We must Organize!

I thought I knew what I was doing last year.   My plan had been to write up the text of the game, then simply make a _few_ revisions based on the playtesting.   I thought that my design _must_ have been advanced enough that I could commission art.  I expected that I could finish off playtesting in 6-9 months, max and have my book in public Beta by early 2012.

I have learned a great deal over the last year.   I tore out 50% of the system and abandoned the text which I _had_ been writing.  I changed my approach and decided that I really needed to get the core system solidified before I tried anything else.   This led to me creating and heavily revising of a 2-page rules summary, just so that I had something to work from.

This is almost all I had ready by the time the convention season began.  Each playtest taught me a different lesson.  CanGames taught me that the game itself had the potential to be fun and compelling.  The Grand Roludothon taught me to simplify the mechanics and adopt a more improvisational style.  GenCon gave me 2-3 pages worth of astounding feedback which I am only now starting to digest.

Now I am organizing all of the rules for the Spark RPG.   I have Google Docs open and I am populating it with a series of one-line statements.  Each statement corresponds to an individual rule, concept, explanation or piece of advice for the game.  When I finish that up, I will be able to organize the content and turn that into a solid outline for my next attempt at writing the rule.  My hope is that through outlining, I ought to be able to write the game in the most concise manner possible without losing clarity.

Are there any readers in the audience who outline this way?  If not, how do you organize your RPG content?

Posted in Blog of Legend, Home, Spark, The Process of Design and tagged , , , .


  1. Yeah. The outline is also super-helpful for knowing what bits still need to be defined, fleshed out, etc. It also helps you get things in the right order and know what you’re missing.

  2. Thanks for joining me and commenting!

    How do you organize your own content, from a technical standpoint? There must be a better way then my approach with a jury-rigged google docs spreadsheet.

  3. So, I see three things: feel, system, assets. The first is the touchstone you always need to go back to, and ultimately is a pile of emotionally resonant descriptors. That defies organization, so just keep a list, somewhere. The second should be small and easily held in your head. I like to outline it, very procedurally, and keep an authoritative version in a gDoc. The last might grow, a lot, depending on the game—it’s things like moves in AW, or Distinctions in Smallville, or even playsets in Fiasco. Things that your players are likely to add to, especially. And those, well, I have no idea how to organize those, as I find that their shape keeps changing as I work on the game.

    But that’s just what I do, so obviously not authoritative or applicable for everyone.

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