A design map

March 10, 2010

Reliably Fun Play

The point of game design is build games that reliably produce a given type of experience. For roleplaying games, it basically comes down to helping game groups consistently find a range within:

1. The imaginary content (“Color”)
2. The choices and input the group can make in play
3. The ways and responsibilities which the group creates the imaginary events
4. The outcomes and experience of the imaginary events (“The Fiction”, SIS, etc.)

That consistency is what allows a group who is into that type of fun, to reliably get that experience over and over, easily.

Defining Boundaries

Part of getting that to be reliable means that a group quickly has to coordinate and be on the same page on the following (Creative Agenda):

1. These things matter in the fiction; these other things do not.
2. These things matter mechanically; these other things do not.
3. “Good play” for this game consists of these particular activities
4. These are the things that fit with the imaginary events and fiction; these other things do not.

Notice that ALL of these can be answers when asked, “What’s your game about?” and, that all four of these have to be answered as part of your design in some fashion to completely answer that question.

As a designer, these things need to be communicated in how to play the game. Some aspects can be left emergent, but if groups aren’t regularly engaging in the basic aspect of play, there is poor odds they’ll get to the emergent point of play.

Consideration and Theory

Designing a way to help a play group get all of that together, coherently and consistently, to provide a certain experience of play, is designing system, is designing your game to reliably produce a Creative Agenda in play.

Specific procedures in play, how to coordinate between creative input by the group and utilizing stuff like points, tokens, minis, dice, and generally Cues, these all exist to establish boundaries about what is and isn’t important, what decisions can and can’t be made, and to set up economies of currency for players to strategize choices around –Fictional Positioning – ultimately working as signposts to the point of the game – The Fruitful Void.

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