Dime Adventures: Beginning the Design

Dime Adventures: Beginning the Design

Tab Creations has only been making games professionally for three years, but we’ve been making RPGs as a hobby for going on fifteen. In that time we’ve been involved in more campaigns than I can count and ran everything from Savage Worlds, to GURPS, to D&D, to Freemarket, to Starshield, to Marvel Super Heroes. We’ve ran numerous house settings as well, from a game of action-packed Indian myth that would become Against the Dark Yogi, to a sci-fi horror game that would become Shadows Over Sol.

In the past, one of our longest-running game worlds was this strange pulp alternate history game, taking place vaguely at the turn of the century. It had monsters, it had super-tech, it had dinosaurs and magic powers. It had it all! And over the years we kept coming back to this game world time and time again.

So fast forward to 2015. Shadows Over Sol hed been written and sent off to the editor. Its possible supplements hed been outlined. We’re were beginning to get back art the first artwork in preparation for its Kickstarter.

We usually have in lull in this part of our development process, when a game has been written and tested, but we haven’t yet been thrown into the hectic whirlwind that is running a Kickstarter. This is usually the point where we sit down and lay out some plans for what we want to develop in the future, and the direction we want to take the company.

So we’re pitching ideas for our next game to each other and someone mentions the strange alternate history setting that we’ve used in many of our personal campaigns for ages. We then talk a bit more and decide that the time is right for it. Thus began Dime Adventures’ road to publication.

Fast forward again a bit. I’m sitting down with my notes from our many Dime Adventures campaigns and making explicit the game’s design goals. I find that having a design document not only helps me keep focus when I’m crafting a game, but it also helps make clear to playtesters what the game is attempting to do.

For the game’s tone, I wanted it to be thrilling pulp action! For the game’s theme, I wanted it to be turn of the century alternate history, with a healthy dose of the strange and paranormal. The rule of cool should prevail!

Theme and tone in hand, I moved to underline what I wanted for the player characters. I came up with four character design goals.

  • Pulp heroes are broadly competent. While different heroes may have different specialties, they’re not focused to the exclusion of all else. They should be able to be thrown into and deal with a variety of situations.
  • Pulp heroes are larger than life. They inhabit a world of action and adventure, and they should be as thrilling, if not more thrilling, than anything they run up against.
  • Pulp heroes live by their personal creeds and are distinguished by their idiosyncrasies. Many pulp heroes are distinguished by their code of honor. They are heroes after all! Similarly, many have their own quirks and idiosyncrasies that make them memorable. 
  • Pulp heroes should have fun abilities. Beyond the mere fiction of the game world, playing a pulp hero should be thrilling as well, and players should have thrilling abilities to call upon.

Reviewing them, these looked like good goals. With that, I began a first pass at the design. And that, my friends, is another post. Stay tuned for more Dime Adventures design posts in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, you can check out an open playtest of the game here!

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