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Question-Based Design

One thing I’ve noticed running tabletop RPGs over the years is how design, all kinds of design, needs to be focused on answering questions that arise at the table. I’ve had this idea of a moody “raise dead” scene over the last week, but the #boatmode dorks were kinda fastforwardy, and in hindsight it’s clear why. “Are we alive yet? y/n” is the number one question in their minds, and if yes then can we move on.

This is also why exploration (a.k.a. discovery) is such a huge pillar. It’s all about answering questions. “What’s in the room?”, “What’s in this chest?”, “What’s weird about this axe?” that’s where details can live.

Death House (probably better known as the intro adventure to Curse of Strahd) is an OK adventure but it’s weird how some of its clues is buried into like descriptions of the wallpaper and stuff like that that noone would normally even look at. Whereas the wonderful B4 The Lost City puts it detail in stuff that the players actually do need to care about, and will naturally discover through play, like how to disarm traps or what’s the history of this cloak, or who the heck is Usamigaras and why should I care?

Another example of a failure to do “question based design” is the trading system in The Minrothad Guilds for Mystara, where I’m like “OK they wanna sell silk what’s the price” and the system is like “Here’s how you roll up trade modifiers for a huge region I hope you’ve done that”, it takes forever to get to an actual result.

Blorb play is based on pull, not on push; the players explore a region (or a set of relationships) and they want the DM to answer questions and the DM turns to the gloracle (the glorious oracle of dice and prep) and that gloracle better have answers fast ♥

We’re pretty much wrapping up Date of Expiration and it’s so clear when it does this right (there’s an NPC that has like two lines of text but it’s awesome that one of those two lines is “He’s talking about the machine in room A-11”) and when it’s been sloppy and the dorks are looking at a machine and go like “hmm, were do you turn this off” and well, the control panel that turns it off is on another page, and the reference is only one direction.