Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs

Outlining your game

First of all, I made a new category called “General Advice & Thoughts.”  There are times when we come across something regarding game design that’s really useful, and might want to share it with the rest of the group, so now there’s a category for that.

Joshua BishopRoby posted on Story Games about making outlines for your game text.  Daniel Solis reminded me of that when I was talking to him about working on the text for Know Thyself.  Here’s the discussion: (I think you need a Story Games login to access that, but I think everyone here has one.  If not, it’s not hard to get one.)

I’m working on my massive outline draft for Know Thyself, and once I’m done with that I’m going to print it out and arrange it to flow best for the reader.  Daniel mentions later in that post and on his blog that he’s doing something like that, but with index cards.  For those of us making text, I think it’s a good thing to look at now to make sure we get what we want across.  For those of us who aren’t at that stage, I still think it’s a good thing to look at now because it can prep you for potentially better communication & ease of writing.

I’ll post up my outline draft likely in the next day or so, so you can see what I’m trying (and, of course, comment on whether you think it flows right & communicates what you expect).


July 11, 2007 - Posted by | General Advice & Thoughts


  1. I love outlines. I love them so much I want to marry them. The trouble is, I find them great idea generators. Something about that branchiness makes me want to say, “or this, or this, or this or this or this” off into infinity. So they’re such a good thinking space for me that I actually find them very hard to use for the task they’re probably most often used for: actually nailing something down the way you’re doing.

    JBR’s method is pretty good though.

    Comment by misuba | July 12, 2007 | Reply

  2. I suggest to anyone working on any writing project be it a game, larp or anything else to get a dry erase board. Not only is it good for outlines, but also any random ideas that come to you. I’ve got an ever-changing list of random ideas hanging up in plain sight next to my computer.

    Comment by jhimmelman | July 12, 2007 | Reply

  3. I’ve thus far resisted outlining APFMT, mostly because it came to me relatively whole cloth during Game Chef and it’s short. I’m not sure if I should take it apart and put it back together a gain, though I suspect I might before the final version. Thoughts on how it works currently?

    Comment by ptevis | July 12, 2007 | Reply

  4. I with misuba on the idea that an outline is an excuse to stretch out to infinity. I also have to be real careful because the times when I have gone through a formal outlining proess, I have gotten so bored that I give up on the process. If I could not do what Daniel did. Not that I don’t admire the effort and dedication he put into it…

    What works for me is basically free styling. I just start writing random stuff down on a piece of paper or typing it into a Word doc. When I feel like I have exhausted my ideas I then build the table of contents for my work using Word headings. That’s as close to an outline as I can get. I don’t think that counts as an outline though.

    Comment by commondialog | July 12, 2007 | Reply

  5. Mike, Chris: I have done the same with outlines in the past, but I’ve also used them to good effect with short articles (around 2000 words) when I’ve focused on not expanding the scope of the project.

    That said, I think what you’re talking about is a potential strength, not a weakness, of outlines. It puts to mine (at least for me) a difference between “brainstorm outlines” and “production outlines.” The latter does take a degree of discipline to achieve the results described.

    Also, I’ve been working on my outline over the past few days, adding to it when I’ve been chewing over stuff. I need to re-work it since it’s a draft, but it’s been a handy tool for me to organize my thoughts, to where I’m writing the rules in a very punchy, bullet-point format.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | July 13, 2007 | Reply

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