Posts Tagged ‘introductions’
Introductions are hard to do. Believe me, I know. And I see bad ones all the time. Here are a few things to think about when crafting your introduction:
Tell me why I should care. Your introduction should sell me on the experience your game wants to provide. Make me promises. Get me all excited. Show me that you’re jazzed about this game you want me to play.
Use positive, enthusiastic language! I can’t tell you how often I read an intro that feels phoned in.
Keep it short. 1500 words is on the long end. If you’re writing more than that, you’re starting to write non-intro material.
Include a book overview. If your game has six chapters, tell me what I can expect out of them. “Chapter 1: Basics of the Game — here you’ll learn about your face; Chapter 2: Making a Character –” and so on. This isn’t a table of contents; it’s front-loading and setting content expectations.
Don’t compare to other games, and especially don’t shit on other games. Unless you’re working in an OGL world and need to say “If you’ve played other Fate games…”, avoid talking about other games. You’ll run into some people who would otherwise dig your game being turned off by you being judgmental about a game they like, as well as people who have no clue what you’re talking about and get a vibe that they’ll feel like that the entire time reading the game.
On a side note, if your game isn’t strong enough to stand on its own without comparing it to, say, D&D, your game isn’t ready to stand up to the greater community’s scrutiny.
Don’t explain how to play the game. You have the rest of the book to explain how the game works — basic concepts like “this is a player and these and scenes” can be right afterward, in a section like “Basics for playing this game”. Terminology can likewise be later. This section is explicitly about explaining the barest concept of the game.
Your introduction isn’t Chapter 1. It’s not a piece of substance that holds information relevant to playing the game. Again, that comes later.
When in doubt, record yourself pitching the game. Listening to yourself sell the game experience at a convention is a great way to figure out what you should be saying.
Understand your target audience. And if you think it’s just “all gamers,” you have already lost. Speak to them, but don’t speak exclusively to them or in a way that craps on your second-order audience.
On a final note, “What is roleplaying?” — I could take or leave that, but in general I don’t have an investment in those sections. Unless you have a marketing department that makes you able to reach out to people outside of the gaming hobby, you aren’t going to get people who haven’t played before completely out of nowhere. They’ll be introduced by someone who has familiarity with the culture and the hobby (and hopefully your game), and they’ll serve as the “what is roleplaying?” introduction. So don’t sweat that section.
There is one major exception, and that’s when you have a game whose target audience includes people who aren’t core roleplayers (notably making games useful for educators). In those cases, you have to explain some of the foundational stuff that we otherwise take for granted; however, the trick is just to say how your game works, not how the hobby works in general. Therein lies focus, and focus is a source of strength.
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.