Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What I Want From What We Need

Grognardia's got a note about the lack of a true intro set that would be available in normal stores next to all the other games like Clue and Monopoly.

If there's one thing we've all learned, it's that we'll all be stone cold dead waiting for the trademark holders to produce what we want, what we need, or what's best for the hobby or the game. What we've learned is that we can do it ourselves.

What a huge bother it would be, setting all this up and attempting to market it. And that's all this would be... pure marketing, with no existing market, since the whole point is to introduce people who aren't already in, and do it in a way that's self-contained.

My concern for the purposes of this post:

What should be in it?

6 booklets, dice, and a few sheets of reference charts, that's what.

Yes, six booklets.

The first booklet would be just like pages 2 - 22 in the Mentzer Basic Players Book. A tutorial, introducing the basics of the game. (This one should also be mass produced as a freebie giveaway in game stores and maybe with specialty mail order shops to be dropped in with orders)

The second booklet would be character creation, class/race abilities, the XP charts, equipment lists, etc. This booklet would probably be very short.

The third booklet would likely be the largest, as it would have all the rules of the game. The nuts and bolts, as well as spell lists and that sort of thing.

The fourth and fifth booklets would be adventures. One would be a dungeon adventure, with do-it-yourself dungeonbuilding/adventure creation advice. The other would be a wilderness adventure, with world- and campaign-building advice.

The sixth booklet, which would be just a dream (more than the whole idea) and least likely to get in, would be a reading (and viewing) guide. Appendix N come to life, if you will, discussing various elements of the genre and perhaps where the inspiration for certain mechanics originated from. Not in-depth critical essays or anything, just a breezy walkthrough. It will give the whole thing context, because there is no reason to expect that the 10 - 12 year old kid we'd be targeting would have any clue about Jack Vance or HP Lovecraft or even RE Howard, and a lot of the stuff in the game (MAGIC SYSTEM) is just going to seem so foreign and unrelatable to someone whose entire fantasy education is Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies.

Because this is just an intro set (and should be clearly marked as such), the booklets and dice can be made of the shoddiest materials available. I'm talking newsprint, with not even covers on the individual booklets. The art can be that evocative black and white traditional lineart. The box itself needs to be twelve kinds of heavy-duty cool though, with superior quality art and materials.

But the intro set should also be its own fully self-contained game, going to perhaps level 10 to 12 or whatever. Certainly advertise the other versions of the rules and entice people with all the cool add-ons and ideas to be had in them, and in the adventure modules, and in the game-enhancing supplementary products, but nothing more than the intro box set should ever be needed to play a game. We're trying to create gamers and hobbyists, not suppliers of a continuing revenue stream.

13 comments:

  1. Metal! I would be AMAZED to see something like this on a shelf. Any shelf. Anywhere!

    Maybe the sixth book contains a short solo adventure too? Like one a newbie DM can run a character through to play-through mechanics and such...Would that be too 'leading'? I know solos were never OD&D, but as far as stone-cold introductions to a game, I think they have a place.

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  2. What, you have enough time for this post but not enough to send me some feedback on my Green Devil Face submissions? Don't blow me off dude! :p

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  3. Darnit, this is timely (thoughts you already had about a subject make for a better "I should be finishing this thing!" diversion than new material. :P)! Green Devil Face work is next weekly! I haven't even gone over Jalo's rough sketch for the second-to-last Insect Shrine art piece she sent this morning!

    So anyway.

    Short answer: "Yes, I can use these."

    Slightly more substantive answer: "Chessboards rule!"

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  4. The first booklet would be just like pages 2 - 22 in the Mentzer Basic Players Book. A tutorial, introducing the basics of the game. (This one should also be mass produced as a freebie giveaway in game stores and maybe with specialty mail order shops to be dropped in with orders)

    Hell, this with pointers to 2-6 online would be a huge improvement.

    Actually, this pointed to LL/BFRP/S&W plus 4-6 (currently not existing) would be an improvement.

    And 4 and 5 might already exist.

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  5. I think 6 booklets in a box would be a bit too overwhelming for the beginner, too tempting to take one look at it and think "too hard". Besides which, the beginner is going to be playing the game with the rulebook glued to his hand, he's not going to want to have to juggle several books trying to find the rules and try to teach his mates how to play the game at the same time.

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  6. I think that the books should be split by how they would be used. Make one SMALL book per player: a GM's book and 3-4 identical player's books with just enough info for them to know how to make and control a character. Everything else goes in the GM's book.

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  7. My ideal for an introductory set would be 3 booklets:

    0: "What is D&D?" - worked example in the Mentzer style.
    1: ~12 page Player's Booklet (possibly several copies thereof)
    2: the all-important DM's Guide (monsters, treasure, tricks and traps, how to make dungeons, how to be a good ref.)
    4: introductory adventure with *lots* of "advice to the new DM" boxouts and walk-through examples of player ability uses.

    Basic Set meets Heroquest, with a big red dragon on the cover. Yeah, that would work.

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  8. Chris' idea hits the right balance, IMO. Six booklets sounds too fiddly and easy to lose track of.

    Relatively high production values, including a sturdy box, should be doable. As someone pointed out on Grognardia, some small-press companies are managing it- Smirk & Dagger games, for example:

    http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/28259

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  9. Chris has the balance right, I think, though I don't see too much need for multiple players guides in the box. Just extra confusion for already beleagured parents who are sure to be shanghaied into teaching kids how this works and trying to do that while still doing everything else.

    That final booklet should have at least two or three adventures in it, and they should be linked by a common thread, such as a common nearby town or whatnot.

    There should also be an insert of about a page that is nothing more than an advertisement saying "if you like this boxed set, be sure to check out OSRIC, LL, S&W, etc. on the web at these sites!" Can even include lists of online vendors where dice are available for sale as well as minis and other gaming paraphenalia. Could definately generate some capital to publish the boxed set that way.

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  10. James, you hit the nail on the head. I love the clones, but they are stuck on Lulu.com and they ARE NOT IN STORES.

    Personally, I think one, saddled-stitched book that contains all the needed rules for players and GMs with appealing, non-old-school art (but not crazy muscled, spikey modern kind) and a CD filled with modules, setting and higher level rules. :)

    If BHP ever makes enough money for such a thing, I plan on doing it.

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  11. Does this get made with the idea of fun is bad?

    It's pretty tangental, but I remember some theories about whitewolf and how the games keep telling you it's all about story when the mechanics go another way, messes with a young teens mind. If applied for long enough.

    I'm just thinking a 10-12 year old will be buying something 'for fun' and it'll hit a similar loop - they assume its for fun, but it's actually for something else. A bit like 1984 double think.

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  12. >>Does this get made with the idea of fun is bad?

    Yes.

    It's a major investment of time and energy that is enhanced by copious amounts of reading and research that can result in lifelong pursuits.

    It's not for a couple hours of fleeting enjoyment with no forethought and no afterthought.

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  13. Well, some people put alot of effort into cooking meals. And some people put alot of effort into carving a statue. And suchlike. The thing is, they don't just put in alot of effort, they actually make something.

    While you seem to do work for the sake of doing more work. I'd ask what it results in, because maybe I'm wrong on that, but you just said yourself it results in a lifelong pursuit of...more work.

    I'll suggest a feedback loop :
    A: Work is often heralded as being important in society.
    B: If something feels like work, it probably is work.
    C: If it is work, it is important (see A)

    But I'll suggest this is as bullshit as playing civilisation for hours on end. If it produces no result, like a meal or a scupture or some freakin' thing, it might FEEL important. But it's just BS! I'm pretty sure this is how mmorpgs make their revenue, by making people feel like they are working, and gosh darn it, work is important, everyone knows that! So what they are doing with their digital character, collecting little pretend objects, is important!!! Got to be!

    So I'm suggesting work is just as hateable a notion as fun. Because it feeling like 'work' doesn't innately make it any more meaningful or doing anything more than if you were doing something that is fun.

    What matters is the meat on the table at the end. What's actually made - and I don't mean making people pursue a hobby which only end result is to make more people pursue that hobby, who's only end result will be to make more people pursue that hobby, etc, in a cancerous loop.

    Long post. Easily shot down by simply stating what is physically made, like the chef makes a meal or the sculpter makes a sculpture. Even if the end result is to make a point, like a fable does. What is made?

    Because - well, lets imagine an activity which really does produce nothing except intiating people to perform the activity - which is to intiate more people. A cancerous meme, endlessly reproducing itself for no result except to do so again and again, devouring countless hours of its hosts life so it can do this over and over. With such a thing, I say keep that the fuck away from children. If someone who has it thinks it enriches their life, well they can burn their life away, it's their life to burn. But when it comes to transmitting it to children, perhaps to try and validate the hours they've spent on it themselves, even, they can fuck right off.

    I'm not saying it applies, but certainly such a thing, if it did/does exist, is a cancer. I may be way off, but I prefer to be pedantic in regards to cancers. I'm probably a bit annoying while being pedantic, I'll establish that, I'm not pretending I'm just talking in a light hearted and generally fun way as one might normally do on the net.

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