What's the best way to present a mechanic for discussion?

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Christoffer Lernö:
Hi All,

I know this is a little late for me to ask (doh!), but what is really the best way to present a system one has written? I'm talking about the core mechanics of a system and not setting - you know what would fit in a rule synopsis or something...

I usually see people either dumping all they have (and get little response) or send a link (and get little response). The times I have done the former I've gotten... you guessed it... little response. I've gotten the most comments (and aroused the most bad feelings) posting isolated parts of mechanics.

Now let's say you arrive to the Forge with a rule system you want people to take a look at. What's the best way of presenting it? (If there's a good answer that one it ought to be put at the top of indie design with a sticky)

I'm currently leaning towards presenting a brief summary of the mechanics that carefully points out any unusual mechanics. At the end of the posting one would include a link to the full rule set (with or without setting) so that people can play around with the numbers a little.

But that's just an idea. Any others having an opinion?

Gordon C. Landis:
I've been meaning to post a thought about the Indie Game Design forum for a while now - thanks for providing the thread, PF.  Seems to me, the folks who get the most value out of that forum have specific, focused questions about their game that they ask people to help answer.  Anything to give responders something to focus on - a jargon-laden "this may be too Sim for the Nar approach I want overall, but I really want this Color element - how can I make it work?"  Or a simple "is anyone even interested in a game like this?"

Many Forge posters are very generous, and will try and provide feedback to anything that gets posted.  But the truth (it seems to me) is that those who do the best job of making CLEAR what they want will get the most numerous/useful/best responses.

Any other good ideas about "How to get the most out of this [Indie Game Design] forum" from folks?  If we get enough, a sticky post with that title that summarizes what results would be good . . .

Gordon

Valamir:
Rule #1:  "What do you think", "any thoughts", or "feedback wanted please" are next to useless both for the reader and the poster.  Useless for the poster because much of what response they will get will be all over the place and won't address the issue at hand.

Rule #2:  1 thread 1 idea.  Threads will drift, that is all but inevitable...but putting several ideas into 1 thread will either overwhelm the reader or result in a confused mass of cross threaded posts that just gets ugly fast.  If the ideas have little direct relationship use different threads.

Rule #3:  More of a recommendation than a rule, 1 active thread (or perhaps 2 if they are gathering alot of interest) on any given game or system at a time.  Following Rule #2 by starting 3 or more threads at the same time can be equally overwhelming.  Best bet, spread 'em out.  Focus on 1 idea at a time, and when that thread reaches some conclusion introduce the next one.

Rule #4:  Focused questions.  The next step after Rule #1 above.  Ask something.  End your post with a specific question.  Not "what do you think" but "I'm looking for effect Y, do you think X will get me there".  Ask yes / no type questions.  The Forge is the kind of place where posters will tell you yes or no AND give you the reasoning behind their answer.  That leads to productive discussions on specific topics.

Rule #5:  Avoid stream of conciousness brain dumps.  Brain dumping is an important part of the creative process.  Its amazing how useful it is to collect those stray ideas and finally get them down in some format.  Just don't use a Forge post for that topic.  Do your brain dumping in a WP file.  Then go through and organize it, clean it up, and come up with some focused questions from it...post those...not the brain dump.

I don't make policy here, but if I did the above 5 would definitely be part of it.

Good topic.  Next we could probably do with a "what's the best way to respond to someones presentation" discussion.

Ron Edwards:
Hi there,

I agree with much of Ralph's post, but I think it's a second step rather than the first. One of the hardest things to do in a post is to present the entirety of the idea that you want feedback on ... without getting wrapped up in a particular detail.

At first glance, it seems like an insoluble problem. No RPG component exists in isolation. So how can you present Feature X without presenting Features A-Z?

However, when people have presented full-game material in a particular way, response has usually been powerful and substantive (Le Mon Mouri, Torchbearer). That particular way is as follows:

1) State the Premise in plain language. You might not even know or care what a Premise is, in the terms of my essay, but that doesn't matter. Any statement regarding what makes the game engaging at the group level, to the real people will do. Do not get wrapped up in describing the imagined Situations during play.

2) Mention (do not explain) the Setting and Character concepts. Saying "eight non-human species to choose from" is all we need, rather than describing them in gruesome cultural detail. Also, if there isn't an immediate relationship between #1 and #2, you'll be sure to hear about it.

3) State the basic concept of character creation - what is chosen first? What is done with points, if any? What is rolled? And so on. Also, state what basic resolution system is involved - how are talking, randomized methods, etc, all utilized?

4) State what reward mechanic is involved - is it character improvement? Player privilege? What? And furthermore, state how a character is reduced in effectiveness or otherwise

5) Just about all other features of role-playing arise from these things and their interactions, so anything else can be shelved.

Now, few people will have all of these nailed down enough to explain in an initial post. However, what matters is getting them all into existence in some form, rather than delving deeply into any one of them to get it "done" before addressing the others. (You can always tell when two creators do this separately, eh Jake?)

Therefore, a shallow but broad presentation, with an emphasis on connecting these disparate elements rather than dissecting any one of them, is most useful. That's what permits the specific questions that Ralph is talking about to be articulated.

Best,
Ron

Paul Czege:
Hey Ron,

And furthermore, state how a character is reduced in effectiveness or otherwise

Missing end of sentence?

Paul

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