RPG Design: The goals for my latest project

adom-rpgTommi Brander asked in a response to my last RPG design post what the goals of my latest RPG design project where. A very reasonable and important question. And it occurred to me that I never really had thought about my goals above and beyond an instinctive and very intuitive level. So I would like to take the opportunity to elaborate a bit more about this – it seems somewhat important…


So let’s see – be invited to be a part of my thought process: I want to design a roleplaying game that

  • is based on my roguelike game ADOM (Ancient Domains Of Mystery) and thus will be a fantasy roleplaying game,
  • will be focussed on a mixture of high fantasy and sword & sorcery,
  • supports all styles of play from competetive to storytelling modes,
  • uses a simple and streamlined rules engine that can be learned in less than five minutes,
  • is fast in play,
  • provides a somewhat detailed character generation,
  • has some quick passing lanes during character generation to be able to quick-start games,
  • offers many advancement options,
  • allows campaigns ranging from simple dungeon crawling to empire building conspiracies,
  • is less restrictive than class based systems but more restrictive than complete freeform games,
  • supports novice players by giving them a decent reference framework,
  • amuses experienced players by giving them a lot of room for experimentation, advancement, mechanical character elaboration and extensibility,
  • contains tuning options for gaming styles ranging from magic rich environments to brutal and gritty settings (ADOM is somewhere on middle ground, at least the way I envision it for a tabletop game, the roguelike game is a different story…)
  • has short enough rules to cram everything you need to play into less than, say, 96 A4 pages,
  • is colorful,
  • depicts the struggling between power-tempting Chaos and long-lived but rigid Order,
  • is beautiful and feels like a work of art so that you love to flip through its pages and
  • will be published by Lulu.com (or similar outlets – no PDF planned for now due to DTP constraints and my personal dislike for electronic gaming aids).

That’s all 🙂

If you ask my stomach feelings I simply want a game that allows me to relive my great gaming experiences of my younger days (with e.g. the red D&D box) with a somewhat more elaborate but still extremely fast system to compensate for my older preferences for detailed characters and variety.

Which important aspects might I have missed? I’ll be happy to answer questions.

5 Responses to “RPG Design: The goals for my latest project”

  1. Brent P. Newhall  on May 15th, 2009

    Best of luck with your project!

    Have you looked into FUDGE or Fate? From a system perspective, they satisfy the qualities you describe, and can be fully tailored to your specific fluff requirements. And you can find free PDFs of both online.



    • Thomas_Biskup  on May 15th, 2009

      I know FUDGE since before it’s design was finished. I was an avoid follower of the ancient FUDGE design discussions on rec.games.frp.* (when it still was a glorious meeting place) and I bought my first copy at GEN CON 1994 from Ann Dupuis of Grey Ghost Games (great lady!). I love FUDGE for one-shots and to introduce newbies to roleplaying since the word system and the FUDGE dice are just great. But for my personal gaming style I have one major issue with FUDGE (which is not really a fault of FUDGE – IMHO it’s an almost perfect design for the goals it is trying to achieve): For me it just doesn’t work for long campaigns because character development is too coarse grained and slow. And I almost exclusively strive to play long term campaigns because I lover neverending stories…
      I just yesterday ordered “Spirit of the Century” BTW because I heard a lot of good things about the game itself and the FATE system.

  2. Tommi  on May 15th, 2009

    Pardon the late reply; I was somewhat busy.

    supports all styles of play from competetive to storytelling modes

    Now this, this I can’t believe. I think it is possible to not make styles of play difficult, but supporting all of them? I am doubtful.

    For example,how do you support play where the characters are assumed to stick together and work as a single party? What about play where the characters are in start conflict with each other? What tools do you give for those styles? What tools are there for players to create their own drama? What tools for the GM to create a story and have player characters run through it? How does you game make sandbox play easy and fun?

    There are actively conflicting styles of play. This means that either your rules will be incredibly modular or they simply fail to support many of the conflicting styles.

    Other than that it seems like another decent fantasy game. There’s already lots of them, but I do hope the ADOM game will bring new insights or approaches to the scene, or further refine the known approaches.

    I know my early rpg designs were very much inspired by ADOM, so it is a good basis from which to take inspiration and its world is pretty rich. All those classes and their powers were fun to include in random rules systems.

  3. Thomas_Biskup  on May 17th, 2009

    BTW my goal is really just to create “another decent fantasy game”. Maybe with some new aspects and bends than others, but I do not plan to reinvent the wheel 😉

    And as for the styles of play you mentioned… I was able to do all of that with D&D. So the answer would be: I do not plan to support all those styles with specific rules, rather I intend not to prevent them with too style-specific rules 😉

  4. Paul Drussel  on June 11th, 2009

    The Indie RPG design community tend to ask the following questions to help designers focus their game design:

    1. What is your game about (the Theme)?

    2. How is your game about what it’s about (what, mechanically, makes your game about it’s theme)?

    3. What do you do in the game to award addressing the Theme? (i.e., what behaviors are encouraged and how are they encouraged?)

    Care to have a stab at answering them?

    I’m sure you’re already aware of it (but in case you’re not) but there’s a mountain of RPG design theory, advice and discussion at The Forge (www.indie-rpgs.com). If you posted your thoughts there you’d get plenty of feedback.

    Thanks for a great game btw. Had a week holiday with no net/mobile connection and got my gaming fix playing ADOM. Lovely.