Making of Naruto Pathfinder: Part 4: Creating
In my previous articles I talked about envisioning what you want and thinking about how to get there. As I alluded to previously, this article is going to be about the process of creating. I'm going to closely be referencing my process creating Naruto Pathfinder as an example, but my intention is to make my examples just as applicable whether you're building something totally new, or for a totally different system. So let's take a look at the breakdown and some key points.
1.) Core first. Start by thinking about what the absolute key mechanics of your game will be, and then zoom out to the biggest critical pieces that you plan to create. If you're making your own system then you need to consider what the basic mechanics are. Is the game d20 based? Does it use a deck of cards? Is it purely point based? Think about why you made that choice. Creating core game mechanics is something I want to cover fully in its own article eventually, but for now we'll use this as a starting point. If you're adding content for an existing game think about what the largest chunk you need to create is going to be.
In the case of Naruto pathfinder I knew my two biggest elements were going to be creating a ninjutsu system, including all the basic jutsu, and creating the core ninja class or classes. If you were creating something for World of Darkness then I can almost guarantee you'd want to start by creating your own supernatural template. Once you have an idea what your biggest task or tasks are you can move to the next step.
2.) Break it down and organize. Once you know what the big important jobs are you can start breaking them down into smaller tasks and figure out what needs to be done first. In my above example I knew I needed one or more classes and a system for Ninjutsu. Since the class is going to be granting the abilities, I need to know how those abilities work before I can put them together and create a class based around it. So that became my first priority. From there I broke it down further. How are jutsu's sorted? How strong are they? How are they learned? Do they require resources? In the source material these Jutsu require an energy source called Chakra. Which meant I'd need to design how chakra works. When I did get around to designing the classes I knew I'd need to include not only jutsu, but chakra as well. No matter how big the task is, if you can break it into small enough organized pieces you can tackle it.
3.) Conceptualize>Examine>Test>Repeat. I know that seems like a bunch of steps, but really it isn't. For each thing you need to create you should start off with a concept, a theory or idea about how you might do it. It's okay if it's not a brilliant idea, as long as you have something. Next examine your idea. What's good, what's bad, what are the obvious problems or shortfalls, what can be fixed? Next test the idea. This doesn't mean you have to whip up a whole session. If you have an idea for the basic card system then draw a few hands and pit them against eachother. Whip up a few plausible scenarios and see if anything immediate comes up. Then whip up a few unlikely but still possible scenarios and test those. Now take the problems and ideas that came up, and conceptualize again, but with those problems in mind. Repeat this cycle until you have something that works. And then maybe repeat again just to be sure.
For me I had to think a lot about how chakra would be calculated. I had one formula, and then when I ran tests I found some pretty normal builds would have almost none. And then I went back and changed and adjusted. Time after time. Eventually I settled on a formula using constitution, wisdom, a class bonus, and level. To ensure that it was something a player could build towards, but it would also be assured that everyone had at least a little bit. That formula went through four iterations before I thought it was done. Then, 30 hours into development, I went back and changed it one more time because I wanted to ensure players could bring their abilities to bear even if they faced multiple encounters in a day. That change meant I had to alter almost 100 pages of work. The more you can get right ahead of time the more trouble you can save yourself later on.
4.) Move on to the next problem. Once you have one mechanic figured out, move to the next, figure out how it works with the previous ones. Build on each system as you go, keep building and working through each of those individual problems and before you know it you have a system! It sounds simple to say it, but it's really going to be a fair bit of work, but when it's all done and it all works beautifully, the way you envisioned and the way you wanted, with all your core tenants in mind it's a beautiful thing.
For me that meant fully designing how the jutsus worked, how the chakra system worked, and then building the classes. For my design I settled on 3 core classes. One represents a martial focused ninja who can pull off all the advanced hand to hand abilities I wanted to include. One class was focused on learning as many jutsus and abilities as possible to build up a massive pool of options. One class maintained a medium between those two options but has the most chakra, allowing them less flexibility but more uses of the abilities they did choose. This helped me not only adhere to my core design principals, but also maintained a very lore friendly feeling, and ensures that there's a base class for every play style.
There's a lot here, but once you start sorting through what you need and forming it into small doable tasks it won't feel so intimidating. Just take everything one step at a time and you'll have your very own homebrew game, class, add on, anything you want as part of your own amazing and unique game. Of course once you're done, you aren't really done. Next time I'll walk you through some of the tenants of good playtesting and tweaking. Until then, take care and have fun!