I recently started reading the rules to a game called Bulldogs by Brennan Taylor and Brian Engard. The following is the introduction:
Who could be desperate enough to sign his life away for five long years? Desperate enough to take a job hauling volatile and hazardous cargo to the most dangerous places in the galaxy? Planets where the very air is a corrosive acid. Planets where the locals might cut your throat just so they can turn you into a nice steak. Planets where petty thugs and warlords are engaged in constant running gun battles and you’re just as likely to catch a blaster shot in the skull as get a signed delivery manifest.
You are, that’s who. Welcome to Bulldogs!
Bulldogs! is sci-fi that kicks ass! Bulldogs! is a high action space adventure. Bulldogs! is about freebooting ruffians flying from planet to planet causing trouble. Bulldogs! is about far future technology—sci-fi movie technology that probably wouldn’t work given what we know about the universe today, but who cares? Bulldogs! is about blasters and faster-than-light travel. Bulldogs! is about hopping from planet to planet and running into a vast variety of weird aliens. Bulldogs! is about being shot at and pissing off powerful locals and fleeing just in time. Bulldogs! is about starship dogfights and ambushes by space pirates in rarely traveled star lanes.
Welcome to Bulldogs! You’ll be flying in a starship and kicking ass in no time.
If I could write an intro like that I wouldn’t be doing this. Well, I probably would, but it’d be a lot better. Those words just make me want to play that game and that leads to the idea of introductions and their importance, not just concerning games and their design or any other writing but in how we present games to our players.
I approach pitching a game the same way people pitch screen plays or a book. First I come up with an elevator pitch which is short and to the point. I try to hit genre and style while letting the players know who the characters are in the setting. See the Bulldogs intro above for an example.
If the player or players are interested then you can hit them with system and a few more constraints. That’s right. I said constraints. If you give someone the choice to pick anything they will generally choose nothing or your players will all choose such disparate idea’s that the game will have a lack of focus and be not enjoyable for any involved. Constraining isn’t hard. You’ve already set some walls with your pitch by throwing out the genre and who the characters are in the setting. You can further define where the characters start by making them part of an organization or giving them a goal but not a reason. For example the players could be part of a mercenary company or they’re all childhood friends who have the goal of becoming Agents of the Crown. This will create a creative box for the players to work in and gets their creative juices flowing. This leads into character creation, or world creation if your playing a game like that. This also means you’ve gotten past the Intro and garnered the interest required for your game.
If anyone has any other ideas for how to introduce games I’d love to hear them as I’m always trying to refine and learn new ways to do things.
Chris “The Light” Sniezak