September 23rd, 2010


Game Mechanics Compendium?

Thanks to all both of you that responded to the Hotel Gallifrey thread. Sigh...

Is there something like a compendium of game mechanics, either literally or effectively by including descriptions or reviews of lots of games? I've got James Dunnigan's game encyclopedias but it's 20 or more years old and mostly covers wargames at that.

Does anyone one one of James Lowders' HOBBY GAMES or FAMILY GAMES? The "100 best" ones? Do they go into that level of detail?


The 800 lb Gorilla: Real or Myth?

As some of you may know, I am currently developing an indy RPG of my own, which I hope to market at some point and make money off of at some point. I know I won't get rich, but to me making a few bucks off a product that has my name on it while doing something I love (gaming) will be enough.

One of my partners/co-developers is very concerned about the '800 lb. gorilla in the corner' called WotC. His concern is that WotC will seek to protect their share of the tabletop RPG market by lawsuit, using game mechanics as an excuse to do so, if they feel sufficiently threatened by an indy product. He is afraid that any perceived similarity to any D&D product will make WotC come down on us like a ton of bricks- and we do not have the legal resources to combat that! And yes, I know this smacks of pure hubris in assuming our product will ever be that wildly successful, but this is an ongoing discussion between myself and this one partner.

My strategy has been to simply avoid looking at any other RPG for inspiration and ideas, so that I am not even unintentionally plagiarizing any other game. However, I know that independently coming up with something that someone else already has is inevitable. My feeling is if my product has any similarity to any existing RPG, no one can legitimately claim copyright infringement as long as the same idea has appeared in at least two other separate products. As an example: I use the 'skill versus difficulty' system that D20 uses, but I'm pretty sure that is not something specific to D20. But how do I know for sure?

Are there any 'common' RPG terms or mechanics that I can use freely- such as PC and NPC, or the 'skill versus difficulty' idea? How do I know if any familiar gaming term or any game mechanic is somehow copyrighted? Really, how many different ways to do anything in an RPG are there? You're bound to use the same mechanic as someone else eventually...

GMing inquiries

1.) Is it completely necessary to do accents for NPCs?

I only ask because, well, I'm awful at doing accents. Plus, I'm a lady with a pretty high-pitched voice, so it sounds really ridiculous when I try to do a deep voice and destroys the mood. Is it enough that I'm willing to do monster voices for the kobolds and xorns and so on? I do vary the NPCs' speech patterns, so that the ambitious wizard apprentice and the terse, focused scholar are distinguishable, but I can't for the life of me give the southern barbarians a psuedo-Russian accent, or make all halflings faux-British.

2.) Do GMs end up running the game they wish they could play in?

My friend "Dave" mentioned that he wanted to start up a campaign in the winter, and my boyfriend and I brainstormed what we'd like to play over dinner. But... the more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn't particularly want anything out of Dave's game; I would be showing up more to hang out with everyone rather than because I felt invested in dungeon looting, or being a Jedi, or what-have-you. After being in several unsatisfying games in the past year I ended up just running the game of exploration/intrigue/mad science that I wanted, and have been perfectly happy since then.

3.)Relatedly, once you learn how to run a fun game on your own, is there a way to get that spark of excitement back for other people's games?

It's hard for me to think up PCs now, because I'm used to twisting those characters into NPCs. I'm not sure I could stick with a character concept for months on end, but I know it would play havoc constantly switching out characters. When I do try to make PCs, they either feel too flat or overly complex. Plus, I suspect based upon Dave's interests that unless I'm very upfront about what I'd like to play and why, he'll end up with a game I won't have fun in. I don't want to force him into running something he doesn't like very much (even if I would like it better) but I also don't want to just dial it in every week.

It's all very mind-boggling.