Game Design: Mechanics X

By 19/12/2017 Game Design

Now listening to: rain

Now we’re getting somewhere. Interest curves are right up my alley as a Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master. They’re one of the hardest challenges to manage. Especially if you like¬†coming up with your own stories and content. Which I guarantee 99% of D&D DMs do. If you think crafting¬†interest curves for a regular experience is hard, try crafting them for a game with multiple players, no clear end and 100% freedom to do anything at any given time.


It’s taken me 10 years as a D&D DM to figure one simple truth. You never craft a story. A DM needs to craft a setting and let the story emerge on its own during gameplay. That is not to say you shouldn’t create a world, civilizations, events or NPCs. Those are vital. What I mean is that you shouldn’t shoehorn your own story into the game. D&D is a fun game only fully realized when collaborative storytelling is made manifest. Your creativity needs to respond to a player’s input. If not, actions will be perceived as meaningless, and the toy will be fundamentally broken.

Of course, fractal interest curves are hard to do, especially on the fly. In D&D the smallest iteration of an interest curve is the session. It is there you model the interest curves that will be replicated at the adventure level (multiple sessions) and, ultimately, at the campaign level (multiple adventures).

Start strong, scale back, build up and go out with a bang.

A series of events create a story arc. As Schell says, risk is more interesting than safety. Fancy is more interesting than plain. The unusual is more interesting than the ordinary. But risk, fancy and the unusual mean nothing without their counterparts, so your interest curve needs all six to work. Otherwise, there will be no contrast and without it, there’s no flavor.

There’s a final piece of the puzzle to tease out, and that’s the power of empathy in storytelling. Empathy allows for projection and the ability to get lost. Baggins, Skywalker, Potter. Modern media is lousy with access points into worlds. So much so that I feel the worlds are being emptied, their essence leaking out of the pathways left open to inhabit them.

There are other worlds than these.

#69 Interest Curve

#70 Inherent Interest

#71 Beauty

#72 Projection

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