Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs

From Design to Book

I had an amazingly productive conversation with Fred Hicks the other night about the future of A Penny For My Thoughts. (Fred is art directing the book, although with the amount of input he’s giving me, it might be fairer to call him the developer.) The result of the conversation was that while I previously had a good idea of how the game design worked, I now have a much clearer idea of what the book built around that game design is going to be like. The basic structure is this:

  1. Rules, as explained in-character by Dr. Peter Tompkins
  2. Transcripts of previous therapy sessions, with annotations by Dr. Tompkins
  3. Excepts of real-world articles on the nature of memory and memory loss
  4. Parting words from Dr. Tompkins, with the possibility of a “big reveal” (or perhaps just subtle hints)
  5. Brief designers notes from me

I like this, because I think it will allow me to maintain the “this isn’t a game, it’s an in-game artifact” feel as much as possible. We’re definitely approaching the art and book design from that angle. It does mean, however, that while the game design is 90% done, there’s a lot of writing left to do. Those middle three sections are going to take some doing. Still, it’s very nice to have a clear idea of what I still need to get done.


August 24, 2007 - Posted by | A Penny For My Thoughts


  1. I’d question you on whether the memory loss articles are necessary unless they’re solely for color. From what I understand the game only uses memory loss as a way of getting across what the real focus of the game is: loose ownership of characters and interactive storytelling. I don’t know if the players having more knowledge of psychology is going to do anything to help make the game better.

    I would, however, put in a few articles about improv concepts in the designers notes. I think the phrase “loose ownership over characters” may make a lot of gamers bristle because it’s not what they’re used to. If you can relate it back to improv it makes it more digestable

    Comment by jhimmelman | August 25, 2007 | Reply

  2. I’m with Jeff here some — what is the purpose of those real-world articles?

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | August 25, 2007 | Reply

  3. This mostly comes from my desire to more fully embed the mechanics in the theme. I’ve been doing some research into memory and memory loss, and I’m seeing some neat connections into how the game works. This is definitely an experiment; if it doesn’t work, I’m not terribly attached to it.

    Comment by ptevis | August 25, 2007 | Reply

  4. If it doesn’t, there’s at least your bibliography. I don’t want to be a naysayer or anything — I’m all about doing what you want to do for these small press projects, since it’s first and foremost about making something you’re proud to give to someone. But if it’s pagecount-heavy, you’ll want to consider the extra cost in terms of book runs, shipping (due to weight), and lugging around books at the con.

    If it does add to your book though, totally do it. (And probably still bibliography it, I’d suggest.)

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | August 25, 2007 | Reply

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