Where to begin?

edited September 2007 in Story Games
I've been thinking for a while now of doing some kind of creepy circus game; finding inspiration in things like Something Wicked This Way Comes and Clive Barker's Infernal Parade. Then I happen across this great thread over at The Forge and my urge surges. That's the game I want to play!

So, where do I go from here? Do I use The Mountain Witch, or do I create a system? What questions should I be asking myself? Opinions?


  • You need to find your own way. One good friend and excellent game designer likes to start with a new idea and a then runs it in a system he knows is bullet-proof, and notes the places where it strains and breaks - those failure points are the start of his design work. I know another guy who throws his best guesses down on paper and then slowly, slowly refines them iteratively. I'd suggest starting with a very concise and solid statement about what your game is about - maybe use the question tools like the Big Three if they are useful to you. Know exactly what you want people to experience in play and then put together the right tools to make that happen. I've gotten a lot of good feedback in the First Thoughts forum at the Forge, once I had first thoughts. Find friends or other designers willing to bat your ideas around informally and provide unvarnished criticism.

    Just some very general suggestions, sorry! Yours is a general question.
  • Another design tactic is to write an example of play. Show what the players (not so much the characters) are doing. When the example needs to get into the specifics (numbers or what-not), just be vague: i.e., write "*rolls some dice and succeeds*" or whatever. I find this extremely helpful for my own designs, and I use a combination of the techniques Jason listed.
  • Good call, Adam. Personally, something else that works really well for me is constraint - telling me I have to design a game about horseflies, regret, and Vienna* is like pouring gasoline on the creative fire for some reason. There's no reason you can't create your own if that works for you. Sometimes starting backwards, with an interesting mechanic or technique rather than thematic elements, can be useful too.

    *I already have an idea for these! Damn it!
  • Here is the best project advice I ever got for any project ever.
    The Beginning ---------------------------------------------------> The End
    ^ ^
    Don't start Start
    Here! Here!
  • Thanks for the comments. I realize my original post was rather general as far as my intent was concerned. Unfortunately I haven't made it much further than that, except for this brief snip of flavor:
    They sell happiness for a buck. People come from all around to see the sights,
    hear the sounds.
         "Test your strength--"
         "Enjoy the ride--"
         Yessir, at a carnival you can buy a smile for a mere dollar. But, if you want
    to know fear...
         ...that'll cost you extra.

    It'll do for a first step I guess.
  • Man, you have mechanics right there.

    Smiles = 1 dollar.
    Fear = more than 1 dollar.

    Play with real money. Return it to players after the game, probably, but play with real money and it'll make people more anxious.
  • Or for scaredy-cats, play with peanuts. ;)

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