The Three Big Questions

edited September 2006 in Story Games
OK, I'm posting this because I'm at work and I'm lazy. What are the Three Big Questions for RPG design? As I remember them, they are:

1) What is your game about?
2) How do the rules support what the game is about?
3) How are players/characters incented to do what the game is about?

I suspect I'm misremembering and/or kludging those. I'd appreciate it if anyone can give me a clearer definition of this and/or the source they come from. Thanks!


  • edited September 2006
    1) What is your game about?
    2) What do the characters do?
    3) What do the players (including the GM, if applicable) do?

    Although it should be noted that Jared uses a different three.
  • edited September 2006
    I think my original notes (at home, dammit!) were from one of Jared's seminars, hence the confusion. If someone could find those, I found them a little more clarifying than these.

    Edit: Duh! Forgot to say, thanks for the response, regardless!
  • edited September 2006
    .1 What is your game about?
    .2 How is your game about that?
    .3 What behavior does your game reward or encourage?
  • It's cause Jared is a punk.
  • 1) This is about theme or high-level concept, yes?
    2) This is what the characters (assuming there are characters) *do* that follows that theme or concept?
    3) This is how the rules incent the players/characters to do what the game is about?

    This is what I get for not writing certain things down. At one time, I had really excellent answers for my current project, but I don't think I wrote them anywhere (or I can't find them now).

    Also (duh!), thank you.
  • 1. ( | )

    Oh, Jared beat me to it, but I did some internet digging and I have more details on Jared's original design page, cached by Google:
    The Big Three Questions
    The Big Three Questions all pertain to the First Law and all contribute to the focus of the game before pen is even set to paper. If you can't answer these three questions, then your game is not going to turn out well.

    If you write a D&D clone, your game is not about "adventuring in a medieval fantasy world." Your game is about characters advancing in efficacy in order to meet greater and greater challenges. Do not confuse the genre, setting or color details with what's most important: the premise and structure of the game.

    If you're designing that D&D clone and you put in a lifepath system as part of character creation, what does that accomplish? In order to fufill the requirements set my the first question, you must "put your money where your mouth is" with the discrete game elements. If that lifepath is purely cosmetic and doesn't affect the character's abilities or the game mechanics, then why is it in there?

    The obvious game element to focus on as a "reward" is some kind of character advancement system. But this can go the other way as well; what behaviors does the game punish and/or discourage? If the ultimate goal of Call of Cthulhu is to die or go insane, does the game encourage this? Do insane characters get special abilities? Or is running/fighting rewarded and encouraged (as it is in Dungeons & Dragons)?
  • edited September 2006

    You can read read my article on The Big Three here:

    And my article on the Alt. 3 here:

    Those might help clear up any confusion. :)


  • First, some historical background (or really lack thereof) on The Big Three. I can’t tell you, and I doubt anyone else can either, who first used and created them. My guess is they evolved over time, probably one by one, as the need to create a framework to discuss an RPG design became apparent. As to whom first called them The Big Three, again I have no answer.

    Answer: me and me.

    I'm like "The Simpsons," minus the yellow skin and overbite.
  • Yeah, if any of you missed that, Jared lays eggs...
Sign In or Register to comment.