I’ve been wanting learn about game design (primary interest is in tabletop gaming); can anyone recommend books or other resources for someone starting at the ground floor? I’ve tried pursuing some online forums but there don’t seem to be any good starting points there.

When I was driving once I saw this painted on a bridge:
"I don't want the world, I just want your half"

Not sure if they hold up well or not, or if what they did has since been written better, but I reckon the basic concepts of "look at other games that are regarded fondly and examine what they do that you might also like to do" and "have a good understanding of the math behind various methods of rolling dice" are probably pretty solid.

I just dug out Root if you wanted some more details:

So there's "The Law of Root" which is like, a numbered rules document with sub clauses. And there's a learning to play guide.

The "law" is 12 pages of concise clear and well organized 'legal' rules, including a half page quick reference for some key actions.

The learning to play guide is 23 pages full of images and verbose explanations of things with a bunch of examples.

It's kind of a neat idea but I think the "law" book is cleaner, more concise, AND faster/easier to read compared to the quick start guide (plus it's the actual official rules). Which kind of means unless you really want pictures, or full written paragraphs the law book just works better. But maybe I'm biassed since I kind of prefer clear legal documents in most cases... doubly so if that version is also the smaller quicker to read version.

The Law of Root is explicitly just a Wargame style manual vs the more popular descriptive style manuals of other board games.

They're pretty helpful when your game is complex but procedural because you can just look up rules as needed and in a quick, plainly laid out manner.

I don't know if it'd really work for RPG's, both because the dryness hardly inspires genre excitement and because RPG's tend to be more intwined system wise compared to wargames.

I’ve been wanting learn about game design (primary interest is in tabletop gaming); can anyone recommend books or other resources for someone starting at the ground floor? I’ve tried pursuing some online forums but there don’t seem to be any good starting points there.

There are some good texts, but most are more appropriate once you've already gotten your feet wet with some practical work. Put an idea on paper. Get it in front of yourself and play against a pretend opponent, and if it survives that, get it in front of a couple friends. Don't be afraid to make drastic changes. Don't overdesign; you don't need 200 cards with stats and clip art to see whether your central game concept will work. Try starting with something simple.

For reading: Kobold Guide to Game Design, 2nd Edition - good practical tips in essay form A Theory of Fun for Game Design - skews toward video games, but nice general concepts of what makes things fun Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design - a reference guide of the different techniques games have used to accomplish things The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses - I've not read this one, but it is a well-regarded book on the subject Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals - a heavily theoretical approach, good for building vocabulary about design

I’ve been wanting learn about game design (primary interest is in tabletop gaming); can anyone recommend books or other resources for someone starting at the ground floor? I’ve tried pursuing some online forums but there don’t seem to be any good starting points there.

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals

I have both of these, and they're really informative of game design as a field of study. They're a bit dry at times, but I found them enjoyable to get through.

Nice to see this thread blow up! I’m at sea with work so not much has happened with DAMAGE, but I’m happy y’all are doing it!

The last few posts have given me the idea to maybe include an in-character voice in boxes alongside the rules. I already think examples of play are needed, even if it’s a separate little pamphlet.

EDIT: holy shit this is huge on desktop, spoilering
Back to the conventions! Just had a really great game with a super exciting finish. Two of the three scenarios came down to the wire.

We're trying out a new rule. Previously, Stat Tracks all move every round 1 closer to the base value - except for any that moved during that round. That was complicated, unfun bookkeeping.

Now, you just do +1 to any 1 of them at the end of each of your turns. This is SO much more fun! Do you recover a debuffed Track or push another towards greater buffs? If you miss on your turn, consolation prize - you still gain a Stat. Scenarios "heat up" as they progress, but bosses can do this too - and they get 3 turns per round, so there's pressure to finish.

This was the jolt I needed. Playtesting high levels was a little grueling, and running cons can be exhausting. But this was just the straight up fun I know this game is most typically defined by.

One of our players was, like, 12 or so and still got engrossed and grasped the basics. So that's awesome as well

There's still nothing better than enjoying your creation with excited new players.

Fleur de Alys on

Triptycho: A card-and-dice tabletop indie RPG currently in development and playtesting

On that note, I've gotten the D&D group I play with to come check out my game this Saturday, and I've spent all weekend doing finishing up a big update to it with my brother (my editor).

I'm going to run a one-shot revolving around defending a small town from attack. Since there will be so many players, I'm going to do one shorter into battle, then a long planning preparation section, then a really elaborate battle to finish off. To ease choice paralysis, they'll pseudo-draft by picking from a bunch of sealed envelopes containing all their cards and stats and such.

@Fleur de Alys that game looks pretty impressive when it's all out on the table and whatnot. That's awesome that demoing it went well. I definitely understand that feeling when you make a small rules adjustment and it's 100% more fun all of a sudden, moving the "move" action onto a different card in BeastWing made combat waaaay more fun. Also that jacket is rad.

@Xagar Sounds like a blast! How does the envelope draft work, is an envelope an entire character package or like, bits and peices of each build? I might have to steal something like that for next time I run BeastWing and people need to make characters. Two tests ago everyone built custom stuff, and I did want to test character creation a bit, but chargen also ate up half of our session time.

Finally got some testing in with Beast Wing the other weekend and it went pretty well. The players explored an abandoned underground tech-ruin to find some ancient ships and escape the planet they were on. Did a ton of exploration and some foraging encounters plus 4 combats in about 4 hours. Half the reason I started working on this game is I wanted something pretty *lean* as far as speed of resolving rules, so I was pretty pleased with the overall result.

I definitely should have pushed some of the stats on the native planetary fauna and on some of the security robots they fought in the ruins. Everyone kind of made class cannons so I was a bit weary of overdoing it, particularly as I don't have a ton of playtest experience for where foe numbers should be, but there's minimal incentive to spend a turn moving out of the way, without big haymakers flying around, doubly so if your attack going off will KO the enemy and also avoid the attack because they are dead. Next session I run I'll throw a pushed apex predator (which is basically a really big monster, with individual stats and attacks for each body part...think a monster hunter monster...) at them and see how things go.

@RawrBear
1. Character Select (premade character with a few backstory, personality, place in the town itself, specialties e.g. D&D skills) - 8 envelopes, each with half a discipline (4 cards)
2. Short battle, ending with the threat of a much larger one in just over a day
3. Players get the other half of their discipline (4 cards)
4. Players have a set number of time periods (4?) to prepare - I pass around a list of reasonable actions to take at this point (send for help, scout, set up barricades, arm townies, get a golem, make some potions), and everyone chooses one. These are generally easier depending on how many of the people do the same action.
5. Halfway through something bad happens, sabotaging one of their preparations or killing an NPC - there's a traitor!
6. There are a few more time periods for people to prepare and discover the traitor
7. People get to choose another discipline (8 cards) right before the battle, then they make a build of 8 cards with their two disciplines
8. Battle!
9. Cool epilogue OR everybody dies!

0

NipsLuxuriating in existential crisis.Registered Userregular

edited March 21

Ok designers, help me figure something out. Let's talk d6's for a hot second. For all I know this is a solved problem, or I'm overthinking it. For the life of me I can't find anywhere online that talks about this.

A typical d6 has the numbers 1 through 6, one on each face, with opposite sides adding to 7 (1 opposite 6, etc.). Ignoring handedness, this means you'll have something that looks like this:

Let's say I want to build a six-sided die with nonstandard faces. I want A,A,A,B,B,B or something that effectively splits the die evenly into two different types of faces.

Which would you consider to be more "fair"?

Replace the 1,2,3 with A and 6,5,4 with B. This places each of A and B on effectively a "hemisphere" of the die.

Replace the 1,2,6 with A and 4,5,3 with B. This places A and B as a sort of pair of linked C shapes geometrically.

I think the second case is less fair, because you could more easily roll the die along one axis and effectively turn it into a rolling "dial" ignoring two sides and giving you a sequence of AAAB or BBBA to result from. But I still have this nagging concern that the first case is also somehow unfair or unbalanced, and I'm just not seeing it.

*I am aware six-sided d2's and Even-Odd dice exist, but I can't find examples of breakouts of the die faces anywhere.

Interesting question. Let's analyze it with far more rigor than necessary! There's a 2016 paper, "Numerically Balanced Dice" that discusses constraints for a numerically-labeled die to follow for maximum fairness. Its focus is on the d20 case, but it also mentions extensions to other dice, including the unusual d30 and d120. But it doesn't talk about the case where dice are labeled with digits other than from 1 to n, as you're asking. (Aside: Outside of the d4 and d6, most dice on the market are not optimally numerically balanced. And if you want optimally balanced d20s or d30s and don't mind paying a bit of cash, you might be able to get some here?)

Fortunately, the case of labeling a 6-sided die with {1,1,1,2,2,2} is small enough that we can easily make a manual comparison. As you've noted, there are only two cases: Case "A" has same-valued sides arranged around a single vertex (corner) of the cube, while Case "B" has same-valued sides arranged in lines (that, when folded, form interlocking U-shapes). How do these compare under the various criteria laid out in the above paper?

Opposing Sides: Conventionally, dice have opposing sides equal the same value. This holds for case "A", with each 1 face opposite a 2 face. For case "B", however, the opposing sides sum up to {2, 3, 4} due to the faces' wraparound. Advantage to Case "A". Vertex Sums: What are the sums of the faces around each corner of each die? Case "A" has a distribution of {3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6} while Case "B" has a distribution of {4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5}. Slight advantage to Case "B". Equatorial Bands: What are the sums of the faces in each 'axis' of each die? Case "A" has sums of {6, 6, 6} while case "B" has sums of {5, 6, 7}. Slight advantage to Case "A". Face Sums: Due to the small size of the d6, the sums of faces adjacent to each face (but not the face itself) equals the sum around an axis band. As such, Case "A" has the same advantage as the previous criteria. Full Face Sums: If we take the face's value plus its neighbors, then the equation changes slightly. Because of how high bands in case "B" necessarily leave out low numbers and vice versa, both cases result in the same distribution of full face sums: {7, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8}.

Taking all of these criteria together suggests that Case "A", with its opposing poles, is better than Case "B". But it is not a fully dominant victory, as a roll with a particular horizontal spin (like a top) may have that nagging unfairness like rolling Case "B" along a particular face-wise axis.

In addition, aesthetically (as opposed to numerically), Case "A" can look a bit odd, since it might be off-putting to look at the die along its corner and see three of the same number. You'll always see different numbers in a Case "B" die. (Take for example, the specialist Q-workshop d2, which is very much like a Case "B" d6, but with rounded edges.)

MrBlarney on

+4

NipsLuxuriating in existential crisis.Registered Userregular

Taking all of these criteria together suggests that Case "A", with its opposing poles, is slightly better than Case "B". But it is not a fully dominant victory, as a roll with a particular horizontal spin (like a top) may have that nagging unfairness like rolling Case "B" along a particular face-wise axis.

Ah, there it is! I knew that nagging feeling was legit, I just couldn't picture how to physically throw the die to unbalance its result. Like a top!

Extra +Awesome for the unnecessary rigor! That's the kind of effort I can get behind.

Okay, next question: let's say I'm designing a die for a game, and to minimize cost I only want to use one style of d6. I need to put symbology on it for both "attackers" and "defenders". As part of my design, rolls inherently favor the attacker, therefore the following are the faces of the die:

Blank, Shield, Shield, Bomb, Bomb, Double Bomb

Blank does nothing.
"Defenders" only care about Shields, and consider Bombs as Blanks.
"Attackers" only care about Bombs, and count Shields as Blanks.

What is the most balanced arrangement of sides? I think it's going to be the two Shields opposite each other, the two single Bombs opposite each other, then the Double Bomb opposite the Blank. The only problem I see is this runs into the "top spin" problem from before, but I don't think there's a good way to balance this out.

As seen from the initial "d6 as d2" problem, each of the two possible face configurations has a different way to bias the roll. It's an issue that you just have to minimize, or otherwise ignore (and assume that players will just throw the dice arbitrarily rather than with a deliberate bias). (Aside: I made a small computational error regarding Opposing Sides in my post, which has been revised. Outcome is more in favor of Case "A", but the original conclusions still hold.)

I'm going to punt on judging the arrangement you've proposed and leave verification as an exercise to you. You've got everything you need from my previous post, and there's actually not too much work that actually needs to be done. Assuming that defender rolls and attacker rolls are separate (but using the same dice), there's only a few cases to analyze. For the defender, there are two arrangements for the shield faces: adjacent, or opposite. For the attacker, there are three arrangements for the bombs: clustered (like the Case "A" "d6 as d2"), line with the double in middle, or line with the double at the end. See which combination of arrangements is best, making sure to exclude impossible cases.

Of course, 'best' may not be from a purely objective, numeric standpoint. Sometimes it makes sense to give up a little bit of numeric optimization in order to make something more visually appealing. The arrangement you've listed will be aesthetically pleasing, even if it ends up not being mathematically optimal. (Again, I haven't actually done that math so I don't actually know!)

## Posts

I'd want the Hero to just look like Link, but take off the hat to reveal it's been the Princess' younger sister the whole time.

Gotta save something for DLC or a sequel.

Hearthstone: mncdover#1994

Nintendo Network ID: MNC.Dover

3DS: 1934-0659-5183

Steam ID

"I don't want the world, I just want your half"

Not sure if they hold up well or not, or if what they did has since been written better, but I reckon the basic concepts of "look at other games that are regarded fondly and examine what they do that you might also like to do" and "have a good understanding of the math behind various methods of rolling dice" are probably pretty solid.

The Law of Root is explicitly just a Wargame style manual vs the more popular descriptive style manuals of other board games.

They're pretty helpful when your game is complex but procedural because you can just look up rules as needed and in a quick, plainly laid out manner.

I don't know if it'd really work for RPG's, both because the dryness hardly inspires genre excitement and because RPG's tend to be more intwined system wise compared to wargames.

For reading:

Kobold Guide to Game Design, 2nd Edition- good practical tips in essay formA Theory of Fun for Game Design- skews toward video games, but nice general concepts of what makes things funBuilding Blocks of Tabletop Game Design- a reference guide of the different techniques games have used to accomplish thingsThe Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses- I've not read this one, but it is a well-regarded book on the subjectRules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals- a heavily theoretical approach, good for building vocabulary about design"I don't want the world, I just want your half"

I have both of these, and they're really informative of game design as a field of study. They're a bit dry at times, but I found them enjoyable to get through.

(called out!)

Ya rly don't do this, it's eaten up so much extra time. Though, it

wasreally fun, and I don't exactly regret it, but...Yeah, stay really focused to start with. If you can

The last few posts have given me the idea to maybe include an in-character voice in boxes alongside the rules. I already think examples of play are needed, even if it’s a separate little pamphlet.

Like having the "here's how it looks as an overview and in general play" book backed up by the weird detail oriented nerd book works in 99% of cases.

We're trying out a new rule. Previously, Stat Tracks all move every round 1 closer to the base value - except for any that moved during that round. That was complicated, unfun bookkeeping.

Now, you just do +1 to any 1 of them at the end of each of your turns. This is SO much more fun! Do you recover a debuffed Track or push another towards greater buffs? If you miss on your turn, consolation prize - you still gain a Stat. Scenarios "heat up" as they progress, but bosses can do this too - and they get 3 turns per round, so there's pressure to finish.

This was the jolt I needed. Playtesting high levels was a little grueling, and running cons can be exhausting. But this was just the straight up fun I know this game is most typically defined by.

One of our players was, like, 12 or so and still got engrossed and grasped the basics. So that's awesome as well

There's still nothing better than enjoying your creation with excited new players.

Fleur de AlysonI'm going to run a one-shot revolving around defending a small town from attack. Since there will be so many players, I'm going to do one shorter into battle, then a long planning preparation section, then a really elaborate battle to finish off. To ease choice paralysis, they'll pseudo-draft by picking from a bunch of sealed envelopes containing all their cards and stats and such.

Should be fun!

@Xagar Sounds like a blast! How does the envelope draft work, is an envelope an entire character package or like, bits and peices of each build? I might have to steal something like that for next time I run BeastWing and people need to make characters. Two tests ago everyone built custom stuff, and I did want to test character creation a bit, but chargen also ate up half of our session time.

Finally got some testing in with Beast Wing the other weekend and it went pretty well. The players explored an abandoned underground tech-ruin to find some ancient ships and escape the planet they were on. Did a ton of exploration and some foraging encounters plus 4 combats in about 4 hours. Half the reason I started working on this game is I wanted something pretty *lean* as far as speed of resolving rules, so I was pretty pleased with the overall result.

I definitely should have pushed some of the stats on the native planetary fauna and on some of the security robots they fought in the ruins. Everyone kind of made class cannons so I was a bit weary of overdoing it, particularly as I don't have a ton of playtest experience for where foe numbers should be, but there's minimal incentive to spend a turn moving out of the way, without big haymakers flying around, doubly so if your attack going off will KO the enemy and also avoid the attack because they are dead. Next session I run I'll throw a pushed apex predator (which is basically a really big monster, with individual stats and attacks for each body part...think a monster hunter monster...) at them and see how things go.

RawrBearon1. Character Select (premade character with a few backstory, personality, place in the town itself, specialties e.g. D&D skills) - 8 envelopes, each with half a discipline (4 cards)

2. Short battle, ending with the threat of a much larger one in just over a day

3. Players get the other half of their discipline (4 cards)

4. Players have a set number of time periods (4?) to prepare - I pass around a list of reasonable actions to take at this point (send for help, scout, set up barricades, arm townies, get a golem, make some potions), and everyone chooses one. These are generally easier depending on how many of the people do the same action.

5. Halfway through something bad happens, sabotaging one of their preparations or killing an NPC - there's a traitor!

6. There are a few more time periods for people to prepare and discover the traitor

7. People get to choose another discipline (8 cards) right before the battle, then they make a build of 8 cards with their two disciplines

8. Battle!

9. Cool epilogue OR everybody dies!

A typical d6 has the numbers 1 through 6, one on each face, with opposite sides adding to 7 (1 opposite 6, etc.). Ignoring handedness, this means you'll have something that looks like this:

Let's say I want to build a six-sided die with nonstandard faces. I want A,A,A,B,B,B or something that effectively splits the die evenly into two different types of faces.

Which would you consider to be more "fair"?

Replace the 1,2,3 with A and 6,5,4 with B. This places each of A and B on effectively a "hemisphere" of the die.

Replace the 1,2,6 with A and 4,5,3 with B. This places A and B as a sort of pair of linked C shapes geometrically.

I

thinkthe second case is less fair, because you could more easily roll the die along one axis and effectively turn it into a rolling "dial" ignoring two sides and giving you a sequence of AAAB or BBBA to result from. But I still have this nagging concern that the first case is also somehow unfair or unbalanced, and I'm just not seeing it.*I am aware six-sided d2's and Even-Odd dice exist, but I can't find examples of breakouts of the die faces anywhere.

NipsonHearthstone: mncdover#1994

Nintendo Network ID: MNC.Dover

3DS: 1934-0659-5183

Steam ID

n, as you're asking. (Aside: Outside of the d4 and d6, most dice on the market are not optimally numerically balanced. And if you want optimally balanced d20s or d30s and don't mind paying a bit of cash, you might be able to get some here?)Fortunately, the case of labeling a 6-sided die with {1,1,1,2,2,2} is small enough that we can easily make a manual comparison. As you've noted, there are only two cases: Case "A" has same-valued sides arranged around a single vertex (corner) of the cube, while Case "B" has same-valued sides arranged in lines (that, when folded, form interlocking U-shapes). How do these compare under the various criteria laid out in the above paper?

Opposing Sides: Conventionally, dice have opposing sides equal the same value. This holds for case "A", with each 1 face opposite a 2 face. For case "B", however, the opposing sides sum up to {2, 3, 4} due to the faces' wraparound. Advantage to Case "A".Vertex Sums: What are the sums of the faces around each corner of each die? Case "A" has a distribution of {3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6} while Case "B" has a distribution of {4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5}. Slight advantage to Case "B".Equatorial Bands: What are the sums of the faces in each 'axis' of each die? Case "A" has sums of {6, 6, 6} while case "B" has sums of {5, 6, 7}. Slight advantage to Case "A".Face Sums: Due to the small size of the d6, the sums of faces adjacent to each face (but not the face itself) equals the sum around an axis band. As such, Case "A" has the same advantage as the previous criteria.Full Face Sums: If we take the face's value plus its neighbors, then the equation changes slightly. Because of how high bands in case "B" necessarily leave out low numbers and vice versa, both cases result in the same distribution of full face sums: {7, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8}.Taking all of these criteria together suggests that Case "A", with its opposing poles, is better than Case "B". But it is not a fully dominant victory, as a roll with a particular horizontal spin (like a top) may have that nagging unfairness like rolling Case "B" along a particular face-wise axis.

In addition,

aesthetically(as opposed to numerically), Case "A" can look a bit odd, since it might be off-putting to look at the die along its corner and see three of the same number. You'll always see different numbers in a Case "B" die. (Take for example, the specialist Q-workshop d2, which is very much like a Case "B" d6, but with rounded edges.)MrBlarneyonAh, there it is! I knew that nagging feeling was legit, I just couldn't picture how to physically throw the die to unbalance its result. Like a top!

Extra +Awesome for the unnecessary rigor! That's the kind of effort I can get behind.

Okay, next question: let's say I'm designing a die for a game, and to minimize cost I only want to use one style of d6. I need to put symbology on it for both "attackers" and "defenders". As part of my design, rolls inherently favor the attacker, therefore the following are the faces of the die:

Blank, Shield, Shield, Bomb, Bomb, Double Bomb

Blank does nothing.

"Defenders" only care about Shields, and consider Bombs as Blanks.

"Attackers" only care about Bombs, and count Shields as Blanks.

What is the most balanced arrangement of sides? I think it's going to be the two Shields opposite each other, the two single Bombs opposite each other, then the Double Bomb opposite the Blank. The only problem I see is this runs into the "top spin" problem from before, but I don't think there's a good way to balance this out.

I'm going to punt on judging the arrangement you've proposed and leave verification as an exercise to you. You've got everything you need from my previous post, and there's actually not too much work that actually needs to be done. Assuming that defender rolls and attacker rolls are separate (but using the same dice), there's only a few cases to analyze. For the defender, there are two arrangements for the shield faces: adjacent, or opposite. For the attacker, there are three arrangements for the bombs: clustered (like the Case "A" "d6 as d2"), line with the double in middle, or line with the double at the end. See which combination of arrangements is best, making sure to exclude impossible cases.

Of course, 'best' may not be from a purely objective, numeric standpoint. Sometimes it makes sense to give up a little bit of numeric optimization in order to make something more visually appealing. The arrangement you've listed will be aesthetically pleasing, even if it ends up not being mathematically optimal. (Again, I haven't actually done that math so I don't actually know!)

MrBlarneyon