The first sci-fi and horror narrative idea for running one shot adventures fails to meet the limitations and requirements that were outlined. While the elevator pitch meets most of the tone requirements, it didn’t meet the important business and gameplay goals.
One of the limitations outlined in the previous article mentions that potential customers should be able to understand what the setting is about after hearing a short elevator pitch. The elevator pitch I came up with is as follows:
It’s a galaxy-spanning space opera. The characters hop from planet to planet with their large, warp-drive equipped space ships. Their adventures pit them against politics, technological marvels, and all sorts of alien races.
Now that the elevator pitch is defined, the setting can be tested against the limitations that were set earlier.
A Note On Tropes
The first attempt at creating a game setting relies on the use of sci-fi genre tropes to make it easier to understand. As outlined in TV Tropes’ article, “Tropes Are Tools,” heavy use of tropes can be used to form a baseline for understanding. By relying on tropes to explain things, the narrative can focus on what’s different or unique. New players will be able to better understand the narrative if it follows the conventions of past media they’ve seen.
The tone requirements are the easiest to fulfill, because they can be applied outside of the elevator pitch. When writing the adventures, I can make sure that they follow the tone laid out in the previous article.
While the elevator pitch is full of tropes, it still does take itself seriously. It’s a serious world with serious conflicts.
Moral Gray Areas
This requirement can be met by simply saying that it will be. When writing the one shot adventures I’ll have to make sure that the players can make choices that are neither fully good or fully evil.
Smaller Scale Problems
The narrative idea starts to break down at this point. While I can say that each adventure will focus on a small scale problem, the elevator pitch features a large play space. If characters are frequently hopping from planet to planet, solar system to system, it’ll be hard to keep the characters in a single spot at one time.
The elevator pitch starts to get muddy at this point. The generic space opera vibe goes against the intellectual property goals and the avoidance of jargon.
Audience and Reach
The narrative is based on previous sci-fi and horror settings that customers are familiar with. If they like other sci-fi stories, then they’d like this elevator pitch. Likewise if they don’t like grand space operas, then they wouldn’t like One Shot RPG if it went in this direction.
When designing a space opera, players will have to memorize planets, many alien species, politics systems, ships names and capabilities, technology and device names, and other jargon-laden concepts. The current setting does not fulfill the goal of reducing jargon.
The setting proposed above does not meet the requirements of being unique and standing on its own. While I wouldn’t be worried about copyright concerns, I’d be worried about the setting not being able to stand out. Could a customer look at a character and go, “That’s from One Shot RPG,” or will they be unable to distinguish it from other sci-fi media? I don’t think they will without significant adjustments to the elevator pitch.
The proposed setting breaks down at the gameplay and experience requirements. It fails to meet the limitations and goals that were set.
Understanding The Setting
While the narrative uses tropes to let the player understand how the world works, the elevator pitch doesn’t let the player understand what’s going on at this point in time. The goal was that players shouldn’t have to memorize lore to be able to start understanding what they’re supposed to be doing. The elevator pitch doesn’t mention what’s going on. Potential customers may ask the questions, “What are the politics like?” “What planets will we be visiting?” “Why should we care?” and the current attempt at a setting does nothing to answer those questions.
Providing a Hook
There’s no hook for players or their characters. What will the characters be doing? Why will they be hopping from planet to planet or staying in one centralized place? Why shouldn’t they just warp away from all of the action and never look back? The elevator pitch provides no context for what the adventures will be about. There’s nothing there to ground the story and make players care.
New Characters and Equal Opportunity
The proposed setting does allow for a constant stream of new characters to be introduced. It does not limit character’s abilities based on things like gender. However, meeting these goals on their own does not mean that I should move forward with this idea.
Back to the Drawing Board
This first idea for a setting is a bad idea, and that’s ok. By testing the elevator against the stated requirements, I can with confidence say that this is not the right direction for One Shot RPG to go. It’s time to go back to the drawing board.