This is a follow-up to Troy’s 12 Step Process. Another game author responded to my article and gave his design process. It’s a good read, IMO. You can check it out here: Mike Miller’s Blog Talk.
I’ll give you a brief outline of what he says his process is like. Before he begins, he divides the process into two distinct activities: Designing and Writing.
1st he designs his game at the genre level. He brainstorms about tropes, issues, conflicts, fun, etc. Generally, he accumulates a pool of ideas and emotions he associates with the initial game concept.
2nd he focuses on player interactions and behaviors. Followed closely by mechanical enforcement and reinforcement of those behaviors.
3rd he does some self-testing of various and potential resolution mechanics, all the while keeping the main themes of the genre in mind.
4th he takes it to trusted advisors. He does not even have a complete draft at this point. It is, essentially, an oral game, not a written game yet.
5th Notes from the closed playtest with his friends become the basis for the rules of the game.
After explaining the game in a verbal a sufficient number of times, he converts it to written form. The writing process is also broken down into stages.
1st is the outline stage, giving himself a template to follow.
2nd is the draft stage, where he creates the first complete written version of the game.
3rd, interestingly, he gets his artists working on graphics for the game.
4th he sends the game to an external reader who makes notes, suggestions, and edits.
5th the test-revision-test-revision process begins until he is satisfied that he has a complete and playable game ready to go.
It’s very interesting and very good to get multiple viewpoints on the RPG design process. Note that Mike relies very heavily on trusted friends. Relationships with people who think and play in ways similar to him are the key to his design process. He has built these relationships over years, I would assume, and uses them to help build his games. If you have friends like Mike, I encourage you to think about using this process or hybridizing it with the 12 step process I gave earlier. It will take practice and experimentation to find the process that works best for you. Good luck!