I. Dear Reader
Like last week’s post about first session procedures, I wanted to do a post this week about diagrams in rulebooks that help communicate a game’s rules. But I couldn’t find any! Maybe my brain is just mush right now but my mental index isn’t throwing up examples right away and paging through my sprawling PDF collection isn’t working.
So, wisdom of crowds, do any good drawings or diagrams from RPG books come to mind? If so, please send them over. You can hit reply or comment below, either works!
Basically, I was thinking about conceptual models. I don’t know if this a technical term but there’s a nice definion in Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things:
A conceptual model is an explanation, usually highly simplified of how something works. It doesn’t have to be complete or even accurate as long as it it useful.
When I learn a new game, I’m trying to build that conceptual model. Stuff like the first session procedure gives me a very high-definition model of the first session. But what about the game itself? What about how the various bits and bobs of the game interact? If I’m running it, it would be good to have a grasp of that.
I know may GMs who make character sheets or character keepers (and praise the process) because it helps them understand how the game works. The act of putting everything together is a way of building that conceptual model and making connections. I have done this too and it definitely works. I still figure out stuff by playing but it’s more a case of improving an existing mental model, rather than making one from scratch.
There’s a spectrum here, I think. The more a game is a set of tools, the more you need a strong conceptual model that ties them all together in your head to feel confident running it. Anyway, that’s what led me to thinking about diagrams! So if you find some, send them my way please. I’ll wrack my brain index when it feels less mushy as well and hopefully bring you a round-up of ones I like.
II. Media of the Week
An introduction to The Magus by momatoes, a solo game of a wizard and the price they are willing to pay for power.
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III. Links of the Week
Interview: Michael Sands, designer of Monster of the Week, on how he’d change the game today and what he’s working on now.
Interview: wendi yu, designer of Here, There Be Monsters, on queerness, humanity and monstrousness
An introduction to Hearts of Wulin, the PbtA game of wuxia melodrama, from the designer with lots of helpful notes and a video talk.
A deep dive into a|state, a gritty cyberpunk game about troublemakers defending their corner, on the Indie Game Reading Club.
On reddit, I stumbled across a well-written guide to condition moves for Masks. If this is something that comes up in your games, then worth a read!
There’s a fantastic TTRPG Art Asset jam on itch which is going to be a collection of affordable stock art with commercial licenses for use in your games.
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I just submitted a series of nano-rpgs to the 12 word RPG Jam. Using diagrams was really the key to work under such a strict constraint! You can find them all listed on this entry: https://abstr.substack.com/p/craft-12-word-rpgs
On top of the great ones that people have already pointed out, Blades in the Dark has a rudimentary diagram showing the loop from free play to the score to downtime and, implicitly, back to free play. It has an ink-splatter aesthetic that (imo) doesn't contribute much to its readability.