Friends don't let friends write Fantasy Heart Breakers?

edited July 2009 in Game Design Help
One of my good friends started talking about a game system he wanted to write.
It sounds like a fantasy heart breaker to me: Skill lists, lots of options, based off of d20 assumptions, racial traits etc..

I didn't want to be negative or discourage the idea. Any game design is fun.
But I still wanted to see his ideas in terms of broader issues.

I asked him how he'd run the mechanic in terms of IIEE, content authority, plot authority, narrative authority and situation authority.
That seemed to give him something to think about.

What else can (should) I do?

Comments

  • Run Primetime Adventures for him. Run The Pool for him.

    Let him experience just how intense you can get with no skill lists and free-form traits.
  • Play your friends' heartbreakers. Tell them what was fun and what was not.

    Support their creative endeavors with earnest participation and honest feedback.

    As soon as they try to mortgage their house or hit up their grandma for money to publish it kick them in the junk until they see the light.
  • Assuming he's writing it with the intent to sell, ask him (nicely) what selling points his game has. Why would I buy and play this over a pre-existing game like, say, 4E D&D?

    Basically, be his friend and be critical. Who knows, maybe he'll modify his design and make something awesome out of it.
  • Posted By: JuddPlay your friends' heartbreakers. Tell them what was fun and what was not.

    Support their creative endeavors with earnest participation and honest feedback.

    As soon as they try to mortgage their house or hit up their grandma for money to publish it kick them in the junk until they see the light.
    What he said.

    Thankfully, my game-designing friends haven't made junk-kicking necessary, yet.
  • edited July 2009
    Dude, don't start from the viewpoint that heartbreakers are bad. Start from the idea that designing games is good. Encourage him to write his heartbreaker, if that's what he wants. There's nothing wrong with skill lists.

    And, like Brennen suggests, run other stuff for him too. If he likes what he plays, and wants to take things in another direction, he will.

    (Troy Costisick on Heartbreakers)

    Graham
  • I'll add +1 for playing other kinds of games with him.

    Behind every Fantasy Heartbreaker (to use the term as I believe it was initially intended) is a gamer who is frustrated by the game he/she normally plays and has the urge to create something more satisfying, but lacks perspective and knowledge about other games.

    As you describe it, it sounds like your friend wants to write a game that is highly derivative of D&D. Nobody wants that. Sure, play it with him and offer feedback on his specific ideas, but I think its good to expose him to other games. If he's truly interested in something new, he'll be into that, and if he really wants to design a game, it will be good for him to see what other people have been doing for the last 10 years.
  • Nurture the Fantasy, destroy the Heartbreak.
  • Think of it as NaNoWriMo.
  • Posted By: GrahamDude, don't start from the viewpoint that heartbreakers are bad.
    Graham, are you saying heartbreakers aren't bad, or are you just saying that's not the thing to harp on?
  • edited July 2009
    I'm saying it's definitely not the thing to harp on. I'm also saying that Fantasy Heartbreakers are not inherently bad.

    Fantasy Heartbreaker is a useful term. But it gets used as a perjorative term. Such games are not necessarily bad. I mean, if someone wants to write a game that resembles a game they like, good luck to them.

    Here's Troy again on Fantasy Heartbreakers

    And here's Ron's original article on them. Note the specific idea that we shouldn't dismiss such games.

    Rust, I hope I'm not diverting your thread too much. Tell me if I am.

    Graham
  • Thank you for the replies.

    I’m excited when anyone talks game design. I certainly don’t want to dissuade one of my best friends from taking a turn at game design.

    Yet, the ideas he throws out just say, “FHB.”
    In a way he’s looking for input. Yet, I’m conflicted—as I don’t want to kill the enthusiasm, but I also see the pitfalls that lie ahead.

    Thanks for all the links Graham. I agree with you that FHB are not inherently bad, and in this case I see it as an opportunity. I plan on giving him loads of encouragement.

    I think having him try different games is a great way to help.
    Any other suggestions?
  • Posted By: BWAa game that is highly derivative of D&D. Nobody wants that.
    Actually, almost everybody wants that. They just want it to be their's.

    If your friend wants to write a game for purpose of running with his friends or giving away online, fantastic, wonderful, encourage him, play it with him, offer honest yet brutal advice, have fun.

    If your friend wants to write a game to have written a game, no particular need to get in the way when you could point to Lulu or an alternative POD publisher so he doesn't break the bank yet can still meet any potential demand.

    If your friend wants to write a game because they genuinely believe they can revolutionize the hobby and found the next WotC with a heartbreaker, it may be advisable to bring out the Ice Bucket of Rude Awakenings +5, though.
  • Graham said what I would, but nicer. "Fantasy heartbreaker," while being spawned from a good article, is one of the most horseshit terms out there.

    Be an example, not a critic. Play games you think are fun with your friends, and if they decide to design something you don't like, be cool. Honest advice, sure. This sort of "how do I save my friend" business - weak.
  • The heartbreak is not in the game design, which are all clearly labors of love and to be encouraged the same way we should encourage 14 year old girls, or 80 year old men, or even 34 year old lawyers, to write poems. The heartbreak is when they invest $$$ to put it into a market that didn't want them when the market was good. So something some guy throws together enthusedly is not a fantasy heartbreaker until they start buying art and pricing how much it would cost to print 50,000 copies.
  • ok, part one: Graham said "dude".
    Posted By: GrahamDude


    Graham
    what i have to say to that: Awesome.


    part two: Rust, man, I've got a fantasy heartbreaker that i'm still working on. it's like in its kabillionth iteration, though, and it's getting awesomer every time i take it off the shelf.

    i mean, shit, i actually worked on it today. at this point i don't think it's a real contender for "The Heartbreaker Style Book", because it's so far removed, but you know, it started there.

    If your friend is anything like me, stop him while you still can or before i have to.
    of course i mean in the general sense of he-and-i-will-likely-have-to-duel-at-some-point,
    nothing to do with his design preferences at this point.

    i mean, shit, do you know that there are folks who still design games which use dice?
    like, wake-up-1980's.
  • Wait! Do you think your friend could take Jackson in a duel? If so, it's really just a matter of who you like better.

    ...chances are, I'll be fighting the winner. Jackson's story = my story.
  • edited July 2009
    A game doesn't need to break the mainstream mould to be good. Try and concentrate on what is new, original and interesting about your friend's game, rather than what fits the tried-and-tested mould. If you can't find anything original and interesting, that's the time to worry. I think a lot of people concentrate too hard on making a game that's crazy-go-nuts different from everything else there, when really all you need is one or two inventive twists to set it apart. Look at Spirit of the Century. It's not a million miles away from mainstream. GM Led, character based, ok the skills are character choice rather than from a list, but there's nevertheless a massive list of stunts to choose from and the game itself is run in the traditional style. What sets it apart is mostly the way it chooses to look at obstacles and elements in the scene, and that it represents a little-explored genre to emulate.

    -Ash
  • edited July 2009
    Whoa, Lance, what if all the Heartbreaker writers had to secretly duel for supremacy...

    um.



    ok, so i'm totally changing my phone number and address tomorrow and sleeping in a hotel tonight.
    givin me the heebie-jeebies over here.


    [edited to say Yeah, you say you're in Iraq now... but if you're learning how to control your powers at the same
    rate i am, you should be showing up right about no
  • Jackson,

    It's cool. I won't be back in the States until October or so, and my priorities won't shift from getting to know my son again and spending time with my wife to killing off the potential competition until early next year. You're safe until then.

    ...from me, anyway. If anyone else gets you in the meantime, when I take their head, your combined Heartbreakery goodness will become mine.
  • Jackson, there was such a fight.
    D&D won.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyThe heartbreak is when they invest $$$ to put it into a market that didn't want them when the market was good.
    Yes yes yes. It's not about what anyone thinks is "bad" design. Make whatever you want. Make it with the most zeal ever. Just don't print 20,000 copies up front.
  • Totally what Matt, Jason, and Judd are saying. Have fun making and playing the game with him.

    If he is producing a product for publication that includes investment beyond his labor of love, his happy place could become filled with awful, though.

    A story:

    In, I dunno, 2003 or so, I was starting a game that would eventually become Under the Bed. It was a very early design that had stats, magic abilities, and the like. Vincent and I messed around with it until he asked me what it was about. I said, "The toys are different personalities the child might have when they grow up." He said, "Why don't you make the rules about that?" It was a question I could only answer after I'd explored it in play.

  • We should all trot out our early awesome.

    We used those rules I linked weekly, for like a year.
  • My earliest efforts might still be in the bottom of some boxes in storage, or they may have vanished in one of many, many moves. Barring those, my earliest efforts have evolved into my current efforts.
  • First efforts? Fuck. We started by making up rules.

  • Posted By: GrahamFantasy Heartbreaker is a useful term. But it gets used as a perjorative term. Such games are not necessarily bad. I mean, if someone wants to write a game that resembles a game they like, good luck to them.
    Absolutely. And I agree that "Fantasy Heartbreaker" is a) a useful term, and b) unfairly used as a general insult for "fantasy game I dont like".

    The first time I read Ron's original essay, I had one of those "Yes! That!" moments. And, as someone who ran D&D games for over a decade, of course I had my own Fantasy Heartbreaker filed away, to be endlessly revised. ("Yes, but it has goblins as a PC race! And the character classes are totally different! And 'Luck' is a stat!")

    But even if he's not planning on publishing (which is part of the true Fantasy Heartbreaker), it sounds like his design ideas alone are not so hot. Rustin (the OP) knows the guy, and is clearly not enthused about the kinds of things the guy has been saying. Clearly he's asked Rustin for help or advice, or at least shared his ideas.

    So where's the harm in Rustin getting involved with what his friend is doing and saying "Hey, let's play a bunch of other games for a month or two. It'll be fun, and it will totally make your game awesomer"?

    It's not as if the only choices are full-throated encouragement or indier-than-thou disdain. I assume most posters in this forum prefer story games (or, you know, whatever) to traditional games for a reason. Why not be enthusiastic about sharing those reasons with a friend who is as into RPGs as you are, and wants to design?
  • Posted By: BWAI assume most posters in this forum prefer story games (or, you know, whatever) to traditional games for a reason. Why not be enthusiastic about sharing those reasons with a friend who is as into RPGs as you are, and wants to design?
    Big assumption. We may just talk about different things in different places, or we don't feel the need to talk about trad games, OR, we do talk about trad games here too.

    Just saying.
  • Posted By: Matt WilsonPosted By: JDCorleyThe heartbreak is when they invest $$$ to put it into a market that didn't want them when the market was good.
    Yes yes yes. It's not about what anyone thinks is "bad" design. Make whatever you want. Make it with the most zeal ever. Just don't print 20,000 copies up front.
    As much as I agree with this, I don't think this piece of good sense advice applies solely to what people term Fantasy Heartbreakers. This is good advice for any small RPG publisher. The market won't support such ventures readily unless you're already a major player or have access to some hard-hitting licenses.

    -Ash
  • I'm still planning on making a fantasy heartbreaker.

    100 playable classes.

    I'm serious.
  • edited July 2009
    Posted By: Bret GillanI'm still planning on making a fantasy heartbreaker.

    100 playable classes.

    I'm serious.
    Talislanta Fourth Edition has about 125 in its core rulebook alone, there's your target to beat.

    -Ash
  • Well I want to have a job system like Final Fantasy Tactics.

    If you tell me Talislanta has that I'm going to punch everyone in the world for not telling me about it.
  • Bret: Is it going to have weird flowcharts that show how the ultimate class is mimic?
  • No. The ultimate class would be God. Or one of them them anyway.
  • One of the ultimate classes, or one of the gods?
  • One of the ultimate classes, obviously.

    And Mimic is only for FFT, and FFT:PSP, it doesn't exist of FFTA, and stuff.
  • I never played anything Talislanta-related, but I still remember those "No Elves" ads in Dragon magazine, with the big dude covered in weird markings and holding a giant sword.

    That guy should go in your game.
  • Bret: If you ever GET OFF YOUR ASS and put together your Fantasy Heartbreaker contest, one winning condition really needs to be "sell/borrow/cash out something you really can't afford to lose to produce it".

    p.
  • No, no, you get to have your first print-run (5k copies minimum) funded by all those who lost in the Fantasy Heartbreaker contest!
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