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September 13, 2006 / jadettman

Programming your game

Creating a new campaign for a game is a lot like programming.

Now, bear with me please, as anyone that knows me will tell you I’m not a computer-programmer. Occassionally, I dabble in html and, more recently, cascading style sheets. So, if all of this sounds ridiculous from a computer-programming perspective, I’ve got no excuse.


Returning to my original analogy: Creating a new campaign for a game is a lot like programming for a pre-existing operating-system. The game system you’ve chosen for your game is the OS and the campaign is a program running in the OS. The GM is your system administrator, the players are the users and the campaign is the user-interface.

Hmm, ok, I seem to have analogized myself into corner. Maybe I’ve taken the wrong path here.

Let’s start at the real beginning. I’ve been thinking a lot about campaign design recently. Not specifically the design of a campaign but generally about how campaigns are designed. How someone sits down and goes about designing a campaign.

With many traditional games, this is a very important step in creating a campaign. A single person sitting down and, working from whatever imaginative seed is lurking in her brain, creating the first important bits of a campaign.

Looking at less traditional games, several of them use implied setting and group setting creation rules specifically to avoid this step. Why?

I think that it is because they are trying to (a)create a uniform gaming experience, or (b)to involve all of the players in setting creation in an attempt to build a more satisfying game experience.

Does this actually lead to what I’ve been thinking, I’m not sure. πŸ˜‰

Cascading Style Sheets. I’ve been thinking about them as tools for html and wondering how they could be applied to campaign creation.

For a while I’ve been working on something that I referred to as Campaign Dials (mostly because setting just wouldn’t work in that context). Campaign Dials are discrete parts of a game system that can be modified to adjust the way in which a game is played. For example, changing the way that a game’s damage system works to make it more or less lethal. Turn that Dial and you get a very different type of game.

For some reason, though, Campaign Dials just didn’t work for me. Turning the dials to different settings felt appropriate but still not right to me. Then, in the shower (I free associate in the shower *shrug* If you’re getting too much personal info you should stop reading my parenthetical statements :)), it hit me: Campaign Style Sheets. Programming your game. Easy, adjustable methods for creating the kind of game that you want to play and communicating what that game is to others.

That last part there is the important part. The ability to say, “We’re going to play a Pulp Fantasy Mutants & Masterminds game and here’s how we’re going to accomplish that.” It just seems powerful and good to me.

Is it much different from Campaign Dials? I don’t know. Probably not?

All I know is that it feels better and clearer to me at some level.

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4 Comments

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  1. JP / Sep 14 2006 6:57 pm

    Style sheets are more flexible than dials. The Fuzion role-playing system had switches, dials, etc. for campaigns. The problem with dials are that they are too rigid or fixed. There are a fixed number of dials, and generally they have predetermined increments. (Unless you’re running a Spinal Tap campaign and the dial suddenly goes to 11.)

    With style sheets, you can always add special tags, etc. It’s more open-ended.

  2. J.A. Dettman / Sep 14 2006 7:22 pm

    You’re right. Thanks, JP!

    That’s why I like Cascading Style Sheets so much. They can take the same basic HTML and make it look so different.

    Yep, flexibility is good. πŸ™‚

  3. Arref / Sep 15 2006 9:48 pm

    For someone who taught themselves CSS style sheets… I find your analogy very apt.

  4. J.A. Dettman / Sep 16 2006 9:03 am

    Cool! Thanks, Arref.

    I’ve been working on learning CSS for html on and off for a while now. They’re pretty neat!

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