If you don't know which games you'd like to check out to read for the Threeforged RPG Competition, why not select some from my Top 20?
I narrowed down all 103 into the 20 that I think are the best and most complete overall products. The groupings are pretty loose.
- Collaborative storytelling - Automaton, Field Work, Tales on the Weird Seas, The Rending of the Veil, Timelines.
- Inter-player conflict - At Any Cost, It Is Forbidden, Last Year's Magic, The Hot Seat, VHS Fury.
- 1 session set pieces - Conspiracy and Cowards, Spiral Star, The Policy of Truth, The Red Token, Transmission.
- Out of the ordinary - Among Humans, Pony Express, The Dream Palace, The World As Such, To Return a Wallet
There's a certain familiarity to a lot of these games. Not so much in the system but in the necessity to make certain things clear.
Fortunately nearly all designers have assumed that the reader has some kind of history with rpgs, so there's little in the way of "what is gaming?" introductions. But there is sometimes time wasted in informing me of what a GM is and the responsibilities involved.
It isn't so bad when the game has restrictions or special rules for the GM, but having some kind of common standard for writing would go a long way to reducing wasted word-count. If the document has a common reference for GM, designers can say, "this game has a standard GM structure, but we call it a Bookkeeper. Bookkeepers have the following rules different to regular GMs. (elaborate from here)." Or "We use a revolving GM system where the player on your left controls X and the player to your right controls Y."
Another would be "Frame a scene and begin freeform play." So many games are spending words on that one. Unless you're going to give me rules for it I don't want to hear the same generic advice I've read in every document so far.
One that is becoming a clear issue is the issue of triggers, safe words, "X-cards" and the like. I get that it's serious, but ideally I'd prefer if the writer assumed I was aware of the issue and got on with the game. I know, I know, it's an issue we need to talk about, but I'd prefer it to be mentioned in the guidelines once rather than in every other game I read. It also makes it a bit awkward for those designers who did assume a mature audience and thus didn't include such advice; they could be seen as being insensitive and that would be unfair.
Another good inclusion to a reference sheet would be the standard dice abbreviation (2d6, 1d20, etc). Fortunately most people did assume readers had that knowledge.
But one final one is pronouns. Everyone tries hard on this one but there's still some awkwardness. My recommendation for a standard is simple; refer to players as female and characters as male. "Alice wants Brian to climb the wall. She rolls a success and he scrambles up."
If you use the standard there's no need to mention it unless you're shaking it up for some reason.
I don't mean to offend anyone there, because including such detail helps make the game a full product and is actually useful for newer players and maybe the previously ignorant. But maybe we can avoid repetition of basic rpg conventions and concepts by having a game reference document available alongside the submissions.
But what should be included?