I'm making an rpg

Lanliss

Explorer
Hello everyone! I was on here a long while ago quite frequently, mostly lurking and sometimes posting ideas that not many people really liked. Since I started rpgs I have been most interested in what I can do with them, how far I can push the boundaries of what the current rules allow, and what I can make better for me. As a result of my inexperience, and the fact that I was doing a lot of work to accomplish small things, a lot of people mostly told me that it was unnecessary, and a couple even told me they were just bad ideas. Something I heard a lot though, maybe the most, is that I should just play a different rpg, instead of breaking the one I was trying to wedge my ideas into (D&D 5E in this case). Partially because I wasn't interested in the various systems, and partly because I never wanted to spend the money and time taken to learn them, I never did play any of those other RPGs.

Eventually, I learned that they may have been right. I continued working on my world and trying to make mechanics to fit it over on reddit, before eventually falling out of the mechanics part entirely and just making my world for a long while. I then came back to the idea of running my world, and decided to jump off the ledge. Make my own rpg, instead of twisting parts from fifty others to fit exactly what I want. Once I struck on the thought, I had a number of ideas that I really like, and fit my world better than I ever imagined something could.

All of that said, I am still a great long way from being done making this. I'm not even sure I've really started sometimes, honestly, and I am looking for some guidance. Some of you actually are rpg makers, and even more of you have played many more than me.

What do I need?

Where do I start? Right now I am scattered, with ideas popping up here and there, mostly for the classes that I want in my world.

What are major pitfalls I should avoid?

In addition to any helpful answers you can give me, feel free to ask questions! It will help me flesh out my ideas, and any debates that spring forth will help in tweaking towards some form of alpha version.
 
My advice would be to clarify the basics in as much detail as possible, as early as possible. People often get carried away with their big ideas, that they forget to put down their foundation. This foundation also acts as a good springboard to write the other mechanics. The foundation can also be changed if one of the big ideas is worth changing for it. When you actually write down the mechanics, you see all of its flaws and how simple/complicated it is.

I try to read a lot of other people's beta-builds of their RPGs, as it helps me work through my beta-build in seeing what they did wrong (And seeing there mistakes in myself) and seeing what they did right. People really want you to read their RPG books, especially when they're in beta, so its not hard to get some.

Speaking of foundations and beta-RPGs, I rarely find an RPG that actually tells me what an RPG is, what a GM is, or what a Player is. If you wanted a cornerstone for your RPG, that might be it.

Good luck, I look forward to reading your beta-build when its ready.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
The first thing is to get a clear mission statement of what you want to accomplish. A game designed for just you will have a completely different approach than one designed for others. Then draft an outline of everything in scope, and everything out of scope. Organization will be key. Do you have a budget? Plan on getting freelance artists? Editors?

On of your biggest pitfalls will be paralysis by analysis. I.e, getting bogged down by over analyzing and wanting to change things too much. Especially if you start going down the rabbit hole of realism. Another big pitfall is getting too attached to a particular rule or aspect. If playtest feedback brings up an issue, be prepared to change the rule. Every rule should be changeable
 
Some of you actually are rpg makers, and even more of you have played many more than me.
Every DM who runs their own campaign is an RPG maker. Every tweak, every new rule or class or spell or mechanic, every element that is removed/ignored is REDESIGNING that RPG. Maybe only in little ways, but sometimes A LOT of little ways. Sometimes you never really even notice the changes. Sometimes the changes of just one thing are HUGE. An RPG maker is not just somebody who starts from scratch and invents all new stuff and never borrows or copies ANYTHING from another RPG.

Where do I start? Right now I am scattered, with ideas popping up here and there, mostly for the classes that I want in my world.

What are major pitfalls I should avoid?
Don't reinvent the wheel. Don't invest too much time relative to the benefits you expect to get from the effort. Don't start it if you haven't looked into who you're aiming to sell/present to - who your target audience is.

Making a new RPG doesn't mean you can't at least start with an existing RPG as a basis to work from. It doesn't much matter if you end up with something entirely different from where you started or something very similar. If you're spending time testing out new resolution mechanics only to end up with a d20D&D-ish system anyway you're reinventing the wheel. Start with the things you know you want, are familiar with, and/or that the players and DM's of your "new" RPG will prefer. If you prefer to use... 1E D&D as your starting point you can begin with OSRIC, a clone of 1E made using the d20 Open Game License. OSRIC was even written specifically FOR people who wanted to publish material for use in 1E games in a clearly legally permitted way. Pathfinder was developed from 3E D&D under the Open Game License. If you're intending to publish and profit from your newly made RPG you could do worse than to develop it under the OGL. Of course, you can also start from scratch and reinvent the wheel, carefully avoiding stepping on ALL other RPG's that have been created - which you even acknowledge you have no experience with - but unless you've started with... a new resolution mechanic you're sure nobody has ever thought of before, you shouldn't (and don't need) to reinvent the wheel.

Next is how much effort you put into changing things to your own tastes. You can spend countless hours, YEARS, inventing a whole new magic system, but if the people who use and play your new RPG don't want it or actually don't like it you're wasting your time. If you're strictly doing all that work for your own enjoyment, fritter away as much time as you like. But, again, if you're intending to publicly publish and profit from your new RPG that's a business practice that will doom you to failure and personal bankruptcy right now before you really even start. You can devote pages and pages of tables and rules to recovering hit points by natural/non-magical means, but nobody will likely care and nobody will use them if magical healing is always available and always better.

If this is a project primarily for your own use and your own amusement, maybe for a few friends or a couple random strangers who read your ideas and like them enough to take a formal interest, then it doesn't matter if you have no familiarity with other RPG's and no market research into which RPG's are popular and why. But, again, if you're going to make this a business then you HAVE to know as many other RPG's as you can, and you have to have a clear and comprehensive understanding of what your target consumer wants to see out of your new RPG. Passion projects are FAR FAR from guaranteed sellers. Passion alone doesn't sell an RPG. Even great mechanics doesn't equate directly to great sales. Hell, D&D (any edition) is often objectively criticized as having the worst mechanics of all comparable RPG's and there is a lot of truth in that criticism - but that doesn't stop D&D from selling. People may buy a crappy RPG because they like the setting provided with it, whereas others will ignore the setting entirely and just use the mechanics. People may buy an RPG because it's cheap, or they may buy it because it's got tons of beautiful artwork and stunning presentation and lots of bells and whistles in a boxed set - and then overlook the fact that the ACTUAL RPG underneath all that really sucks. They may prefer a set of easy and breezy mechanics with a lot of roleplaying fluff, or they may care NOTHING for RPG fluff but want to have 300 pages of the nerdiest crunchy rules you can make which they then drop into their own setting. Which of those consumers is your RPG for? Design your RPG without ever forgetting or wavering from that answer.

And when you're done you might find all your effort was wasted anyway. That's a really depressing and negative attitude - but for RPG's it's a realistic attitude. Unless you're WotC or Paizo or a few select other companies, ANY level of success at RPG design is a crapshoot and probably LESS likely to be profitable than it is TO BE profitable. Or if it is profitable it will barely cover production costs and never pay you a decent compensation for the amount of work you put into it. Only if the end results are intended for just yourself is that going to be different. If this is a project which simply IS your hobby then it's really no different than any DM who runs any RPG (as noted at the outset).
 

pogre

Adventurer
If I am going to invest major time in revamping or inventing a new rpg I bring my playing group along for the ride. I explain the basic mechanics and background and then we work together to create a game we all think is cool. Want a spell that does something unusual? - write it up and we will do initial power level setting by discussing it with the group and then playtesting to fine tune it. Wish we had a skill for X? Write up skill X and let's talk about how it should work.

When I have pulled my players into the process the campaigns have been longer lasting and more rewarding. It also mostly saves me the buy-in process.

If you create something amazing that everyone loves - then, think about publishing.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Okay, I'm assuming this is a project for you, to satisfy the game you want to run. If this is a game to publish, that's a different story.

First, I'm a huge proponent of the rules mechanically supporting the setting. So what about your setting (not your rules preferences at this point, those are later) can't fit well into another RPG. Write all of those down as goals. For example, Eberron needed dragonmarks. Some setting have their own magic system. Many stories having things fuel by willpower, or by blood, or the bonds between people, or by whatever. Make sure you can mechanically represent this. Is your setting gritty or high fantasy? Pendragon had various things like honor, and a generational approach. Cthulhu games requires soemthing like sanity. These games had different base requirements for their setting, and made sure to reflect them mechanically.

Second, what are the types of challenges you envision in the game? D&D is particularly combat-focused as the type of challenge to be mechanically overcome (as opposed to overcome in other ways). That need not be the case. Make sure that your system can address them, and that it's meaningful - investing at-table time to resolve something mechanically should have a meaningful repercussion.

Identify pain points in those challenges. For example a game focused around Heists will have issues with gobs of table time being spent on planning, which often is based on incomplete information and quickly becomes wasted time. Have mechanisms for both robust information gathering, but also potentially things like flashbacks where you can spend narrative currency to "have planned" a response to something you could have known about, allowing players to get to the action quicker as well as streamline the planning process.

Make sure that you can support all of the actions around the main thrust of play. In D&D 5e that's the other pillars - what are they for your game?

Think about character creation. What do is the minimal set to realize the above. You'll also need to determine if you a writing a zero to hero game, or is it like superhero or cyberpunk games where you start quite competent and then slowly grow from there? Players like options at character creation and advancement, and complexity can be put there that does not enter play as complexity during a session.

Now pare everything back. Practice subtractive design. If something isn't vital, try without it. Or with a lower impact version of it. Maybe it really adds to flavor, maybe it doesn't.

Along those lines, how fast does the game play at a table once you have knowledgeable players? This is related but separate. Streamline the most common mechanical actions - the ones that eat up the most wall clock time at the table.
 
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"Man in the Funny" hat pretty much nailed it down to the basic:
Do you want to sell it to a broader audience, or is it just for a more or less personal use. Those two points make a big difference, when it comes to such points as clarity of writing, layout, art work, distribution channels/forms, etc. etc. The difference should be obvious here, and many of these points can be neglected/skipped, when the final product is just a personal affair.

So let´s assume you want a product to be published officially one way or the other for a moment.

Disclaimer: The following is my personal experience and based on a process that is now going on for more than 2 years. Currently I play around by writing my own D&D retro clone intended for publishing. I don´t claim to know everything nor do I have great experience in this field, but I can point out a couple of pitfalls I fell into so far.

First have a good plan on in which form you want to publish your work. Will it be one comprehensive book having all in it, or do you want several books similar to the PHB, DMG and MM? Sounds trivial, but when you look further down, you´ll get the point.

Probably the most important point is to really really be behind the project. Stay focused right from the start or otherwise you´ll just do brain training. And focusing is not only working as much as possible on the project, but to be absolutely sure, what you want and what not. Write these things down and pin them right next to your desk to be there as a reminder.

Be organized!. Nothing worse than having chaos on you desk, analog and electronically alike. Order in anything is essential, since time is scarce nowadays. So searching for a file or piece of paper is wasted time better spent in design.

Next right from the start write down anything in an orderly and manageable form, so you´ll find things fast once needed once either saved on the harddrive or in your design concept book. No idea is anything worth unless it is not written down and can be found easily when needed. It may be altered, included or dropped later, depending on several circumstances, but nonetheless get it down so it is there.

When you start to write, never look for things like punctuation, correct spelling etc. those things come a bit later. First get it written, then correct. And here lies a big trap: When you read things over and over, then it becomes second nature and you start to miss things like spelling, clarity, etc. Get somebody to read those first drafts. It´s a fresh look at things and they usually come up with points to consider or simple questions, that seem obvious to you, but may not be for the uninitiated.

it´s never a bad idea to get a hold of as many other already published works as you can get. Might it be for getting an inspiration, seeing how others have handled that matter you write on or simply by avoiding to more or less copy them. It´s already mentioned, that the wheel cannot be invented anew, but perhaps your splendid idea was more or less already used by somebody else?

And one thing to avoid is definitely to be driven away by making the beast larger and larger (see my first remark) to the point where it gets uncontrollable = loosing focus (= the to be published form!). Not everything has to be included in the first publsihing, so limit yourself to the core game. Icing on the cake is always welcomed by customers, but chrome in itself doesn´t make for a good engine. So limit yourself on the included material/rules.

One of the most important points, and here I assume you want to write a game from the ground up, is to have constant playtesting once the skeleton is finished. Nothing but real playtesting, with as many different people as you can find, brings out the pros and cons of your game. And feedback is definitely something you want at all stages of your project.

And one real advice I can give:
Once you share your vision with others, be prepared to handle a lot of critic and negative feedback. everybody out there is a game designer, marketing manager or otherwise highly educated person familiar with game design and publishing.
 
My opinion is just adapt a solid universal or core system, like Hero, FATE, BRP, Gumshoe, d20, or whatever, depending on the tone and style you're going for.

Dave Arneson may have been able to simultaneously develop a world, create a system, and run games in it as he went - the rest of us, some 50 years later, shouldn't have to.
 

steenan

Adventurer
First thing you need to do when designing a game is to clearly define the goals you want to achieve. There are two kinds of goals and both are important.
The first kind of goals is external to the game itself. They are about why you're creating it. Is it for your group only? Do you want to publish it somehow? Do you want to earn money with it? Do you want to fill a niche that has not yet been explored? Do you want to improve and build on an existing game?
The second kind of goals is about what you want from the game itself. Don't use empty buzzwords. Everybody wants their game to be engaging, fast and easy to play. Instead, be specific. What kind of experience do you want to produce? How do you envision a session to look like? What do you want the players to focus on an what to ignore? What should be the main factor that affects their choices?

That's the first place where having played many varied games pays off. Without that it may be hard to realize that some modes of play and kind of experience are even possible in roleplaying games. It's also very easy to end up reinventing the wheel; a lot of things have already been tried, with a better effect or worse, so it's good to learn from others' experience. And, unless you're only making minor tweaks to a game you already have, it's impossible to save money by designing your own RPG instead of getting an existing one. Many good games are free or cheap. The time you'll need to design and playtest your game will be worth much more than $20.

After you have defined your goals, it's time for the design. The important thing is not to get caught in details too early. Think about the process of play first, then about game engines you need to drive them and only at the end about specifics of implementation. Some people think they're designing a game by making up a novel way of rolling dice. In reality, in most games one may switch a dice pool to percentile to step dice or something else entirely without really affecting how it plays. Paraphrasing the Mouse Guard's motto: "It's not what you roll, but what you roll for".

Then, when you have a rough sketch of the game, you start playtesting and improving. Don't be afraid to get rid of some brilliant ideas if they don't work in practice. You don't need to use every suggestion you get from playtesters, but you should never ignore any issues they point out. You'll probably run the first few playtest games yourself, but as soon as possible you need to see how it works in another GM's hands, when they only have the text of the game as a reference, not all the ideas in your head.
After a number of iterations, the game will either become playable or you'll discard it. And if you're only designing for your group, that's all. If you want to publish the game, that's time for editing, art and other such things that will require not only your time, but also money.
 

Lanliss

Explorer
Warning, small wall of replies

The first thing is to get a clear mission statement of what you want to accomplish. A game designed for just you will have a completely different approach than one designed for others. Then draft an outline of everything in scope, and everything out of scope. Organization will be key. Do you have a budget? Plan on getting freelance artists? Editors?

On of your biggest pitfalls will be paralysis by analysis. I.e, getting bogged down by over analyzing and wanting to change things too much. Especially if you start going down the rabbit hole of realism. Another big pitfall is getting too attached to a particular rule or aspect. If playtest feedback brings up an issue, be prepared to change the rule. Every rule should be changeable
I intend for the game to be published, possibly only self published on a site but ideally in a way that could actually make a form of profit off my passion.


Every DM who runs their own campaign is an RPG maker. Every tweak, every new rule or class or spell or mechanic, every element that is removed/ignored is REDESIGNING that RPG. Maybe only in little ways, but sometimes A LOT of little ways. Sometimes you never really even notice the changes. Sometimes the changes of just one thing are HUGE. An RPG maker is not just somebody who starts from scratch and invents all new stuff and never borrows or copies ANYTHING from another RPG.

Don't reinvent the wheel. Don't invest too much time relative to the benefits you expect to get from the effort. Don't start it if you haven't looked into who you're aiming to sell/present to - who your target audience is.

Making a new RPG doesn't mean you can't at least start with an existing RPG as a basis to work from. It doesn't much matter if you end up with something entirely different from where you started or something very similar. If you're spending time testing out new resolution mechanics only to end up with a d20D&D-ish system anyway you're reinventing the wheel. Start with the things you know you want, are familiar with, and/or that the players and DM's of your "new" RPG will prefer. If you prefer to use... 1E D&D as your starting point you can begin with OSRIC, a clone of 1E made using the d20 Open Game License. OSRIC was even written specifically FOR people who wanted to publish material for use in 1E games in a clearly legally permitted way. Pathfinder was developed from 3E D&D under the Open Game License. If you're intending to publish and profit from your newly made RPG you could do worse than to develop it under the OGL. Of course, you can also start from scratch and reinvent the wheel, carefully avoiding stepping on ALL other RPG's that have been created - which you even acknowledge you have no experience with - but unless you've started with... a new resolution mechanic you're sure nobody has ever thought of before, you shouldn't (and don't need) to reinvent the wheel.

Next is how much effort you put into changing things to your own tastes. You can spend countless hours, YEARS, inventing a whole new magic system, but if the people who use and play your new RPG don't want it or actually don't like it you're wasting your time. If you're strictly doing all that work for your own enjoyment, fritter away as much time as you like. But, again, if you're intending to publicly publish and profit from your new RPG that's a business practice that will doom you to failure and personal bankruptcy right now before you really even start. You can devote pages and pages of tables and rules to recovering hit points by natural/non-magical means, but nobody will likely care and nobody will use them if magical healing is always available and always better.

If this is a project primarily for your own use and your own amusement, maybe for a few friends or a couple random strangers who read your ideas and like them enough to take a formal interest, then it doesn't matter if you have no familiarity with other RPG's and no market research into which RPG's are popular and why. But, again, if you're going to make this a business then you HAVE to know as many other RPG's as you can, and you have to have a clear and comprehensive understanding of what your target consumer wants to see out of your new RPG. Passion projects are FAR FAR from guaranteed sellers. Passion alone doesn't sell an RPG. Even great mechanics doesn't equate directly to great sales. Hell, D&D (any edition) is often objectively criticized as having the worst mechanics of all comparable RPG's and there is a lot of truth in that criticism - but that doesn't stop D&D from selling. People may buy a crappy RPG because they like the setting provided with it, whereas others will ignore the setting entirely and just use the mechanics. People may buy an RPG because it's cheap, or they may buy it because it's got tons of beautiful artwork and stunning presentation and lots of bells and whistles in a boxed set - and then overlook the fact that the ACTUAL RPG underneath all that really sucks. They may prefer a set of easy and breezy mechanics with a lot of roleplaying fluff, or they may care NOTHING for RPG fluff but want to have 300 pages of the nerdiest crunchy rules you can make which they then drop into their own setting. Which of those consumers is your RPG for? Design your RPG without ever forgetting or wavering from that answer.

And when you're done you might find all your effort was wasted anyway. That's a really depressing and negative attitude - but for RPG's it's a realistic attitude. Unless you're WotC or Paizo or a few select other companies, ANY level of success at RPG design is a crapshoot and probably LESS likely to be profitable than it is TO BE profitable. Or if it is profitable it will barely cover production costs and never pay you a decent compensation for the amount of work you put into it. Only if the end results are intended for just yourself is that going to be different. If this is a project which simply IS your hobby then it's really no different than any DM who runs any RPG (as noted at the outset).
I am currently starting from a d20 system, in that the d20 will be the primary form of resolving attempts at things. I don't know exactly how much I'll be changing from there yet. I suppose I haven't done a lot of research into my target audience, beyond being on this forum and a couple of rpg reddits to read people's opinions. That said, I have some primary goals in mind on what I want to accomplish, and while I don't know about execution yet I do believe that the concepts will be things people may like.


Okay, I'm assuming this is a project for you, to satisfy the game you want to run. If this is a game to publish, that's a different story.

First, I'm a huge proponent of the rules mechanically supporting the setting. So what about your setting (not your rules preferences at this point, those are later) can't fit well into another RPG. Write all of those down as goals. For example, Eberron needed dragonmarks. Some setting have their own magic system. Many stories having things fuel by willpower, or by blood, or the bonds between people, or by whatever. Make sure you can mechanically represent this. Is your setting gritty or high fantasy? Pendragon had various things like honor, and a generational approach. Cthulhu games requires soemthing like sanity. These games had different base requirements for their setting, and made sure to reflect them mechanically.

Second, what are the types of challenges you envision in the game? D&D is particularly combat-focused as the type of challenge to be mechanically overcome (as opposed to overcome in other ways). That need not be the case. Make sure that your system can address them, and that it's meaningful - investing at-table time to resolve something mechanically should have a meaningful repercussion.

Identify pain points in those challenges. For example a game focused around Heists will have issues with gobs of table time being spent on planning, which often is based on incomplete information and quickly becomes wasted time. Have mechanisms for both robust information gathering, but also potentially things like flashbacks where you can spend narrative currency to "have planned" a response to something you could have known about, allowing players to get to the action quicker as well as streamline the planning process.

Make sure that you can support all of the actions around the main thrust of play. In D&D 5e that's the other pillars - what are they for your game?

Think about character creation. What do is the minimal set to realize the above. You'll also need to determine if you a writing a zero to hero game, or is it like superhero or cyberpunk games where you start quite competent and then slowly grow from there? Players like options at character creation and advancement, and complexity can be put there that does not enter play as complexity during a session.

Now pare everything back. Practice subtractive design. If something isn't vital, try without it. Or with a lower impact version of it. Maybe it really adds to flavor, maybe it doesn't.

Along those lines, how fast does the game play at a table once you have knowledgeable players? This is related but separate. Streamline the most common mechanical actions - the ones that eat up the most wall clock time at the table.
It is actually intended to be published for public use, hopefully one day...

I have thought about the primary challenges I intend to bring up, that is one reason I am working on building my own system instead of sticking with D&D, because it doesn't support the depth that I would like to have in particular areas. That alone wouldn't be enough of a reason to do this, except that I have found I really want to do it.

Character creation and adding complexity and flexibility to classes is another major point of mine, as I have long been slightly unhappy with what D&D gives me in design space.

First thing you need to do when designing a game is to clearly define the goals you want to achieve. There are two kinds of goals and both are important.
The first kind of goals is external to the game itself. They are about why you're creating it. Is it for your group only? Do you want to publish it somehow? Do you want to earn money with it? Do you want to fill a niche that has not yet been explored? Do you want to improve and build on an existing game?
The second kind of goals is about what you want from the game itself. Don't use empty buzzwords. Everybody wants their game to be engaging, fast and easy to play. Instead, be specific. What kind of experience do you want to produce? How do you envision a session to look like? What do you want the players to focus on an what to ignore? What should be the main factor that affects their choices?

That's the first place where having played many varied games pays off. Without that it may be hard to realize that some modes of play and kind of experience are even possible in roleplaying games. It's also very easy to end up reinventing the wheel; a lot of things have already been tried, with a better effect or worse, so it's good to learn from others' experience. And, unless you're only making minor tweaks to a game you already have, it's impossible to save money by designing your own RPG instead of getting an existing one. Many good games are free or cheap. The time you'll need to design and playtest your game will be worth much more than $20.

After you have defined your goals, it's time for the design. The important thing is not to get caught in details too early. Think about the process of play first, then about game engines you need to drive them and only at the end about specifics of implementation. Some people think they're designing a game by making up a novel way of rolling dice. In reality, in most games one may switch a dice pool to percentile to step dice or something else entirely without really affecting how it plays. Paraphrasing the Mouse Guard's motto: "It's not what you roll, but what you roll for".

Then, when you have a rough sketch of the game, you start playtesting and improving. Don't be afraid to get rid of some brilliant ideas if they don't work in practice. You don't need to use every suggestion you get from playtesters, but you should never ignore any issues they point out. You'll probably run the first few playtest games yourself, but as soon as possible you need to see how it works in another GM's hands, when they only have the text of the game as a reference, not all the ideas in your head.
After a number of iterations, the game will either become playable or you'll discard it. And if you're only designing for your group, that's all. If you want to publish the game, that's time for editing, art and other such things that will require not only your time, but also money.
Thank you for the in depth responses everyone, I wish I could give mine in as much depth right now. I'm unfortunately short on time atm, so I will need to save better replies for when I get home. I just wanted to get some replies to you all while they were on my mind.
 

Wiseblood

Adventurer
What do you want the game to do? Is it only a more granular chargen process on a d20 system? Is there a style you are aiming for like gritty, S&S, High Fantasy and/or something else?
 

pemerton

Legend
Here is a link to a free downloadable "lite" RPG - Cthulhu Dark.

I've run a couple of sessions of this system. PC Gen takes five minutes - name, description, occupation (in the real-world sense, not a game-defined list of classes). It can be done while pouring drinks and pulling dice bags out of backpacks.

Action resolution is simple and quick - dice pool based, with an easy but consequence-laden system for rerolls.

Although it's designed for use with published CoC adventures, in the sessions I've run I've found it very easy to use for improv Cthulhu-esque gaming.

Given that you main familiarity with RPGs seems to be D&D 5e/d20, and given your reference to "classes" in the OP, I'm guessing that you are intending to write a game more mechanically complicated than Cthulhu Dark. But given what can be done with a light system like that, at every point where you system is more complex I'd ask myself What am I adding to the play experience by including this extra bit of system?
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
@John Out West nailed it, from my point of view, anyway. Start simple and build up. Every new rule you add should either work seamlessly with your existing rules, or operate in a separate space. Here's how I set mine up - the rules are sequential, generally to agree with all previous rules, and they were more or less written that way as well.

I am currently starting from a d20 system, in that the d20 will be the primary form of resolving attempts at things. I don't know exactly how much I'll be changing from there yet. . . Character creation and adding complexity and flexibility to classes is another major point of mine, as I have long been slightly unhappy with what D&D gives me in design space.
The d20 System is a complete, fully-developed ruleset. Rolling a d20 to resolve attempts is one rule. From which are you starting? Starting from the former can potentially involve breaking the entire system and then spending large amounts of time trying to fix it, or worse, breaking it and not realizing you've done so until it's too late.

If you're looking to roll a d20 to resolve things and add complexity, you can use the rules catalog (above) as your foundation. It's Creative Commons shareware, and designed to be hacked. You might also look at WOIN, if d6s are cool with you. I believe it also has an open license.
 

Ulfgeir

Explorer
My 0.02 SEK, as a long-time gamer (since mid 80's, and having tried a lot of different games throughout the years), and also someone who has proofread around 20 different role-playing products.

1: Make sure you have a clear vision of what it is you want to do.

2: Check if someone else has already made the game you want. You do not want to spend lots of time and effort in recreating something that already exists.

3: Find the USP (Unique Selling Point) of your game.

4: Start small. Make sure you break up the project in small manageable parts. Especially important that you define in advance WHEN you will be finished (not date-wise but scope-wise), and what is good enough quality.

5: Play-test with many different persons. Especially involve people that will try to abuse the system 9 ways to Hell. Take note of how the system handles it. Adapt accordingly. Accept critique here (expect a lot, for things that are broken or ambigously written).

6: Write. Write. Re-Write... Go back to step 5.

7: Have other people proofread it vigorously.. Accept critique, and reflect on their suggestions. Adapt them when needed.

That said. Good luck.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
One thing I touched on briefly but want to reiterate - removing rules can often make a better game. If you find things are playing slow, or requiring a lot of time looking up rules, or whatever - there may be rules that do what you want them to do but are not worth their weight.

When writing, there's a saying "Don't be afraid to kill your darlings". Sometimes you can have fives great rules that come into play during a common type of situation, and anything more then three just makes it drag. Streamline, look for foundational issues causing delays, speed it up as you can, but when it gets down to it, sometimes even great rules need to go because it's too many for actual play.
 

Lanliss

Explorer
@John Out West nailed it, from my point of view, anyway. Start simple and build up. Every new rule you add should either work seamlessly with your existing rules, or operate in a separate space. Here's how I set mine up - the rules are sequential, generally to agree with all previous rules, and they were more or less written that way as well.


The d20 System is a complete, fully-developed ruleset. Rolling a d20 to resolve attempts is one rule. From which are you starting? Starting from the former can potentially involve breaking the entire system and then spending large amounts of time trying to fix it, or worse, breaking it and not realizing you've done so until it's too late.

If you're looking to roll a d20 to resolve things and add complexity, you can use the rules catalog (above) as your foundation. It's Creative Commons shareware, and designed to be hacked. You might also look at WOIN, if d6s are cool with you. I believe it also has an open license.
In my case it would be the latter then, I intend to use d20 as the primary form of resolution. I should say that, as I'm most familiar with D&D 5E, that is my starting/comparison point. I won't be rebuilding that entire system in my own way, I just expect that it's inspiration may be obvious in the product since it will be the largest inspiration. A lot of what I have so far, and expect to have going forward, will be my own solutions and systems.

My 0.02 SEK, as a long-time gamer (since mid 80's, and having tried a lot of different games throughout the years), and also someone who has proofread around 20 different role-playing products.

1: Make sure you have a clear vision of what it is you want to do.

2: Check if someone else has already made the game you want. You do not want to spend lots of time and effort in recreating something that already exists.

3: Find the USP (Unique Selling Point) of your game.

4: Start small. Make sure you break up the project in small manageable parts. Especially important that you define in advance WHEN you will be finished (not date-wise but scope-wise), and what is good enough quality.

5: Play-test with many different persons. Especially involve people that will try to abuse the system 9 ways to Hell. Take note of how the system handles it. Adapt accordingly. Accept critique here (expect a lot, for things that are broken or ambigously written).

6: Write. Write. Re-Write... Go back to step 5.

7: Have other people proofread it vigorously.. Accept critique, and reflect on their suggestions. Adapt them when needed.

That said. Good luck.
1: I don't quite have a clear vision of where I'm going, so much as I have a few key items I intend to focus on.

2: I don't believe anyone has yet. I intend to have a fairly open and flexible class system, with a few bounds to prevent cherrypicking for a god character. I'd also like a framework for crafting items that I've barely started on, as well as information on how to craft magical items as that is a thing in the world.

3: My USP (I think) will be the class system. I hope to make it flexible enough to build just about any character one could want, from scratch or to imitate a character from media, but still keep it restrained and balanced to prevent being the best at everything. The power sets of the character classes will be a big chunk of the work, but also very modular and adaptable so that I can tweak them individually once I get them to a working point.

I don't know how vague/open I should be this early on in the process, but If people think it would help I could give more specifics about what I'm planning and hope to accomplish.
 

ccs

39th lv DM
In my case it would be the latter then, I intend to use d20 as the primary form of resolution. I should say that, as I'm most familiar with D&D 5E, that is my starting/comparison point. I won't be rebuilding that entire system in my own way, I just expect that it's inspiration may be obvious in the product since it will be the largest inspiration. A lot of what I have so far, and expect to have going forward, will be my own solutions and systems.



1: I don't quite have a clear vision of where I'm going, so much as I have a few key items I intend to focus on.

2: I don't believe anyone has yet. I intend to have a fairly open and flexible class system, with a few bounds to prevent cherrypicking for a god character. I'd also like a framework for crafting items that I've barely started on, as well as information on how to craft magical items as that is a thing in the world.

3: My USP (I think) will be the class system. I hope to make it flexible enough to build just about any character one could want, from scratch or to imitate a character from media, but still keep it restrained and balanced to prevent being the best at everything. The power sets of the character classes will be a big chunk of the work, but also very modular and adaptable so that I can tweak them individually once I get them to a working point.
So you're trying to invent a 5e-ish, d20 version of Hero System. Or maybe GURPS (Generic Universal Role Play System).

I don't know how vague/open I should be this early on in the process, but If people think it would help I could give more specifics about what I'm planning and hope to accomplish.
Bear in mind that how vague/open you are will affect the usefulness of replies you get.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
2: I don't believe anyone has yet. I intend to have a fairly open and flexible class system, with a few bounds to prevent cherrypicking for a god character. I'd also like a framework for crafting items that I've barely started on, as well as information on how to craft magical items as that is a thing in the world.

3: My USP (I think) will be the class system. I hope to make it flexible enough to build just about any character one could want, from scratch or to imitate a character from media, but still keep it restrained and balanced to prevent being the best at everything. The power sets of the character classes will be a big chunk of the work, but also very modular and adaptable so that I can tweak them individually once I get them to a working point.
Classless (and sometimes level-less) D&D-type RPGs is actually one of the common Fantasy Heartbreaker tropes. There is a lot of prior work there to inspire you or perhaps just steal^H^H^H^H^H adopt. Though if you enjoy futzing with a system as it's own hobby, that may not be for you. (That doesn't describe me. Nope, nope, not at all.)

BTW, I use the term "Fantasy Heartbreaker" in a loving way. I've made them myself, though never played outside me personally running. If you haven't heard the term before it's basically "I want to make D&D - but BETTER". Or "I'm going to FIX all the things I don't like about D&D". In other words, it's aiming for telling the same type of stories with much of the same design aesthetic (combat-focus, ability scores, skill lists, races, etc.) but tailored to what you want to see at the table. They are immensely fun because they scratch your own itch in just the right spot.

But if you want to publish, 5e is already doing quite well in it's niche, and there are plenty of games from blockbusters like PF (and it's new edition) to retro-clones to more narrative d20 games like 13th Age (a Fantasy Heartbreaker that was a recent commercial success) or Blue Rose. So to publish successfully you need to find a different fantasy niche.

But that may be at odds with making the game YOU (and your group hopefully) want to play.

So figure out up front if you want to try to publish and then take a hard turn away from all of those games with their already staked-out market niches. Or if you want to make the game that fits you personally like a glove - but may be too close to an already saturated market area to become more than a "pay what you want" on DriveThruRPG.

This isn't to discourage you. Both paths can be rewarding. It's that they aren't always the same path, and which direction to head is an early decision in design.
 

Lanliss

Explorer
Classless (and sometimes level-less) D&D-type RPGs is actually one of the common Fantasy Heartbreaker tropes. There is a lot of prior work there to inspire you or perhaps just steal^H^H^H^H^H adopt. Though if you enjoy futzing with a system as it's own hobby, that may not be for you. (That doesn't describe me. Nope, nope, not at all.)

BTW, I use the term "Fantasy Heartbreaker" in a loving way. I've made them myself, though never played outside me personally running. If you haven't heard the term before it's basically "I want to make D&D - but BETTER". Or "I'm going to FIX all the things I don't like about D&D". In other words, it's aiming for telling the same type of stories with much of the same design aesthetic (combat-focus, ability scores, skill lists, races, etc.) but tailored to what you want to see at the table. They are immensely fun because they scratch your own itch in just the right spot.

But if you want to publish, 5e is already doing quite well in it's niche, and there are plenty of games from blockbusters like PF (and it's new edition) to retro-clones to more narrative d20 games like 13th Age (a Fantasy Heartbreaker that was a recent commercial success) or Blue Rose. So to publish successfully you need to find a different fantasy niche.

But that may be at odds with making the game YOU (and your group hopefully) want to play.

So figure out up front if you want to try to publish and then take a hard turn away from all of those games with their already staked-out market niches. Or if you want to make the game that fits you personally like a glove - but may be too close to an already saturated market area to become more than a "pay what you want" on DriveThruRPG.

This isn't to discourage you. Both paths can be rewarding. It's that they aren't always the same path, and which direction to head is an early decision in design.
These are great tips, thanks very much. I only ever thought about a "pay what you want" site, I don't know where I'd begin to get actual physical books published...

As for the game and world, I think it's a unique niche. Fantasy world that had an apocalypse, and isn't rebuilt yet. So there will be much more in the way of survival and exploring, finding old monuments in deserted lands, and refinding the edges of the known world. There will also be plenty of combat as the players face creatures mutated by the apocalypse that happened.
 

Lanliss

Explorer
So you're trying to invent a 5e-ish, d20 version of Hero System. Or maybe GURPS (Generic Universal Role Play System).



Bear in mind that how vague/open you are will affect the usefulness of replies you get.
I don't know? I haven't done enough research to know. To clarify, I plan for my class system to be based on a perk point system. When you gain a level, you get X perk points, and can distribute them to level up certain abilities, unlocking new attacks, spells, abilities etc.

This way, I will have various generic abilities for classes, such as several melee classes having access to something like a "Vulnerable strike" ability, but some would also have specializations that lean harder into that ability. For example, a rogue type character can invest in the vulnerable strike ability, and later access some assassin based abilities to deal extra damage, or could choose to invest the rest of their time into becoming more scoutlike. Given the number of abilities I'd like to have for people to pick from, it would be more rare for many people to play the same exact type of rogue. some would have invested more heavily in sneaking, while others might have leaned on investigation to get by.

On top of this, I intend to have (limited) multiclassing, meaning that someone would be able to have two classes to pick abilities from, giving more ways to fine tune their build, but not be able to perk into 12 different classes to cherry pick all the best abilities. This means a person could mix some brute fighter abilities into their rogue to get a street gang thug type, or mix some Shadow abilities to become more of a magical assassin type.
 

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