Role-playing games are my hobby of choice and I deeply respect anyone that manages to get one published. That said, I think many publishers overlook some critical game components when releasing new games. These are items that often make the difference between a game that gets played and one that sits on my shelf and I want them the very first day the game hits the stores. My list is not comprehensive by any means, but these are the items that rank high on my “must have” list.
1. 100 monsters
Many games come with some monsters in the base book, though there are many with no monsters at all in the base book. In either case, I want enough monsters to run a campaign right out of the gate and my bare minimum is 100. Graphics are not even a priority for me. I happily accept bare stat blocks and some basic behavior and environmental information. The idea of generating new monsters for every session is just too much work for the employed, over-30 that I am. Any games lacking this basic feature often languish on my lowest bookshelf, until a monster supplement appears.
2. NPC Generator
Monsters are great but NPCs (based on PC classes) really give a campaign life. Do not make life hard for the GM and create some software to generate and advance NPCs in a quick and easy way. Even a macro-laden spreadsheet in Excel or Open Office works for me. A really good campaign I enjoyed went in to retirement because I did not have the time to generate endless, higher-level NPCs. The number juggling got out of hand.
No, I am not talking about the three-page “demo” adventure in the back of every RPG rulebook. I mean a real adventure, with a great plot, interesting NPCs and a decent campaign hook at the end. Assuming your game uses a totally new system, there is a learning curve, sometime steep for new GMs and players. Producing a great entry-level module is sure to win friends and influence gamers to buy and play your game. Some rules usage examples and footnotes are also very appreciated in a first module. I know many people prefer to write their own, but even they might cannibalize ideas and encounters from your ready-made module.
4. Errata Tracking
No matter how hard you try, all games have bugs. Even mighty “Wizards of the Coast” released 4th edition with a skill challenge system that did not work at higher levels. Accept that you will fail occasionally and implement a system to handle the issues. Deploy a wiki, ticketing or version tracking system just like a software developer on the day of release. Mention the location of the errata system in the book. Direct all questions towards your system and make it the only place for official rule errata. Integrate all rulings into later products and printings. Keep it organized and readily available to your customers.
A personal request from me, do not use forums for errata tracking. Publishing rules errata in a forum is like burying a dog’s bone under 20 metric tons of sand and expecting him to dig for it. Forums are for flame wars and plot discussion, not errata.
Here ends my rant. If you have any other suggestions for overlooked items every RPG needs, I would love to hear about them.
Trask, The Last Tyromancer