The first RPG you ever made!


What’s the first rpg you ever made — whether or not you published it or anyone even played it? I’m especially interested in games that you’re not sure even count.

Here’s mine, I think? My freshman year of college, I took a Java programming class and decided to make my final project a Zork-style DOS-prompt text adventure, complete with a working inventory. The plot of the game was…searching through Time and Space (2 discrete areas) for the philosopher Bertrand Russell’s mustache. At one point in the game, you had to go to Hades to fetch the golden nose of Tycho Brahe. I got a B on the assignment, and my professor commented, “Very creative storytelling, but unfortunately the same cannot be said of the programming.”


In middle school I made a game called Kitties & Catnip, which was exactly what you might think, heavily influenced by the games I was playing at the time, which were Bunnies & Burrows and, weirdly, The Morrow Project. So your cat PC had “blood points” and wounds caused blood loss and you could bleed out, because that was realistic and realism was good.


I recall at one point, when I was in middle school, writing out by hand the instructions for a fantasy heartbreaker heavily inspired by the Snarfquest comic that ran in Dragon magazine. At that age, I spent a lot of time reading through my older brothers’ collection of Dragon magazines but not actually doing much roleplaying. I wrote out a bunch of classes and races and mechanics on yellow notebook paper, but never showed any of it to anyone.


Oh yes, I remember those edgy days.


I touched on it in: What are you working on right now?, but I will expand on it a bit more here.

So, I have grown up in Poland. With it being a post-communist country RPG availability was far from perfect. When I was in my tweens I was vaguely aware of roleplaying games (probably from some video games magazines that were mentioning other gaming related stuff every now and then). Then I have seen D&DD episode of Dexter’s Lab and decided that I get it now - time to make my own game.

I was around 12 at a time.

So I took a cardboard folder (kinda like this one, but no table on the inside) and just wrote bunch of stuff I thought was important on the inside. It had character generation which was a single d6 roll and told you if you are a warrior, mage or genie(?), it had some names on it for characters and places (if I remember correctly). I think it barely had any rules. I don’t think there were any character sheets, but we used few d6 dice I had taken from some boardgames I had.

What it had was art. I spent days drawing monsters and other fantasy stuff on the player facing side of the folder. I remember drawing Gygax - the 30th 27th level Warrior Mage from the episode of the cartoon (below), because I thought he was super cool. I did not know who Gygax was at the time.
I also had drawn maps on a grid paper (super common paper in Poland, as it is used for maths classes) for the players to explore.

I have “run” it few times for my younger brother and his friends (they were around 8). The only thing I remember from those games is that the players got banished from the starting village, which made me sad because I spent a lot of time drawing the map of it :smiley:


It depends what you mean by “first”, “RPG” and “made”. Like, the first thing I remember doing design-wise was dickering around with the D&D red box set creating a sci-fi reskin, probably in my early teens or before that. But up until I went to university, all my game design was just that - tinkering, writing little fragments of ideas, and nothing that was ever played or perhaps even was playable.

At university I got involved in the local LARP scene and created (with @BeckyA and others) my first complete RPG: Colony, a game in three parts about a space colony project gone disastrously wrong. It began with the original colonists waking up from stasis to find that the landing plan had utterly failed, with over half the equipment and personnel that was supposed to have landed on the planet still in orbit. The colony was riven by political divisions from the old earth, subject to threat of a military takeover, and contending with all sorts of other internal problems. The second part fast-forwarded a generation or two to a more developed settlement, and the third part saw the colonists fight an extended resistance campaign against an advanced ship that arrived from Earth to conquer the colony (having developed far superior technology while the colonists were stuck in stasis).

I think my first full tabletop RPG projects were much more recent: House of Ill Repute, my UK politics playset for Fiasco, and Disaster Strikes!, a storygame to simulate disaster B-movies in the vein of “The Towering Inferno” and “The Poseidon Adventure”.


My first one was an attempt at creating a universal system that allowed reasonably balanced genre-hopping adventures that had less active math than the systems I’d tried up to that point. It was successful in that it had less math involved, but it was still not especially playable, because it still had way more math than I wanted.


When I was in high school and had basically been playing RPGs for a few months, I tried to write my own system. I don’t remember anything about it except that it was a modern setting, had a really dumb dice mechanic (like 1d6 + 1d4 + modifier vs target number) and didn’t have any kind of advancement system.

It never got played and lived in a three ring binder that I’m sure got tossed out or repurposed for something else within, like, a year.


The Veil was the first for me.


When I was a kid I heard about D&D but couldn’t get my hands on the books, so I made up a game based on how it was described to me. My friends picked their characters based on the D&D classes I’d heard about and had “character sheets” that were just their names at the top and a list of their equipment. I drew a map of the world, and they told me where they wanted to go. When they got into a trouble they rolled a d6 and I said whether they succeeded or not and how well based on how high they rolled. As they adventured, we would write new things on the map and change the things that were on there already.


10/10 would play, that sounds wonderful and fun


I made a mashup world generator out of downfall’s haven setup rules.


:smiley: This is basically the game I am working on now (what if you made a RPG without really knowing that much about RPG), just with a bit more rules, and 2(sometimes 3)d6 instead of a single die!


It’s a diceless, GMless game called terrible village. There are three resolution systems based on how you try to make your village less terrible: conflict, collaboration, and deception.

Your character has three stats: what people compliment you on, what you make excuses for, and what you boast about.

We had a blast playing it, but there’s too much crunched into the 200 words. I should go back and do a one page version.


Not counting a computer game I made using RPG maker (which included a hack to make the character shapeshift that I actually designed while sleeping), my only full game so far is my entry for the 200 Word RPG Challenge, called “Don’t Lose Your Marbles”. It’s inspired by Cthulhu Dark but has a silly mechanic based on holding marbles in your hand to represent being sane.

Here’s the full text in case anyone is curious :slight_smile:


This is the earliest evidence I can find. 11 year old me from 1991; can definitely see a GURPS influence. Some kind of probably quite un-pc Cowboys and Indians game. Looks like at least indigenous people were playable characters. I could probably use this as evidence that i have been a game designer for over 30 years - except that i’ve never made a complete game, hehe.


Around 2002-2003 I created the Matrix system. Fantasy genre, 8 classes (each got pets and followers), open advancement after char gen, wrote out 384 spells.

Ran about 10 sessions for my homegroup. Everything worked, except there was no art. It’s hard to grab peoples attention when they keep seeing D&D shiny artwork.


I remember making all sorts of games which rarely got beyond dice gimmicks, I loved dice and maths. Still do.

I remember coming up with one concept with 16 stats split into four groups. Stats were rated 1-4 and that was how many d4s you had to role to use them. I hadn’t heard of dice pools at this point, although I had technically used them in the HeroQuest boardgame. Anyway, I decided that it was a silly idea and forgot all about it until a year or two later when someone introduced me to Vampire and it’s similar grid of stats and dice pools.

The first complete game I wrote was much simpler. I called it Simple System or Mythic when I was running fantasy with it. PCs have three stats, Body, Mind and Soul. You rolled your stats randomly but you had to put your highest score into Soul. You roll against Soul for anything to do with your class or profession, which the players define for themselves, and then roll on either Body or Mind for everything else. Damage was deducted from either Body or Mind as appropriate so you would get worse at tasks as you lost sanity or got hurt, unless that task was part of the core of your character. It worked quite well, and all rolls were d12s.


All of my childhood rpg design energy went into making AD&D more “realistic” by adding endless complications so my first proper complete design was a published one in my midtwenties. I wrote a book called Roolipelimanifesti (The Roleplaying Manifesto), a non-fiction exploration of what roleplaying games were and how you played them.

I included a game of my own design called Joutomaa (hard to translate, somewhere between Empty Lot and Wasteland). It was about the depressing lives of people living in the hellscape of contemporary society. One of the suggested settings was an elementary school, another a hospital.

Perhaps one day I’ll manage a second edition in English, so that international audiences can share in the whimsy and delight of this game.


In May 1976 I read a two page review of Dungeons and Dragons in the Games & Puzzles magazine in the UK. You can see the bulk of that article in this blog post here

Well, no way that I could afford D&D on my pocket money, so I got a friend interested and I wrote up some rules and drew a dungeon. The rules was basically that my friend navigated his way around the dungeon. When he fought something he would roll 1d6 + his weapon bonus (which started at 0 and increased by 1 every time he won a battle). The die roll had to beat the die roll of the monster, which each had an arbitrary bonus assigned to it. Some tough monsters required several hits to kill it. If you didn’t roll high enough you took a wound. Too many wounds and you died.

We played with these rules for several months.

It was the start of a beautiful relationship with games…