Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Kobold Guide to Game Design

As I mentioned briefly once before, I'm a real fan of the Kobold Guide to Game Design.

Volume One was rich with adventure design tips, including ways to add flavor to your game and it had a few tips on world design as well. It was well worth the money I spent on the PDF version (I was given the print copy as a gift).

Volume Two was all about cleaning your adventure up and selling it. I have used it when discussing published adventures with friends to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of those adventures.

Both of the first volumes are very Pathfinder-emphasized, but most of the ideas contained therein are useful for other games - just keep in mind that other games may have different reward structures and character goals.

A few weeks ago, I was given a download link for The Kobold Guide to Game Design, Volume Three: Tools and Techniques

I noticed one difference right away: Volume One is "by Wolfgang Baur with Keith Baker, Ed Greenwood, and Nicolas Logue," Volume Two is by, "Wolfgang Baur with Nicolas Logue." Wolfgang Baur's name is in a larger font than the other authors, making it clear that it is primarily his work.

Volume Three is by "Wolfgang Baur, Monte Cook, Ed Greenwood, Rob Heinsoo, and Colin McComb." All five authors' names are in the same size font, giving them roughly equal billing this time out. Not only that, but the little word "with" is missing - again, emphasizing the shared authorship of this one.

Volume Three is also almost twice as long as the first one.

Like the other two volumes, Volume Three is a collection of essays. From the very first essay, it's made clear that this one has a broader scope than the other two volumes. The first two were about building adventures, this one is about building games. The bulk of the advice in here is about systems and mechanics. There's even an essay on computer-based roleplaying.

The other two volumes, with their tighter focus on adventures, started with a central idea and (for the most part) focused on that idea, building on it the further into the book you got. This one, without that same tight focus, doesn't build in the same way the other two did. There are essays in here on the creative process, on fighting writer's block, and several good discussions on what the essential parts of a game are. Several essays overlap to varying degrees, but - again - with the much broader focus, it doesn't feel like this overlap is robbing me of wasted space. This book is also much less Pathfinder-focused than the others, so nearly all of the advice is useful without any sort of adaptation or conversion for the non-Pathfinder players.

There are also essays which would have been at home in the earlier volumes - essays on plotting and using locations as adventure hooks, for example - but the bulk of the essays have that larger-scale focus on rules design - this book barely even touches on setting and world-building.

The book wraps up with a few paragraphs on each of the contributors - it's a good reminder that these aren't just game bloggers and hobbyists. Each of the contributors has had a significant (and measurable) impact on the role-playing hobby. These guys know what they're talking about - even their mildest suggestions should carry weight for those who are interested in game design.

All in all, I think it's very well-done. Volume One is $18.95 for a print copy. Volume Two was the same price. Volume Three is actually more useful for me, and is the same price. Because I'm a completist, I plan to purchase a print copy of this one on my next payday.

It's also worth mentioning that Open Design has made the first three volumes available in Kindle editions (in fact, I think that the links at the beginning of this entry go to the Kindle editions). Print copies can be purchased directly from the Kobold Quarterly store, and PDF copies are on IPR and RPGNow.

The PDF resolves on the Kindle with no problems.

Next week, I'll be talking about ... something.  There are several possible news items hanging, so next week's post will depend on what happens over the next week or so.  I'm also starting to gear up for GenCon, which is now less than a month off.

And in case you somehow missed it two weeks ago, you can now read my blog on your Kindle.

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