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KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol. 1 $18.95 $14.95
Average Rating:4.7 / 5
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KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol. 1
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KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol. 1
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Jason P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/29/2013 22:09:07
An oldie but a goodie; this has a a focus on game design within a traditional D&D context, and does it with style. If you are looking for gems like you might have once found in Dragon Magazine, check this out!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol. 1
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/28/2009 13:34:03
People often say that they know what makes a good adventure, or the sort of things they want to see in one, but few - until this product - have attempted to tease out how to make it all work. Herein is a collection of 15 essays about the adventure design process, what works and what does not, but all with one eye cocked at not just writing good adventures, but also publishable ones.

The Introduction is pretty much an outline of how the first few essays came about and why the authors began to share this kind of material - with many of the essays having developed out of ideas kicked around during the development of Open Design projects.

The first essay looks at The 3 Audiences, and analyses how there are three quite different groups of people to whom your adventure must appeal if you hope to see it in print: the publisher, the gamemaster and the players. It's short, both in length and detail, but thought-provoking nevertheless. The next essay looks at the merits of compact and concise writing, then there's one on how real writers push on past the fun parts of writing to ensure that the piece is as good as they can possibly make it, but also knows when to stop and mail it in ... you are already getting the idea of a collection of essays that will really make you think, whether you are a published author (or want to be one) or are interested in some of the thinking which goes into the role-playing books and magazines that you read.

Will reading this improve your writing? No, you have to do that for yourself. But this work will get you thinking about what you do and that WILL make you a better writer. This can benefit you even if it's not RPG adventures that you write, or want to write. Who knows, I may even write better reviews! There is a whole bunch of fascinating ideas here, which will send me back to read, reread and above all think more about what I'm doing when I write and run games.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol. 1
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/20/2009 16:00:01
Writing is a difficult thing to do. Sure, there are times where inspiration takes hold and you find yourself spontaneously creating literary gold, but those times tend to be few and far between. The reality is that whether you’re writing a book or a letter to the editor, writing is hard – and this is even truer when you’re trying to write an adventure for an RPG. After all, you not only need to have good prose, but also have the mechanics down pat, a good sense of pacing and flow for the PCs, how challenging the encounters are, and so much more. Ironic, then, that while there are plenty of guides to general writing out there, there are almost no guides to adventure design…until now.

The Kobold Guide to Game Design Volume I is dedicated to (professionally) writing adventures. Written mostly by Wolfgang Baur (with a few articles from other well-known RPG writers), the book is a series of independent articles covering various aspects of adventure design, from general aspects (such as inspiration-based writing, like I mentioned above) to very specific things (what makes an adventure feel Arabian in tone, really?). It’s worth noting that these articles were originally written at different times for patrons of Mr. Baur’s Open Design projects, where he opens a project up for public commissions, with only those who buy in receiving the final product; those who pay more also get to see various design articles, such as these, as well as participate in discussion about the adventure, etc. In other words, these articles are collected from various Open Design sessions and are now being made public for the first time.

Having written a number of short RPG products myself (including one adventure) I can honestly say that this book is a must-read for anyone who’s serious about designing professional adventures. The advice and tips given here are solid gold, whether he’s telling you not to try and world-build in the context of your adventure, or explaining what a “realistic” fantasy setting actually means. More than once I found myself nodding in agreement as Wolfgang discussed things that I’d run into before, but never really thought too much about. I really can’t overstate the level of insight into the design process that this book brings.

That said, the book is not without flaws. The first thing that partially undermined it for me was technical in nature; specifically, the lack of any sort of easy-navigation tools. When you have a PDF that’s over eighty pages long, you absolutely need for it to have bookmarks, and hyperlinking the table of contents isn’t a bad idea either, which is why it’s so odd that neither was done here.

The other thing that rubbed me the wrong way was how Wolfgang continually referenced the Open Design adventures for examples throughout his essays. Now, to be fair, I can’t really hold this against him – after all, these articles were originally written as companion pieces to designing those adventures. Moreover, he gives a handy (but brief) guide to what the various Open Design projects were about in the beginning of this book, so the reader isn’t completely lost when he starts referring to them. That said, it’s still somewhat irking that he’s holding these adventures up as paragons of various points that he makes, since you know you’ll never get to see them (unless you were an Open Design patron for them originally). Writing about the nuances of Castle Shadowcrag as an example for how to pace an adventure is good…if you own Castle Shadowcrag. Otherwise you’re trying to fill in the blanks (and quite often you’re left with your mouth watering for what sounds like a really great adventure that you’ll never get to own). This is perhaps the single greatest weakness of what’s written here. To be sure, it doesn’t undermine the book – these examples aren’t used a lot more often than they are, and again, it’s probably inevitable given where these articles came from to begin with. But it’s still a weakness in the book’s presentation.

Those are relatively minor quibbles, however. The material here is sure to be the best friend of anyone who wants their adventures published, and indeed it could be useful (though perhaps not quite as much) to anyone looking to write fantasy material. The Kobold Guide to Game Design Vol. 1 is a smart investment for anyone who wants to write in the RPG industry.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol. 1
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/25/2008 11:00:29
Wolfgang Baur’s just made me a better Iron Dungeon Master in a mere hour with his masterfully written tome, Kobold’s Guide to Game Design Volume I: Adventures.

The 94 page tome of all things adventure writing feels like the dragon’s horde of game design articles written by one of the top ten game designers in the world (A list I will never write down in sequential order). As if having a legend like Baur explain his methods of game design to you was not enough, three other top ten game designers in the world Keith Baker, Nicholas Logue and Ed Greenwood, are contributors. After reading the first 20 pages, you would have gathered more understanding about how to write a talented adventure than you can DMing for two decades. If not for the fact that I have a reputation as a reviewer, I would see no need to write any other words other than “Wolfgang Baur writes a How to Design Adventures book with help from other gods of the RPG writing world.”

Adventures, published by Baur’s publishing company Open Design, is a series of short articles discussing various elements of adventure design. There are your typical chapters on world building and timing, and innovative chapters explaining subgenres of adventure such as noir and Arabian. An enjoyment of this book is Baur’s use of basic language and short, concise paragraphs. The writing never feels dry and you never get the sense that Baur’s ego is driving in the front seat. After reading it, and Volume 2, I felt like Baur came into my house, scooted my wife off the bed, and chatted with me for a couple hours. I then made us both breakfast as we laughed about figuring out how to use mobs properly in a game.

Adventures begins by explaining the three audiences that need to be impressed when pitching an adventure and discusses the writing industry. It then moves into the nooks and crannies of adventure writing presenting realism, world building, pacing and making layered adventures. The final few chapters discuss story telling and break down subgenres in RPG adventures.

The only flaw of the PDF are no navigation tools such as bookmarks and links. Though I saw little use in them as it is hard to put down on a first read, considering this is a reference tool, I would have liked a way to get back to chapters when I need them.

For the Aspiring Adventure Writer
No matter what level of game designer you are at, there is something to be learned somewhere in Adventures. One of my favorite chapters was How to Bring your Town to Life, a very strong section on adding mundane flavor. I knew it was my favorite chapter when I looked sheepishly at my current campaign notes and realized that my PCs home town lacked the depth of flavor that he was describing.

For the Dungeon Master
Even if you do not plan on beginning your journey into RPG writing anytime soon, this is as much a lesson in how to dungeon master as much as how to adventure write. Among the many mechanics Baur drops in this book, is a very useful one on handling Mob Hordes in 3.5.

The Iron Word
If you are thinking of writing adventures, for yourself or for publishing, The Kobold’s Guide to Game Design Volume I: Adventures is a book you should read, study, reread and sit in your writing area. Both as a guide to the boundaries of RPG writing and an inspirational motivator, Adventures will be as essential to you as your dictionary.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol. 1
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Louis P. J. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/04/2008 08:18:41
I knew when I purchased this PDF it would be of incredible quality, but even I was surprised about how much in to depth it went. All the topics that were focused were good for first times and experienced game setting developers. The chapters that I felt were the best for me were Chapter 2: Shorter, Faster, Harder Less; Chapter 6: Using and Abusing Misdirection and Chapter 9: Stagecraft: The Play is the thing. If you are a starting company looking to release your own game setting in to the market, YOU MUST PURCHASE THIS PDF. I can but it any simpler.

This PDF only received 4 out of 5 stars for two reasons, 1) There were a few editing/spelling mistakes in this latest version; 2) No Bookmarks. I mean, that is an EASY one. PDFs always lose a star if they don’t have them. But if you can over look those two flaws the Kobold Guide to Game Design is more than worth it.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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