Thoughts about writing Game XYZ

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
– Antoine de Saint Exupery

I think the value of this statement directly relates to your plans for the game you’re writing. Take a building as an example: the architect who takes everything away has an empty lot instead of a building. What the quote really encourages is simplification if you can get away with it.

If my goals for the Game were to make it as simple as possible, I would just give up and play something like a stripped-down Burning Wheel:

You’re good at A, okay at B, and mediocre at everything else. Name A and B. Tasks related to A get 3d6, B tasks get 2d6, everything you can’t argue fits under these gets 1d6. Opposed rolls compare dice results; higher wins. Unopposed rolls are actually opposed by the referee: 5 is tough, 10 is really damn hard, and 15 is almost impossible.

Or I could do a very stripped-down D&D style game with classes and races and pretty much end up with a D&D board game, the entire rules written on both sides of a pamphlet.

But the first is almost pre-existing, and the second exists already in the form of the various Microlites (20, 74, etc.).

What I’m doing isn’t out there yet. Sometimes I get discouraged because I feel like it’ll never get finished. Not that I spend all the time editing and fiddling with little things. I just keep finding simpler ways to do things, which is vital to my goals with the Game:

1: Lots of player choices within the Dark Ages fantasy setting
2: Easy to run at the table
3: Strong impartial referee

Goal 1 requires lots of content, which I’m fine with. Testing so far hasn’t shown the players to be paralyzed by excessive choice. Goal 2 requires that all those choices be very simple. Anything complex gets red-flagged for replacement with something simpler. If I can’t do it, I scrap it in favor of something with less complexity and fewer features.

But as I go about this refining process, and I’m running a 1E game at the same time, I find myself less dissatisfied with existing games.

I just read that the development time for 4E was about a year, for 3E two years, for OD&D three years. While I haven’t been putting in as many man-hours as those folks, I’ve been writing the Game for six years. The structure has changed, two primary assumptions were turned on their heads once. I’ve felt like totally changing directions several times lately but instead of putting energy into a different “grass is greener” game I just took a break.

I’ve heard the NaNoWriMo advice: you need to just say it’s finished sometime. I don’t think that applies to a document with headings that need something worthwhile under them and they have nothing yet.

Anyway, just venting I guess.


Familiar Malady Table (What’s Wrong With Sprinkles?!)
1 Diarrhea / intestinal worms
2 Fleas / mites
3 Moaning and complaining about nothing in particular
4 Ate something completely disgusting and has an upset tummy
5 Got into a fight with someone else’s familiar
6 Pregnant / got someone else’s familiar knocked up
7 Excessive shedding of hair / scales / dandruff
8 Ornery, scratching and chewing things
9 Feeling devious, will be up to no good, may ruin spell components
10 Feeling slighted or ignored, demands attention, may interrupt magic work
11 Dental problems: abcess, cracked tooth, tooth decay
12 Got out in the rain last night, coughing and sneezing

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