What's sitting around in your design drawer?

I wrote Night Witches in 2007, and it was completely terrible, and I put the whole thing in a drawer. Many years later my skill and gaming technology sort of advanced, and I saw a way forward for my terrible game, and pulled it out of the drawer again and started working on it with new experience and new tools (really, reading Apocalypse World was all it took to re-light that fire).

The core play loop for Durance originated as the meat of a game I wrote to emulate the arc of romance novels, which hadn’t gone anywhere but was perfect for this new concept. I pulled it out of the drawer, tore it apart, and used the good bits.

I have many games in the drawer, waiting for something to click or to be stripped for parts. How about you? What’s waiting in there, to be perfected or re-used?

RULES FOR THIS THREAD: Please don’t respond with suggestions of similar games. Please don’t otherwise discourage.


Soft Horizon went back in the drawer many times. It took one idea and a little unforseen energy for it all to CLICK and now it’s two books with at least two more coming. The drawer is a super valuable space – if I’d pushed on with it instead of letting it rest, it would not be the game I’m proud of.


Sometimes I see people pushing so hard on their one game, their white whale, and I want to tell them to put it away and let it percolate and work on different, unrelated stuff. Sometimes this is well received advice but often it is not. I’ll still suggest this in the abstract but I don’t offer it to the white whale folks any more.


My dog and cat have been engaging in escalating adventures of breaking, entering, and eating together. So I started a quick GMfull / PbtA-esque game around that principle: 2-player game, 1 is the cat, 1 is the dog, and you make mischief while your owner is at work.

I got the agenda, principles, and stats for both characters done. It was a lighthearted distraction I want to return to in the next few months. It’s definitely one of those games I’ll make for myself and friends to enjoy more than general release.

Here’s just a sample of how “serious” it is:

Cat Agenda
Earn dog’s love
Free curiosity
Experiment to find out what happens

Dog Agenda
Go on an adventure
Spread cheer
Taste to find out what happens

(My cat is obsessed with my older dog who just…ignores him)


Just as a counterpoint, Elysium Flare was also in the drawer for a long time. It came out, though, not because its time was ripe but because I had to get it out of my sight before I could get on with the game I really wanted to do. I wasn’t happy with it in the drawer – it was too close to done – and it was clogging up the works. Maybe in a way it didn’t go in the drawer at all but just stayed stuck in my throat.


I made a hack of 1%er - The Outlaw Motorcycle Game to emulate Digimon, and it worked really well. I stripped the IP from it to make a game about kids stranded in a fantasy world who have the duty to save it from evil before they can go back home. Every so often I pull it out and make some changes, but it keeps getting pushed back by other projects.

Funny thing is, every time I look at it, I cut out more stuff. I think I’ll have another go with the scissors pretty soon and get back to testing it.


This is how I feel about my long-term project. I’ve focused on other stuff because I needed a break, but there’s a big part of me that feels like it’s so close to done (and I want to be able to fully move on) that it’s almost more distracting sitting in the drawer.


We Go to Seek a Great Perhaps. It’s a game about road trips. All the mechanics are built on the google maps app. using routes and reviews. It’s supposed to explore insecurity and how everyone hides parts of themselves. Character sheets have two sections: one represents the parts of your identity that you share, the other represents the parts that you hide. As you progress through the game you bear more of your scars and move aspects from your secret identity to your shared identity. In doing so you become more capable of working together against the forces that are working against you to mess up your trip. Think: harold and kumar go to white castle, Little miss sunshine, any other road trip movie that’s more about the trip than the destination.


I have folders on old hard drives with random dice mechanics and other ideas that are interesting to explore. Some random ideas floating around…

  • “Delicious Friends”, a constantly-evolving take on Fallen London that’s iterated through different rulesets. I see one version based on Cortex Plus, and I have another version that works more like GUMSHOE
  • The beginnings of a play-by-post called Chronicles of the Fracas which is about people writing histories about past events, trying to reframe them favorably to their cause/motivation.
  • A “how to play” guide about taking Dungeon World and reframing it as a shounen fantasy action RPG
  • After the End, an old old postapocalyptic RPG where the cool tech was roll-under where the stats you roll under are actually qualities that you accrue during the game.
  • An unnamed game I started writing for Game Chef 2014 that was designed to be a viral legacy game; you’d open the document, make initial customizations, and then play the game, continuing to customize it through play. Then you’d give copies of the text file to the players, and so go on. When you encountered another version of the game, you’d incorporate some of those elements into your own version of the game.
  • An unremarkable game called Rockfoot Ventures that had cutesy fake-dwarven dialect and otherwise didn’t have much going for it.
  • Dropping Shells is a game inspired by Dollhouse, but also the anime Noir. Humans with their personalities overwritten by “shell” personalities that enable them to be cold assassins, struggling with the flashes of humanity they possess.

And…there’s a lot more. But that’s a start.


OPUS was supposed to be an online game based entirely on the WIKI platform.

The facilitator creates a WIKI and writes an overview page that explains what this wiki is supposed to be about. A fictional world, event, person, whatever you want. Once the overview is done he creates accounts for various contributors. In round one, everyone adds a page to the wiki elaborating on one aspect from the overview. In all following rounds people make new pages either elaborating on established aspects of the fiction or creating entirely new components but in these rounds every page must link to at least one other page in the wiki, so that the entire fiction is interconnected.


I have a few (not in order):

  • “Adventures in the Underbelly” is cybernetic and psychic rules for my sci-fi RPG Starguild. Mostly done, apart from the example adventures in the back which need finishing. It’s on pause because of Lonely Courage taking all my time right now.
  • ”Adventures in High Society” is the next expansion for the Starguild RPG, focussed on diplomacy, parties, society balls and such like. I’ve been toying with all the kinds of currency which can become important in those games - obligations, secrets, treaties, promises and the like.
  • ”In the Bunker” is going to be a simple fun RPG about awful people in the inner circle of a despotic tyrant attempting to be the one in a position to succeed them, without becoming too prominent or fall too low on the greasy pole, either of which can attract the bosses ire. I started thinking about it after watching the satirical movie “Death of Stalin”, but it is applicable to many circumstances.
  • ”Deeds, not words”, a story game about the Suffragettes in the UK in the early 20th century which deals with their dedication in the light of frankly horrific government policy of the day. Still noodling around with what kind of core mechanic I want, and what experiences I want it to convey and support.

So that’s what’s in my design draw just at the moment :slight_smile:



I started designing The Long Stair, a tarot based story game for three, some years ago. It’s been put in and pulled out of the closet many times but I’m adamant that it will be published some day.

It’s my first completely original game project and it tells the kind of unmoored and surreal stories I love, so I don’t think it will ever leave me, but it’s been so valuable to work on more actionable projects in the mean time.


I have a game called The Temptation of Joan, in which 2 players play God and Satan testing a modern person in the same way they did to her distant ancestor Job. The mechanics are based on bibliomancy – open the Bible to a random page, stab your finger down on it, and use the verse you pick to inspire the next bit of the story.


I’ve had World Of Dreams sitting in the drawer for entirely too long. A game that teaches kids to use lucid dreams to overcome nightmares. I was hung up on using a PbtA/WoDu framework, and it worked, but was much too complicated for the intended audience.

Somehow listening to the AP vid for the first beta of @jasoncordova’s The Between a few weeks ago broke the mental dam. I’m excited to write again, and it is already so much better.


I have few games in the back of my drawer:

  • Endure - a traditional game (GM + Players) about everyday people enduring terrible circumstances. The main inspiration is the video game This War of Mine where you play civilians during a war making hard choices to survive. I imagine it as a simple system that can be added to modules detailing those dreadful situations. The recent discussion about PbtA advantage and disadvantage has gave me some ideas, so I might dig this game out soon and tinker with it more.

  • An unnamed drinking story game about cliche fantasy adventurers bragging about their exploits in a tavern. Made to be played in a pub-like setting, with beer as the main resolution mechanic. It started as an idea in a bar while drinking beer, and I thought it had legs. I know it is silly, but it is a fun design challenge. I hope that one day some spark will finally come in and give me a really good idea of how to actually implement the rules well.

  • A trad game where your character realizes that they actually live in a dystopian society and then try to change the world for the better. You start the game with only two things - the job you had in the society and your biggest fear - you discover what you can do as you play. Inspired by films like the Matrix (vaguely) and Equilibrium(moderately), and our world right now (especially as seen through the lens of Late Stage Capitalism). I am now waiting for Dangerous Times, because making the characters into underground journalists seems like a better idea then just general troublemakers. I am hoping I can either hack Dangerous Time for it or at least get some inspiration.

  • A story game about CEOs of near future / cyberpunk corporations. They meet to achieve some shadowy goal to make their companies more money. Each CEO also has a hidden agenda. It runs on dice pools - each player has static amount of dice for things their company specializes in + an expandable pool Human Resources. I feel like this one is “almost there.” I just don’t have a group to playtest it with currently.

C&C on any of those are more than welcome :slight_smile:


I’m not familiar with this, but it’s very similar. Thanks for the link! :smiley:

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While I’ve got a couple of projects that are paused due to time constraints the only one that I’ve really put aside because I didn’t know where to go with it is a sort of cyberpunk reality-TV show. Loose idea was characters are the typical operatives, working either alone or as part of the team but alongside having the actual job to pull of they’re also having to try and build and maintain a fan base that is watching them via drones/implants etc.

Unfortunately just couldn’t get anywhere with a set of mechanics that seemed to work for all of the aspects. Ideas for any one of the three aspects (missions vs on screen drama vs pleasing the fanbase) didn’t mesh well with the others (I probably need to focus in more on one particular aspected). I want to go back to it at some point but not until inspiration strikes and I have the time to properly play with some ideas.


@whodo have you read Passion de Las Passiones? It has a great audience mechanic that drives the XP portion of the game. I’d also mention Storm Riders from Codex, as it has an audience mechanic, but I don’t think cyberpunk operatives are trying to teach children lessons. :grimacing:


I’ve been working on Death Takes a Holiday for… wow, since 2011. I like the fiction of the game (where you are incompetent substitute Grim Reapers filling in for Death while he is on vacation), but I have never been happy with the mechanics and how it works in play. Every year or two I pull it out of the drawer and try replacing the core system, trying some other method to make it work some other way.

A couple weeks ago, I realized that I had another game where I like the mechanics, but the fiction was dull and unengaging. I’m trying to combine the two games into one game where I like both fiction and mechanics.


I’d heard of Passion de Las Passiones but haven’t read it and was unaware that it had an audience mechanic so thanks for pointing that out, will need to take a look at it.