What grabbed your interest?


I imagine the answer to this will range a lot, but I’m curious what about a new game grabbed your interest and made you want to play it?

For Blades in the Dark, I remember the exact moment: reading about flashbacks. I had been playing a lot of Shadowrun the year of Blade’s Kickstarter and was frustrated as a GM and a player how much time could be spent on legwork and planning. Sometimes it felt like I was playing “Plannerun” rather than Shadowrun. The idea that a game said, “Skip planning and use flashbacks to fill in prep when needed” was brilliant.

More recently, with Familiars of Terra the high concept grabbed my attention. Playing a game where “every person has an animal familiar” and you travel with your familiar to heal the land from a war’s fallout was immediately interesting to me. It hit on my “I always want an animal buddy” and “I want games about healing not conquest” tastes.

What about for others? Was it mechanics? Concept? Art? An actual play?


Actual plays are something that can definitely be a big influence, but at least for me tended to be more of an introduction into various scenes, rather than constantly getting me into new games.

Years ago, Critical Role was what got me to try D&D 5e, which was basically my first real experience with TTRPG’s. Then Friends at the Table taught me that there are just so many other games out there to play and that D&D isn’t the only game in town, and also introduced me to PbtA and indie/story games, which ended up being way more my thing.

Nowadays, I think my process tends to be Concept–>Character Options. I need to be interested in the genre or idea of the game to get me to really check it out in the first place, but then I immediately want to see what kind of characters I could play and if it’s making me excited imagining getting to play them. Learning the mechanics and if it’s a game I’d enjoy actually playing comes pretty late, actually >_>

For example, I recently heard about Tenra Bansho Zero and the concept of this big, wild Japanese-themed fantasy world with mechs and magic and guns and swords (and gunswords) seemed really fun, and reading the character options and seeing like oh wow in this a “samurai” means like a demonic warrior? You can play as an oni?? was enough to make me really excited about the game…

I still haven’t really bothered learning how the mechanics actually work, and I suspect it’s actually the type of game I wouldn’t love to play all that much, but it has a place in my heart just from the concept/setting and characters <_<


For me the things that really grab my interest are one of several things, but they almost always boil down to, “Can I envision what type story arc the game will tell? Is that story arc something I am interested in?”.

  1. The high concept. “This is a game about the hope brought to an isolated child by helping them to understand their own worth” (One Child’s Heart, currently on Kickstarter now). This, for me, gets to what the game is trying to do, whether or not the game does it, this might get me interested in trying it out.
  2. Setting. Often this comes from description of the world or the characters in it. It might also come from media references. Those references and my assumptions based on the setting and character archetypes presented will help get an idea of what kind of stories are likely to be told. Afterlife Wandering Souls which will be on Kickstarter in May, has an evocative setting of playing lost souls wandering the afterlife in search of their memories to move on to the next stage of existence.
  3. Mechanics. Sometimes I just see excerpts of mechanics that really show what the game is about. For Mutants in the Night, I love that the “Vice” options have changed from more sinister options, and more to positive options of how we hangout and cope with stress. To me, that one change, makes the game much more hopeful and something I am more interested in playing.
  4. People. I will often get interested in a game because of someone else’s interest. It might be someone who shares similar interest, it might be someone who’s opinion I trust. If they are excited, that’s a clue that the thing might be worth at least taking a look at. I missed Fellowship the first time it went to Kickstarter, but having several folks recommend it as their system for specific types of travel and journey stories got me interested. Fellowship 2nd edition is now on Kickstarter.


Maybe I’m alone in this, but I’m a sucker for weird mechanics.

“Roll 2d20, take the average, consult a chart, then draw from a deck of cards that will tell you which coin to flip.”

A lot of these weird games never see play, but I’m always excited to read them.

Current Example: Troika!

In Troika initiative is handled by putting a bunch of tokens in a back and drawing them randomly to see who goes next. The kicker: One of the tokens is an “End Round” token. Combat is really unpredictable and crazy because you might go 4 times in a row, or never.

Troika also has INCREDIBLE classes that add a lot of flavor to the game.

For a sneak peek at both of these, I made a character generator and a turn tracker here.

TL;DR I love reading about games with strange mechanics. Even if I might not enjoy playing them.


I don’t remember why I bought WhiteHack, but something I read online convinced me I wanted to know more and I bought it from Lulu. I can remember cracking it open and starting reading it though. The point I knew I had something special was when I reached the special abilities of the Deft character class:

“Deft characters draw inspiration from other people skilled in the same areas and can attune themselves to certain objects or animals. This gives them extraordinary possibilities which the referee and the player agree upon on a per situation basis - hard tasks should succeed automatically while nigh impossible ones should require standard task rolls.

So simple, but it completely redefines how those characters interact with the game.

And then a couple pages later the book goes on to redefine magic in a similarly dynamic way. Fifty-odd sessions later we are still finding new ways to apply these mechanics.


There is a definite sweet spot between concept and mechanics.

If a game is using the kind of setting I’ve seen a lot, the mechanics need to pull more weight in appealing to me. If it’s a non-standard setting or theme then I’m a bit more receptive to it these days.

I’ve found my love, mechanically, with games Powered by the Apocalypse or Forged in the Dark, but that’s not an instant back or buy for me. It will make me more receptive, though, just as I can already grok how they’re expecting to do what they do.

Then of course there’s the swarm of Itch.io games, which are many and weird. For them the price point and page count is low, so I’m a lot more likely to get a game just because of the name or a mention of things like how a game is an unofficial RPG for the Love Letter card game. I have to limit myself to only looking at Itch occasionally and having a budget limit when I’m on there.


When I read apocalypse world, I remember this moment where the text says “and I’m not fucking around”. It’s discussing a thing many MCs do, and saying not to fucking do it.

That voice. The direction to the reader, assumed to be the MC, and using such obvious cheap vulgarity to emphasize the point.


Do you remember what it was he was telling the to not do?


Yes; don’t preplan the game. Don’t decide what’s going to happen before it happens.

Prep what the NPCs are interested in and what’ll happen if the PCs do nothing, but don’t make things go any particular way.

IT’ll feel contrived, and I’m not fucking around.


From The Daily Apocalypse:
Apocalypse World is a game whose story and movement are created entirely by the players through the actions of their characters. Remember that whole “DO NOT pre-plan a story line, and I’m not fucking around” thing? Well, the game can’t demand that of you and then not give you the tools with which to build a story. I mean, it could do that, but it would be a shitty game, and Apocalypse World is not a shitty game. The playbooks go a long way in character creation to creating a complex community full of named NPCs and personal pressures for the characters. Those make great starting points, and in some situations, that’s all that’s needed. But if those initial leads fall flat or prove to be less interesting than hoped, the lifestyle move is built-in fuel, there whenever you need a complication to explore. The move puts pressures on characters to have jingle, which could push them toward gigs or other risky ways of sustaining themselves.


I never played rpgs until after college. I heard someone make a reference to Burning Wheel somewhere online and I looked it up and read through the hub and spokes. I had done this with other games, D&D etc, but had never been interested in playing. Then I read about lifepath character creation. The idea that a character in this game would be a product of their environment, with skills and traits that reflect a sense of history, blew my mind. Then I went back and saw that characters improve at skills by trying them and that built on the premise really well for me. Then I really got Artha, that your beliefs could drive play and changing them could be the fulcrum of a campaign.

My initial hook into the hobby was that character development could be central to gameplay in a way I hadn’t seen in other genres of (analog or digital games).

Now I love a range of RPGs with all kinds of design focus. Probably what hooks me most now is some assurance that procedures for play clearly delineate narrative authority and are designed to support a theme that interests me.