What are the ‘Power 19’ ?
Somewhere along the way between writing Cutthroat and writing Hierarchy, I hit on something. I had been working on my own design philosophy (a different thing from theory) when I really got hooked on The Big Three. But the more and more I explored those three questions, I realized they just didn’t go far enough. There’s a LOT more to a game than just what it’s about, what the characters do, and what the players do. What about the Setting? What about Rewards? What about the Color and Character Advancement? These things are only tacitly spoken of in The Big Three.
So what I set out to do was expand on them. I got some great advice from guys like Ralph Maza, Mike Holmes (who is an excellent resource for designers), Vincent Baker, and Tim Kleinert (of Mountain Witch fame). What I came up with was 9 “Power Questions” designers should ask themselves before and during their design process. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized those 9 were still not what I wanted. The 9 became 16, and then the 16 became 19. These 19 became the Power 19 and are what I use to guide my work. I have directly applied them to both Hierarchy and Standoff! And I definitely plan on using them in future designs.
This is the first of two posts I plan on making about the Power 19. This one basically introduces where they came from and what they are. The second post will go into more detail about them. And just for review, make sure you check out the Universal Disclaimer before reading these.
1.) What is your game about?**
2.) What do the characters do?**
3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?**
4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?
6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?
7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
9.) What does your game do to command the players' attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)
10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?
15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?
16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?
18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?
19.) Who is your target audience?
It is my sincerest hope that new designers find this list of questions and use them to help guide and review their designs. I know that my skills greatly improved after implementing this method. Now let it be said that the ‘Power 19’ is only one out of many methods of design. This one happens to suit my style, but it may not be for everyone. I will say this, though: It is better to have some method of design than to have none. Aimlessly prodding at a design with no clear focus on how you plan on addressing the various aspects of an RPG will, in all likelihood, lead to incoherence. It’s better to have some kind of plan to follow rather than just guessing.
If you are in the middle of a design, I encourage you to take this list and see how many you can answer. At the very least it will confirm what you are wanting to achieve and at the very most it will show you where you need to concentrate your efforts. I truly hope that this post and the follow up to it will be helpful to anyone who reads it.
**Denotes key question that should be answered/discussed first and foremost when designing a RPG.