RPG Design: Creating a Quick-Play is a Must!

Here’s a cry to every RPG Developer or Publisher. A plea to every active member or lurker on r/RPGdesign. It’s more than a humble request. Instead, I raise my fist to the heavens and scream: If you’re going to sell an RPG, then for the love of all that is holy, create a quick-play document!

“If you’re going to sell an RPG, then for the love of all that is holy, come out with a quick-play document!” – Steve Rakner

How am I supposed to know which RPG’s to spend my hard-earned money on if I can’t preview some of the rules, some of the character design elements? How am I supposed to know how rich the setting of your system is?  The simple answer is I can’t know. Previews of the document can take the place of something like this, sometimes, but usually, it only shows the first few pages and leaves out a bit of what could sell me on the system.

Honestly, odds are I want to buy your system. But if you don’t have a good preview or sample of any kind I probably won’t. (Well, unless I stumble on it at a game shop or something like that, so I can peruse.)

What is a Quick-Play Guide?

A quick-play guide is an ultra-concentrated version of the core rulebook! All good Quick-Play guides will have some sort of “How to Play” section, showing you how skill checks are done, and how rolling dice work in the system. Sometimes it will show you how to build characters (even though the options for doing so are extremely limited). Sometimes it will even be a short premade adventure so you can get started with a few premade characters, and really get a feel for the system.

What makes a good Quick-Play Guide?

Now, there is some debate here based on who’s reading, so to be safe, you need to add a few things to create a good Quick-Play Guide.

  1. Lore – It’s important to have some information about the setting and the world in the guide. Flat out, if the setting isn’t included well in the system description, you will lose a lot of potential sales. The setting that’s pitched creates the tone of the system, which is what gets most people excited.
  2. Mechanics – This is the biggest portion for me. If I don’t know even remotely how the game is played, you probably lost me. I’m not asking for every possible outcome to each scenario, but maybe just a few examples. Show me how to open a locked door, and show me how to attack the guard that sits on the other side of that door.
  3. Characters – Don’t give away the best part of any RPG system, instead give them only a taste. All that has to be done is explain some of the stats, and perhaps show a prebuilt (sometimes even incomplete) character concept. You don’t even have to tell them how to create characters here!

Why Create a Quick-Play Guide?

  1. Sales – Especially if you’re selling online, a guide is a great tool to help you sell more. Unlike in Brick-And-Mortar stores where you can browse through the book for whatever you find more interesting, Online only gives a small preview, and usually only of the first few pages. Now, sometimes this is enough preview to give readers a sense of what’s going on, but oftentimes I find them lacking. Instead, you should give the highlights of how your system is played, with a few examples to get everyone started.
  2. Building a Community – A true Quick-Play Guide can be a marketing tool in itself; shared freely between players, GM’s, and other groups. And with a well-written guide, you can add in just enough to get them excited to play the real thing. In turn, this can foster a community for your RPG to grow.
  3. Table Resource – In my group, we switch games a lot. Usually, at the end of each campaign, we’ll switch to another system, and after 3-12 months of playing a different setting, we’ll forget some of the finer points of the system mechanics. Don’t get me wrong, this shouldn’t be roll-table on roll-table, but more for the basic rules. How do destiny points work, what happens if you have an advantage, what about skill checks? These are the questions that should be answered.

Final Thoughts

In the end, it’s your game, and you can really do as you please. However, I want to leave you with something to consider.

When looking up some Quickstart guides for this article, I stumbled across an interesting one through Drive Thru RPG. Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD Quickstart. I’ve downloaded it and immediately went out to buy it. The only problem is, it’s not even available (as of writing this article). This is the true impact of what a Quick-play document can accomplish. It will get the audience excited for your product, and more importantly, can give the community a resource to share with others.

That’s my two cents on the subject. What are your feelings on Quick-Play Guides? Are there any Quick-play documents that you think were particularly well done?