I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Information overload: organizing > creating

I have about 3,500 RPG products in my computer (and maybe 50 physical RPG books). Even if I disregard stock art, images, and duplicates, I must have more than a couple of thousand of RPG books in total. Most of them were free or on sale, but I probably spent too much on them, since I will never read - let alone use - more than 1% of those.

In fact, even if I played only good games I can get for free - BFRPG, OSE, etc. - I'd still have more stuff than I could ever read. You could say OSR games make this worse - since much of the text ends up being copied and pasted from the SRD, so you end up with lots of redundancy. Well, I doubt having ten different systems to resolve tasks such as breaking down a door is any better.

This is why I still write some reviews in this blog, even if they don't seem to be particularly popular. Finding a great product can be almost as valuable as writing one.

In short... creating RPGs is nice. But so is finding and classifying them, so you can choose what to read; revisiting old games, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel every few years; discarding games that are bad (and saying it in public!) so we don't waste our time; and so on. Another great idea: getting a game and telling people what is unique/special about it, since most of every game will be repeating something written in the seventies anyway.


Anyway, I have written a few books regardless. Mostly because I couldn't find the books that were perfectly suited for my tastes (although books such as Moldvay's Basic*, the Rules Cyclopedia, and Shadow of the Demon Lord*, among others, get close). Some RPGs I've read were so good that I felt like I had nothing to add - and I gave up on a few projects because of that (which is why I find so difficult to write my own DMG, for example). Some projects I almost gave up until I could find why they had to be written. And I tried to be terse in ALL my books. Believe me, writing a 60-page book can be harder than writing 100 pages and leaving everything in, regardless of quality.

(BTW, if you do reviews and are interested in my stuff... let me know!)

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Making something coherent, and better than existing products (at least in SOME aspect), is a lot harder.

The same problem I have across books, I see within existing books as well - which is even worse, since I have to swim through redundant information even after I pick the book I want to read. For example, how 5e repeats the definition of "extra attacks", "darkvision", and "fighting styles" multiple times across the same book, or how 90% of the monsters from de 2e MM had three lines describing "Special Defenses: Nil" and "Magic Resistance: Nil" (more about that here).

I would like writers should do the same with the rules: index stuff so we can find it. Organize it with a good ToC, Index, cross-references, different colors or symbols, roughly one idea per page, etc. Avoid repetition so we can save time. Cut useless things from your games - "inutilia truncat"! This is the reasoning behind Minimalism, Elegance and Multipurpose Mechanics . Make sure you're not just reinventing (or repeating) something that Gygax, Arneson or others already solved decades ago - unless, of course, you have a reason for that.

And, by all means, tell us what is unique about your game from the start!

* By purchasing stuff through affiliate links you're helping to support this blog.


  1. It's like the old guy said, "I am sorry for such a long letter, but I didn't have time to write a short one."

    Sticking to 48 pages digest has been a useful discipline for me. In fact I've found I need to pad the pages up a bit with examples just to use the 48pp.

    RPG rules should be like a woman's skirt: long enough to cover the basics, but short enough to be interesting.

  2. Oh, and 5e repeating definitions of things is an admission by the writers that nobody is going to read the book cover to cover. Which means they know it's too long and not written in an engaging manner.