Gosh, wasn’t that exicting! It seemed impossible and then wow, you did it! Excellent! But don’t let it end there. You can use your experience to learn so much more. Here’s my thoughts on What Happens Next.
1. Don’t Get To Wrapped Up In the Winners
Once again, there were over 700 entries. Ultimately, although it has a prize, the 200 Word RPG Contest is not about the winners. That just ensures the judges read everything. Hooray! Your game is getting read! Eventually you might even get a comment! But there are other ways to get comments – the amazing Michael Wenman and Ivan Neville are both going to read every single one. Watch out for yours and get the thrill of feedback! But also just enjoy that someone, somewhere is reading it. That alone is amazing. Plus you wrote a whole RPG! ALSO amazing!
2. Read a Friend’s, and Give Feedback
Or a strangers. Most people put some twitter handle or email address in their submission. If every single submitted read just one other entry and tweeted about it or wrote back, the contest would be so much better. Go long with the feedback, talk about what you liked and didn’t, what worked, what needs work and what you’d like to see more of. Most people SUCK at giving feedback because they don’t know how. It’s a skill. Take your time. Write at least 200 words. The 200 word feedback competition is MUCH more important to enter.
3. Read Ten of Them
You can’t read 750 of them. So read ten. Read them at random. Read ones that catch your interest. Read ones that have silly titles. Read ones I share on twitter! Follow the 200 word RPG bot on twitter which shoots you a new one every day, and read some of those. You don’t have to write anything. Just read. You’ll get ten new ideas you never thought of, and that will make you a better designer. Read ten already? Go for 20. Go for 200. Eh no that’s too many. Or is it? Want to rest your eyes from the screen? Get a hardcopy and read one out at the dinner table every night.
Have a look at what you wrote and why. Why did you choose that subject? Where did it lead you? In 200 words you don’t have much time to plan things. That’s the whole point, it helps you tap into your subconscious and just FEEL out the work. So why did it go that way? What kind of design did you go for, what choices do you make instinctly? What does that tell you about how you design? If you did one another year, are they similar? My last two have been very political. Guess that’s my thing right now. Let’s call it my Political Period. Now I feel like a real artist and you can too!
5. Break It Down
The other thing the competition helps with is completing something. Your RPG is finished, hooray! That means it is complete (or close). So what does an RPG need? Do you have all those elements? Can you separate them out? What is the setting? What is character generation? What are the core rules? Is there a GM section (is there a GM?)? Breaking it down into sections gives you insight into what you designed (for reflection, as above) but also gives you insight into RPG construction in general and how you ticked off all the sections.
6. Built It Up
Now that you’ve got it in sections, write out a table of chapters. Imagine what this game would look like if it were 2K words, or 20K, or 200K. The structure would still be the same, or close. Maybe there’s not much to say about some parts – you couldn’t expand the setting any further. Or could you? Imagine it. How COULD you turn that two sentence setting into two thousand words? Into a novel? How could you weave a whole game around that core mechanic? Jot down some notes. See the artwork. Think about the example characters and adventures.
7. Sell It
Want to practice another skill? Figure out how you would sell your game if it were real. Whether you do this with the 200 word version or the 200,000 word one you just imagined, the core is the same: it will be GMed or GMless. It will be for a certain number of players and a certain kind of player. What style does it support? Who kind of roleplayer would be most likely to play it? Newbies or old hands? Combat freaks or drama kids? What age group? And how would you sell it all to them?
8. Summarize It
Got the idea of who might want to play it? Now come up with your sales pitch. Not the dynamics you just worked out, the “a GMless one-off game for fans of Science Fiction and In a Bitter Age”, I mean the hook that grabs that market. What’s the beating heart of your game? What is the punch in the face that demands it be played? Is it cutting edge satire that tells a tale as old a stime? Will it make you cry as you peel back the layers of domestic harmony? You wrote it in 200 words, can you sum it up in 20? Or 10?
9. Double It
Cut it down to 20? Good. Now beef it up to 400. Seriously, try it. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. But it’s great because it lets you do all those things you couldn’t quite fit in. You can explain what was in comments. Better still, you can fill out those sections you identified in step 5, and make sure that byline in step 8 sizzles off the page, and the key demographic you spotted in 7 is made explicit. Add some GM notes to get that intent clear. Maybe go up to 500 words. You deserve it.
10. Publish It
I know what you’re going to say: but I can do MORE. I could make it 1000 words, or 10,000 so it would be a REAL(TM) ROLEPLAYING GAME. Sure. But the point of the 200 word RPG competition is to go through all the steps as fast as possible so you get the whole megillah without stopping, without the voice in your head saying “maybe not, maybe nobody cares”. Take that 400/500 word version, and stick it on the web. Or print it on a postcard. Hand it to your friends or strangers. Say “Free game!”. Oh it’s scary. But it’s a fear you have to face, and it’s easier to do a postcard than a 300 page book. And the fear of handing out postcards can actually stop you making the book. Beating that fear can HELP you make that book.
The other day, someone sent me a tweet saying a post-card game of mine had captivated their entire share house of ten hours. It wasn’t just that I had the idea. It was that I made it physical and handed it to someone – that’s what got it played (and later, put on the shelf to play more later). Print the thing out. Hand it to someone. That’s what gaming is. The virtual is a good start, and you should do that too, but games are about sharing. Look someone in the eye and give them your RPG, whether its 200 words or 400 or 10. That is a sacred and beautiful thing. That’s why we submitted these silly things online, but you can do more than just that. Take it further. It’s 200 words, but it can be so much more. For that game, for you, and for someone else.