My first self published Tabletop RPG: I'm in over my head.

Mrdenom

New member
okay so Omnivia isn't your standard table top RPG , it actually uses cards to display enemies, spells, abilities, and items. Pretty much any person or.thing exists as a card with some basic information and stats, along with any types of personal information that I feel it necessary to convey. There is some ideas for each dungeon to have a special board but for now we've just been using a 50x50 grid (on poster board glued to foam board) and the DM arranges the board accordingly, so it's not a matter of trying to publish like fifteen different maps per unit, but I am highly interested in making it an option if people want a more immersive experience we should have detailed game boards that they can purchase. the battle system is turn based and how it works is, the players enter the dungeon and there is a designated starting area. The players perform an opening roll to see who moves first. The opening roll also counts as all first movement values. There are certain enemy patrols positioned on the map, these patrols represent a potential encounter and if they come within one range (a full square made up if all the connecting tiles surrounding the unit) then an encounter begins. not only do players roll to explore the map but the DM rolls on behalf of the enemies in the area. when an encounter takes place the DM rolls to see how many cards he will draw from the dungeon deck (a deck of possible monsters that players can encounter, mostly weak or simple cards but a few extremely powerful cards will be in this deck too). Players will have their spells in front of them and their equipped gear has a set location, players will already know the value their items and talent trees provide as a mod bonus to damage and health. Then players roll to see what order combat takes place. Spells have cool downs cast times and other specifications. if all enemies die the players get to roll for loot drops. If all party members die the players are teleported back to the main town and any progress is lost in the dungeon.
 

Day_Dreamer

Registered User
Validated User
To echo what some people have already said, requiring special parts (especially stuff like cards) makes this a much, much harder project than just making a book. This isn't to say you can't do it, but as your first outing, that's kind of brutal.

My big question here, I guess, is why you even have a GM at all? There are plenty of systems (mostly board games) that do basically what you're describing without needing one. Each enemy card has a primitive AI built in, and the bosses have a slightly more complicated one set up in different phases. More generally, why not just do this as a board game? The mechanics you've described would all fit into one, and you could make it a Legacy game (like Pandemic Legacy) where stats and such get permanently modified over the course of multiple plays. Everything you've described seems to play to the strengths of that medium, as opposed to the traditional strength of a P&P game.
 

thorya

Statistical out-liar
Validated User
okay so Omnivia isn't your standard table top RPG , it actually uses cards to display enemies, spells, abilities, and items. Pretty much any person or.thing exists as a card with some basic information and stats, along with any types of personal information that I feel it necessary to convey. There is some ideas for each dungeon to have a special board but for now we've just been using a 50x50 grid (on poster board glued to foam board) and the DM arranges the board accordingly, so it's not a matter of trying to publish like fifteen different maps per unit, but I am highly interested in making it an option if people want a more immersive experience we should have detailed game boards that they can purchase. the battle system is turn based and how it works is, the players enter the dungeon and there is a designated starting area. The players perform an opening roll to see who moves first. The opening roll also counts as all first movement values. There are certain enemy patrols positioned on the map, these patrols represent a potential encounter and if they come within one range (a full square made up if all the connecting tiles surrounding the unit) then an encounter begins. not only do players roll to explore the map but the DM rolls on behalf of the enemies in the area. when an encounter takes place the DM rolls to see how many cards he will draw from the dungeon deck (a deck of possible monsters that players can encounter, mostly weak or simple cards but a few extremely powerful cards will be in this deck too). Players will have their spells in front of them and their equipped gear has a set location, players will already know the value their items and talent trees provide as a mod bonus to damage and health. Then players roll to see what order combat takes place. Spells have cool downs cast times and other specifications. if all enemies die the players get to roll for loot drops. If all party members die the players are teleported back to the main town and any progress is lost in the dungeon.
So you should probably know that what you're describing is actually pretty common/standard for rpg like board games, particularly ones that are scenario based. Arkham Horror, Zombicide, Betrayal at the House on the Hill, various Pathfinder/D&D games, Mice and Mystics (I might have the name wrong on this one) are just a few examples of games that are very similar to what you're describing. They may use tokens or other elements, instead of cards. It's also not uncommon to have arrangeable boards with a book of scenarios (rather like your 7 deadly sins dungeons) to go with it. Those board games might be a good place to start to look for ideas/ see how other people implemented rpg elements into a board game. That's not to you shouldn't make your game, just realize that unique ideas in game play are extremely rare and implementation/presentation is much more important than "ideas" (Sorry, I'm sure the response in this regard are starting to sound like a broken record).

Also, you should be aware for future posts that posting the same thing in multiple sub-forums is usually discouraged.
 

Ralls

Entering the Abyss
Validated User
I second thorya. What your describing sounds like Haunt on the House on the Hill and other boardgames. Take a look at those to draw inspiration. Play them to to get a sense of what works and what doesn't!

The helpfulness and specificity of our feedback is limited by what you share with us to work with. I've always found that the more I've shared with RPG.net, the more helpful advise and critique I've gotten!
 

Mrdenom

New member
To echo what some people have already said, requiring special parts (especially stuff like cards) makes this a much, much harder project than just making a book. This isn't to say you can't do it, but as your first outing, that's kind of brutal.

My big question here, I guess, is why you even have a GM at all? There are plenty of systems (mostly board games) that do basically what you're describing without needing one. Each enemy card has a primitive AI built in, and the bosses have a slightly more complicated one set up in different phases. More generally, why not just do this as a board game? The mechanics you've described would all fit into one, and you could make it a Legacy game (like Pandemic Legacy) where stats and such get permanently modified over the course of multiple plays. Everything you've described seems to play to the strengths of that medium, as opposed to the traditional strength of a P&P game.
Well it is kind of a Board Game, its a mesh of board card and tabletop RPG it implements all of those elements and genres. Originally I thought the battle system would be like Hearthstone or magic and players would summon minions and as they progress and fight new monsters, gain those cards as cards that could be added to their deck. I still think I might implement something close to that like let players build a deck that contains bonus effects such as +3 to a physical attack rolls final value and have rules such as players can only have a certain number of replica cards. idk I'm completely in debate over some extras I want to throw in but honestly the current system works, cool downs make players explore a priority system and promote using more than just one or two of your favorite overpowered spells, cast times give enemies the chance to interrupt a powerful spell that is charging up if they cast a disabling status effect, channeling spells require careful mana management, and combat is fast paced and doesn't feel like it takes too long but it is long enough that each encounter feels unique. The DM role really is on the table I don't think the other player necessarily has to be the DM as much ad they just need to play the other end of the story. Because they can't be controlling every allied NPC. Perhaps both players will organize the roles of their faction, or perhaps a narrator in the book will guide the allies and the other player will get a whole different narrative from the enemy equivalent.
 

VicenteC

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Not to slight your sincerity, but unimplemented ideas are worthless in this business. There is never any point in concealing mechanics or basic premises from the audience because A) everybody making a game is already obsessively enthusiastic about their own concepts and B) an idea, per se, is unsalable until it has been wrapped in the mantle of a product on the virtual shelves. What people may eventually pay you for is not going to be your idea, it's going to be the pain, suffering, expense, and tedious labor of transforming that idea into a 200-page softcover they can order from DriveThruRPG.

Right now, you've backed into the wrong structure for your current situation. You're a raw newbie game author who's never put together a finished product before. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being one, and it's an unskippable step toward being a game author with an actual salable product, but this is not the time to be assembling a team for anything at all. You are nowhere near ready to be commissioning art, ordering layout, and coordinating multiple contributors to the manuscript document. If your game hinges on physical artifacts such as printed game boards or the like, then you've officially jumped into the I Will Lose All My Money end of the pool. What you need to do now is back things out until you're at a position where you can plot functional milestones for your project and only add new personnel when you're ready to benefit from them.

The first thing you need is a completed game manuscript, one that has been rigorously playtested. While it's possible to get advice and contributions from outside parties, this generally requires a degree of expertise at project management that is unlikely to be possessed by someone who hasn't already done a great deal of this or who hasn't a similar skillset from their day job. The unfortunately more likely outcome is a vague blob of semi-contributors who rarely send in their assignments, and when they do the coordinator doesn't feel up to reconciling the inevitable differences. The likelihood of this happening rises dramatically as the pay for the work decreases, down to a near certainty for unpaid volunteer work. Or for royalty-based work, which is a way of saying "unpaid" with more paperwork. What this boils down to is that you should expect to have to write the full manuscript yourself.

Does your game include boards and pieces? That's bad. That's very bad. Anything that can't be shipped as a normal paper book adds a brutal level of logistical complication to its printing and fulfillment, because you will not be doing a conventional print run of this game unless you want to take a trip to that I Will Lose All My Money experience. You will be doing a print-on-demand setup where you publish the game through DriveThruRPG/RPGNow and let your buyers buy POD copies. Now, it's possible to arrange things so you can print map tiles along with a paper book and bundle them so people can order them both at once, but map tokens are limited to print-and-play stuff through this outlet. And if you don't sell your game through the OBS back end that powers DTRPG/RPGNow, you're walking away from the Amazon of the indie RPG publisher retail outlets.

Once you have the rigorously-tested manuscript, it's time to move on to the layout stage, where you find someone to do the layout for the book. They'll arrange the text on the page, assign art slots, and otherwise turn your raw words into a recognizable book. Once they've specified the art slots, you can then start hiring artists to fill them according to the topics and dimensions involved. Once that's done, then you get your OBS publisher account and load it up there, get a print proof to make sure everything's right, and then activate it for public sale. And then sell approximately 50 copies of it over the life of the game, because as a new publisher you have no existing fanbase and you're competing for attention with dozens of new games and products released weekly.

As is implied by this probable sales magnitude, you can't afford to spend much money on this project. You will not be getting a meaningful financial return on it. If you support it relentlessly for several years, you might start to see some real money come in, but you will be working for a year or two at a minimum with trivial returns. And if Kickstart starts looking like a cure for this, allow me to strongly counsel against it. Aside from newbie publishers not having the fanbase to support a Kickstarter, those who have never published a game before are strongly advised not to try learning to do so on a deadline where failure will result in public humiliation and potential lawsuits.

If you're serious about publishing this, I would instead urge you to put the game aside and start with something much more manageable. A D&D 5e module offered through WotC's DMs' Guild storefront, for example. Something small, 20 pages or less. Learn to mimic the general layout yourself with Scribus, familiarize yourself with the layout process, grab free art for your DMs' Guild project from the website, and just use it as a practical learning experience for producing a product from idea to POD-printed book. Then offer it up for free on the DMs' Guild site so you get exposure and begin building a mailing list which you can later use to pitch your larger projects. It may be that you have no interest at all in making a module. That's great! Because if a person can't plow through 20 pages of work they find totally tedious and uninteresting, they may not be ideally equipped with the diligence to handle a full-fledged game. Sadly, I can guarantee you that there will be far more than 20 pages of hatefully tedious work in building even the best-loved creation.

For general tips, I can recommend a few of my freebies:
The Sandbox #1 for advice on Kickstarter management that includes details on the layout and art direction stages of RPG production.
A Brief Study of TSR Book Design for a basic vocabulary about layout, even if you don't intend to replicate any TSR styles.
The Smoking Pillar of Lan Yu for an example module in the old TSR style, with an .idml source file that Scribus can read so you can play around with the layout.
Just wanted to say that this post is great, thanks a lot for sharing this CardinalXimenes, so much wisdom I feel this should be stickied somewhere.

Regards,
Vicente
 

Atomic_Vagabond

Crimson Commando
Validated User
This thread has probably been the most thorough breakdown of the oh so common "I want to make a tabletop, where do I start?" question, at least in terms of publish-ability. I recommend the mods make this a sticky.
 
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Mrdenom

New member
I'd like to apologize for double posting this, I didn't realize there was a specific sub forum that it fit in more appropriately and once I did I just moved it here, apologies mate's.

thank you all for your wonderful feedback I understand I didn't give you a lot to work with. I actually want to take this time to propose an offer to all of you designers and testers.

The proto type is coming along faster than I planned and soon will need play testing. If anyone is interested in playing and giving some feed back once the basic alpha is prepared I would love to send you a copy of Omnivia! I have a great artist producing the card templates now and once I get the ill start editing the art work and stats onto them. Since the proto type is just a basic example of a dungeon instance it won't require the amount of spells and enemies or items a full version would require so I predict it would be ready to test by end of March. I AM USING IMAGES WITHOUT LICENSE TO MAKE MONEY FROM THEM, in order to avoid having to produce all of the art by hand. This is not to exploit other designers work but just to give my cards the feel they need and be a place holder for the original artwork that is in design. If anyone has advice as to warn against that I'm all ears, I just figured it would speed the game to testing and act as a paper weight for the real art work I hope this isn't in poor taste but I'm much more interested in observing the engine than the paint job right now.

Likewise if anyone is interested in contributing in any way I would be thrilled to send you a presentation and discuss the game more thoroughly, email me at honakerja@goldmail.etsu.edu thanks!!
 

edmcrae

Registered User
Validated User
Here's some advice from a professional narrative designer. Yes, I work in video games as opposed to tabletop games, but the principles of design are essentially the same.

Make yourself a one page pitch document for both Story/World and Mechanics.
For mechanics...tell us the basic rules of the game in 200 words (summary), then 50 words (elevator pitch) and then around 12 words (thumbnail).
Repeat for Story/World.

It's a tough process but it's what I always do when trying to define game, and it's amazing how much clarity the process produces.

Good luck!
 

thorya

Statistical out-liar
Validated User
HOW TO GET GOOD FEEDBACK ON RPG.net
So I’ve noticed that it’s not uncommon that people posting their games for the first time, particularly new users don’t actually do a very good job of soliciting feedback. This usually follows the pattern of a single post about the game with some description and either no request for feedback or a very vague “comments?” line thrown on the end. The thread then drifts down the forum, until the poster returns with an anxious (or irritated) “Why aren’t there any comments????”

This is perfectly natural, you’re excited about your project and so naturally you expect everyone else to be too. But often the problem is that you didn’t frame your thread in a way to start a productive conversation. I’ve attempted to write a guide to helping new posters get better feedback faster. This has all been said before but it usually comes up in response to that “Isn’t anyone going to respond?” post, after when it would be useful. Since this post is tagged this post at the top of this subforum, maybe someone will see it and we can curb that sort of unproductive interaction.

Do’s:
-Be specific about the feedback you want. Is there a mechanic you’re working on? Do you want to know if the genre/world is engaging? This saves you time getting feedback you didn’t want and keeps others from wasting time being unhelpful. But what if you don’t know what feedback you want? Then . . .
-Break it down. Especially if your game is very large or you’ve included thirty pages of intro-fiction, take a section of your game and make that its own discussion. It keeps the discussion more focused and makes it easier to people to engage without having to familiarize themselves with 300 pages.
-Lower barriers to entry. If you can post stuff in your thread do so. If you’re going to link to a document, make it easy to navigate. If you must send people to another website, at least provide some instructions for how to find the thing you want them to look at. Remember, we’re strangers on the internet taking some of our free time to try to make your project better. That free time’s limited, if you want
-Details, details, details. The more specific things about your game you can provide the better people will understand.
-Be patient. It takes time for people to see things here and respond. Wait at least a week before you dump and try to do so in a non-accusatory manner.
-Participate. Join in other discussions and the forum in general to get a feel for the culture and expose yourself to other ideas. Chances are you haven’t made the perfect game, maybe a discussion in another thread will make your game better. Also, people are more likely to respond to you if they know who you are. You might get a response along the lines of, “Hey it’s poster, XYZ123, they had a really cool idea for my game. I wonder what they’re working on.”
-Bump with new content. Bumping just to get to the top of the forum is kind of rude. But if you've added something new or reworked something and you want to draw attention to it, it's perfectly fine to post a note to that affect.
-Use the [+] symbol in your title if you are nervous about people being too harsh. It is supposed to be a symbol indicating that you want to have a positive discussion.

Don’ts:
-Don’t take your frustration at not getting the level of attention you think your game deserves out on other threads. Passive aggressive posting about topics that people are discussing more than your game is just rude and isn’t actually going to make people want to look at your game more.
-Don’t be entitled. People viewing your thread/document are not committing to giving you feedback. Remember, people are doing you a favor, not the other way around.
-Don’t promote your game in other discussions. Just because people aren’t commenting on your game as fast as you like, you should NOT try to drum up support by promoting your game in other people’s thread every chance you get. Again, we know you’re excited about your game and it may be appropriate to reference something from your game in other threads. But if you find yourself posting something along the lines of “Your game has character creation? MY GAME HAS CHARACTER CREATION. *link* You should look at my game and make your game more like my game *link*. Also, if anyone’s interested we can talk about MY GAME MORE!!! I have a blog *link* where I share my ideas on (insert threat topic here) and I am also working on MY GAME *link*” then you might have crossed the line into being asinine. Especially if you are doing this regularly.
-Don’t try to credential yourself. We don’t need an explanation of how long you’ve been playing games, what you majored in on college, what your SAT score was, etc. You don’t need to puff yourself up to try to establish your bona fides and why we should pay attention to you. Also, no one is as interested in the history of your game as you are, especially when we don’t know anything about the game. You don’t watch the making of star wars before you know what a light saber is. And all of this cuts into time where you could be talking about rpgs. Which is what we’re here to do afterall.
-Don’t be vague. You know because stuff when on the internet and stuff. Obviously.
-Don’t post like you got lost on the way to the hype machine. This thread is not the place to advertise on this site. If you’re just here to promote your project and get people to like/subscribe/support your kickstarter etc. just adding “Comments?” at the end doesn’t actually make your post not an advertisement.
-Don’t click-bait. I know it’s tempting to try to get as many eyes on your project as possible, but be respectful of other posters. “7 TIPS FOR THE BEST MOST AMAZING ENTIRELY NEW RPG EV3R!!! NUMBER 3 WILL SURPRISE YOU!” May get people to click on your thread, but most of them are going to immediately tell you that your medieval fantasy game using a d20 is not entirely new or the best thing to happen to dice since yahtzee. Not really the tone for a good discussion.
-Don’t make it a multi-step process. If I have to send you a PM so you can respond with a request that I send you an email address so you can send me a link (true story) . . . why? That was a lot of time for me to realize that I didn’t actually want to read through hundreds of pages of random tables.
-Don’t dismiss criticism. You and your friends have been playing your game for 3 years and it’s the best thing to every happen to your table, how can Kevin and Nate be wrong? Presumably, you want to discuss your game to make it better because not every gamer in the world is Kevin and Nate. If people are saying they don’t like something, consider that maybe other peoples’ tables are different. Playtesting with positive reviews is not license to ignore problems. If people say something doesn’t make sense, then it doesn’t! Telling them they’re wrong doesn’t make your rules understandable.


Finally--Work on your pitch. Figure you’ve got about one paragraph to catch people’s attention. Lots of bombastic claims don’t achieve that. Make it clear what your game does and what it doesn’t.
Bad-
“A new dynamic system that offers total character creation options and complete customization. The mechanics have been streamlined. Players engage in the type of fast paced realistic fantasy warfare scenarios all while maintaining maximum verisimilitude. Includes a complete diplomatic interaction and intrigue system all set in a pirate ninja dragon ghost ship inside a black hole. So much adventure, your adventures will have adventures in other adventure’s adventures.”
Good-
TailWinds is a game where players take control of anthropomorphic animals in a pulp-adventure setting. The world is an almost cartoony take on 1938 in a universe where airplanes are more common than automobiles. The action is cinematic, but hilariously non-lethal, and although the setting doesn’t take physics too seriously, it does explore rather mature themes from the burgeoning twentieth century.
 
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