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What sells you on a game?

baakyocalder

Member
RPGnet Member
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.
Part I, buying is going to be a mix of the five characteristics.

The most important to me are concept and mechanics. I want the game to do something specific (even if I play GURPS, I'm playing one of many genres from the buffet) and do it right. The game should be something I could grasp and have rules complex enough to try several character builds and not have to do crazy things to make a competent character. Concept is also important, because I'm shorter on time than I used to be. Who am I playing and why are important--I want to be immersed in the world. That makes fluff #3. I can ignore some and make my own, but I need a world to play in. So, make fluff that gives me enough to make me want to play. Fluff-chanics and art help out in building the world. Art's probably the least important, as I'm not a real visual person, but the art should fit the mood the game is trying to convey. If it's cheap line art, that works fine if it shows things well enough so I know the world.

As for keep playing, the game needs to keep the other players happy (I usually GM) and let me use my imagination. Robust mechanics and enough content to play with are key. I also want a sample adventure so I can figure out how the game is supposed to be played.

While a game designer cannot tell me exactly how to play their game and account for all situations, I'm looking for a good melding of mechanics and content. If I'm supposed to be in a post-apocalyptic world where resources are scarce, I want the game to reflect that and make me desire to play a character in that world.

I'm pretty set on games for right now, but could definitely use games which promote less violence and have better social resolution matrices than the old D&D encounter table. . .
 

kenco

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.
I buy RPGs fairly often and play as often as i can. But I hardly ever play or run published RPGs and have zero expectation of playing the games I do buy, except perhaps to try out the effect of a novel-seeming mechanic.

So buying and playing are completely unrelated for me.

I buy games if I think they might have mechanics (or possibly fluff-chanics) that might interest me. Recently that has been simple OSR style games; but at other times it has been other things.

It is often pretty hard to tell from the promotional materials whether a game will deliver that. So once past concept (i am juat not interested in unique concepts) I hone in on cues about the parentage of the game, thoughtfulness, writing quality and price.

Price matters a lot, because the chances are i am not going to get much of interest out of any one game, and a bigger game probably just has a lot more art, fluff, detail, chrome generally etc, rather than additional concepts.
 

Embassy of Time

New member
To be perfectly honest, it's a mix between the things you listed. Fluff, a word I feel is a bit off here, plays a slightly bigger role, since I rarely get to actually PLAY these days and therefore need the game to be worth exploring through the books, but the mechanics and concept need to play tightly into this. Honestly, I feel most new games offer very little new of interest in that regard; you got a game with some (often slightly generic) rules, and a background setting. The two intertwine only in limited cases, IMHO.

I think I may just need something completely insane, just to poke my interest these days. I'm getting old....
 

Andre82

Registered User
Validated User
In order.

Concept:
I don't care how cool your book looks or what it's fluff is. If I don't like steampunk warlocks then I will not pick up a steampunk warlock book.

Art and layout:
Super important to me. I want to know what your game is about, the mood, the level of professionalism No better elevator pitch in the world to make me pick up your book then how it looks.

Mechanics.
After the art has my attention the very next thing I am doing is looking for the weapons page as I find it one of the fastest ways to get a clue about how a game will run it's conflict resolution. If I am interested then I will buy. If by word of mouth I am told the mechanics are really good then this will be more important then art.

Fluff.
Fluff is kind of important but I have probably already bought the book before I will read your short story.

Fluff-chanics.
Is it a gimmick? It always feels kind of like a gimmick if I just use it twice and then never again....
 

Flowswithdrek

Freelance Writer
Validated User
I keep comming back to games that have the following:

1. Lore/Setting History that is connected to and informs the current situation and continues to reverberate. The kind of thing you can read and instantly generate adventure ideas. Many creation myth style histories fall short to the point I find them off putting.

2. Mechanics and Lore are integrated to some extent. Earthdawn is a good example of this, and its why I constantly return to the game.
 

Ynas Midgard

Registered User
Validated User
Concept and mood grab my attention, but it's mechanics and GM tools that keep it.
I value simplicity and clarity in both layout and art.
 

Cryptico

Registered User
Validated User
Art first and foremost. If the game doesn't inspire me to play it, not even going to check the rest

Fluff-chanics - I enjoy mechanics that help me structure and gamify the roleplaying experience in ways I cant in videogames

Concept - Is pretty meh for me, can make or break a game depending on what I am in the mood for.

Fluff - If I like the concept Ill pay attention to the fluff, but for most settings I just need a general idea of what the world is like, not a big deal

Mechanics - considering fluff-chanics have been split from here, the remaining more standard mechanics are pretty irrelevant to me. Though Ill definitely skip cumbersome mechanics even if I like everything else.
 

Pteryx

Simulator & Spellcaster
Validated User
Interesting wording here. The one thing that makes or breaks a game for me: If I am to be a GM, how does the game help me there? These things you describe, if I understand you correctly, are primary tooling in that regard. It is in my opinion a major mistake that so many games have rules for players, but assume that the GM is some kind of genius that just knows how to do things. That GM cult is actually something very with the culture of our hobby in general, as it puts up imaginary barriers to play where there should be none. Any player with some experience should be able to fill any position in the game there is to some extent at least. And if that seems to be a problem, we should make an effort to enable them.

Also, to really get me fired up, a game should make me play like I never played before. Because if it's just same old, why would I need it? Codifying stuff that is usually left implicit can break habits in that regard, and is therefore very worthwile to me.
One does have to be careful to have GM-facing rules actually help the GM rather than hinder them, though. For instance, a poorly designed GM currency system coming from a place of fear of GMs can ruin a game by forcing the game/narrative into a very unnatural shape in the name of "fairness", while one that comes from a place of helping the GM learn how to GM effectively and not just pile on new complications without thought can serve as training wheels for new GMs without getting in skilled GMs' way.

I should note that I personally have done a lot of freeform RP. Thus, light systems tend to be competing with no system in my mind, particularly if they're subjective. I look at Fate, for example, and am left to ask, "What does this system do that I can't do better myself?" If I'm going to use a system, I expect that system to do some of the lifting in getting players on the same page -- either directly by setting out some mechanical "facts" itself, or by providing a toolbox that helps one define those kinds of objective truths in mechanical form.

I also note that well-designed noncombat subsystems seem to not be very commonplace in the hobby. I find myself irritated by admonitions to "just use Fate" (or some other very generic game) if I want to focus on noncombat play, because that doesn't do anything to actually steer players away from combat.
 

PeteNutButter

Registered User
Validated User
One does have to be careful to have GM-facing rules actually help the GM rather than hinder them, though. For instance, a poorly designed GM currency system coming from a place of fear of GMs can ruin a game by forcing the game/narrative into a very unnatural shape in the name of "fairness", while one that comes from a place of helping the GM learn how to GM effectively and not just pile on new complications without thought can serve as training wheels for new GMs without getting in skilled GMs' way.

I should note that I personally have done a lot of freeform RP. Thus, light systems tend to be competing with no system in my mind, particularly if they're subjective. I look at Fate, for example, and am left to ask, "What does this system do that I can't do better myself?" If I'm going to use a system, I expect that system to do some of the lifting in getting players on the same page -- either directly by setting out some mechanical "facts" itself, or by providing a toolbox that helps one define those kinds of objective truths in mechanical form.

I also note that well-designed noncombat subsystems seem to not be very commonplace in the hobby. I find myself irritated by admonitions to "just use Fate" (or some other very generic game) if I want to focus on noncombat play, because that doesn't do anything to actually steer players away from combat.
To me, it's when GM guidance crosses the line from guidance to expected mechanic by the players, that it becomes more of a prison, especially when it starts working into player abilities.

For example, if you have a chart for what's supposed to happen on Tuesday nights at the tavern. You might be sort of forced to use that chart Tuesday night at the tavern, because otherwise the player that has an ability to let him roll on the Saturday night chart every day of the week gets screwed out of their ability. This might sound like a silly example, but to use a real example that many are probably familiar with, look at overland travel in D&D 5e. Most people, DMs and players, ignore it. The ranger class gets perks to it.😕 The same is true for many of the background features, which although ribbon features start to become a "balance" issue if you were to say give one to a player who didn't actually take that background.

...And D&D is a combat focused system.

Basically what I'm saying, is the more things that are enumerated in the rules, the less freedom the GM has. That is good and bad. Games with a focus on combat tend to have combat rules very spelled out, so there is no ambiguity. Players know exactly what they can and can't do in a fight. Games focused on other aspects will have that aspect spelled out. It's all in the name of balance and player agency.

To sum up: If there are no rules for something, the GM has 100% purview. If there are rules for something, the GM has 100% purview, but will frustrate the players if he or she blatantly ignores said rules.

My philosophy is only make rules that are necessary for game balance and player agency. Everything else is just a GM tool that should not be interacted with, or expected by any player.
 

the cat

Drone
Validated User
Concept

Crunch - some crunch is good IMO. These days I like a bit more than a rules lite game.

Art & Layout are big for me. Lots of tans or browns make me tired. One game that I believe has incredible layout are the fragged books. Those are very nice on the eyes and easy to read and flow well.

EDIT:
Few last big one. Not meant to make anyone feel bad but...
Not related to D&D5E is a big selling point to me. Nothing deflates my excitement faster...
Not reliant on a system that makes me buy extra dice.
 
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