Build Together (Franken’RPG)!

Darn Kids! Cover

Hey there! It’s me, Thomas Novosel and I am writing today’s article for Game Creators’ Social Forum. Last time I talked to you about bringing family into Tabletop Role-Playing, this time I am going to chat about building Role-Playing Games together.

I design Role-Playing Games, and I love to play them with my family. But with the rise of games like Minecraft (I know it has been around for awhile but is still making a huge impact on everything gaming related) the people who are more likely to join in on the fun have altered their expectations. Of course I am speaking of younger siblings, children, lil’ones, and cousins; they all want to build/create in a Role-Playing Game but just creating Characters isn’t satisfying them. So I have come to realize that the Players need to create more if I have any hope of them growing into a lifelong Player.

So what don’t I do? Well there are quite a few different options for having Players create more and more of the story. But a few important facts must be kept in mind:

  • These are younger Players, so extra rules and complicated rules will not do. Make it simple, but with depth.
  • They have a reading level that is (probably) below yours. So big words and complicated terms will not assist in your efforts. In other words, use familiar terms/words so that no one is confused.
  • Keep it fast! Don’t let the game slow down, make sure that dice-rolls are quick, that everything is fast in the game. People have short attention spans and can get bored easily, lil’ones get bored a lot faster.

What can I do? Here are some things that can be done to stretch those creative muscles in a Player. Between base/castle building, system designing, and monster building.

  • Dungeon/Castle: Having Players build the map for the adventure can be a lot of fun! I use dice rolls, tables, and various “If __ then __.” statements to help control the amount of craziness that can occur from “Letting Players Loose”. It can be a lot of fun for the Players if they are allowed to alter the world to make it more interesting, but it can get really boring really fast because there is no real danger and there will be no surprises for the Players… when they are creating everything themselves! So it is important to limit creation; a good way to do this is to allow Players to decide what happens next but as a Game-Master (the person who organizes and runs the game) always follow their statement up with “Yes, but…” and throw a curveball or two.

    If the Players want to be underground and have falling rocks everywhere... do it! (I took this photo while I was on vacation in Virginia)
    If the Players want to be underground and have falling rocks everywhere… do it! (I took this photo while I was on vacation in Virginia)
  • Home-base Building: Where do the brave adventurers go when they are tired and need to rest up? What about when they need to plan a new offensive against the goblin horde? They go to a Home-Base of course! So let the Players create their home-base! Allow them to customize it with giant walls, booby-traps, and skeletal minions that will stop people from barging in! Again though, you want to control this. So if the base is huge and massive make it easier for enemies to find. If they have huge electrical needs, then where are they getting that power from? Someone knows and can probably turn it off without any warning to the heroes.
  • Monster building: “Imagine how scary it would be if _____?” Ever have a Player do that? Well why can’t that be reality? Take those suggestions, side comments, and questions reality; it can make the game a lot more exciting, and terribly fun. Just make sure that it doesn’t get too out of hand.

    Spore is a video game for PC by Electronic Arts. It isn't very good, but building enemies with "One more arm can't hurt..." is exactly how Players can create baddies.
    Spore is a video game for PC by Electronic Arts. It isn’t very good, but building enemies with “One more arm can’t hurt…” is exactly how Players can create baddies.
  • System building: Okay, so the Players want a new rule that keeps track of being scared, or a craziness modifier? Make it happen. Those big core rule-books that people buy and read are guidelines! I do not think I have ever played a game the way the writer intended, I leave out rules, add some new ones, and generally skip over a ton of steps all across the book. For me, I usually change a game’s rules so that it is fast and can be done only using voice (no maps and no miniatures). So add some rules! Make up some rules with the help of the Players! It can make the game pretty awesome and unique.

Creation can mean a ton of different things, in Tabletop RPGs it tends to be similar to customization, except the Player is creating for themselves (not just choosing from a list of options).

I hope that all of this stuff helps you get Players interested in Tabletop Role-Playing Games, but I hope even more that allowing your Players to create things leads to some terribly fun stuff.


Thomas Novosel has been designing games for the last six years, at an incredible pace that perplexes even himself at times. He is always at work designing and writing games, some of his friends say it is like a second full time job for him. He is the founder of Orbit Above Games (a small game design studio), he has a Patreon (for small and lite game publications), and has recently started theFreeRPGHunt (a subreddit all about free and open Role-Playing Games; there is a good sized listing of games their and links).

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