Thursday, January 6, 2011

Design Parameters

Zak S. posted an interesting bit about what the 'Design Specs' of his group are.

I thought it might be fun to do the same, though I have two primary groups so I will have to denote which is which when explaining each element.

Now, Zak didn't exactly spell out what the definition of 'Design Spec' was so I'm going to go with my best understanding. To me its means the parts/factors/elements a game needs to include or be capable of simulating to get us to like to play it.

The following Design Specs mentioned by Zak are pretty much the same for both of my groups though not always for exactly the same reasons.

-Fast, Obvious Ways To Make Villains.
-Lots of Setting Room To Maneuver For The GM.
-GM Supplements Should Have New Ideas In Them Rather Than Providing Crunch For Genre-Expected Stuff.

I would add the following note with a slight alteration...

-The System Should Provide Lots of Optional Rules That The GM (and Players) Can Use.

I like to have cool toys I can use to create new things but I want the players to understand them to so they can suggest ideas to add in. For example, Players in my Star Trek games have come up with Overlays ('Professions') and background Packages to better illustrate no only their characters origins but those of character types that should be familiar to Star Trek fans but aren't always represented in the rulebook.

You'll notice that these are all basically GM related. That's because in both cases, the GM is me and I can vouch for what I need the game to do. The players of each group are pretty different in play style from those of the other.

My Group(s)'s Design Specs Are:

In NJ:

-Fast Character Generation.
-Easy Character Generation With An Option To Do It The Hard Way For People Who Are More Comfortable With The System. (or Have Very Specific Ideas on How They Want Their Character to Be)
-Characters Made The Hard Way Shouldn't Be Automatically Better Than Characters Made The Easy Way
-That Having Been Said, Game Balance Is Not Such A Big Deal.
-A Generic Setting That Is Easy To Communicate.
-Don't Require Players To Know Fiddly Details of The Setting In Order To Make Decisions During Character Generation (Also how I, the GM, feel)
-A System Where Player Innovation Requires Imagining The Situation In Detail Rather Than Knowing The Rules Back-To-Front (Also how I, the GM, feel)

In addition, I would add...

-Role Playing In Character, Social Interaction With NPCs, Solving Puzzles, Learning About The World/Milieu and Pro-Active Ideas for Adventures and Subplots Should Be Just As Commonly Occuring and Important As Fighting.
-All of The Above Should Be Rewarded Just As Much If Not More Than Fighting
-Character Individuality Comes From Who They Are Not What They Do (This group excels at games where everyone is a Ghostbuster or a Starfleet Officer or a member of an Order of Knights. Their imagination is sparked by trying to be different even though they may have the same job)
-Vague or Open To Interpretation Abilities Are Prefered Over Specific, Detailed Ones
-Attention To Genre/Setting Trumps Attention To Rules. If It Don't Feel Right It Ain't Right.

In NY:

The NY crew are much more into crunch and so easy/fast character generation isn't a big deal. They don't want it to be so complicated they can't figure it out but if it takes three hours or three days to make the 'perfect character' then that's how long it takes.

In connection to the above some of them (maybe a third of the group) pride themselves on their rules knowledge. Elements of game mechanics that the NJ group couldn't give a Womp Rat's ass about become a Design Spec in the Big Apple. In NY, rules matter.

They also prefer a more detailed and specific setting, more fighting and less investigation, exploration and problem solving.


-Players Should Have Easy Access To Information Their Characters Should Now. (My NY crew gets very upset when data that would be second nature to their characters because of their species, culture, job or whatever is treated like difficult to obtain, top-secret info.)
-Creative Writing Appreciated (That is, a few of them want to make a lot of background info and want you to appreciate the time and care they put into writing it. This isn't really my thing but if they think its fun I try to accomodate it as best I can within reason).

Obviously you can see these are two very different groups. The former (NJ) is more new age, new school, story over rules, relaxed attitude hippies. The latter (NY) is more old school, hack-and-slash, rules oriented and they-like-what-they-like.

I tend to fall more in line with the NJ gang as far as my interests.

Barking Alien


  1. Obviously you can see these are two very different groups. The former (NJ) is more new age, new school, story over rules, relaxed attitude hippies. The latter (NY) is more old school, hack-and-slash, rules oriented and they-like-what-they-like.

    or you could say that the NJ crew are story-centred role players and the NY crew are technical adventurists.

    I think you're very lucky to have two groups with a slightly different take on what they want out of a game. I could see myself enjoying playing with either group - sometimes you want to immerse yourself in an imaginary world and sometimes you just want to hang-out, build giant robots, roll some dice and blow stuff up ;)

  2. Quite a thought-provoking exercise. I think you've highlighted a key point in game design--deciding what you (or your audience) want to get out of the experience. I can see how this would not only make for better game design, but better gameplay for both the ref and the players.

    Great post!

  3. Well I can't take credit for it. It was inspired by Zak S. and it really is an interesting excercise. It really makes you think, "That game I it what my players will love?"