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Questions to ask when designing a brief - Megagame Design Mini

Writing good team or role briefs can be one of the hardest parts of designing a megagame: Every player needs to have a role that will get them involved from turn one, keep them occupied throughout the day and let them finish having felt they made a difference to the game.

When appraising a role you can't just look at what is written on the briefing: the rules and other briefs also play a massive part in how well crafted the role is.

With this in mind here are some questions you can ask of each role in the game (even if you use team briefs each role still needs considering individually).

Does the role suggest immediate mechanical hooks? After reading the brief and rules what would you want to do in turn 1? What larger plans could you imagine setting in motion? Try and make sure there are several of these hooks to latch onto.

Does the role suggest some immediate talking points with players from other teams? Who do you need to talk to? Do you need to collaborate with, trade with or antagonise them? Try and create a variety of relationships they can build. Are there good reasons for these relationships? Players often ignore arbitrary relationships. These questions also apply to teams and political parties.

Do you have team goals, inter-team goals and personal goals? Not all games need every type but there should probably be a reason for excluding them. Allowing players to collaborate with a wide variety of players can rescue their game if a pivotal relationship breaks down.

What happens if a goal becomes impossible? Do other goals suggest themselves? A player with no valid goals in the game will likely end the day feeling sour, and can often start acting out and being disruptive.

Is there friction between the goals? Each goal should require different actions from the player rather than overlapping. Ideally some of the goals should be in tension with one another, forcing the player to make a decision about what they value most.

Is the team hierarchy made clear? Assuming the role is in a team with a hierarchy do they know who they are reporting to? Do they know who they should be issuing direction to? Is there responsibility within the team clear? Would one bad leader or subordinate break their game?

It's turn 1, what do you do? This is covered by action hooks and talking points, but it's important enough to check twice. Once the player is an active participant in the game everything else will fall into place much easier.

What kind of epilogue can this role expect? Consider worse case scenarios, maybe their homeland gets turned into an irradiated wasteland, maybe they lost all their resources in turn 5, can they still end up with a good story to tell in the pub afterwards?

If you have good answers to these questions then, hopefully, your player has a good chance at enjoying their time in the game.

Are there any questions missing? Do you have a different approach to making sure your briefs are well constructed? Or maybe you disagree with this philosophy? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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