Design Journal 10: A Samurai Cuts!


In her book Writing Down the Bones, which I recommend to anyone who writes anything, Natalie Goldberg talks about how, when you are editing your writing, you must be like a samurai. Why? Because a samurai cuts!

I’m finding that is more true of fiction, but it is still true of game design.

It has been a unique challenge. Writing what is essentially an instruction manual, but one that people will want to read, which describes something you do with your imagination.

I’m now doing more editing than writing of new material. It looks like I’ll ease past 30,000 words total in the near future. There’s no question that given this amount of effort and time I could easily have written 100,000 words of fiction, but designing and writing a game is a lot slower going.

I’m still aiming for finishing the playtesting copies by December so I can send them out and run playtests myself. I’m nervous about it. Because of the time constraints on the whole project, I’ll have to send out relatively rough material in some cases. I’ll actually be depending on my friends’ suggestions and the playtests to let me know if/how this whole thing works. My nagging fear is that I’ll try it out and it’ll…you know…suck. It won’t be fun, it won’t make sense, I’ll have overlooked massively important systems, or created systems that are broken. And so on.

I don’t mind editing, but I hate other people reading what I write, with a few exceptions in a previous Mage game and a current BESM game. I think many people feel this way, actually, but at the very least I do.

There are definite glaring weaknesses in the text as it stands now. Resources in general – money and equipment specifically – have no system that works at all. There is actually, at the moment, no fixed damage system for combat. And no recovery system once you’re damaged. Maneuvering is a little shaky, and while I like the concept of “the initiative“, I definitely need playtesting to see if my ideas of how it can work stand up.

Basically, I’m putting a lot of weight on playtesting and getting feedback.

But, I keep grinding away. I’m going to finish this thing, and hopefully also not fail any of my classes or let anyone down at my internship in the meantime.

2 thoughts on “Design Journal 10: A Samurai Cuts!

  1. Hrm. Sounds like you've already identified a few of the areas that need work. Play-testing will most likely confirm those.

    Resources and equipment are tough. You don't want to do what D&D does and make it a massive accounting nightmare. Or what Shadowrun does and make it take over the game with complexity, but on the other hand since it's not a modern game leaving it really free-form like White Wolf will probably cause trouble. “I have a laser in my pocket, cause, uh, I have resources 3.”

    Maybe attaching it to the lifepaths the way you were thinking with Burning Wheel.

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  2. Right now that's how you justify what you have with you at any given time – from the lifepaths you've described. I'm going for a less detailed (and work-intensive) 'lifepath' system than BW has. I just don't have the time for a certain level of detail in design and balancing issues. I'm just wondering whether this will work for groups, or whether there should be more detailed rules around what you've got with you.

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