During this process of developing Echelon, I have taken each part of the very familiar 3.5 d20 system and asked a few questions:
- Does this make the game fun?
- Is it effective at fullfilling its purpose?
- Can it be improved?
- Should it be removed?
To answer these questions I first reflect upon my personal experiences as both a player and a dungeon master. Did I recall the element adding depth, creativity, or flavor? Was it fun to use the element, or was it more of an obstacle? What was its purpose, and did it do a good job at what it was intended to do? For instance, if it was an obstacle, was it necessary to include because it introduced balance? Even if it was fun and successfully fulfilling its purpose, can it be made better? Should it be removed entirely?
I then catalog those answers and ask the same questions to my gaming group, keeping mind each person’s propensity to resist change. I then hit the web, looking for other people’s opinions, observations, and solutions.
If you have read my article on Design, then this ENTIRE process actually resides in the first step of STAIR: State the problem. I research the problem so I can fully understand it. How can you state the problem unless you know what exactly it is?
It was during this phase of design that I came across John Kirk’s RPG Design Patterns PDF at the site for his game, Legendary Quest. It is a 260+ page document that examines design patterns common to some of the most successful role playing games out there. After I finish digesting the book, I think I will use it to help define Echelon.
I also found a nice little list of RPG Design blogs, forums, and books at PPD RPG Design. Hopefully this will help other aspiring game designers find the information they need to tackle the rough art of game design.