The moment I finished our first book for Mana Punk (the Game Guide) and sent it off for publishing, I stood up and celebrated. The very next moment, I sat back down and began planning and writing for the next big book…The Story Guide. Just as the Game Guide gets players started and allows everyone to run simple sessions of our game system, the Story Guide is intended to be the end all be all resource for Game Masters wanting to run their own in-depth Mana Punk campaigns. We now stand more than a year out from the moment I began and it is still being written and designed. GM guides are no easy task…
There are a few popular approaches that I have seen when a Game Master guide-book gets designed for a game system. One of the oldest styles for Game Master guide books would be the Toolkit method, started all the way back in the original versions of Dungeons & Dragons and Chainmail, as well as other systems from that era. This “Toolkit” method effectively acts as a massive compilation of data, tables and reference materials that allows for a Game Master to pick and choose all of the details they wish to include in their game sessions. While Toolkits offer some guidelines and advice to the Game Master using it, they predominantly are intended more as reference material than ‘guide-book’. Some other GM guide book methods include complex systems that walk a GM step by step through content creation in addition to others that act more as advice books. There now exist as many different types and methods of design for Game Master materials as there are game systems in existence.
Deciding between toolkit or other methods has been one of the hardest of decisions we have had to make in regards to Mana Punk. This decision not only determines the future of the Story Guide but also what tone we will take with a large percentage of our future books for the system, a ramification that has been echoing through the darkest corners of my mind for months. Parts of my mind keep telling me that the style of writing we choose for our Story Guide could end up alienating other parts of the community, I am hoping however that this will not be the case.
We constantly endeavor to keep Mana Punk streamlined, simple and rather easy to understand. While various parts of our game system may in fact have rather in-depth and complex mechanics, those mechanics are always intended to be consistent and harmonious in design with the rest of the system. Mana Punk, at its core is intended to be a game that allows for maximum flexibility in play styles. It does not outright encourage the “power gamer approach” to character generation but instead offers more offbeat and unconventional options to be employed. While a Minotaur Assassin may not be the best assassin in terms of raw numbers and game mechanics, being able to create a Minotaur Assassin that is not only viable but HILARIOUS to play should always bring a certain joy to the player designing it.
Keeping all of this in mind, we have decided that the absolute most flexible method of construction for our Story Guide is the toolkit method; the creation of a large repository of raw information, system mechanics and reference materials that will allow the most flexibility and variety in content creation for any Game Master that picks it up. I do hope that everyone understands this choice and we would love to hear your opinions on it! Tell us what you think and what you look for in a Game Master guide-book.