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KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol. 2 $18.99 $9.99
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/27/2009 16:04:56
Being able to design a good adventure is one thing, if you’re a GM. It means that you’ll almost certainly be able to keep a good campaign going in your home group. But what if you want more? What if your work is so good that you’re seriously thinking about sending it off to an RPG company for possible publication? That’s when you realize that there’s more than just having a killer idea; you have to be able to successfully make the publisher want it, and then you have to be able to deliver. That’s where this next volume of The Kobold Guide to Game Design takes over.

A natural successor to its predecessor volume, which dealt with adventure design, Volume II of the KGtGD is subtitled “How to Pitch, Playtest & Publish.” It contains a dozen articles, most of which are by Wolfgang Baur, covering these topics. As with the previous volume, all of these are articles written during various Open Design projects, now collected, touched up a bit, and published for everyone’s use. It’s interesting that the articles are arranged in a sort of loose thematic structure (e.g. playtesting articles come before how to make a good publishing pitch), rather than by date written.

If you know names like Wolfgang Baur and Nick Logue, then you probably know that advice from these guys is going to be very helpful when it comes to constructing RPGs that publishers will want. From excellent advice for how to playtest an adventure (note errors and keep going), to how to pitch successfully (make sure it’s not boring), and more, the book is full of great tips to keep in mind as you’re working on your own material. From realistic projections about how much you can write to meet a deadline, to good map design, the advice here is nothing short of stellar.

If this book has a drawback, it’s that it can be somewhat specific in some places. The section on how not to design magic items, for instance, contains a lot of great generic advice, but can’t help but deal with D&D tropes at certain times (and in some cases, 3.5-specific ones). The section on designing a good adventure notes what D&D books you should use as a baseline, etc. This sort of thing doesn’t happen too often, and when it does happen it doesn’t make the advice less useful. Just be prepared for the book to use Dungeons & Dragons as its baseline in many of its examples – take that part with a grain of salt, and the book will be useful to you no matter what RPG you’re writing for. The only other flaw I found here is that the PDF has no easy-navigation tools; there’s really no reason for it not to have bookmarks, so why doesn’t it?

Despite these relatively minor issues, though, the second outing of the Kobold Guide to Game Design is just as good, if not better, than the first volume. The quality of the advice is top-notch, and broken down into a series of sections that make it easy to focus on whatever particular bit of guidance you need. The advice here for playtesting, pitching, and publishing is invaluable if you’re looking to get your work professionally produced.

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KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol. 2
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