How to Learn Game Design – A Reference Post

At GenCon, I present a panel titled Introduction to Indie Game Design, where we hope to provide a host of resources for the panel attendees. This blogpost stands as a curated collection of resources for their use, and for anyone else who wants to get started in designing RPGs.

  1. A giant pile of resources on dropbox.
  2. Free and Professional RPGs for Game Designers
  3. Software Choices
  4. Scribus for Game Designers
  5. RPG Design Overview Sheet
  6. Basic Budgeting for RPG Publishing
  7. Design Geology
  8. Last, but certainly not least, I would like to recommend you check out the RPG Design Panelcast which is hosted on this site. There’s a heck of a lot of excellent information for you to enjoy brilliant minds.

Good luck!

Jason at Metatopia 2013

I am once again making the pilgrimage to Morristown NJ, for the annual Game Design festival known as Metatopia. It’s a whirlwind of panels and playtests with no equal. I hope to see many people there, and to test my three game designs.

Here is what I know for certain about my schedule. I will likely be sitting on a large number of panels, and recording as many of them as I can for the RPG Design PanelCast.


Flying in at 3pm, then heading down to the city to meet and greet for a very happy halloween.


D002: “Playtesting 101” presented by Rob Donoghue & Jason Pitre. Playtesting is an absolute requirement for any game to be successful. This panel shows how to get the most out of your playtesting efforts no matter what kind of game you’ve designed. Friday, 9:00AM – 10:00AM;

B135: [FOCUS GROUP] “Tell Me About Your Game” by Genesis of Legend Publishing; presented by Jason Pitre. It’s a card game about role playing game designers. Your goal, if you choose to accept it, is to gain publication credits by pitching the most innovative RPGs you can. Friday, 3:00PM – 4:00PM



D036: “Accessibility Issues For Game Designers” presented by Russell Collins & Jason Pitre. Games are about imagination and creativity so the print medium shouldn’t be a barrier to entry. Understanding the needs of persons with learning differences and the options that designers have will keep you from excluding people who are eager to enjoy our hobby. This seminar will focus on blindness, low vision, and dyslexia and strategies to present your game content for those with print disabilities in digital and audio media. Saturday, 9:00AM – 10:00AM;

R223: [BETA TEST] “Posthuman Doorways” by Genesis of Legend Publishing; presented by Jason Pitre. Transhumanism. The idea that sufficiently advanced science and technology can change what it means to be human. This game invites you to explore those questions during play. You are forced to make hard choices and explore one potential future. Individuals knowledgeable about GM-less games and transhumanism are ideal. Saturday, 10:00AM – 1:00PM

D050: “Electronic Book Publishing 101” presented by Darren Watts, Jason Pitre & Joseph Bloch. What are the differences between publishing hard copy books and electronic publishing? This panel will fill you in on everything you need to know, from standards and tools to markets for reaching your audience. Saturday, 3:00PM – 4:00PM;

D052: “Legalese: Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents” presented by Justin Jacobson & Jason Pitre. It’s all about protecting yourself. Where and when do these legal concepts apply, and what do you need to do to make sure you’re covered without spending a fortune unnecessarily? Saturday, 4:00PM – 5:00PM; Serious, All Ages.

D061: “Dangerous Mechanics: Rules That Looked Good On The Surface” presented by Kenneth Hite, Will Hindmarch, Rob Donoghue & Jason Pitre. The panelists will deal with mechanics that look good on the surface but can have unforeseen negative consequences in play. Spending XP, no-effect rules, dice-generated currency – all have hidden dangers. Explore these and other light bulbs that didn’t quite work out. Saturday, 9:00PM – 10:00PM;



R357: [ALPHA TEST] What Came Before; “Rogues Gallery” by Genesis of Legend Publishing; presented by Jason Pitre. This game is meant to be played during an ongoing Pathfinder/D&D or Dungeon World campaign when you don’t have everyone show up for a session. The adventurers sit around a campfire and a rogue tells a story of her mentors’ great deeds of larceny. You play through that flashback-adventure as an all-rogue party. All players must have experience with Pathfinder/D&D or Dungeon World. Bonus points if you have read the 2nd ed Complete Book of Thieves, or if you have OSR experience. Sunday, 10:00AM – 12:00PM

Spark RPG at Metatopia 2012

I have just returned from Metatopia 2012, the amazing convention run by Double Exposure over in New Jersey each November. This was my first experience at Metatopia, but it has absolutely stolen my heart. Not only was Vinny amazing as usual in organizing the event despite the minor inconvenience of a Hurricane, we even managed to get the critical mass of game designers necessary to have 2 parallel game design seminar tracks going and a vast number of playtest sessions.

Critical mass is absolutely the correct description of Metatopia. The brain trust in those rooms was phenomenal, and it’s evident when listening to the recordings (say, GM’less play) that the discussions were at a high level of sophistication.

Whereas I have found many GenCon panels are by necessity, collage, or undergraduate level in complexity, I found Metatopia panels were closer to Masters or Doctorate level. Perhaps less useful for the budding designer, but absolutely priceless to those of us with a enough of a foundation to participate. Pity there wasn’t enough time to participate in all of it, or spend some time gaming with more of these fine ladies and gentlemen.

On the topic of panels, I recorded a large number of these and have coordinated with others (including Fred Hicks and Jason Morningstar) to get more coverage. I will be starting up a podcast feed shortly, specifically for the purpose of distributing RPG Game Design seminar recordings. My current working title on that is “The RPG Design Panelcast”, and I expect to have at least one episode drop within a week or two. You should be able to find them here on my site, or on Itunes.

The underlying reason why I was attending Metatopia was to determine if Spark is ready to go forward. The first of the playtest sessions was full of experienced Jeepform and Nordic Larp pros who tested the hardcore version of the game, diving into play while dealing with highly-sensitive subjects and beliefs that were personally meaningful to the players. The feedback was that the mechanics of the game pulled out of immersion enough that there was little *Bleed*. The described the game as being an interesting intellectual exercise, but not one that is inherently transmitting emotion to the player. This feedback gave me an incredible amount of comfort, as it meant that my game was less emotionally risky to any potential players, and that it encourages the kind of philosophical introspection I was looking for.

The second playtest was originally intended to be targeting experienced Burning Wheel players, but strangely enough, I didn’t get a large group of those fans. Instead, I got a lovely playtest session with two masters of the system: Jeff and Emily. These two were kind enough to playtest Spark _twice_ at Dreamation, then joined me once more for my Metatopia test. With their assistance, I tested how a 2-player game worked and cleaned up the Influence economy. They even helped me test out a proposed change to my scene framing rules, which I wound up rejecting due to their excellent feedback.

The fundamental thing that came out of both sessions was a sense of confidence. This was one of the first times that I tested the game and the experience of play felt natural. I feel that I am ready to finalize the text, to get a final editing pass done, and to start planning for my kickstarter.

Thank you all.

GenCon 2012 Seminar Recordings

I always love to attend GenCon and record as many seminars as I can. This year is no exception, and I had the honour to speak on two separate panels. While I still have to work on my presentation skills, I feel like people got a great deal out of those panels.

This year, the most excellent Jason Morningstar of Bully Pulpit fame was on six different seminar panels and recorded each of them. With his permission, I provide them here for your listening pleasure.

Here are the recordings in no particular order. I will try to link to the presenters websites whenever possible.

Introduction to Indie RPG’s

Special thanks to “This Just In from GenCon” for some editing and posting this in their feed.

Event Number: SEM1230671


Jason Pitre (

Kirin Robinson (

Kit La Touche (

Elizabeth Shoemaker Sampat (Regrets) (

Link to the Recording


Introduction to Playtesting RPG’s

Event Number: SEM1233486


Jason Pitre (

Adam Koebel (

Link to the Recording

Secrets of RPG Editing

Event Number: SEM1232354


Paizo Managing Editor F. Wesley Schneider (

Paizo Editor Judy Baur (

Paizo Editor Chris Carey, (

Paizo Editor Patrick Renie (

Link to the Recording



Jason Morningstar’s Recordings

These raw recordings have been taken directly from a post by Jason Morningstar on, with the files uploaded to my own site for posterity.


Introduction to GMless Play

This is me by myself rambling about GMless games for an hour. Link to Recording


The International RPG Scene

This is me and Dominic McDowall-Thomas . I spend a lot of time being excited about Japan. Link to Recording

Introduction to Nordic Larp

Me, Emily Care Boss , Lizzie Stark , Aleksi Airaksinen , Ville Takanen and Joonas IIvonen . As the least clued-in guy in the room I took the role of questioning moderator. Link to Recording


Volatility in Game Design

Me and James Ernest . Or, really, James Ernest’s well thought out and useful lecture on volatility with an occasional unhelpful comment from me. Link to Recording

History, Panic and History Panic

Me and Kenneth Hite talking about how to love gaming in history and still not be a total dick. Link to Recording

From Indie Cradle to Indie Grave: Making Independent Games

Me and James Ernest, mostly talking about business-y stuff. Link to Recording


GenCon 2011 Seminar Recordings can be found Here.


Introduction to Independent RPG’s – A GenCon Seminar

I will be on a panel at Gencon on Thursday morning, providing an introduction to independent RPG’s.  I hope to see you there.


Introduction to Independent RPG’s

A panel of independent game designers are here to help! Hear about the major schools of rpg design. Learn some GM techniques from indie designers. Discover new games that match your interests!

This seminar is here to help you learn about the philosophical underpinnings of traditional games, Story Games and the Old School Renaissance. Our goal is to provide context about different types of games so that people can explore a variety of different games.

We will share some handy techniques and tricks, either invented or discovered by independent designers, that you can use in your games. Indie games tend to be a hotbed of innovation and we want to help you take advantage.

We will be happy to play matchmaker, finding just the game that would meet your particular interests. What sorts of things do you want to see in play? We can help you expand that to include things you didn’t even think of, and then try to hook you up with games that do that.

Let’s explore Indie Games.