I've been playing tabletop RPGs for 20 years and I finally mustered the courage to create my own RPG.

The problem is that I've gotten very discouraged as of late. I asked my local gaming community and friends if they would review what I had so far and give me feedback. It's been two months since that time and not a single person has given me any feedback. Two people told me their computers broke and they aren't able to read PDFs anymore. I offered to print it out for them and they just had more excuses.

  1. What am I doing wrong?
  2. Are there any online resources for game designers and discussion?
  3. Are there any online resources for securing playtesting help and/or playtesters?
  4. Does anyone have practical advice about designing games to solve what I might be doing wrong?
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    \$\begingroup\$ It really isn't clear what you're asking here, and I'm afraid this site isn't for discussion like questions, which yours appears to be. In my opinion you need to rethink the question, make it much more specific, and give more details. Until then I'm afraid I'm voting to close. \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs May 7 '13 at 16:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't necessarily think that this is a discussion based question, so to speak. It perhaps could be modified to be less open-ended and less broad, but it's still valid. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Willey May 7 '13 at 16:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: What can I learn from playtesters? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 7 '13 at 18:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've volunteered for playtesting before. It's a lot of work to write meaningful feedback. It's especially hard for a playtester to offer good criticism: It's emotionally taxing, and there's a lot of fear that the designer will react poorly to criticism. \$\endgroup\$ – Bradd Szonye May 7 '13 at 20:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to reopen because, though the question appears on its face to be open-ended and vague, it is actually quite clear about what the problem is – the OP just doesn't realise what the problem is. We can see what the problem is, and we can address that problem just fine. (Not all real, on-topic, constructive questions need to actually be self-aware of what their problem is, so long as it's evident to us as outside observers. If it's badly-written, use your downvotes, not your close-votes.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 8 '13 at 17:07

Nothing is wrong.

If I had a dollar for every time I had playtests/feedback for what I've been working on when I've been making the crucial changes, I'd have a dollar.

Now, there are a few important things to look at here in terms of development and feedback:

  • The Kickstarter Dilemma: You mentioned Kickstarter in your question, and while it's not a bad funding source, there are a few things to consider. Is your game commercially viable? Kickstarter is a brutal master, especially if you're asking for a lot of money.
  • Licensing: You mentioned getting a copyright license. To clarify, does this mean you explicitly went somewhere to make sure that your copyright was recorded, or are you licensing a setting? The latter may come with more restrictions on how you do things, though typically not so much as one would think.
  • Testers: Your friends are not going to be your best testers. Mine have never been. Go to an online site for role-playing games that has a development forum. It'll be a lot quicker and a lot less stressful. Even avid gamers often aren't up to testing a system; you need someone who's either interested in system design, or someone who explicitly enjoys learning new rules to really coherently test something anyway.

Now, of these things, the Kickstarter thing is the least important. If you're already working on the project and it's decent, you've got a good shot, especially if you can release previews or demos.

Again, to stay motivated, you just have to remember to work until the project is done. Feedback is very hard to get. I've never had a playtest happen without elevators breaking/friends going to the hospital/having to cut it short due to a sudden emergency. It's just the way things seem to go. In addition, even good friends often won't want to test something; if they're uncomfortable telling you that they don't like something, their feedback could be downright harmful anyway. Remember that even if you have run a game for them in the past, they may be themselves literally incapable or otherwise unqualified to test a game.

In short, keep going and find an online community, such as RPG.net's Game Development forum. If you're worried that someone's going to rip you off; remember that such things have rarely, rarely ever occurred (I've heard of it happening once, and the person who did it didn't get away with it). If you're hoping to sell, leaked early versions won't hurt you that much relative to the amount of help you'll receive.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Do note that RPG.net's not perfect; I've heard a lot of complaints about their focuses in terms of mechanics and stuff. You may also want to consider somewhere like 1km1kt.net (which specializes in free games) or the Reddit forum for it (I've never tried it, and only saw it from a Google search for "Tabletop Game Design", so your mileage may vary on it). There used to be The Forge, but I believe it's now defunct. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Willey May 7 '13 at 16:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the feedback. I'll edit my original post to reflect answers to your questions. \$\endgroup\$ – pullsumo May 7 '13 at 16:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ One thing I'd consider is taking the last paragraph and basically taking two sentences from earlier paragraphs and making that the whole question; you have a clear conclusion but the rest is kinda vague. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Willey May 7 '13 at 16:35

Nothing is necessarily wrong

When making a new game, especially in the feedback stages, you have to consider a few things.

  1. Why should anyone play your game over any other game that they already know?
  2. How am I soliciting playtest feedback, and what incentive do the playetesters have to switch to your game (even temporarily).
  3. Who am I asking for feedback?

From my experiences with the same issues and disappointments, I've come to see that creating a game is a lot like any other kind of writing. Patience, and a resilience to disappointments is key, and you have to sell what you're writing to your potential audience.

To do this, I have a few things I start out with.

  1. What is your elevator pitch? From marketing any kind of idea, there's the idea of the elevator pitch. If you get into an elevator with a potential customer of what you're doing, what kind of precis can you give them in the time that they're your captive audience? Can you tell them in 5 minutes or less why they should be playing your game instead of what they're already playing and familiar with? Is that description engaging and designed to get someone excited about playing it? This is going to be the first hurdle.

  2. How clear are the rules and the writing? Your second hurdle is getting someone to actually read the rules once you give it to them. You can get it into their hands, and get them excited about it- but if your writing is bland or bad once you get into the rules, you'll lose your audience pretty fast. Editing, grammar, clarity, and a sense of writing style are going to be key to get them to actually read what you've written to get past this obstacle.

  3. How easy is your game to pick up and learn? So you've gotten them to read it, but if it seems hard to understand (especially in relation to what they're already familiar with), or they can't explain it to their group, you're not going to get far. Examples of the rules are a good way to help with this.

  4. Who should I pitch this to? None of the above is going to help if you don't have the right audience. The first thing is to realize the type of game that you've created, and find the players that would be interested in giving it a try. There are several different communities built up around designing and testing role-playing games. The ones that I've been a part of an would recommend are RPG.NET, StoryGames, and 1kM1kt.

  5. Would I want to play it? Be honest with yourself. If you can't be bothered to get together a group yourself, teach it to them, and play it with them, or it doesn't excite you to be able to do so, then it's unlikely that someone else will. Find a game store and put up a posting for playtesters, and hang around and talk to people there. Go to one of the boards mentioned above and show your enthusiasm for what you've created. You have to be enthusiastic about it to create that critical mass to get people to care about it.

This next hint was a hard one for me to swallow, given to me by another game designer.

Should I create a new system, or hack another? This is a hard one to answer, especially if you really like to create. But if you hack another system, it comes with quite a few benefits, especially in regards to testing- inbuilt communities around the original system and faster learning time are the two major ones. When I built my own system, it was cool and had a cool dice mechanic. But, that wasn't enough to get people to try; they liked the setting, but didn't want to learn a new system. However, when I hacked another system to get the feel that I was looking for with my background, it was instantly more successful.

And my last hint- enjoy the process. If you're creating something that you enjoy for your enjoyment, you'll definitely have a more rewarding experience. Your enjoyment should be a driver behind the whole thing, with you ending up with a game that you want to play, not just create.


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