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Crafting From Conception to Reality: the Journey of a Home-Brewed Role-Playing Game
In the past, I have discussed aspects of game mechanics and game design; not to mention the various concepts and nuanced history of gaming, with particular emphasis on role-playing games (as those specifically can be extremely deep in design and implementation). With all that in mind, one must face the reality of speculative discussion and acknowledge that all that is fine up until you confront the challenges of design head on; and you finally see where your theories really stand up to the rigors of the your attempt at crafting a complete product. Or to put things more succinctly, albeit confrontationally: it’s time to put up or shut up. Well, here is my “it” to put up.
For over a year now, I have been developing a role-playing game with the premise that players would take on the role of being a giant monster, the likes of which you might see in prominently Japanese cinema. The system would not technically be something wholly original, but instead based upon a system developed by a friend of mine; the innovations and changes to that system, while still inspired by other table-top game systems, would be of my design however. The game system to which I am striving to complete, is not finished (as of the writing of this article), but I am much closer to a final product than when I began writing my articles in the first place.
With all of that in mind, please follow me on the journey from inspiration to innovation as I provide you with the history of my role-playing game about guys in rubber suits beating the snot out of each other.
Initial Inspiration, from an Unusual Source
A few years ago, a friend of my brother, had unveiled plans for a role-playing based on a certain group of genuine American heroes. Although he has clarified that there are no intentions to publish the game and simply is intended as a bit of fun among friends. However, while he shared his progress on his game, we got to talking about how there are no role-playing games for playing the giant monster; being a fan of the genre, I thought this was lamentable and this could be the opportunity to fix this egregious transgression (yeah, I went there).
Anyways, we brainstormed a few ideas that would be the foundation for my game. He has since added and refined his game; I even had the chance to make a character and play in a session. This was also a monumental experience as it gave me the opportunity to see what I liked and did not like about the system. Speaking of which . . .
Crafting the System
One of the big talking points between my mutual friend and I was the twelve-sided die (or d12) in role-playing games. Very few games use the d12 frequently in their mechanics. Some games use it for weapons that can cause a lot of damage; and some for determining the health of character who can take a lot of punishment. However, pretty much no RPG uses the d12 as an integral part of the regular game play. So, both of our systems (his first, mind you) use it as the core die for skill challenges and combat rolls.
Another major aspect to our games is embracing the old-school notion of random character generation. The idea is a pretty old one: much of your character’s attributes are beyond your control as a player and in the “hands” of the dice. There are a couple primary reasons for this. One: it presents the players with the entertaining challenge of developing a cohesive image and identity for their characters. And two: it makes for much more entertaining (read: humorous) characters with immense diversity. This also makes it harder for every player to play G . . . a certain copy-righted lord-of-all-kaiju. From my experience, that can make things stale and boring.
Designing The Tone
As with any game, role-playing or otherwise, the designers need to consider the tone of their game. It is useful for marketing and promotions, for establishing your target audience, as well as deciding on the mechanics. The tone I want for my game is to be like the kaiju films from which I am drawing my inspiration and emulation; in that I want the seriousness to have a point, but go no further than that point. I liken it to being like an iceberg: just this side of serious and in-depth, with the overwhelming majority being silly just below the surface. I do this namely because I want it to be fun and because, when you come right down to it, it can be kind of difficult to take giant monsters too seriously; so why worry about making it too serious upfront. Instead, I want players and their friends to make the game and their stories as seriously as they want; I will not force melodrama on players enjoying a game about low-budget costumed monsters.
Evolving the Game
I started somewhat in earnest refining the rules and character generation for my game last year; about the same time I began contributing to Hubpages. In that time, I have developed much in terms of character creation and defining the rules. My ultimate intent is to make a professional product that anybody, and not only my friends, can play. As such, I have to write the rules in a manner that reads universally; not just for my friends who can follow my reasoning. Likewise, even though the much of the rules are currently composed into a series of notes and rough ideas, I still have to translate those notes into fully articulate thoughts; again, so other people can follow the internal logic of the game and enjoy it.
For the rules, I have based much off of my friend’s game. However, I diverge from his rules in numerous areas; mostly for the sake of trying to make the game more universally appealing and not only for players who understand the context of the material. I also have to address any issues of imbalance based on my exposure to the original game. Further I will need to make sure that my game remains balanced so that players can enjoy the game on a near equal footing.
The Present State
I have briefly touched on the current state of the game. Right now, many of the rules are still notations waiting for me to fill them out in a more professional language. Close to eighty percent or so of character creation is complete. Lastly, I still have much to finish for the powers and attacks section of the rules; monsters are not just brawlers and get all kinds of cool powers like shooting lightning or being able to shrug off nuclear attacks.
After I have finished with character generation, the main rules, and the special rules (for powers and attacks) I will need to work on game balance. While I am addressing that concern as part of the initial rules crafting, there is only so much I can acknowledge or even catch at this stage. What I need is to see the game in full swing to see any cracks in the system and any wrinkles that need ironing out. The best way for me to see this is to tap my interested friends and ask them to run and/or play a few games; they can then report back to me what needs to be changed. When I get data back from beta-testers, then I can address whatever next steps I need to take in order to get this published or at least fabricate some form of more finalized product.
And hey, I am not above receiving or asking for any external input. If you are interested in learning more about the game, helping out with its development, or perhaps volunteering for any of the play-testing, please leave a comment below and we can see what we can do.