The Purpose of Your First Page
For a while, I’ve been figuring out how to write a post about constructing your first page. This is key — how you introduce your entire idea will make or break interest & understanding of your game. But without examples, I’ve be talking in useless abstracts. Thankfully, Brennan Taylor offered up an early draft of Bulldogs! intro page for us to look at, as well as the intro page as it’s going to press. So bonus! Side-by-side comparison.
First of all, if you’re not aware of Bulldogs!, it’s best described as the Han Solo RPG. Powered by Fate (and doing some neat stuff with it), it’s high-action sci-fi that blends Star Wars & Firefly together, and I think it’s pretty keen. He’s got a Kickstarter going right now, worth checking out if this is up your space alley.
Second, I was one of the editors on the project, which is why I have the first draft. Below is that initial just-over-a-page with some of my notes (cleaned up slightly):
You’ll see my notes during this high-level developmental pass focusing on what this wasn’t doing, notably:
- Not having tone that matches the game’s feel
- Introducing setting information before he’s sold the game’s idea to the reader
- Defining his game by using the negative. (“It isn’t…”)
- Didn’t prepare the reader for what’s to come.
Brennan took those and worked further with the angel of editing that is Amanda Valentine (and then layout from Fred Hicks) to come up with the first two pages of the RPG as it’s going to press:
So, let’s look at what he has done:
- He’s starting with rhetorical questions, which is a good candidate for engaging language. Questions rock.
- In the second line, which totally draws your eye, grabs at you with the second person usage.
- Then he launches into why Bulldogs! is promising to be awesome.
- Once he’s done selling you the idea, he’s setting you up with the overview of the book.
- The next page is enough setting info to get folks started. Honestly, it’s a good two-pages to hand to some friends when you said “hey, I want to try this game, what do you think?”
Writing this is really hard! As a designer, this is (a) obvious to you and (b) kinda boring, because you’ve lived it. So you have to forge this, and second-guess yourself, which is where working with editors is really going to help you here.
I won’t go much further. The draft & final side-by-side are pretty useful for discovering the difference between what the designer feels is the starting point for discussion and what the reader actually needs to read. For you designer-writer types out there, what are you doing in that first page that’s attractive readers and buyers?
A huge thank-you to Brennan for showing us some under-the-hood. A lot of folks don’t do that, and I’m glad I surround myself with folks who do.
 Who will have her blog up soon! (No pressure.)
 And crafting non-linear text, accidentally and purposefully, is a future post I’m sure.