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What sells you on a game?

PeteNutButter

Registered User
Validated User
This is really a two part question: "What gets you to buy and play an RPG?" And: "What gets you to keep playing the game?"

Here is my take personal opinion on it and I liked to hear others' point of view.

Concept. Lots of games have awesome concepts, and I think this is the big attention-getter. "This is like x but with twist y." A cool concept can get someone to download a pdf or even shell out a few bucks, but quickly looses its appeal if the game doesn't follow through.
Mechanics. The crunch. As game designers, this is where a lot of time is spent. IMO, it's generally not a major selling point, but it can make or break a game. I've seen cool concepts crash and burn with flawed/clunky mechanics (or sometimes just poorly written rules). Generally, well-made mechanics are what makes me keep playing a game after the first try.
Fluff. The concept is big, but the world meat is in the fluff. A fleshed out world that a good GM can share with their players is a lot of fun. This is hit or miss with me, but when it hits it hits big.
Fluff-chanics. This is what I call it when a game stats out the rules for doing something that other games usually just let the game master wing. There is a chart for what happens when you go to hire a mercenary, a social resolution matrix, and detailed romance system. To me these are just passing novelties that don't really add much.
Art. Sad but true. (Maybe?) People pick something up if its got rad art. I've done it.
 

CWalck93

Doom Priest of Peace and Happiness
Validated User
Personally, if the game actually interests me or has a cool idea behind it. I also look at games for their mechanics so I can read through them and figure out what makes it tick. There was a recent RPG I picked up that I would never ever ever run as a GM but the mechanics were interesting and I wanted to unpack them.

As far as Art goes, sometimes I think publishers spend too much time and money on art and making their book look pretty but not spending enough time on what is in the book. I always look at some art and say, "Hey. I really wish I could do that in the game as to what the art depicted but wow... the system doesn't allow me to do it."
 

SladeWeston

Registered User
Validated User
Well, for me it can involve a lot of different factors but it roughly breaks down to this:

From a pure purchasing perspective, 75% of my purchases go to games doing something novel. Of course, being an amateur designer, I am always looking for someone who is doing something different, usually with mechanics, trying new ideas, or coming at the genre from a different angle. Because most of these purchases are for my own education/curiosity, I almost never buy the hard copy, opting for pdfs instead. These are those $5-$10 pdfs you grab because they seem interesting, the same way you might pick up a new novel.

Next, 15% of the games I purchase I do in the hopes of actually playing with. Most of these are new editions of established properties, for example, most recently I picked up Pathfinder 2e. These I purchase not because they are necessarily #1 in any of the categories you mentioned but because they are solid games that are popular enough that I think there is a chance I could find a group to play. Since I hope to play these games, I almost always purchase the hard copies.

The last 10% of my purchases I reserve for games that are so good or so novel with their mechanics or theme that I buy hard copies for my collection. I do this in part because I want to support the designer and partly because I maintain a distant hope of someday stumbling into a game. Examples of this are Fragged Empire, Qin, or Torg Eternity.
 

PeteNutButter

Registered User
Validated User
Personally, if the game actually interests me or has a cool idea behind it. I also look at games for their mechanics so I can read through them and figure out what makes it tick. There was a recent RPG I picked up that I would never ever ever run as a GM but the mechanics were interesting and I wanted to unpack them.

As far as Art goes, sometimes I think publishers spend too much time and money on art and making their book look pretty but not spending enough time on what is in the book. I always look at some art and say, "Hey. I really wish I could do that in the game as to what the art depicted but wow... the system doesn't allow me to do it."
I think the same could be said for any category. Some games spend some much time/money/resources on mechanics that they fail to make it actually fun or playable or have an audience etc. I get your point though, and don't disagree.

Well, for me it can involve a lot of different factors but it roughly breaks down to this:

From a pure purchasing perspective, 75% of my purchases go to games doing something novel. Of course, being an amateur designer, I am always looking for someone who is doing something different, usually with mechanics, trying new ideas, or coming at the genre from a different angle. Because most of these purchases are for my own education/curiosity, I almost never buy the hard copy, opting for pdfs instead. These are those $5-$10 pdfs you grab because they seem interesting, the same way you might pick up a new novel.

Next, 15% of the games I purchase I do in the hopes of actually playing with. Most of these are new editions of established properties, for example, most recently I picked up Pathfinder 2e. These I purchase not because they are necessarily #1 in any of the categories you mentioned but because they are solid games that are popular enough that I think there is a chance I could find a group to play. Since I hope to play these games, I almost always purchase the hard copies.

The last 10% of my purchases I reserve for games that are so good or so novel with their mechanics or theme that I buy hard copies for my collection. I do this in part because I want to support the designer and partly because I maintain a distant hope of someday stumbling into a game. Examples of this are Fragged Empire, Qin, or Torg Eternity.
That's another aspect I didn't consider in the post (but I do consider when looking at games). Can I get people to actually play this? That's a tough one, although it may be easier with things like roll20? I haven't tried to find groups online for some of the more obscure games.
 

SladeWeston

Registered User
Validated User
Can I get people to actually play this? That's a tough one
I think this is one of the biggest challenges facing indy ttrpg designers. There are soooo many great games out there and even in a big city like Dallas/Fort Worth, there are maybe only a dozen that you can realistically find a group for. Selling a few copies on Drive Through RPG or Kickstarter are great, but if you really want your game to take off you need to reach a critical mass where enough people are playing a system that people looking for players or GMs can find other people who want to play.
This is why I worry so much about keeping my barrier to entry low. Just finding people willing to play an indy RPG can be hard enough. Asking them to invest $50+ into such a game is significantly harder. I think its also why you see so many indy designers doing rules-light systems. They are easier to design, of course, but they also represent less of a commitment by a group to obtain and learn the rules. I also think this is why fantastic but crunchy systems, like Torg Eternity and Fragged Empire, don't get near the love they should.
 

Alter_Boy

Big Brain Ideas
Validated User
Mechanics and fluff-mechanics, hands down. If the setting is something that's legitimately never been done/never been done well, I'll investigate it. But ideas are the cheapest thing in the world to make, and easy to find. I'm constantly being bombarded with ideas for cool games, but I often have to catch myself with "But what system would actually do that well?"
 

Nate_MI

Hail Tzeentch!
Validated User
What has drawn me into several games is the integration of mechanics and themes. Monsterhearts is the classic example of this; almost everything in the game revolves around Strings, which represent social advantage and secrets. That perfectly mirrors the petty high school bullshit that the PCs are caught up in and mane that even the most jaded players will care about it.
 

Cybe

Registered User
Validated User
I think that, for me, it ticks 'yes' to a box that reads "Does this game allow me to play or do things that other games don't?" That is probably why my bookshelf looks like a cross-section of different gaming genres rather than titles! I mean, I know that D&D clones make up the bulk of the hobby's history, but... yeah, not for me.
 

PeteNutButter

Registered User
Validated User
I think this is one of the biggest challenges facing indy ttrpg designers. There are soooo many great games out there and even in a big city like Dallas/Fort Worth, there are maybe only a dozen that you can realistically find a group for. Selling a few copies on Drive Through RPG or Kickstarter are great, but if you really want your game to take off you need to reach a critical mass where enough people are playing a system that people looking for players or GMs can find other people who want to play.
This is why I worry so much about keeping my barrier to entry low. Just finding people willing to play an indy RPG can be hard enough. Asking them to invest $50+ into such a game is significantly harder. I think its also why you see so many indy designers doing rules-light systems. They are easier to design, of course, but they also represent less of a commitment by a group to obtain and learn the rules. I also think this is why fantastic but crunchy systems, like Torg Eternity and Fragged Empire, don't get near the love they should.
Gotta keep that barrier low. I keep hearing playtesters say "it'd be cool if you had [prop]." Yep, just nod and pretend like it's a good idea, then promptly ignore it.
Mechanics and fluff-mechanics, hands down. If the setting is something that's legitimately never been done/never been done well, I'll investigate it. But ideas are the cheapest thing in the world to make, and easy to find. I'm constantly being bombarded with ideas for cool games, but I often have to catch myself with "But what system would actually do that well?"
I agree, but what I find is its kind of hard for games to market their mechanics. It's basically things get lumped into categories roughly on complexity, but you have to pick it up to actually see the true mechanics. I suppose this is why people have free playtest versions.
What has drawn me into several games is the integration of mechanics and themes. Monsterhearts is the classic example of this; almost everything in the game revolves around Strings, which represent social advantage and secrets. That perfectly mirrors the petty high school bullshit that the PCs are caught up in and mane that even the most jaded players will care about it.
I might check that out...
I think that, for me, it ticks 'yes' to a box that reads "Does this game allow me to play or do things that other games don't?" That is probably why my bookshelf looks like a cross-section of different gaming genres rather than titles! I mean, I know that D&D clones make up the bulk of the hobby's history, but... yeah, not for me.
Problem is with these games, as stated before, can you actually find people to play them? Works great if you have a dedicated group open to anything, but for most players in the hobby its a bit like herding cats.
 

Daz Florp Lebam

Registered User
Validated User
Cover art, character sheet, and maybe the back cover blurb - those are the first things that might draw me in.

The first two can give me a sense of the game's tone and priorities, and the blurb should flesh things out a bit.

After that, I look at character creation: is it clear? What kinds of things am I being asked to decide?

I start looking at interior art and layout, as I look at chargen, and if I'm still interested I will flip through focusing on layout, art, and what the weight of the game seems to be concerned with, like are there lots of tables, walls of text, lots of flavor text, lots of examples, etc.
 
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