Skip to Content

Building a tabletop RPG from scratch

11 replies [Last post]
Joined: 09/18/2013

I think I have found a niche in the board game community:

to my knowledge, there is not a simple/entry level family RPG out there. Or if it is out there, I certainly have not heard about it and it is not in major tabletop stores.

So therefore, I intend on building it. Here are a few of the key characteristics it must have:

1) It must be simple to play.
2) It must have strategy. Strategic play should allow a player to win more often.
3) It must keep players involved. People get bored easily.
4) It must allow for logical expansion. Games need obvious routes for revenue generation.
5) It must be inexpensive to manufacture.

I will be building specifics as time goes on, but does anyone have any ideas on these 5 topics?

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Another RPG?!

I don't know, but it seems like many designers are talking about an "RPG" turned into a table top game. This is not the first time this has been discussed in the fora.

One concern always brought up is how an "RPG" is better suited for the video game medium... because in that medium it is possible to track all kinds of *RPG elements* such as Experience, Skills, Levelling, Health, Inventory, etc.

Is "Dungeon Roll" an RPG tabletop game?

Corsaire's picture
Joined: 06/27/2013
You might also look at Return

You might also look at Return of the Heroes. You can find many things on BoardGameGeek using advanced search.

Joined: 09/18/2013
questccg wrote:I don't know,

questccg wrote:
I don't know, but it seems like many designers are talking about an "RPG" turned into a table top game. This is not the first time this has been discussed in the fora.

One concern always brought up is how an "RPG" is better suited for the video game medium... because in that medium it is possible to track all kinds of *RPG elements* such as Experience, Skills, Levelling, Health, Inventory, etc.

Is "Dungeon Roll" an RPG tabletop game?

I've seen the Dungeon Roll kickstarter before. Without knowing the specific mechanics I have no idea how it would compare.

Joined: 11/12/2012
I beg to differ, sure I can

I beg to differ, sure I can see how a game with D&D weight or heavier might be hard and time consuming to design, but i would like to argue hat board games are not the medium for complex stat trees with minor modifying effects.

Fiasco is a pretty popular RPG game without a lot of stats, and if you are looking for an RPG that takes an hour or less to play there are plenty of options out there (altough i guess technically they are more story telling games then RPG's). after reconsidering your initial post i realised that a story telling game does perhaps not work out with your #2

zmobie's picture
Joined: 11/19/2008
You should check out Mice and

You should check out Mice and Mystics! It's a great family RPG experience. Simple, no DM, fun strategic mechanics. Pretty much all the things you're listing here.

I think if you wanted a product that fit the same market, but was different enough, you could come up with a game that had more of a collaborative storytelling aspect to it. Mice and Mystics is scenario based, so it misses the fun of building adventures and Game Mastering. A game that let families have the same type of game-play, but with a fun storytelling. Especially if the storytelling part was geared to make kids run the show.

Shoe's picture
Joined: 12/21/2012
have you checked out

have you checked out

its for kids, but if you are planning on introducing an adult, i think they can handle Savage Worlds or D&D just fine.

Joined: 09/18/2013
I've done some preliminary

I've done some preliminary charting and reviewed quite a few board games that were RPG oriented.

Dungeon Roll: It is just a dice game, and not a very good one. Weird mechanics, awkward to store, definitely not what I have in mind. It also misses out on what I consider fundamental game design choices.

Almost every single RPG out there is too complicated. Too many rules, too many complicated game mechanics. Just busting out cards is overdone and is not intuitive. If you have to have a "game deck" it is not being done right.

Preliminary design involves:

1) Character sheet (with cardboard inserts) for all equipment and statistics.
2) All game decisions made on a single 20 sided die. (The logic behind this is obvious, and I will elaborate later. But for the quick nitty gritty: it keeps costs down, it allows for reasonable improvements in probability, the probability increase is easy for new players to figure out.)
3) A dungeon crawler has to be visual. This requires a game board. An easy design is a cardboard outlay with 9 square inserts (think a tic-tac-toe board with the frame being a place for cards, the game's name, etc.)

More to come.

Armor Classy Games
Joined: 09/18/2013
Look at the FATE CORE system

Look at the FATE CORE system which is simple and can be quite family friendly. It doesn't require a lot of heavy number crunching yet it can hold some depth where it needs to.

Joined: 12/01/2010
From a mechanics perspective,

From a mechanics perspective, I have to wonder about using a single d20 to identify all your outcomes. I like systems that use a single type of die, but personally, in the games I design, I prefer to have a greater say in chance. While you're able to reach a significant quantity of incremental degrees with a single d20 (difficulty moving by 5% each value), you have a straight shot from 1 to 20 with each result being equally likely.

Any time you are incorporating a normal curve to your random outcomes, you will have a greater ability to make sure you are designing your game to more frequently act as expected. For example, if you rolled 3d6 instead of d20, you have nearly the same amount of incremental result (5% on a d20 vs. 6.25% on 3d6), however the 3d6 has 216 possible outcomes instead of only 20, and you will see an "average" value [10.5] occur much more frequently than the extremes. For example, 1 in 400 times you will roll a 1 twice in a row on a d20. You will only roll a 3 (the lowest value on 3d6) twice in a row 1 in 46656 times.

Adding a few dice does not add a lot of time to your game play, and if you are talking about younger kids, its a great drilling exercise to aid them in learning chunking (technique for fast arithmetic). You aren't limited to 3d6 either, that's just an example (a nice one because most people can scrounge up 3 d6s from other games if they need to). While a 2 dice curve is more prone to randomness, 2d8 (9 average value, 6.67% incremental chance), and 2d12 (13 average value, 4.35% incremental chance) still give you a similar range of results to a d20, but less swingy randomness.

BENagy's picture
Joined: 09/25/2013
This is definitely something

This is definitely something I have spent quite a deal of time thinking about: creating a mass market game for an rpg genre, D&D meets Settlers, so to speak. Here's my thoughts on your list:

1. Simplicity - This is always the biggest barrier. At least for me. RPGs are by nature very complex, and in some respect, that's the appeal of them (the ability to have huge variances in gameplay while using the same rules, customizing your character, becoming attached to your personal settings, scenarios, etc). You've got some good suggestions from others as far as other RPGs to look at that have tackled the simplicity issue. I would look at the simplest, and also check out very simple board games, card games, etc. See what makes them easy to understand, while keeping their fun factor. One thing I've noticed is just that math is unpleasant when doing a game. Or at least, remembering equations and numbers. I would make sure every stat is a simple number that you can simple add and subtract with. (One attack stat, one defense stat, etc, instead of calculating if you hit first, then again for damage). Not the best explanation of my thought process, but I hope you get the picture.

2. Strategy is something that has to be balanced, and really depends on how you structure your game It may be easier to give the appearance of strategy for a family game, than some complex strategy.

3. I know it's a very simple example, but this is one of the reasons Monopoly has been successful for so long, even without a lot of variability and strategy: It keeps you engaged during other players' turns (You are always watching to see if someone is going to land on YOUR property!). Don't skip peoples' turns, and don't allow them to get a glass of water while everyone else is playing. Try to keep everyone involved during everyone else's turn.

4. I wouldn't worry about this one yet. Make a great game first. Expansions will come after. But I think the obvious option, just so you know it's possible in the future, is what I'd call "worldbuilding". Creating settings, adventures, scenarios, premade characters, etc. for less imaginative players. Some like to create their own stuff for your RPG system. Others will love knowing that that stuff already exists. Again, focus on making the game, the mechanics etc. NOT the expansions.

5. This is another I wouldn't worry about too much. Especially right now, but even in the future, if you're sticking with the RPG focus. Manufacturing solely printed materials (ie, rules books, cards, character sheets, etc) which is all that you need for RPGs, is dirt cheap compared to creating bits, board, box for a board game. There are plenty of Print On Demand publishers who will sell you only copies that you've sold, and will charge you next to nothing for copies you get yourself. Finally, if you will be manufacturing to sell, and desperately want miniatures, pieces, other stuff that would be expensive, figure out your cost and financial needs, how much you want to make from your project, etc, then kickstart it, so that you know you have enough traction to publish without digging yourself a hole by ordering product no ne will buy from you.

Hope this has been helpful. again, this specific question is very appealing to me, and something I've done loads and loads of market research and logistical planning for, so if you want any more information or thoughts, let me know!

mindspike's picture
Joined: 09/06/2011
When is an RPG not an RPG?

FATE Core was brought up, and I have to agree. It's a very good RPG system. I would go one step further and say that FATE Accelerated is suitable for family games involving both kids under 10 and semi-interested family members. I suspect that it falls short of your "strategic element" requirement.

Savage Worlds RPG is an excellent system that is light to use, easy to learn, and contained entirely in a $10 rule book. I've had my son in a SW campaign since he was 8. It is a great example of an RPG. But I have the feeling that what you want looks more like a specialized dungeon crawler in the vein of Descent or Hero Quest. I get the feeling that you are more interested in squad-level and solo-level tactical choices than in story elements such as chatting with NPCs and exploring character background.

Have you looked at Dungeon Venture? It is light, inexpensive, and suitable for a family game. I played a brief demo at GenCon, and while it doesn't suit my current gaming habits you may find it more to your liking.

Syndicate content

forum | by Dr. Radut