The Accidental Game Designer

d-Day Minus 1

It wasn’t meant to be like this. 6d6 Fireball started as a way to market 28mm miniatures and earn a little bit of money. Rob would design them and I would run a RPG blog to create interest in them but it was just a side project. Something to bring a little extra cash whilst I worked on other things.

Miniature Disaster

As two lifelong gamers and business people we were pretty confident that we knew about the RPG market and were sure a range of quality, quirky miniatures would sell well. We were very wrong.

In our youth, at least half the gamers brought and painted miniatures but now the market had shifted. The gamers interested in painting had been trapped by Games Workshop’s product range. They wanted armies and war games, not individual figures. Selling miniatures to the RPG crowd was simply uncommercial but I wasn’t ready to abandon 6d6 just yet. Gamers are generally an affluent bunch, educated and internet savvy. Surely there must be something we could sell them.

Scratching That Itch

Even right back at the beginning of my RPG gaming experiences, I had a problem with stats and their bonuses. Strength would give you a plus to hit but dexterity didn’t; Intelligence and Wisdom were too interdependent on each other to satisfactorily split up; And what was the point of Charisma?

But game design did not really interest me. I never house-ruled or home-brewed anything. My focus was on the adventures and the settings. I created worlds like there was no tomorrow. I had gods coming out of my ears and more epic campaigns than you can shake a stick at. It was the fluff I loved, not the crunch.

Yet as I contemplated what to do with 6d6, the idea of writing a game system sprung to mind. First and foremost, it would avoid all the problems over copyright and trademarks that plagued my attempts to publish 3.5 adventures. It might be a way of selling the miniatures and it would allow me to scratch that itch of making a better stats and stat bonuses system.

A Long Road

The process started slowly. A few notes here, a few notes there. Ideas tried and discarded as I hunted for a way to make the stats and stats bonuses more flexible. A way that allowed the players to have more control over what the stats meant and did within the game.

Sometime around November 2009 we were playing 4e D&D. Though the experience was generally unsatisfactory, it simply was not my type of game, I was struck by the power cards. They made remembering all the character’s abilities and tracking what had been used much easier. As we sat their around my dinner table, I asked myself a simple question.

“What happens if you try to replace the entire character sheet with cards?”

That was when the journey really began.

1000 Ways Not To Make a Lightbulb

By February 2010 I had a vague concept worked out and I sat down with Dingles Games to try out a little fight. There was a lot wrong but the basic idea worked so I put more time into and ran another test with ‘Original’ Ben Jackson (writer of Outbreak!). Again the basic idea worked so I put even more time into it and started running a regular play test session which slowly started attracting new people. Progress was very slow but there was progress and soon the game was consuming 40+ hours a week of my time. All other projects were forgotten.

The slow pace of development was, in a big way, down to shifting the way we think. Old ideas like saving throws and having a set number of spells a day simply did not work in card based mechanics. We had to invent a completely new way of handling just about everything players would expect to find in a fully fledged RPG.

The other major obstacle to progress was working out how to produce and market the game.

Having failed once with the miniatures, I wasn’t prepared to failed again. The business plan had to evolve along with the game. Issues such as how to produce and package pre-printed cards need to be solved. Ideas behind the 6d6 Online Tools needed investigation and just as much work as designing the game. For the 6d6 RPG to work both as a game and as a way of earning a living, all the different elements of product design and marketing had to be in place.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow, July 4th, thousands upon thousands of hours of work comes to an end when the 6d6 Core rule set is launched. Yet, the real work is only now beginning.

Games do not sell themselves. You cannot simply stack them on the shelves and watch the money roll in. They need to be promoted, demoed, improved and supported.

Creating the game is the easy part. The hard part, getting people to play it week-in, week-out, lies ahead.

3 comments

  1. It’s been a long road to get here, but well done. Good luck for the launch. Looking forward to getting the full core rules, I have an idwea or two for games to play with it.

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