Dungeons Part One: Theory and Design

July 16, 2014

As folks gear up for the new D&D and the resurgence of roguelike games, the flood of questions about how to design dungeons has arisen again.  Luckily, in the last 10 years there’s been some great discussion about dungeon design , which comes straight out of a larger population having better language to talk about game design in general, and videogame levels as a common experience.

What does a dungeon do?

Dungeons where you draw out maps, and prepare challenges, aren’t just scenery – they’re effectively level design in the same sense a videogame level design matters.  Dungeons structure your gameplay in three ways:

Information Scarcity

“What’s behind the door?”  “What’s down the dark hallway?”   “What’s that weird sound?”

Dungeons often rely upon hidden information – where treasure is hidden, where the worst threats are, and ways to get around them.  So you can find in many games a fair amount of play revolves around trying to suss out these things and spell lists and valued magic items reflect this.  This also means part of the value of a dungeon for multiple sessions of play is that one of the “rewards” the players pick up is familiarity with the dungeon itself – knowledge of how it is laid out allows them to make better strategic choices and use their resources better.  This sort of “dungeon mastery” goes hand in hand with system mastery of how the rules work for strategy in play and expertise of the players.

Constraining Resources

“What don’t the heroes just call for help?”  “I just go to a store and buy the right kind of tool” etc.

The dungeon separates the characters from a lot of potential resources, including allies or supplies.  At the very minimum, some things that wouldn’t be problems normally become problems (“Well, we could get across if we had our rowboat.  But we don’t.”).  More in-depth, you can start exploring the strategies of using limited resources to get by and improvise solutions.  You can also see this is where things like magic items or spells exist to solve these particular problems.

Strategic Play

The two issues above, along with very limited ways in which you can travel, sets up strategic options.  Choke points, areas good for fallback positions, flanking, etc. come out of these limited movement options.   “Knowing the Terrain” was a key point of warfare since forever, and you can even see things like MOBA style videogames using map design to encourage strategy in this same way, as well.

Different kinds of fun

To put it roughly, these three elements give players fun in three different categories – Exploration, Logistics, and Tactics, though they don’t map exactly one to one.  For example, traps rely on information scarcity, but usually the part players have fun with traps is figuring out how to outwit them, bypass the trap, or use it to their advantage – Logistics.

These three aren’t entirely incompatible, but depending on the group of players, they may want very different kinds of ratios – and those desires for different ratios might BE incompatible.  Some people love exploring and drawing maps and making inferences (“Oh, wait, see how these two hallways line up?  I bet there’s a secret door here.”), while other people are bored out of their minds.  Some people love figuring out how to efficiently use their torches and supplies and not end up stranded – other folks look on in horror at, what is to them, tedium.  Others like a good old fashioned fight – and others rather play a heist game where you avoid as many fights as possible.

In other words, even if everyone wants a “dungeon crawl” and everyone wants a Gamist experience to “beat the dungeon” what they may want can be very, very different.  I’ll go into more on this in Part Two.

Layout and Flow

Well, I’m just going to link to a pretty great analysis of some iconic D&D dungeons as flowcharts to read.  You’ll notice that a key value the author talks about is giving players choices and multiple paths in a dungeon, along with circular loops at points.  This is actually something noted as a positive in some of the older MMO dungeon designs as well.  Currently, most of the good theory on game design about the kind of layout and flow that applies most to dungeoncrawls can be found in “Metroidvania” style games.

Branching Options

All the above links talk about the value of branching options of which way to go.  Initially, the players will only have what scarce information there is to decide which way to go – it might be sounds, the idea that going up or down is a better choice, a faint breeze and scent, etc.  It’s useful to provide information of SOME kind at branching directions, otherwise for the players it’s completely a meaningless choice the first time through.   After they’ve seen what’s further ahead, the branch becomes a tactical/navigational choice – especially if they’re being chased or otherwise need to hurry somewhere.


Gating/Blocking is a key part of Metroidvania design, though it shows up in older tabletop dungeons too – it’s where there is a door, gateway, or obstacle that cannot be passed without some kind of special action or tool.  It might be the magical door that has a riddle or the area you can’t reach without a rope.   Gating/Blocking gives players a reason to come back to an area and sits as a question in the back of their minds as they play.  The obstacle should be for a branching path, and not block play altogether.

Although this is generally a great thing to throw in any dungeon design, it’s important to also remember in many games, players will find ways past some of these gates.  Maybe a character is strong enough to simply break one down, or uses some kind of magic to get past it.   This is why dungeons become harder to design as characters get more powerful and magical – characters who can teleport, dig, or phase through solid matter aren’t really constrained…


Previews are ways of showing players things they can’t get to… just yet.  Most of the time this is good things – like a treasure chest that is on the other side of a chasm, but it can also be dangerous things, like a monster on the other side of a gate…   Previews are good because they give the players incentive to push ahead, forewarning of danger, and basically help the area feel whole and connected.   If you are using circular or looped level design, this also helps connect areas – so when the players get around to the other side of the chasm, they can point back: “OH, this is the other side, we came in over there!”.

Videogames do this all the time, though tabletop dungeoncrawls usually don’t do it enough.


What makes a shortcut different than just a normal branching option?  It either has to be secret or something you earn.  “Earn” may include going all the way to the end of a path to find a secret door back to where you started… “earn” could also mean something like having to find a rope to lower to an area you’ve been before.  Shortcuts can either give you a quick way back, or a way around a dangerous hazard or threat.

Just like branching paths, shortcuts become tactical choices – players know where it leads and it gives them an extra option to get around.

One Way Paths

One way paths (doors, slides, pitfalls, bridges that crumble, teleporters, etc.) do one of two things.  Either it forces the players into a new area and the danger of having to find their way back through unexplored territory, OR, it forces them back to somewhere they’ve been before, forcing them to go through it all again.

The former is more scary, as the players don’t know what they’re dealing with or how far they may need to go before they can get to safety.  The latter usually makes folks angry, as it pushes them back to the beginning and any lasting hazards will need to be avoided or handled once more.

One way paths are tricky to use in tabletop games.  Being pushed forward, it increase lethality for the characters… and unlike a videogame, you can’t simply go back to a save point.  Being pushed back to previous areas, usually just wastes time, as most hazards the players dealt with are not going to be regenerated or replaced in that short of a notice.  If your game relies on specific party balance, one-way paths, more than anything else, are great at splitting up parties… which usually throws play out of wack for most dungeon crawlers.

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Forge Bundle of Holding

July 12, 2014

The current Bundle of Holding has a LOT of Forge games for sale, and a lot that I can recommend as being worth checking out and playing!

Breaking the Ice – a great 2 player game that plays a bit like a rom-com.  It’s fast, fun and very flexible.

Shadow of Yesterday – A fantasy game which developed “Keys” as a reward mechanic, which you can see in Lady Blackbird or the recent Marvel Superheros Roleplaying Game as Milestones.

octaNe – a post apocalyptic game of wacky hijinks to grindhouse violence, depending on how you turn the dial. One of the first games to really use smart narration trading mechanics.

Trollbabe – A super light system with fun narration trading, where your character only powers up by making relationships to characters.

Dog’s in the Vineyard – A nice game that forces you to make hard choices in each conflict, and “damage” makes your character grow as a person.

Universalis – probably one of the best GM-less RPGs out there.

Sorcerer – dark supernatural stories – think if you had Vampire via The Wire.


Designing Easy-To-Modify Games

July 8, 2014

One thing that’s pretty interesting is the level to which tabletop RPGs expect the groups playing them to hack and change them.  There’s pretty much three ways to address that, and it’s worth considering how those work:

“Design it yourself” (AKA anti-design)

This would be “Rule 0″ or “if you don’t like these rules, make up your own”.  This has been in rpgs for decades, and specifically is a non-helpful way to do things.  It also gets used a lot as a defense when the rules didn’t do what they’d claim they were supposed to do.

I’ve heard arguments in the past “no, no, really the game was made poorly to FORCE you to become a better gamer”… which… is ridiculous.  You might make that argument about certain forms of training and the need to ramp up difficulty, but in games?  Difficulty should be about a challenge factor in playing the game, not a challenge to making the game work – the challenge in basketball is playing basketball, not tying people’s legs together and blindfolding them and giving them a half-flat ball.


This is pretty much the easiest way to make an easy-to-hack game, though the changes are all effectively superficial.  The Pool, HeroQuest, octaNe, Universalis, Fudge, FATE…  all of these games have easy to swap labels while keeping the mechanics identical.  What’s the difference between a heavy armored robot and a small fast robot?  The labels “Heavy” “Armored” vs. “Small” “Fast” applied to them.

On the other hand, while this allows easy genre and element swapping, it doesn’t actually make for any mechanical differences in hacking by itself.  Often these systems use a universal resolution and there’s not a lot more to hang on it.

Unified Principles

Vincent Baker has a nifty chart about how rules work vs. how we actually play at the table. (you should read the whole post, it’s almost 9 years old but still very relevant).

This is an idealized design-to-play set up.  The turquoise is the actual rules in the game book/text.  You’ll notice it’s like 98% within the other circle – which is “how we play at the table”.  In other words, nearly all of the rules or advice in the book are actually useful in play.   You’ll notice of “How We Actually Play”, the part that isn’t covered by the game text circle, is broken into two sections – Ad Hoc decisions, and Principled Decisions.

Principled decisions are the choices you make because they fit in with the principles the game has communicated to you on how things generally work in the game.

Say you’re playing D&D and there’s a gas explosion in a mine.  “Oh gee, the book doesn’t have rules for that… but it’s a LOT LIKE a Fireball or Dragon’s Breath.  Let’s say it does this much damage and you make a Saving Throw for half damage”.   You can make that call and it works with the game because it’s based on common principles within the game.

So part of a game design is how well you communicate the principles of your game – which doesn’t have to be pages of theory and designer notes, but it does need to be consistent across your rules.

Hacking a game and considerations

So, from the other side of this, as a gamer, it’s worth looking at what you need to consider when hacking a game, which then shapes things people should think about when we’re talking about game design for modification.


How much does modding the game risk throwing things way out of wack?  Some games are pretty open to tossing stuff in without too much trouble.  Some games are an exacting system of currency and bumping it around breaks things quickly.  If you are designing a game with the intent for people to modify it, you need to try to aim for less fragility and be clear about which parts are more/less able to be fiddled with before breaking.


How much effort does it take for me to hack things into your game?  Is it a few minutes or nearly hours of trying to put together numbers?  Less crunch makes easier hacking.

Complex Combinations

How many OTHER rules do I have to think about this hack intersecting with?  Are there ways it could do things very different than what I intend because of a complex interaction?

Existing Tools

What’s already in the game as rules that I could use right now or with the most minimal changes?  Why should I use one as opposed to another?  (Example: when should you make this an attribute roll vs. when should you make it a skill roll?)


What are general goals of the rules?  What are rules they follow over and over?  What sorts of things work against this?

So, here’s an example: Apocalypse World has a principle in the rules of “Soft Moves” vs. “Hard Moves”.  A Soft Move is something the GM does that warns about trouble coming, a hazard or a threat.  A Hard Move is something the GM does that has consequences, now and lasting – whether that’s injury, an NPC getting killed, etc.   A core principle is that you have to give warning, you have to go through at least one Soft Move and give the players a chance to act, before jumping into Hard Moves.

Because this is generally a good principle for a lot of action games (forewarn danger, then enact danger) as opposed to “gotcha!” traps, it is something people caught on to and find AW very hack-able to many other things (Monsterhearts, Dungeon World, etc.).

On the flipside, the D20 flood of bad materials is a pretty good example of what happens when you have both high complex combinations and little in the way of principles communicated.



Those who want you dead…

July 5, 2014

 I heard an accusation. But what she and my Dad were trying to make me hear was their question:Why do you love a thing that won’t even let you exist within their made up worlds?

Pam Noles -Shame

The issue for marginalized folks in any geekdom is navigating this issue, all the time, every time: how much of my money do I want to give to people who literally want me dead?

Your options come down to three choices, all of which are terrible:

Speak no evil

Participate, enjoy to what you can, try to endure or avoid and say nothing.  You avoid some drama, but you’re always subject to microaggressions, and nothing changes.  Enjoy feeling like you contribute to people prospering who want you to die.

Disengage completely

Walk away.  You do not give money or fame to the people who hate you.  You’ve been driven out of a geekdom, fandom, gamer space and have cut out yet ANOTHER thing you love, out of your life and the question of how much of this is you making good boundaries vs. them controlling your life sits at the edge of your mind.

Speak up and be a target

Participate, but point out the problems.  Suffer the inevitable backlash and harassment.  The more outreach you get, the more violent and neverending the backlash.  People defend dehumanization with… death and assault threats, harassment, stalking, and attempting to destroy your job and life and mental health.

All three of these are terrible choices.  There’s not even necessarily a “right” choice, as all of these are coping mechanisms in the face of what clearly is a hostile and fucked up social problem.  It’s not just because there’s people who want you dead, there’s people who are OK WITH people who want you dead.   Is that really a space in which you can have fun?

Watch people demand you define which choice you take, and justify it, while never making the same effort to demand the people spewing hate shit to justify anything.

There’s a fourth option, and the only one I’ll condemn every time:

Defend it and pretend it’s a reasonable situation

Whether that’s an out and out denial, or “Well, this one person is a problem” while ignoring the fact 200 people sat by and did nothing while the one person spews their shit, or, worse, they supported them.

And I can see how people get to this point; they don’t want to admit the fact the whole thing is fucked up.  These people they thought were friends, they thought they had community, but in fact, all of this isn’t true.  When your humanity is partial, being abused is normal and you are expected to take it without complaint to “be accepted” in a community?

The heart of the whole situation is the same old racism, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, etc. that you find in society in general.  The only thing geekdom does different is it’s target: they want to destroy your imagination.

And I think a lot about what kind of mentality refuses to even let you find joy in imagination, and moreso, the mentality of the people who are ok to watch these people do what they do…


The Task Resolution Tool

July 4, 2014

As I’m trying out a bunch of games, I have to remind myself not everything has a good conflict resolution – and I find myself falling back into bad habits and problems with task resolution systems.  Mostly in rolling dice for uninteresting results.  Guh.

Can you think of a fun, entertaining, interesting result for failure?

No, not really

Ok, then:

1) Say Yes.  The character succeeds.  Keep play moving

2) Offer a precondition: “You can try but first you’ll need to…”

3) Offer at a cost: “You can do it, but it will cost you this…”

4) Impossible: “It’s too hard, but maybe you can…(offer other ideas)”

Yes!  Well, maybe! Give me some ideas!

Ok, then it’s a good time to roll the dice.  Here’s some ways to get worthy failure.

Four Types of Worthy Failure:


Risk is not necessarily damage or harm.  Risk opens you UP to the potential of those things.  So, jumping across a gap?  Failure isn’t falling, failure is hanging by one hand, precariously, while the enemies are shooting at you.  Risk is losing your lead on escaping danger.  Failing a risk roll means the GM takes the lead and the next roll involves harm, injury or capture.


Information failure means you accidentally let slip some kind of clue or information that those who would harm you can use.  Your location, your methods, your intentions, your allegiances, where your resources come from, what you are lacking, your vulnerabilities, your secrets.   This could be leaving behind a clue, accidentally saying the wrong thing, showing too much of your hand too early, etc.


Resources are things like gear, equipment, food, tools, mounts, hired allies, etc.  Mostly logistical resources.   Losing these makes life harder and some things impossible.  It can also create other problems – being in the wilderness without food or proper clothing can become a hazardous problem very quickly.


Standing is how NPCs see you.  And not necessarily society at large – just one NPC’s view of you can be everything.   Your King no longer believes you are capable of the job, your best friend isn’t sure they can trust you, your contact in the secret society doubts your commitment…    Or maybe it’s a small group – the people in a village, the wizard’s society you spent so long getting in good with.   Standing loss isn’t instant hate – but it means you have to work harder, do more, and get less and expect less support.


Dogs in the Vineyard’s “Say Yes or Roll the Dice”, Inspectres & octaNe “When should we roll dice?”, Apocalypse World’s “Hard Moves”, Mouse Guard’s “Conditions”.


Tactical RPGs and Stunt Systems

July 1, 2014

Had a pretty great conversation with Quinn Murphy about tactical rpgs yesterday and I figured I wanted to put my thoughts about stunt systems down to share.

Key Ideas

First, it’s important to note a couple of key things that shape how you do stuff in tabletop rpgs.

Tactical RPG Pitfalls

There’s basically two major pitfalls for a lot of rpgs that want to do tactical play.   One sits on the player’s side, the other on the GM’s side.

“All the fun choices happened before we started playing…”

What many games do, is front load all the interesting tactical choices into character generation.  You pick a “build” and you do the same thing,  over and over, maybe with only 1-2 really viable options, and everything else just being a bad idea to do outside of very specific circumstances.  Much like tic-tac-toe, this isn’t that interesting to play at all.  What you want is tactical choices to be made during play, not before it.

“It’s so hard to come up with interesting outcomes… I have to prep so much every week.”

The other issue is that a lot of games make improvisation rather difficult, requiring the GM to prep a lot ahead of time.  If there’s not a lot of tactical choices to make during play, it’s basically the players’ front loaded choices vs. the GM’s frontloaded encounter choices, requiring a lot of fiddling and guesswork to how it’s going to turn out.

Of course, this is why fudging becomes a common technique for dealing with this.  You either become a game design master for balancing things OR you just lie to make up the difference because you couldn’t pick out the obscure math relationships at play…

A good stunt system, properly applied, handles both of those problems easily.

Stunt Systems

Let’s be very clear that when I’m talking about stunt systems, I’m talking about mechanics that help you take unexpected actions and translate them into mechanics that will engage a tactical rules set.   There’s plenty of games that don’t have any real tactical heft, and the players can describe their actions in whatever way without it making any real mechanical difference (Primetime Adventures, Wushu, HeroQuest, FATE, etc.).

When you have a good stunt system, players can improvise actions in play that help as well or better than any choices they’ve made during character generation.  Being able to improvise means the GM can run with a lot less statistics needing to be prepped – it becomes easy to set up environmental hazards, have monsters do specialized attacks without statting up everything, etc.

Good stunt systems have to be flexible, easy to improvise without too much work.  Here’s some examples worth considering:

Tunnels & Trolls “Saving Throws”

Tunnels & Trolls Saving Throws is one of the oldest and easiest to understand.  You say what you want your character to do – the GM assigns a “Saving Throw Level” based on how tough it sounds, and which stat uses it.  You roll and succeed or fail.  If the GM wants to have a monster improvise something, or have an environmental hazard?  She simply assigns a Saving Throw Level and stat as usual.  What T&T did well was explicitly laying out this logic in the book, and not leaving it as something to be orally passed down, as a lot of D&D’s “Rulings Not Rules” kind of play did.

D&D 4E’s Page 42

When 4E was first in development and folks were just getting bits and rumors, the design tidbit that eventually became pg. 42 had me quite excited.  I remember it was someone detailing how if you wanted to stunt by kicking a table out from under a monster standing on it, you’d roll a Strength attack vs. a Reflex Defense, and how basically every stunt could be built out of Attribute vs. Defense depending on what made sense.

Now, if you put folks in a stunt-rich environment, a whole lot of options open up from this.  It also provides other viable options than your usual 4E power set.  A lot of 4E play suffered from dragged out fights because usually the 2nd half of any given encounter the players had played out their interesting options, and then it was just a lot of back and forth with basic attacks, over and over.  Aside form reducing enemy HP, the other half is giving players plenty of stuntable environments to work in.

Riddle of Steel’s Terrain Rolls

Riddle of Steel’s main tactical element is managing your Combat Pool – you spend dice out of it, and the focus of play was making sure to spend enough to succeed and/or not get hammered, but at the same time, you didn’t want to spend out too much and leave yourself open for a counter attack.  The Terrain rolls simply required players to choose how many dice they would gamble on the side in order to do useful things like: maneuver around multiple opponents so you don’t get rushed, avoid falling prone on rough ground or up/down stairs, etc.

Pretty much anything you wanted to do during combat, could be given as a Terrain roll in addition to your normal skills.

Rulings Not Rules

Things like the Primer for Old School Gaming shoves all the responsibility into the GM’s hands: make it up.  The advantage here is that it’s mechanically simple (GM fiat), but it also means the GM has to think about things and consider what is fair given the system pretty often.  Despite being mechanically easy, this is not actually necessarily newbie-friendly – it actually depends on the GM’s system mastery of everything else in the game, and their ability to communicate well with the group.


D&D 5E and OGL Hints

June 30, 2014

Learning from mistakes

It sounds like D&D 5 is going to at least try to avoid some of the pitfalls of 3rd Edition/D20 OGL, which is a good thing.

The first issue, which the link addresses, is that WOTC held onto the design principles and didn’t share them with the public (at least until the end of the lifecycle…).  This contributed greatly to the amount of crappy D20 material that came out – part of the reason you’d buy a book of monsters, feats, or classes is that you’d want to put it into your existing game – but if they’re all mechanically unbalanced, it doesn’t make a good fit.  By making the DMG a “hood pulled back” look at the mechanics, you help people not just hack the rules for themselves, but develop rules that others can use as well – they get a common language on what’s going on.

The second issue was the fact that open source development works because a lot of people can see how something works and at least SOME of those folks will have an idea of how to improve it.  D20 fell down because most of the material was hidden – you’d have to pay for a full product to see the OGL material AND very often due to the licensing, people would keep the best bits for themselves and only put the weakest, blandest parts up for OGL.

Indie rpg scene, the OSR scene

Meanwhile, the indie rpg scene and later the OSR scene effectively DID use open sourcing as open sourcing.  A lot of development for games was done publicly, a lot of playtest drafts were free to download.  Games like The Shadow of Yesterday used the Creative Commons License to simply open the whole game up for reuse, and many other designers put it out there, “If you want to do a variant/supplement for my game, just email me and ask.”  So we saw a lot of fast development there.

The OSR scene first used the OGL to reproduce a lot of clones of their favorite versions of D&D, but quickly started spinning off into their own games and development from that.  Again, often a lot of these were free or accessible for folks to build on ideas and cross develop.  Even things like E6 variant D&D developed under the same kind of logic.

The WOTC Challenge

Probably the easiest path for them would be to create a version of the Creative Commons License – let fans make stuff, but not charge money for it.  It fulfills the original goal of the D20 OGL – get people making material that feeds back to D&D, but it also avoids a lot of the pitfalls about paywalls.  There’s probably also something to be said about competition, especially in the post-Pathfinder era, though I don’t think that’s actually a real issue in the long run.

I know there’s the usual cry of “but if no one can charge money, no one professional will ever do this and quality will suffer!” but we can look at a lot of the OSR stuff being works of love rather than profit, and being successful despite lowered production quality.  Likewise, one can look at the amount of fanfiction which apparently has been decent enough to become transformed into professional bestsellers with the names scraped off, so there’s plenty of examples of “good enough to people to love it” from fan work.

The less easy path, if they wanted to take closer to the D20 OGL route, where people could create products and charge money, would be to have a central database or wiki of all the open source material so anyone could see it and work with it.  That said, you still have to figure out how to make sure it’s the best stuff coming in and not the dregs of any product, as well as dealing with the issue of maintenance. (Any platform the public can have input on, must be constantly handheld or it fills with violent racist, misogynist, homophobes and penis pictures as a basic law of the internet…)

The 4E route of “pay to license” is not going to work and we can see how much of 4E kinda sat on the edge with fan creations.  To be sure, there was hacks and stuff posted, but we can probably say that a lot of 2nd tier publishers who were putting out solid material for D20 decided to stick with what was working for them rather than deal with the hot mess of confusion and restriction the 4E license provided.

In many ways, I wonder how much of Pathfinder came out of a love of d20 as opposed to Paizo seeing 4E’s license as being unworkable.  It’s sort of like how Windows puts out a crap version every other time and no one upgrades because it’s easier to stick with what you’ve got than to deal with the hassle. (mind you, I’m talking about the license, not the game itself.  I think 4E had a lot of great design choices in it, and, would have been one of the better systems for 3rd party support/hacking, because of the modular nature of powers…)

The Indie Lesson of Fan base

One of the better things that came out of the 2000’s Indie rpg scene was the understanding of how to better engage with your game fan base.  People were playing games that were long out of print, with nothing new coming out and nothing in the news, but having a passionate community still playing and pushing it.  Ron Edwards pointed out that play communities mattered more to rpgs than regular publishing cycles.   We can see that is true with ever re-release Kickstarter of an old RPG which does exceedingly well because the fan base is still present.

So how do you best engage with that fan base?

Allow creativity

Roleplaying games are a creative activity, so it’s no surprise that gamers want to share their ideas as well.  This doesn’t mean anything has to become officially part of your game, but it does mean you need to allow spaces for it and to some level, encourage it.  To a great deal, we can see this is what Enworld and some of the blog spaces on the WOTC site have become.  Getting that to flourish in more spaces becomes more ‘free advertising’ for your core game.

Cross promote

The other one which is still relatively underutilized is cross promoting other games that you also think are good.  Tabletop rpgs are too small of a hobby to act as if you gain some competitive edge by pretending no other games exist.  Not only does cross promoting help grow/maintain the hobby by making sure people can find a game that does what they want (even if it’s not your game), it also sets up a reciprocal space of gaming promotion.  Not everyone is going to promote your game in return, but enough will and it makes a big difference.  “One True Way” logic has hurt roleplaying significantly as a hobby, and remains one of the big roadblocks to D&D groups forming and continuing with play.  If D&D gobbled up every other tabletop RPG company’s profits from actual games?  It’d be nothing to them.  What you want is more gamers overall, and it makes more sense to promote tabletop roleplaying as a whole, rather than fighting for crumbs.


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