Game Producer Journals: The Jumpstart

In the kickoff for my game producer blog series, I wrote about demo materials for different types of games, defined a few terms, and dove into quickstart design.

Today, I want to talk about jumpstarts. First question: why do you need one? Well, the answer is “it’s complicated”. A jumpstart is one method for obtaining fans of your game and, like any promotional tool, it has its utility. Some people believe jumpstarts deter corebook sales because they encapsulate the game and often have a lower price point. I am not one of them.

Jumpstarts are best designed when they are not conceived in a vacuum. When the jumpstart has a clearly defined goal like: “teach new players how to play our game” or “give existing players a sample of what they’ll find” or “use it as a free, promotional tool to attract all players”. Jumpstarts can be designed with several goals in mind when they’re produced with the understand that anyone–even those players unfamiliar with a publisher or gameline–might pick up a copy.

Like quickstarts, jumpstarts are marketing tools for a gameline. Unlike quickstarts, I don’t believe they’re always necessary provided the corebook teaches players how to play their game. Most corebooks do not have actual play examples, sample dice rolls, a step-by-step outline for a sample campaign, a full adventure, and a full page ad to show where new players should go if they need more information (YouTube!, Twitch, Discord, forums, etc.) Many corebooks, especially second editions, serial games, or collector’s editions, are not designed with new players in mind. Many games are crafted for people who already know how to run a tabletop gaming session.

Jumpstarts are often needed because they serve players who need a different type of game design. Often, jumpstarts employ word conservation by focusing on what players need to know in order to play the game. Jumpstarts are great for a) complex settings b) complex rule sets c) new or debuting rule sets d) games with multiple playing styles e) original settings and d) messaging/visibility showing how the publisher is new-player friendly. Players who have fun with a jumpstart will have more confidence when running the game–and that player confidence is key.

It can be challenging to distill a corebook into a jumpstart. My approach to writing/designing in this form is to empower the player while providing value. I’ve found the easiest design method is to utilize a 3-to-5 act narrative structure, 3-5 non-player characters, and a sample fleshed out location. All games need setting–especially places where the players can hunt, search, investigate, etc.–and a jumpstart helps ground the players in it.

My last post included five steps to producing a quickstart. These are the same steps to follow when plotting a jumpstart with one, major caveat: conceiving a jumpstart requires greater analysis of your corebook’s content. You could repurpose some material for the quickstart. A jumpstart that rehashes all of the corebook’s materials is less useful, however, and you’ll miss out on residual sales–even if the jumpstart’s release precedes the corebook’s.

Lastly, I want to mention that while there’s no “one way” to design a jumpstart, I do believe a good jumpstart provides value. The jumpstart shouldn’t be an exact replica of your corebook’s content–there’s a different type of product for that called a “beta”. Instead, use the jumpstart to frame your corebook’s material so players transitioning from one to the other are confident they know the basics and are eager to learn more.

[Announcement] Hunter The Vigil Second Edition Now on Kickstarter

Hunter The Vigil Second Edition Logo

Hello friends and readers,

I’m thrilled to announce that the wait is over for the Hunter: The Vigil Second Edition Kickstarter.

I’m so proud of my team and the work that went into this modern monster hunting game. Like I said in a recent interview, I know I can’t make every fan happy—but I can say with authority we did do our best. Between the additional lore, new monster hunting groups like the Circle of Bones, and a fresh take on the rules I hope this will be a game filled with powerful, narrative moments you can see yourself playing.

For updates about the game, you can follow the Kickstarter comments or the hashtag #HTV2E #ttrpgs on Twitter. Over the past couple of weeks, I reached out to my Hunter 2E team and sent interview questions to several writers and designers. Their words will be posted on www.flamesrising.com during the campaign and shared on the Kickstarter, too.

There are more monsters than ever before. They are appearing more frequently, too, and are emboldened to step out of the shadows. Will you light your candle? Will you heed the call? I invite you to join our hunter society, because when the chips are down and the stakes are high—we are stronger when we hunt together.



Celebrate Halloween with Vampires!

v20-endless-ages-anthology

Have you picked up your copy of Endless Ages yet? If not, today’s post gives you a little bit of insight into my inspiration behind “Redder Than Red”. Happy Halloween!

What Motivated Me to Write Redder Than Red

When I was working on Dread Names: Red List, Matt (McElroy) and I would speculate which Anathema would be the first to get caught in the modern era and why. Often, Ayisha Jocastian’s name would pop up because she represents a direct threat to the Masquerade. As an Anathema, Ayisha is unique in the sense that she believes that the consciousness of the vampires she has consumed are directing her actions, but she is also a political threat because her zeal to reproduce and distribute the Book of Nod. Though Ayisha was already condemned to the Red List and could never be removed, she is an active threat who will not stop committing diablerie, nor will she stop sharing vampiric secrets with mortals.

My story, which is titled “Redder Than Red”, is written from the perspective of a Malkavian named Rebecca Fleischer whose childe was diablerized by Ayisha. Rebecca suffers from a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder called Arithmomania, which means she has a fundamental need to count. I felt this would be a good mental illness to help illustrate what Rebecca is feeling and seeing, and gets away from the stereotypes that plague members of Clan Malkavian and undermine their potential in a story.

Together with Ventrue Alastor Stephan Ashworth, the two Kindred drive to a warehouse to confront Ayisha Jocastian once and for all. Stephan adds some setting heft to the story, as both Alastors and Anathema are part of the rich lore associated with the Red List, but he also offers a dynamic to show this fight isn’t between two vampires. For Rebecca, however, her desire to take down Ayisha is personal; losing her childe is a powerful motivator for vengeance.

I hope your thirst for vampire fiction will draw you to “Redder Than Red”. This story was a lot of fun to write, and I enjoyed taking on this aspect of Vampire: The Masquerade for the modern era.

On Hunter the Vigil 2nd Edition Open Development

Following my announcement from last year that I am the developer for Hunter the Vigil 2nd Edition which features the Slasher Chronicle, I uploaded my first OpenDevelopment post titled: Hunter 2E OpenDev and Ashwood Abbey and the second one which is Tier Two Compacts and Globalization.

There are a lot of approaches to development, and managing this line will be very, very different from the Firefly RPG for the simple reason that the licensing and setting restrictions aren’t based on a TV show. Hunter: the Vigil was (and is) a widely popular game where you play a human hunter–for all the good, bad, and ugly that entails–fighting the supernatural. The line, which has had continued support since the corebook’s debut eight or nine years ago, will be getting a new edition and this is why I’m on board. In a way, I’m very lucky because I’m focused on enhancements as opposed to creating something from scratch. Since other second edition books for the Chronicles of Darkness have already been released, I have a lot of pre-existing material and systems to draw from to create a new edition–which is great. However, there’s a lot of tweaks I want to make, but to help me make better decisions I am using Open Development as a way to get feedback prior to writing the outline for the corebook.

This, too, is a huge departure from Firefly, as setting restrictions for Hunter aren’t overly specific, nor are they related to the show so I have more flexibility to start with within the conceit of hunting monsters. Here, I’m building a new edition off a hugely strong foundation, and I get the opportunity to have fan feedback because of the relationship between Onyx Path Publishing and Paradox Entertainment. This is a pretty big deal to me, because though as a developer I have to weigh decisions for all kinds of players (meaning I need to avoid one-true-way-isms and focus more on the toolkit approach that Hunter originated with), I can hear from fans what their reasoning is behind what they like about the game. And, most importantly, how certain decisions impact play at their tables as opposed to what they’re gleaning from reading the text itself.

It’ll be interesting to see how OpenDev shakes out, once I get to the rules portion of the conversation, but for now I’m tightly focused on clarifying what those enhancements might be (e.g. tiered play, slashers, etc.) to set some bones down before proceeding. This will also enable me to see where the holes are before proceeding with an open call for writers, especially since I’m keen on lifting the game to a truly global level.

If you’re interested in reading OpenDev, I’ll link to them in my project updates or you can follow along by visiting the Onyx Path website at www.theonyxpath.com.

A Review of Things Don’t Go Smooth

TDGS Cover

Our friends at The Black Campbell reviewed Things Don’t Go Smooth, a 238 page GM-facing supplement for the Firefly Role Playing Game. The review is available here and this supplement is now available!

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Monica Valentinelli > Work-For-Hire

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