The RPG Design Zine is a cut-and-paste zine distilling what I've learned in the 13+ years I've been designing roleplaying games into a how-to guide.
I'm using text from my game library to illustrate design concepts and present different ways of applying them, all towards the end of providing tools and ways to think about games that will, hopefully, help you out in your design journey.
There's no One True Way to make games, but this zine will be the "best of" from my experience!
Why This Project?
I think it's critical that roleplaying games, one of the most DIY of experiences, are accessible to everyone. I want to provide something that can, hopefully, inform and inspire anyone who's ever thought "you know, I have an idea...," help them critically evaluate what they're doing, and assist in making what they want to happen, happen.
I'm using text from games in my personal library to illustrate and illuminate what I have to say about RPG design; the final zine will be a combination of my writing on the subject with those cut-and-pasted elements. I think this is important because staying engaged with the past is critical to charting the future, and all design is a conversation with what came before.
Why A Zine?
Zines rule! I spent the last year making a monthly zine that was a deep dive on self-reflection, critical analysis and goofing around with my own creative process - zine2018. I learned a lot doing 12 monthly issues, and I barely scratched the surface of the creative potential of zines.
The RPG Design Zine is a new departure for me, a single issue inspired by the classic cut-and-paste aesthetic, a collated, photocopied assemblage of whatever that person is obsessed with at the time. It's something I haven't done before, and I think it's appropriate for a project where I'm looking back at my influences in order to illustrate what I'm talking about.
It's also hella fun!
What's In the Zine?
The full scope and details of the zine contents will shift as I complete the process, but in my rough draft, I'm addressing:
- Concepts and ideas
- Structuring conversation
- System, rules, and mechanics
- Rewards, mechanical cycles, and reward cycles
- Division of authority & roles in play
- Antagonism, situation & challenge
- Setting & color
- Resolution & advancement
- Iteration and design development
- Resources & platforms for publishing
It seems like a lot, but I'm aiming for all killer no filler on this stuff. My rough draft has the page count at 20, but that may change depending on how things go once I really get into it.
So, These Rewards?
I'm keeping it real simple. I'm doing all of the writing, layout, printing and folding myself. I have a big stack of duo-tone cover cardstock from my last zine project, so I'll be using that for the covers. I ironed out the DIY cover printing process for zine2018, so I'll handle that as well (it's just inkjet printing, but it looks pretty nice, IMO). Depending on how many backers this gets I might have to go to the office store to print the interiors.
- The $1 PDF reward includes a for-reading PDF, and will also have a PDF laid out for booklet printing, so you can print-and-fold that yourself for a physical copy.
- The $5 Zine reward is the basic thing, I'll mail you the zine! I'll be going through the cover stock at random, so the color cover you get will be a surprise.
- The $10+ reward is where you get one for yourself, and also donate a print copy. You can either tell me where to send the donated copy, or I'll add it to the donation library.
The Donation Library?
Zines are for everyone! After the campaign, I will have a program through my website where anyone in financial need can get a free copy of the zine in print, as long as there are copies available. I'll be providing some based on the success of the campaign, and any donated will be printed, assembled and added to that stock.
The PDF will be a pay-what-you-want download after the campaign ends. The $1 pledge is to support the project, get the files early, and subsidize the donation library.
Who Are You?
I'm Nathan D. Paoletta: game designer, independent small press publisher and graphic artist. In addition to the award-winning World Wide Wrestling RPG, I also designed Annalise, Masks of the Mummy Kings, carry. a game about war., and more! I publish Kevin Allen Jr.'s Trouble For Hire and Mike Young's A Grandiose Disaster. You can check out all those titles at my website.
I co-hosted a 50-episode podcast called Design Games with my friend Will Hindmarch, a deep dive into the design and craft of tabletop games. I've been designing and publishing games for over 13 years, and I love talking shop and helping people find their voice. I hope this zine will help others design new, amazing, unique games!
Risks and challenges
The main risk for this project is a creative one. If I hit a creative wall in putting this together, it might take me more time than I thought to work through it. That said, I did write, layout, print, assemble and mail 12 monthly issues of a similar-length zine last year, so I feel like I'm able to adequately estimate how much time I'll need to spend on this to get it right, and will be able to share changes the timeline as soon as I identify that they'll be needed.
This project does technically overlap with my last Kickstarter campaign, Imp of the Perverse. That game is written and in layout, and I keep all funds from different campaigns silo'd. This zine occupies a different slot in my production schedule then Imp of the Perverse, and the two should not affect each others timelines.
Overall, this project only has one point of failure, and it's me. It's possible that I'll have a personal or professional situation come up that I'll have to prioritize over this. If there's a lot of interest in the project, it may take me longer to fulfill rewards, as I'm committed to doing it all in house and by hand. I'll communicate anything that's going on with me that will impact the project as it happens!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (15 days)