Project Update: So You Want To Play’s Progress

Right now, I’m working on So You Want To Play, a nine-part course on running a tabletop roleplaying game intended for complete novices to the hobby. One of my major goals is to try to condense as much of my experience and passion as possible into a small, online package that delivers a substantial amount of value and serves as a jumping off point for others to get into a hobby that I really enjoy.

The core format of So You Want To Play is in the nine topics that it will have. For the most part, the exact contents of these are somewhat fluid, but I’ve been working on stuff at a pretty rapid rate (given the amount of non-hobby/website stuff I have to do), and it’s coming along nicely.

Topic 1 of So You Want To Play is a simple history of roleplaying games going back to Dungeons and Dragons and continues on to being a basic introduction to play, finding a group, and some important core concepts, all written with a prospective game master in mind. It’s coupled with a personal reflection on Roll20 and my experiences with it, as well as a short piece meant to encourage discussion on mechanics and narrative. This is a pretty simple lesson, but it’s wrapped up with a discussion board and a reading comprehension assessment.

The second topic of So You Want To Play is a little more nuanced, and involves preparing a group for play. The crowning addition to this is the fact that I’ve written a 5000 word (20 page or so) booklet on how to clearly communicate expectations to a group, including how to prepare characters and games by providing helpful feedback and guidance to players.

The third part will focus on the actual preparation a GM should do for their game, including a guide to concept/mind mapping and how to create a living, breathing world for beginners. It focuses on how to create a flexible game world to facilitate the creation of narrative and optimal play experiences.

The fourth topic in So You Want To Play begins to touch on mechanics and game design, namely the techniques used to measure probability and some handy guides to calculating outcomes on the fly, in order to allow a novice GM to better figure out exactly what is going on with their game.

Topic 5 moves on to cover something a little more subjective; the application of mechanics to create certain feels and how to balance the game so that players can remain within an enjoyable play environment, and keep their game on track.

The sixth topic covers NPC’s and the common archetypes that should be used or avoided in order to create a satisfying play experience for the players, as well as how to handle NPC’s in ways that don’t overshadow player choice and character development.

Topic 7 covers common GM mistakes, from being control freaks to having personal issues with players, and how to recover from them without causing a meltdown at the table or causing the game’s quality to suffer.

The eighth part moves onto advanced game mechanic studies, looking at the common dice systems and how they are used. It deviates from the normal form of lesson/extra content/assessment because it is comprised of a variety of case studies on mechanics design.

The final topic is a review of all the content in the course, and rather than following the normal form it consists entirely of a feedback and response discussion module in which a variety of situations are brought up and openly discussed, with my own personal experience, reflection upon, and handling of each being used as an example to spark discussion.

Outside of the core topic areas, So You Want To Play will include a section containing links to and downloads of helpful resources compiled from the internet, including access to a variety of hand-made materials exclusive to the course, such as examples of campaign design tools, characters, plots, and more, many of which will be used to supplement core topic content throughout the course.

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