you're going to need (ex. hit points and damage to measure the success of combat task checks) and how to determine those (ex. From one or more attributes or skills, randomly rolled, set value).

5) Figure out how a character is built. If you've got superstats or dump stats you should look at either random generation (ex. old school D&D) or different costs using build points (ex. HERO System). If reasonably balanced with each other, then a more general point-buy or attribute array system might be where you look (or go completely random since you'll still theoretically get something playable on average).

A Lifepath system can be used in relation to any of those.

Your concept will help a lot here. If campaigns are intended to be short or characters fairly disposable, then random generation can speed up creation by removing a lot of choices from the player. Games where players will expect to be using the same character for a long haul then giving them more control via point buys or arrays will make them more invested in the resulting character.

6) Now start filling in all the supporting details: opponents, allies, terrain, equipment, special abilities, etc. For these sub-systems you just need to run through steps 1-5 within a more focused area (spellcasting for example) to figure out what's needed and then figure out how that attaches to the main system.

At least this is the approach I've followed.

Sounds like a good route to follow; I would be at Step 6 with what I have, so I need to go forward with the newer stuff and refine the existing as needed.

Chris24601

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« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2020, 11:03:03 AM »
Quote from: AgentBJ09;1124556
Sounds like a good route to follow; I would be at Step 6 with what I have, so I need to go forward with the newer stuff and refine the existing as needed.
Well, also remember the unwritten Step 7-9;

7) Playtest, Playtest and then Playtest again; ideally with different groups.
8) Unless all issues are over tiny details (in which case you're done) revise based on user feedback.
9) Go to Step 7.