Hamsterprophecy: Prevision

It\’s All About Pen, Paper and People.

An Indie Designers Guide To RPG Design

Posted by Nathan P. on June 9, 2006

Table of Contents

(added 11/21/09) Overview: Four Spheres of Design

1. Why Design?
– Identifying Your Play Preferences
– Idenfifying Your Design Goals
– Breif History of Design Trends

2. Core Questions
– Power 19
– Big 3
– Alternate 3

3. Methods & Conceptual Frameworks
– The Process of Roleplay
– System Does Matter vs System Doesn’t Matter
– The Social Contract
– The Lumpley & Czege Principles
– Bricolage
– Threefold Model (GDS)
– The Big Model (GNS)
– Design What Matters vs Design (Away) What Doesn’t Matter
– Freeform Play
– Asychronous Play
– Push & Pull

4. Authority/Credibility
– The GM Is Not A Person
– What These Mean For Play
– Examples Of Distribution
– Techniques For Distribution

5. Organizing Play
– Overall Play Structure
– Scene Framing & Techniques
– Pacing
– Story/Plot Creation

6. Organizing Characters
– What Is A Character?
– Players vs. Characters
– Character Advancement/Reward Cycles
– Relationships Between & Among Characters

7. Resolution Mechanics
– Karma/Drama/Fortune
– Manouver Resolution
– Stakes Resolution
– Probability & Expectations Of Probability

8. Mechanical Techniques
– Guages And Dials
– Currency
– [And other things from Design Patterns]

9. Playtesting
– The Purpose Of Playtest
– Organizing A Playtest
– Playtest Stages & Methods
– When To Stop Playtesting

10. Publishing
– Art
– Editing
– Layout
– Printing
– Advertising
– The Internet
– Three-Tier Distribution
– Cottage Distribution
– Conventions
– Promotion & Marketing

11. Annotated Index of Extant Games

Next Up: Should this really be called the “Indie” designers guide?

11 Responses to “An Indie Designers Guide To RPG Design”

  1. Are you producing this thing, Nathan?

  2. Nathan P. said

    I don’t think I’m qualified. I’d like to talk about it, though.

  3. Guy said

    Remind me what the Lumpley and Czege principles are?

    You become qualified to talk about it BY talking about it. That’s Theory for you.

    I am not sure Pull/Push belong here, seeing as they are part of how one plays, and may not have much to do with design, IMO.

  4. Nathan P. said

    Limpy-pimpy: “System (including but not limited to ‘the rules’) is defined as the means by which the group agrees to imagined events during play.”

    Czege Principle: “When one person is the author of both the character’s adversity and its resolution, play isn’t fun.”

    As for Push/Pull – maybe it belongs under Authority/Credibility. But everything about how a person plays is a design consideration. Or whats the point of design?

  5. Guy said

    To affect how someone else plays.

    If it’s one’s own choice and can’t be dictated by design, then it doesn’t belong there.

  6. Nathan P. said


    Design is all about affecting/constraining/channeling the choices the players make in play.

    I don’t think I follow your objection.

  7. Guy said

    Design is all about affecting how others play.

    To me though, Pull/Push are how people choose to play, rather than anything you can use to constrain them with yourself, as a designer, thus it may belong at advice-giving section, but not at designing.

    It’s a way of constraining, but perchance not one that can be designed into the game.–>

  8. anttiki said

    How about linking the table items to the corresponding posts? That would be super helpful to us readers, I think.

  9. anttiki said

    Never mind. I missed the static page you had with all the links. BTW, thanks for providing this handbook, great job!

  10. Fall in Love

    An Indie Designers Guide To RPG Design « Hamsterprophecy: Prevision

  11. Personal skills

    An Indie Designers Guide To RPG Design « Hamsterprophecy: Prevision

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