Writing rules is very hard. I’ve remarked on this in the past, but a big part of what makes them hard can come in terms of forgetting to mention things. Earliest versions of The Botch didn’t include starting diamonds in the rules, which made the game extremely hard to play.
What I’ve taken to doing in recent designs is start with a Word Document that contains what I consider a solid working template. Anything that doesn’t fit in one of these parts, in this order, needs to be considered carefully:
This contains a set of standardised info; the credits for the game, for Invincible Ink, and any creative commons resources.
Flavour Text opening. If there’s fiction in the game that matters, I put something down here. This is a good way to prime the voice for the book – address the players if they’re a you, like a first-person-to-second-person dialogue, or a third person, or even a first one.
Description of Access rules. These are important; think about things like the way players have to interact with the game, holding cards and stuff like that. Reading, doing math, all the things that you may normally forget about. Then, I end it with this sentence, every time: “And always: Remember to respect the players and their needs.”
In your copy of GAME, you should have the following:
- 16 floor Cards
- 2 Quick Reference Cards
Describe what physical objects are in the game. If there is a tiny number of them it can be worth replicating the text. I wanted to do this with The Botch, putting the rules for each card there so players could easily parse that information, double check things and also, show any changes to text on the cards. This is best presented first as a checklist, so players can check easily if something is missing.
How To Play
The meat of the rules. These need to be broken up into three parts:
And then, once all those fields are filled in, it’s time to read the rulebook over and see if it’s a workable book.
Templates help to build habits.