How Do I Turn My Game Into a Text?

A game is a myserious thing.  It is a toy, an imaginary machine with precets that can be fiddled with, it has rules, procedures, and a life all its own.  It does not exist in the mind of the designer as a fully laid out book; it is an idea, a collection of ideas, each one symbiotically existing in harmony with each other.

So how the hell do you turn that into a book?

A text, is quite the opposite of a game.  It is not a procedure; it is a description of the procedure.  A text is not a game; it is a description and instructions for the game.

As designers, we make a game.  It is often a scattered diaspora of notes, scribblings, playtests and forum posts.  Once we can run the game smoothy, and have enjoyable, functional play, then the game is complete.  But until the game is transformed into a form where someone else can reconstruct the game (or a reasonable fascimile thereof), the game is not a text.

Enough waxing poetic.  Write a damn outline.

An outline is the first step for the writer of a big project.  Figure out what the important bits of your text are going to be.  I’m assuming you’re writing a roleplaying game; find a similar game, or one that served as inspiration, and look at that game’s chapter headings.  What do you have in common?  What will you need to add?  Is there anything extraneous here?

For Awesome Adventures, my outline included the following sections:

Information & Basics

Character Creation

Aspects in Detail

Skills in Detail

Examples of How to Do Stuff

Settings Adaptation

Player Advice

GM Advice

Sample Characters

OGL

Some of these sections got renamed or moved around, but they are all there in the final draft.  I found it helpful to make each of these chapters a seperate word file, so I could easily navigate the different portions of my book.

Under each of these chapters I figured out what needed to be in that chapter.  List everything here that you’re going to have to talk about.  If it’s going to get text, put it here.

For example, under Intro & Basics, I have the following:

What the Game is Meant to Be

What You Need to Play

How Dice Work

How Rolls Work

The Skill Ladder

Mention Aspects/Fate Points

And that’s pretty much what’s in the book right now, and almost a line-by-line reading of the first chunk of my table of contents. 

Once you’ve got your chapter headings and subheadings, look and see if anything is missing.  Is there a cool rule that doesn’t show up anywhere?  You’d better find a spot for it.  Does the order of things seem nonintuitive?  Now’s the time to change it.  (You’ve got Character Creation and Battles in different files right?  You can just neatly rearange them on your outline, without fussing through your whole text and trying to cut and paste whole chapters of text.)

Now go in and take those barebones files, and flesh them out.  Start explaining these concepts and your game.  When you finish a section, go to your outline and write ‘complete’ next to the heading.  This will help you keep track of what’s been written and what hasn’t.

Eventually you’ll have a finished text, one that you can read from start to finish, one that maybe has grammar.  One you can show to playtesters, and editors.  Oh, you thought your work was done, did you?

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