Tuesday, August 09, 2011

I am Now Officially a Game Designer!



Every game master is a game designer at heart.  Every game session GMs make little decisions regarding player actions that seem to lay just outside the parameters of the rules as written for the game at hand.  We're used to making these decisions, but we don't often think of these things as formal game design.  That doesn't stop almost every game master from dreaming about becoming a professional game designer.  I imagine that most Fantasy Heartbreakers got their origins in the mind of a game master turned game designer.

(I have my own thoughts about the current trend to use Fantasy Heartbreaker derogatorily, but that is another post entirely.)


For years, my own design itch was scratched by game play and on line forums.  I spent a long period of time scouring Greyhawk texts for minutiae and discussing them with fellow fans on the AOL Greyhawk boards.  I also spent time on the various DC Heroes boards arguing about rules and coming up with new "fixes" for things within that rules set.  Anyone who doesn't think of DC Heroes as an "effects based" game should hunt down those old boards in the wayback machine -- sadly many of theme were lost when the "alt dot" archives faded away.  My participation in these boards eventually led to me contributing to the <em>Blood of Heroes</em> roleplaying game where I had written some rules contributions in a couple of the powers -- Superspeed is one of them if I remember correctly.  While this initial contribution might have led some to leverage participation in one product into a career, it didn't have that effect on me.  Graduate school, work, and adjusting to living in a new city (Los Angeles) took up the majority of my mental focus and dreams of being a designer faded into the background.

That all began to change about a year and a half ago when I started soliciting opportunities to playtest new games.  I have a regular gaming group made up of some very imaginative and thoughtful gamers, and I thought to myself they would be the perfect sounding board for new ideas and games.  How right I was.  I began playtesting a number of games, some of which are listed on the right hand column of this blog, and have had a great time doing it.  In fact, this playtesting has caused me to begin to feel very comfortable with the concept of designing games and I have begun reaching out in that direction recently.

One of the opportunities that emerged as I began reaching out was George Strayton's <em>The Secret Fire</em> project.  I was initially invited in to write some flavor text for some sections of the rules -- in fact my some of my flavor text is among the quotes praised in the RPG.net forum praising/dissing the game -- but my role quickly evolved into rules development itself.  I was involved in discussions of game mechanics, balance, intentions, combat, spells, etc. and it was a great time.  The game was recently formally announced and is now available on Lulu, though it will soon be available from a variety of sources.  George was a great lead developer to work with -- his credits include <em>Star Wars d6</em> -- and he allowed me to play devil's advocate and to offer seemingly random ideas.  He turned game design into a sand box of joy.

The experience has inspired me and you will definitely be seeing more game design from me in the future.  I am currently putting together a pitch for the first <em>The Secret Fire</em> expansion, a couple for Super Genius Games, some for Victory Point Games, and my own company -- Twin Suns Entertainment LLC -- will be designing a number of games in the coming years.

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