When should you make your own RPG? That’s a question I asked myself a million times before I finally decided to jump in and make one for myself. Now that I’m 200 pages into it and one kickstarter project that was pulled almost as soon as it started I think I know the answer… NEVER!
Iff you think it’s all fun and imagination or it’s something you’re just going to kick around for a while then you’ve got an amazing system that everyone loves and artists are flocking to illustrate for you then you, my friend, are just a little dumber than I was a year ago. Making a system is work, and math, and then more work, and then editing, and then you’ve got more math and then there’s a rewrite and one god damned mechanic doesn’t play out just right and now dozens of pages are worthless and where has your hair and drinking time gone?
Making a system is bringing a beautiful unicorn into life that came completely out of your head and watching it grow and blossom until you think it’s ready to share with the world. Then you play test your system for the first time and everyone points out that your unicorn is just some dumb version of a donkey that is actually less sexier than a normal donkey. Some people even stab your unsexy donkey and then kick your stabbed unsexy donkey down a flight of stairs and grab you by the back of your head and make you watch while their friends pee on it, chanting mockingly into your ear “I think we’ve got a lot of potential here, your donkey really could be a unicorn, patch her up and bring her back to us again”.
I cried myself to sleep for a week after the first play test. Loud ugly crying that kept my neighbors awake. Poor bastards.
Seriously don’t make a system. Get yourself a nice version of DnD, start calling the elves Mutant Koalas and the dwarves Angry Sentient Coca-Cola Cans and you’ve got yourself all the brand new system you need. Maybe take White Wolf: Werewolf and instead of werewolves they’re all Klingons that go into some kind of war frenzy. There, that’s all the new system you need. Reskin, you fool, reskin.
If you want to make a system here are the signs you should do it:
- You have at least 30 pages of a college ruled notebook filled with rules. NOT SETTING FLUFF, actual rules.
- You wake up at night and right down good ideas because you don’t want to lose them.
- You wake up in the morning and erase those rules and write better ones.
- You have tried to home brew every system you’ve ever played into some incarnation of the system you think you want to make.
Making an RPG is a labor of love but you need a lot more labor than you need love. I had most of my system written out in two months and I’ve spent the last ten just ironing out the details and making sure the rules are fleshed out enough to support an actual world.
So maybe not never, but you should definitely consider just reskinning one of the thousands of great systems out there to your taste before you decide to concoct your own RPG.