System is Completed and Being Playtested -What Now?

Started by _haroharo_, February 20, 2008, 03:16:42 PM

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  The main reason I am here is because I hAve created an RPG system which I want to somehow sell to the masses whether that be through PDF, print-on-demand, or an actual book. Originally I created my system for two reasons. The first was that I needed a slick and easy combat system for a Harry Potter RPG I was(and am still running) in that would allow freeform players to easily get into it while still having some depth to it.  The second reason I created it was because I had no idea at the time about how to play any system whether it be Dungeons & Dragons, World of Darkness, or GURPS. So I posted a thread on's "Game Proposals, Input, and Advice" forum and I got a response which would eventually evolve into the basis for my system.

  I have spent about a month working on it from sometime in January to date and am rather pleased with it and so are the players in my RPG over at RPOL. You could technically say they are playtesting it although they came on to play the game and not to playtest a system. I want to make a big deal about this part because they are largely freeform players. They do not usually play with a system of any kind yet they do not mind my system. To give you a brief breakdown of my system: It runs on d20s, basically only requiring one d20 for the whole game. Each character has only two stats to keep track of. They do not have any "levels" or "skills" they need to worry about as everything comes down to those two stats. The system is meant for a freeform audience and therefore it is mainly involved with only the combat aspect of roleplaying. Combat boils down to - I guess you could say - a very basic mechanic. Roll the d20, apply your stat rating to the roll, then roll again for the second stat and compare stats with your opponent. The person who beats the other in both stats wins. The level of damage your attack does is roughly equal to the difference between your stat and the opponent's stat. So if there is a 1-point difference then only a minimal amount of damage occurred. If there is anywhere from a 5-point and above difference then your attack does maximum damage(in the case of a gun shot, the person dies or is seriously injured and unable to continue battling). Combat works like a gun duel in that both combatants will usually be able to shoot back, it is just a matter of determining who shot first. Of course there are rules for when one player beats the other player in one stat but his roll for the second stat is lower than the second stat of the opponent. Also we have rules in place for Multiple-Player Combat, dodging, fleeing, combos, etc. It is a full-fledged combat system that is fast and easy to understand. And when I say fast I mean battles can literally end in two turns and they usually never go past six turns unless both players somehow keep getting lucky rolls where they have the exact same rolls. Also we have weapon modifiers that will require you to think before you just go trying to attack with that huge sword of yours.

  As I keep saying, this is a combat system. It deals mainly with combat although it does provide rules for secret rolls the GM may initiate for example to see if the player gains any experience from lock picking a door. My main goal when creating the system was freedom in how players told the story so most things outside of combat do not require rolls unless the GM feels it is necessary to roll to see if, for example, a player can jump across the chasm. With the second version of Wands I might add rules to match those of GURPS or WoD but the system encourages you to make the decisions. I am also going to be adding rules supplements for various settings and characters such as superheroes and vampires which are optional and not required if you wish to play a vampire game or superhero game using only the core game. This would be a good selling point I believe.

  Currently it will probably max out at around 20 to 30 pages if I were to add the usual "What are RPGs" sections, a glossary, and such things. The reason I want to market this is that it is a unique entry into RPGs requiring no prior knowledge of them and requiring no other books. You can learn to play and run the game with only the fifteen pages it has now and you would still get a full-fledged gaming experience. I can attest to that because I am currently running a game that uses the system.

  My question is: what do I do now to start selling it? I know I need art and possibly someone more professional than me to look over the rules(although I have had numerous experienced roleplayers provide input it does not hurt to get a real professional to check things out). I can do the editing myself and the layout. I am thinking of a selling price of $8 to a maximum of $15. And possibly $8 and below for the supplements. But what else do I need? Where do I go from here?



Hi HaroHaro!

Your system sounds interesting. Systems that facilitate freeform RP are exciting to me, since it's a form I enjoy. Here's a few things to consider.

Who is your audience for the system? If it's an audience which, by and large, enjoy pure storytelling or acting and considers a combat system a necessary evil, you don't want to market it as a "fast and deadly d20-based combat system" since it'll attract the wrong crowd. Instead, use wording like "a combat system suitable with quick resolution and high drama suitable for freeform play". Write your text to support that goal.

Your system is currently written for Harry Potter, and it's called Wands (did I get that right?). If I were you, I'd focus strongly on that genre for your first release. Worry about making it a generic system with support for additional supplements later.

Before you consider your system "complete", you need to test it outside your own playgroup. Since this is a long running game, your system may be using conventions introduced when you were doing nothing but freeform. I'd ask moderators for other RPOL games if they'd be willing to test it out for a while in their games, to see if they run into problems.

If you're intending the system to be used by freeform roleplayers, your text doesn't need a boilerplate "What are RPGs" section at all. You wrote your game as a solution to a problem in an existing freeform game - there is no reason to think someone else will buy it if they don't already have a problem to solve.

You don't need art. Art exists to reinforce a theme, and your rules have no theme - they are, as you say, a combat mechanic. Would anyone make a purchase decision on your game because it had cool art? If you really want some visual pieces, check out sources of art freely available on the web. Buying art will quickly mess up your budget for a project such as this, unless you can get friends to draw it for you.

Finally, my most important advice is this: consider putting together a cut and dry version of the rules in a PDF and give it away for free. Market the crap out of it to other online roleplaying communities. Get people to play and enjoy it. While they're doing this, work on fine-tuning your game, in terms of mechanics, advice on running a freeform online roleplaying game and general editing. When you feel that you have a good product you'd be willing to pay money for, look at the size of your userbase and determine from there whether to go PDF, PoD or print. The Publishing forum here at the Forge will be your friend at that point.

Good luck!


Thanks for your response lachek,

  I definetly do not want to market it as a "fast and deadly d20-based combat system" as you said. My audience consists of three groups. The first and most important group are freeform roleplayers that find freeform combat to be long and usually annoying in that no one wants to give up. My second audience(no less important than the first) that I want to get are people new to roleplaying who might be intimidated by the more complex systems or simply cannot dole out the investment money required to really get the full experience from games such as DnD. Thirdly, I want to market to people who already play systems but want a change of pace. In my document for the rules of my system I state something to the effect that most systems have combat that is what I like to call, "epic" in that they are these long and tedious battles. Whereas my system, I guess youcould say, is more realistic in that if you get hit by a bullet there are consequences. Most of the time if you are shot even once you will lose the battle just like in real-life.  This keeps combat quick and easier to determine who wins and who loses. I am definetly thinking of revising my text to remove references to Harry Potter and to cater to my audience. Most likely I will revise them when I get up Wands 2.0 which will happen in the coming months.

  You are correct that my system is called "Wands." Sorry that I did not make this point clear. Although the language is catered towards my Harry Potter game it is mostly generic. For example I try to use the word "weapons" to refer to attacks instead of "spells." However I do use Harry Potter examples in some instances. I do use generic combat instances such as comparing it to gun duels and using your typical fantasy DnD-esque scenarios. I actually had a vote among my roleplay group and they want me to keep the name "Wands" to remain true to our "roots." So I will still keep that and just have an Introduction that explains why the system is called "Wands."

  I love the idea of having RPOL GMs test out my game system. I will definetly post a thread there soon about that. This will provide me with a wide range of input and allow me to see if Wands really is suitable for any kind of combat whether it be swordplay or even hand-to-hand.

   Okay, no need for a "What are RPGs?" section then. That is one less problem to worry about and probably two to five pages of space save that could be used for something else.

  Well, the reason I want some artwork is because I know the reaosn why I myself by things in the first place. Usually when I am in a comic store or a book store I first scan the shelves to see if anything cool catches my eye. If I don't find anything then I go ahead and start looking for specific things and potentially ignore some good simply because they did not catch my eye. I have some "connections" though that I can probably use to get some drawings. If not I can do the art myself(I have skills with graphic design).

  Alright, now the last part I really like. Since I intend to sell Wands 2.0(it will have some basic extra things that are probably good to have in the game such as new modifiers and some extra rules mechanics, as well as possible fixes to any problems that might arise through playtesting) I could set up Wands 1.0 as a free PDF and do as you said. I could probably set up a some kind of wiki that answers any FAQs and things like that.

  I am truly greatful for your advice! You probably covered every single thing I could think of but just ince casE: Is there anything else I should know or do?

Thanks again,


Not that I can think of. Although, getting feedback on your system - even marketing and publishing feedback - is much easier if you can get the product in the hands of the people whose feedback you seek. After you've assembled the free PDF and put it up on the web, I'd post a link to it with request for more concrete advice.

One little thing - if you do actually want to market the game to people new to roleplaying, you do need a "What are RPGs" section. I'm sick of the usual format of them, though. Don't make a boilerplate section that 90% of us are going to skip. Instead, I'd focus on gearing the section towards online freeform roleplay, perhaps presenting a few common moderation techniques and a discussion of the pros and cons of Play-by-Email, forum-based, IM/IRC-based and MU*-based online roleplay.

You have a niche; protect it. If you try to make the product too widely applicable, it may drown in the sea of other widely applicable products with potentially higher production value and marketing behind it.

Best of luck to you!