Designing a Tabletop RPG

It’s a hard thing to do, it really is.

There are a lot of decisions to be made when thinking about designing anything, let alone a TTRPG. The theme and tone, the aesthetic of the work, the size, and who your audience actually is are all things to consider for any work of art in any medium. For TTRPGs, you have to consider conflict resolution mechanics (what kind of dice? Do you even want dice? Cards, or tic-tac-toe, or something else…), rules complexity, and what particular niche of the TTRPG world you want to fit into.

And just designing the game itself is the easy part. Trying to get people to play, or hell, even buy it, is the hard part. The current TTRPG landscape is littered with the dead corpses of a thousand thousand failed RPGs – mostly the ever-so-popular ‘Fantasy Heartbreaker’ type of TTRPG, but such is life.

You might be asking yourself why I’m going to try and put together this little shindig, and let me say: I’m unabashedly a masochistic. No, wait, that’s not right, although it must be true if I’m doing this… I’m tired of most of the games I’m playing right now. While I love 3.5, as well as 5e, I despise the d20 mechanic (for reasons I’ll explain later on). GURPS is wonderful, and its a system I love, but… there’s just so much to think about, and so much to do, that new players easily become overwhelmed and get scared away. And while GURPS play is usually fairly simple, keeping track of all the changing variables can be exhausting, and often-times ends up with disadvantages (and advantages!) ignored.

So the question becomes: what am I actually looking to do in making this RPG? Primarily, I hope to make an RPG that is fun, has specific tones and themes, and has mechanics that reflect those tone/theme decisions and work both conceptually and mechanically.

The first decision that has to be made is about tone and theme. I’m a big fan of ‘darker’ moods in games – grittier games that force people to recognize the consequences of their actions. I’m thinking about death spiral mechanics, resource expenditure mechanics, and the like. I’ll make another post when I’ve actually decided on some mechanics to use.