Sunday, November 23, 2014

Seeking New Game Designer

This morning I mentioned on Google Plus and Twitter that Ginger Goat is looking for a new designer to work on two paid projects.
Here is some additional information about the projects and how to apply.

The first project involves around two to three hours of work and pays on completion. I will pay $40 or one third the commission I receive on the finished game, whichever is more.

The second project requires roughly ten hours of work and I will pay $140.

To apply, write to with your answer to the following two questions:
1. You are writing a romance game set in a Conan-esque low, dark fantasy. Briefly describe an odd love triangle you would design for the pregenerated characters.

2. What is one theme or element you would like to sneak into all the games you design?

Here is the original Google Plus post in case you missed it.

Ginger Goat is actively seeking one or two young or new game designers to help with a couple story game projects.

You like story games and/or freeform
You are unpublished or have published less than three games.
You are willing to be paid.

Both projects involve designing descriptions for PC background and relationships. These are sort of like oracles or relationship maps.
Both projects will be paid and you will receive credit for your work.
One is a one-shot sword and sorcery game.
The other involves Dangers Untold.

I hope it goes without saying that Ginger Goat encourages people from a diversity of backgrounds to apply.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Making Instructions Memorable

Game designers all know that you should edit until you have a game that works as you intend and until the instructions are clear. But most game designers stop there. I suggest you also edit until your rules are easy to remember. 
I would argue that for most games, your players should not have to look at the game text after the first five minutes of the game. You should write rules so that players don't need to constantly look through the book. 
Sure, there are games that are exceptions to this. Some players revel in referencing 500-page tomes during play. But since most of my audience are story gamers and free form players, I challenge you to structure your rules so they are memorable enough that your book is rarely needed in play.
How can we do that? It turns out that there has been a lot of research in the field of education on how to teach people in a way they can remember. Here are six tips for making your content more memorable:


People remember the text at the beginning of a section better than anywhere else. The most important rules should be placed here. The things that players need to use the most often should also be here.


When you have strong feelings about a subject, your memory about that subject also tends to be stronger. One way to use this is to include examples of play where players are having fun playing your game or who are frustrated that they are confused. Give the reader someone to empathize with, and they will be able to remember the rules better.


Your brain tends to notice anything that is new or strange. If you have an important rule buried in the middle of less important stuff, figure out a new or strange way to highlight it visually. You need to give the reader clues about any new information that you want them to focus on.


If the connection between sections makes sense, or if the sections relate to things that the reader already know, the memory is stronger. The easier it is for the reader to see connections, the deeper the memory tends to be. Make sure the sections of your game text are arranged in a way that makes sense to the reader.


Facts out of context are difficult to remember, but if the reader has a reason to care about a subject, it is much easier to remember. In other words, if we know why we should remember something and we agree that it is important, it is much easier to remember. Whenever you have given your reader a complicated rule or a long section of text, make sure you include an explanation as to why this text is important. Why have you included ten pages of grappling rules? Why should the reader care?


People remember the text at the very end of a section almost as well as they remember the beginning. The second-most important information should go here.

Bonus Tip: Break It Up!

Because people remember beginnings and endings so well, you can sometimes trick people into remembering more by breaking up large sections into smaller sub-sections. Breaking things up creates more beginnings and endings. This doesn't sound like it would work, but it does.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Surreal Heroine

Here is a setting hack for Heroine or Dangers Untold, in case you want to tell a more surreal story.


The easiest way for a Narrator to add a sense of surrealism to the story is by Challenging the Heroine and Companions in ways that match thematically with the story you're trying to tell.  In Heroine, Themes are inspirational tools for the Narrator. Whenever you are trying to figure out what sort of problems to throw at the other players, choose one of the themes and build a Challenge that reflects it. To make a surreal story, full of surreal Challenges replace some or all of the default Themes, Fear, Confusion, and Selfishness with the following:
Fluidity – places, people, and objects around you move and change shape. They may also change size. There is not always a clear path between two places, even if they are next to each other.
Perplexity – Some events around you are frustratingly hard to understand. If you continue to try to figure out certain things, you will become more and more frustrated.
Causality – your choices, and the choices of other thinking beings have serious, lasting consequences. When someone acts, things happen. These things can help or harm you.

Be Successful

The easiest way for the Heroine to add some surreal elements to the story is by describing her successes in a more thematic way. In a surreal game, when you use the move Be Successful in to overcome a Challenge, describe your success using one of the following:
Step through the Wall - You move to a new location, even if there was no obvious door
Meet the Dragon - Someone new and strange appears. This new creature draws everyone's attention for a moment
Juggle the Walls - Something bizarre happens, and it benefits you or makes you look awesome. You may briefly describe what happens.

Don't Be Human

Companion players have the most flexible role in the game. You do not really need any special rules in order to fit in well with a surreal story. Just take your cues from the Heroine's introduction scene and, if you want, wait to see what locations the Narrator uses for the first chapter or two. You can use these locations as further inspiration for a surreal Companion.
For the sake of symmetry, here is one new rule for Companions in a surreal game.
Don't Be Human - You may not choose to play a human being as a Companion in a surreal game.

Photo courtesy of 
carriecha on Flickr

Speeding Home

Speeding home.
A hungry look,
Riding in her car.
Her eyes are inhumanly green,
She chose me for my heart,
Invited me to a special family dinner.
We met at camp, left yesterday.
Excited to meet her family.
The mansion is dark.
She’s so beautiful.
Who’s that?


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Phenom: Tabletop Improv

Phenom: Tabletop Improv

A game for two groups of two.

Beta Draft

With your partner, think of three interesting places to set a story. Then, find at least two kinds of story that you both like. Finally, think of think of five names for potential characters.

Now trade your list with the other pair. With your partner, choose one place, one kind of story, and three names from the list in front of you. Circle your choices on the list. Cross out the options on the list that you did not choose. 

Now add to this list by writing down a list of three kinds of character that are common in the kind of story you’ve chosen. Add to that list three kinds of character that are common in the place you’ve chosen. Finally, write at least two examples of the kind of conflict or problem that characters face in the kind of story you’ve chosen.

When both pairs are finished adding to the list in front of them, trade back. Look at what sort of story the other pair has chosen for you to tell them. Now use their character list and examples of conflict to plan a brief story with your partner. Spend no more than five minutes planning. You do not need to use all of the other pair’s suggestions,  and you may modify them however you wish. Be ready to tell a story that meets the following formula:
·      Introduce the characters in the story
·      Show a problem that the characters are facing.
·      Show the problem getting worse.
·      Show one of the characters making an important, transformative choice in order to resolve the problem.
·      Briefly show the results of that choice.

Spend more time planning the first two parts of the story. You will make up most of the details for the last three parts as you go. When you and your partner have a very rough outline, stop talking and wait politely for the other group to finish.

When both pairs are ready, the pair with the oldest player goes first. Begin to act out your story. As soon as the other group feels the characters have been introduced, they should give you a brief hand of applause. When they applaud, immediately move on to acting out the problem your characters are facing. When they understand the problem, they will applaud again. As soon as this happens, stop talking. After a momentary break, it is their turn to begin their story. When you believe the characters have been introduced, applaud. They should then move on to showing the problem.  Once you understand the problem the characters are facing, applaud again. They should then immediately stop.
Now, put seven minutes on the clock, or in some way give yourself an alarm for seven minutes. You and your partner should act out the remaining three steps of your story (problem getting worse, character making a choice, the results of the choice) before that timer runs out. The other pair then does the same, but they only have five minutes.

How do I act out the story?

You and your partner should act as the characters in the story.  Talk to each other, argue, play, cry, and do whatever else your characters would do. If you need to narrate something that happens in the story, look at the other pair. Only look at them when you are narrating. Otherwise, look at your partner or somewhere else.

Say whatever comes to mind. Do whatever seems obvious to you. Don’t worry about whether your boring or whether you look silly. Neither of these matter during this game.

Keep in mind that anything your partner narrates, happens. Anything you narrate, happens. Build on each other. Go a bit crazy. Don’t feel like you have to stick to your rough outline.