• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is coming! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

Your TTRPG Design Principles?

Lucas Yew

1. Can be played with something to record with, something to record on, and a set number of 6 sided dice (the easiest type to acquire).
2. PCs and NPCs are built and run on the same(-y) rules; if it means that they'll have to be simplified for ease of playing and/or running, so be it. So no extras/mooks/solos/etc.
3. On intra-PC balance: You Get What You Pay For.
4. Use the Metric System (to be precise, SI units).
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad


These days I do mostly adventure and monster design. I don't actually enjoy full system design as much as I enjoy doing new and interesting things with established designs -- probably because I do not have the sort of personality that does well with carefully testing and iterative development (which I think are key to good game design).


Monsters: whatever form it takes in whatever system I am designing for, the key for monster design is for the monster to be easy to run for the GM, and provide for interesting and fun gameplay for both the GM and the players. A lot of times that latter part means giving monsters more to do than simple attacks, and things to do in response to player actions (reactions, if talking about 5E or related games). Even easily defeated minion type monsters should be fun to run and fight against. I really like the monster attack tables from Dragonbane and want to incorporate something like those into some professional work for other games.

Adventures: I am a strong believer that it is essentially impossible to design an adventure for any given table of players that isn't yours, so in adventure design I think the best bet is to give the GM tools to work with to run the game for their players in the way they run games. The Savage Worlds "plot point campaign" (PPC) is a good example of this in general, although my inclination is to give GM more tools than is typical for a PPC. I hate it when designers bury important information in walls of prose, and I think one-look maps and actually useful relationship mapping and event flowcharts are essential.


B/X Known World
I am more interested in what your design principles for a TTRPG would be?
The game should only be as long as it absolutely needs to be. In my experience, that means a few paragraphs on average with a few pages as the typical upper limit.

Mechanics should be as simple and generic as possible for ease of use and portability. If one mechanic can cover multiple situations, you don't need distinct mechanics for those other situations. For example, things like clocks are preferable to dozens of bespoke mechanics.

Missing a turn is not fun, it's a punishment, and it's a failure of design. Do not include "you don't get to play the game" as part of game play.

"Play to find out" is the cornerstone of modern gaming. Player agency and improvisation are king. Anything that pushes heavy prep and railroading is a design failure.

Characters with goals make the referee's life dramatically easier. Character creation should include picking goals.

Combat should not be a separate minigame that feels distinct from the rest of play. The game should stick with the "RPGs as conversation" style of play.


(He, Him)
"Play to find out" is the cornerstone of modern gaming. Player agency and improvisation are king. Anything that pushes heavy prep and railroading is a design failure.
Roger Callois in 1958 asserted in Man, Play and Games

An outcome known in advance, with no possibility of error or surprise, clearly leading to an inescapable result, is incompatible with the nature of play.​


A player creates an identity or character and then responds as that character to the Gamemaster when the GM asks "What do you wish to do?"

When the player responds with what their character wishes to do, the GM uses their instincts and intuition as a storyteller and narrator to make a reasoned decision as to what occurs and then narrates the result back to the player. Should the GM not wish to make the reasoned choice themselves... they may use whatever sort of "game mechanic" they wish to randomize what occurs instead.

The player then sees where their character is in the current narrative state and makes their next choice as to what they wish to do. And the system repeats itself.

The use of "game mechanics" will come down to whatever the GM feels will best help generate interesting ideas, choices, and responses to the answers the players give as to what they wish to do. Depending on what the story/game focuses on and how involved / complex the choices are that the players get involved in can determine how involved / complex the "game mechanics" could or should be.


I run Compose Dream Games RPG Marketplace
There's a lot I could say on this topic and I intend to respond to some specifics of others thoughts. Here's some of mine:

A1: Each of my game designs should have its own set of design principles/goals. (Otherwise why make a new game? The "A"s below are other apriori items.)

A2: Mechanics and the procedures of play should reinforce the genre/tone/setting or game concept. Procedure of play seems to often be overlooked. (Asking "what do you do?" and when you ask it is a procedure of play.)

A3: Play the game. A lot. With different people and some for multiple sessions to get deep feedback. Use this to iterate your design.

My recent one-shot GMless story game (God-Killer Prophecy) had pretty different goals then my first trad game Simple Superheroes.

Let me try to encapsulate:
God-Killer Prophecy
1. Collaborative worldbuilding framed through a lense of "prophecy."
2. A phase of play that is more immersive and traditional (the adventure phase).
3. Gradually building suspense that can end in failure.
4. Doing something cool using decks of cards. (Heroes have a deck and are trying to get the best cards to the chosen one by teaching him. The Dark God's deck gets harder by keeping the best card after each challenge and some other items to.)
5. Incorporating drawing (illustrating) into the gameplay loop.
6. Giving a collaborative story-game some teeth.

Theory of Games

Disaffected Game Warrior
  • Do the math, playtest rigorously and make sure the game's system is consistent
  • Describe everything as if the reader (1) has never heard of it & (2) isn't that smart
  • Steal design features from other rpgs
  • Pick the brains of established rpg game designers via social media
  • Artwork should be (1) very good & (2) evocative of the genre the game is targeting
  • You don't need a rule for climbing but you DO need a rule that makes climbing fun for the players (this applies to everything)
  • Font should be bigger than smaller and keep page layout as easy to read as possible
  • If you're crowdfunding your game, have a finished product beforehand :rolleyes:
  • Be careful about using jargon language, especially new jargons you created for your really cool game
  • The voice you write in should be evocative of the game's theme(s) and fun to read
  • Write a rule down so it won't be forgotten. Then simplify it to the point where it won't interfere with RP
  • Keep personal politics out of the game unless alienating certain groups is a goal

Remove ads