How to Make Great Random Encounters (for RPGs)

I love practicing game design in TTRPGs (tabletop roleplaying games). I’ve run D&D summer camps for kids, games for friends, games at work, games in most major systems, and systems of my own design. I’ve also run hundreds of sessions in random-encounter-heavy sandboxes. Many of my players have loved the open-ended experience and wanted to […]

Why Spend $500,000 on a Free Game?

The $185,000 Toy In November 2019, Hake Auctions in York sold an ancient artifact for $185,850. That artifact? A plastic action figure of Boba Fett, standing just 3.75 inches tall. The prototype Boba Fett is one of the rarest and most desired toys in any star wars collection. When its missile launching rocket pack was […]

What TTRPGs can learn from Videogames

Running and working on tabletop RPGs is one of the best ways to practice game design. It’s how I started learning how to do videogames. Now that I’ve been a videogame designer for years, I’ve been going the other direction – pulling ideas from videogames and using them to level up my tabletop RPGs. I […]

How do I get a job as a game developer?

I get questions about this from recent graduates all the time. Here’s what I tell them. First: Treat your dream job like a quest log. Pick a dream job you want to have in 10 years, maybe a lead designer or creative director, and look at job postings for it. Check their requirements. Follow them […]

How to Bake a Color Pie

The Question “Why don’t I just put all the best cards in the same deck?” “Why don’t I just use all the best abilities on the same RPG character?” “Why don’t I just use all the best units in the same army?” Many games with a variety of gameplay options run into this question. When […]

When variety trumps quality

When designers first learn discipline, there’s a tendency to cut anything that isn’t the strongest gameplay experience. That gets you 90% of the way there. However, it’s possible to throw the baby’s rubber ducky out with the bath water while keeping the baby herself. In small doses, variety trumps quality. Try eating your favorite food […]

Think about the feeling, not the text

Often a designer will create content that seems to literally represent their theme when you read it, but creates a feeling that is the opposite of the intent. My favorite example of this is the board game Relic. In this game, you can play a variety of characters. There is also a mechanic called “corruption […]

The Surprising Danger of Interesting Decisions

I was recently asked to elaborate on the difference between an “interesting” decision and a “satisfying” decision, which I mentioned briefly in my previous post on designing for satisfaction. Dear reader, thy will be done. First to clarify: I’m only talking about design goals. You design differently when you try to maximize how interesting a […]

Everything is Contextual

If you’re a student of game design, literal or otherwise, you’re going to run into a lot of seemingly contradictory advice from equally smart and successful people with proven track records of great design.¬†How do you go about resolving this? Who’s right? What’s the true path? The answer? Often… Both people are right. Everything is […]