The problem with mechanics...

After going back and looking at the work, Chris, Henry, and myself did, I realize this is going to be something that needs to be figured out by us.  I know everyone that makes a game goes about it differently.  I know some people like to work on the mechanics first, and then figure out everything else.  While others create the setting and build mechanics around it.

I am not sure since the one part of this I have struggled with the most is coming up with a new mechanics system.  I worked on it for almost a year and every time I came up with something I thought was cool, I saw someone else already had something like it.

That has been the most frustrating part of all of this.  Setting (which I will talk about next) is going to be a lot longer to do, but easier to create.  Maybe easier isn't the right word, but it will be more enjoyable.

There are a lot of people out there that blog about mechanics a lot.  I try to read through them when I can.  I see how creative people can be.  It is nuts, the things people think of.  Then you have the people that take someone else's game, and tweak it.  Like the D20 games or Fate (to name a few).  How do people feel about that?   Is it ok to do that because of how much they like the setting?  I have thought a few times of what our game would like using Fate...but that is cuz of how much I love the system.  I personally have no problem with it since every once in a while someone will do this and a setting will catch my eye (like Bulldogs!).

Then there is the excitement of creating something new. Something we can call ours.  But that is hard since so many people  have already created so many different things.  I still like this idea as well.

As I said, it is issue.  :)  It isn't anything that we figure out today, but it is something I am thinking about after reading what we created so far.


  1. Start by thinking hard about what you want your game to do. I often begin with a fake dialog between players describing a conflict and resolving it and then start to sketch into that where the dice go.

    For example if your dialogue goes something like:

    GM: You are attacked by a giant red bug, what do you do?
    P1: I fire my plasma rifle!
    GM: That has effect X, which is expected.
    P2: I fire my neutron pistol!
    GM: That has effect Y, which is unexpected.
    P3: I talk it into surrendering.
    GM: That has effect Z, which is totally amazingly successful.

    ...then you know you need a mechanism that handles specific intention and effects with a very broad range. This might start to imply needs for positioning, &c.

    Different dialogues will reveal different assumptions you have about the basic nature of your game as a simulation. Once you pin this down it should be clearer whether you want to adapt an existing system or develop your own.

    For guy-vs-guy combat you have an enormous wealth of existing systems and it should be trivial to find one that matches your needs pretty closely already -- might even be easy to find one that's legal to re-use verbatim. If, however, you expose some unusual expectations, you will probably want to hack something from someone elses baseline or start from scratch.

    But start by discovering your expectations.

  2. Going with FATE may be a good choice IF it fits the play style you want. There's no need to reinvent the wheel. In fact using a system that players are already familiar with can be a selling point. I know that players have been scared off by my system just because it's not what they've played. Even though it's very similar to things they've played with a few tweaks, they're still scared.

  3. Thanks Brad that was really good advice. Emmett, I am not sure about any of that yet. I would not mind doing a Fate game cuz I love the system so much, but we don't have to figure that out yet. Just trying to get the thought process going.

  4. Originality is a crap goal. First, simply being new in no way implies that you are good. Second, you will inevitably eventually run across someone who did something very like what you're doing. Finally, it ignores all of the problems you actually need to solve in favor of solving "Haven't I seen this somewhere before?"

    On the other hand, I totally understand the drive to avoid the "fantasy heartbreaker." If you're going to design a game, you want it to be something people will get excited about. And people are very unlikely to get excited about a game that is very similar to a game they already have except for half a dozen house rules and some custom setting rules.

    Starting with FATE is a good thing. Then, just ask yourself two questions: What things about FATE don't quite work for me? What things about FATE should work differently for my setting to pop? The latter question is mostly just something to make your game really work as intended. The former, though, is where you can really introduce innovation. There are a bunch of FATE variants that mostly just introduced one or two significant differences, like the 2/4/6/8 consequences or scoped aspects.

  5. I am considering that right now. I like the idea of starting with Fate as a core and changing things about it and then really getting the setting right. But it is just an idea, but I know no matter what I will eventually make a Fate based game.

  6. Maybe to explain what I was saying before, There are people that can pick up a new system, read it, understand it and go but the best analogy I've heard is this. The system is the difference between a xbox, playstation or wii. The setting is like the game that plays on that system. If I'm a xbox player, there's a skill investment to learning the playstation or wii. Do people own and play all these systems? Absolutely but a lot of people stick to their platform of choice. To someone that can jump between systems, it seems crazy that someone would be reluctant to pick up another system and play. Still it is a real problem for console makers, getting people to buy (both literally and skill wise) into a new console system takes a massive marketing campaign. Plenty have failed despite being superior consoles. Sega saturn, turbographix 16 etc.

    So getting people to play a new RPG system isn't a multibillion dollar industry for advertisement firms but there is a similar inertia.

    But like I said, go with fate IF it fits your setting. Tweak it if it's close. Make your own system if it won't fit or if you WANT to make a new system. I got into designing RPGs because I hated the systems that were out there. I felt they were cludgy, inelegant and limiting. That was 20 years ago, there's been a huge improvement in what's out there.

  7. Thank you for the advice Emmett. I see what you are trying to say. I still have no idea what we are going to do mechanics wise, but I appreciate the input.