Idea Byre

Imagine that a posse of armed fighters, with few connections to society, travel around a sparsely-settled wilderness. They ride into town as vigilantes, have a drink at the tavern, and dispatch some wrong-doers. They are generally men of violence, and take on missions for reward and fame. They battle barbarian monsters outside of town, and care most of all for their own skill and freedom. We could be at the O.K. corral, or any knock-off of the Shire, couldn’t we? Just swap the revolvers for swords.

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In a basic sense, puzzles in adventure games are very simple: you have discrete objects, with different stats. By combining the right objects, or perhaps taking the right action type, you can advance through a chain of causality; eventually unlocking the final "win" state of the game.

I find it u...

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There is a big resurgence in adventure games, especially form indie developers, many emulating classic tech, with big pixels. It's amazing, and a boon for adventure lovers like me, who grew up with text adventures. But what enabled this? Easy indie development for one, and the technology for nicer palettes and voice acting, which the originals couldn't do. But I think the biggest reason is difficulty.

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In a computer game you can have numerical variables that span any range, that are even non-linear, and otherwise very complex. But in a tabletop game, the players have to do the math themselves (or consult tables) and must track everything too. Tracking if variable states is especially tough with mi...

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Here I give my thoughts on The Banner Saga: Warbands, a cooperative board game by Megacon Games, in association with Stoic and Versus Evil.

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We can design a game from theory first: start with a premise, decide on major goals, and then design systems and mechancis that will function, while meeting all the goals, and still adhering to the premise.

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For a game to be about a certain idea or topic, it must focus on that idea. Focus can be created in a few ways. One is through detail: with charts, tables, die-types, modifiers, etcetera, you can cause more time and thought to be centered on one aspect of the game. (It is easy to unintentionally focus to much on the wrong things, by adding too much detail to them.)

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In tactical fantasy RPGs, characters can be sorted into major roles like tank, healer, etcetera. Most of these specialize in one tactical pursuit during combat, like ranged damage; a few blend more than one pursuit, such as the off-tank support role; and in particular, magic users often employ several tactically-distinct types of magic -- mixing up those types will be the focus of this piece.

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There is an interesting possibility of designing tabletop games that are tru hybrids of the RPG and strategy genres. But to do so, we must appreciate the kinds of rules such games use, so we can see how to carefully combine them.

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Tabletop games can often only handle a narrow range of physical (or other) scales, but for some concepts, widely varying scales are relevant. WEG's old Star Wars d6 used different scales -- so people, speeders, and ships could all come into play -- using one method we'll look at.

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