Designer Not Included

You’ve probably run into this: you pick up a game and it looks good. You read the rules and they look good! And then you start to play and…something is missing. Assumptions you didn’t notice but are required to understand start to crop up, procedures that were easy to read are hard to implement, whatever.

Now, in this day and age, and especially in the small press world that I do love to talk about, it’s easier than ever to reach out to creators and patch up little hiccups (or explain big chunks of assumptions that have simply gone undiscussed — it happens). 

So…do you do that? Or move on? Or some mix?

0 thoughts on “Designer Not Included”

  1. Just make it up in a way that makes sense. Capture the spirit of the rules.

    But this is coming from a guy who ran an entire Buffy campaign, diceless, used a modified version of the Amber ruleset.

    Well, that is what the players thought. 2 years later I explained to them that their character sheets and all that experience they had spent was only ever a reflection of how good their characters thought they were. There were no rules.

    Only the amazing tarot deck from a game I can’t remember any more.

    Great times. Looking back on it now it was far more supernatural way before its time. I think I ran this in 1998.

  2. None of the above:  First look for the G+ community or forum for the game and see if anyone else has already had this problem and gotten advice on it.  If not, ask in the community.  It is possible that the author may monitor the community and respond if they have time, if not the community may be full of knowledgeable people who could help you.

  3. None of the Above: Ask my gaming friends. But, like.. the close ones. Who I feel alright about having an exploratory conversation with. Maybe they know, or can help me figure it out. At worst, I get to have an interesting conversation with mah buds. You know.. the buds who won’t talk /at/ me or /over/ me.

  4. Probably a combination of “the author is dead and their rules suck” and “passive aggressively complain”. I’ve tried reaching out a few times and it hasn’t gone great.

  5. I’ll look online. I’ll try to muddle by. If the problems actively annoy me rather than are just niggling, I’ll play a different game, which is what I voted for in the end. There are too many things out there for me to run anything I’m not at least 90% comfortable with.

  6. I clicked ask the designer because I was assuming they had a G+ group or a forum or monitored BGG.

    And even if the designer doesn’t respond someone from the community would. But I think I am spoiled the indie RPG community.

  7. So here’s my take:

    Aesthetically I greatly prefer a game be entirely self enclosed and complete. It feels…non rigorous,I guess, to deal with an incomplete rule set. But small press designers do more with less and they probably can’t get the testing and support and development that a larger operation can bring to bear.

    So, as a practical matter I’ll reach out. And when the community of fans gets protective of their thing, I passively aggressively complain. 😛

  8. Also: small press designers should count their lucky stars that their audience is so overwhelmingly forgiving! For all the talk of “play RAW and move on if the rules don’t work,” it appears from this modest little survey that those people are a (vocal?) minority.

  9. Depends on cost benefit. 

    Do I already know them? 

    Does the game seem really good, but with a few holes I just can’t get past? 

    Is there a webpage or community do a quick check with before I try to overcome the existential crises of the post-human condition and make a bullshit connection like some character from a shit terrible Wachowski show? 

    Have I heard other people report on it well? 


    All of which is to say, I’ve done all of the things on your list with different games. It all depends on how good I think the game could be, how much work it would be, and what the existing network is like. 

    Oh, and when I have reached out, it’s been all over the board. Sometimes I’ve made friends from it, or ended up playtesting new editions, or shit like that. Just as often I’ve come to understand how fallen and stupid humanity is.

  10. I’ll reach out if I feel like I’m the reason that I’m not getting the rules.

    But most of the time, I shelve the game, and doubtfully will ever play it again. (I’m just tired of navigating FAQs and forums.) I also hate hacks.

  11. I don’t want to be categorical about anything, because there are probably situations in which all of the above might seem applicable.  Context is everything.  But I try to listen to that empathic voice that says “All creatives want feedback”.  Even if it’s bad, it’s better than feeling ignored.  Besides, who knows, maybe you’ll end up being the one to write that supplement!

  12. I’m more likely to ask the author, ask an online community, talk to friends, make a hack or house rule. I am unlikely to just whine about it, although my asking might sound like whining sometimes.

  13. I’m happy to reach out to the author because, honestly, there are more game designers out there than there are good writers — doesn’t matter if we’re talking indie or WotC. There may be more rigor in the design than in the explanation of the design.

    If the person-toperson explanation still results in rules that don’t work for me, then I’m happy to move on.

  14. I confess I’m still surprised and delighted at this survey result. I do love fiery “if the RAW can’t support functional play it’s terrible and broken” rhetoric but even I voted to reach out.

  15. I’ll usually maybe do a quick check online to see if I’m understanding the rules right, then just figure out a solution that makes sense within the rules as written.

  16. Mostly I never run anything that I have not played before. And I only play things that are new to me from someone that knows what they are doing. This way I get all the same assumptions handed over to me as tribal knowledge. 

    I will reach out sometimes if that sort of thing does pop up, but more than likely it will sit on the shelf and I will grumble about it occasionally.

  17. Paul Beakley – I voted reach out, but I agree that “If the RAW can’t support functional play it’s terrible and broken…” kinda. Like, I wouldn’t be that harsh. But the book you give someone should tell them how to play. If it doesn’t, the book has failed.

    That doesn’t mean there isn’t a good game that’s worth playing. That’s why it’s worth it to reach out and check in with the author if you can. As you say, indies don’t really have the resources to get everything right the way that a company does.

    Actually, writing this made me realize that I am far less likely to give the same benefit of the doubt to a company’s game, especially something glossy. They should’ve spent money on making the book better (copyeditors, editor editors, etc.) rather than make interior art color (or whatever).

  18. Also: some designers are just daft. And it remains a mystery to me how they are still allowed to publish games (expensive gglossy ones at that). So if that is the case, then I will NOT reach out.

  19. There is of course the possibility that I read the rules wrong. Of course the author should be clear, but I am not a native speaker.
    There  is also the possibility that I haven’t been thorough enough in my reading. I know I’ve been guilty of thinking “I know this. It’s just like in all those other games”.

  20. Unless I hit something that’s just game-stoppingly opaque, I’ll muddle through and assume that any problems are mine, usually. Maybe it’s because I’m happy to bridge gaps myself, probably unconsciously, but I almost never reach out for clarification or post angrily about the game sucking. I just either figure it out or decide its not for me and move on.

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