How do I get started with game design?
First off, I’m not too bright. I’ve designed some good games and some bad games, and neither appeared fully formed. It took a lot of work to make them that good… or bad. It’s just hard to tell if your dice mechanic encourages the behavior you want, or if it does exactly the opposite. Hence the need for playtesting, for revisions, or for tossing your design down the back of the sofa for three years, because it sucks so very hard.
So one thing I do is look at systems that work. Other people’s systems. And then see where the system doesn’t quite do what I want. Does it stop short of an interesting pressurecooker moment? Does it make character generation too lengthy? Does it allow players to show their appreciation of the table enough?
Recently, I was discussing an idea for a game of faeries and their pacts with a friend. Pacts are conversation. And Polaris is all about conversation, so why not use its brilliant conflict and negotiation system? Where does Polaris as written fail to give what I want? Well, maybe the experience/cynicism mechanic doesn’t work so well for what we wanted, but if you swapped it for…
Same with a game I’m working on about cape-killers: teams of organised, well-equipped paramilitary who take down superheroes. I knew I wanted the team to be emphasised over characters, which meant the characters needed to be simple and easily replaced. I wanted individuals to be very varied in their abilities (some with superpowers, some with know-how, some with cojones), so that meant flexibility. It only took a year to realise Fate would do most of what I wanted there. If you pared back the aspects to three per character, and dropped the skill list to ten skills, and used scene aspects heavily, etc.
If you’re working on a game design now, what systems almost suit your design, and where’s that almost?