Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Question of Nomenclature

There is an extremely under-appreciated skill in game design. Naming stuff. I literally cannot tell you how many times I've written something or worked something out only for progress to grind to a screaming halt for want of a good term to label it. As an excellent case in point, I present the following from the Introductory chapter of Band of Bastards.

How to Use This Book

Band of Bastards is based around an idea we can credit Vincent Baker for: Concentric Game Design.  The game is divided into four Books within itself of escalating levels of complexity.
Book I contains everything you need to play the absolute core of the game, including task resolution and character creation.
Book II escalates this, including the rules for Full Contests, as well as Melee and Ranged combat sequences.
Book III includes all of the additional optional rules for fighting giant beasts, customizing weapons, and other topics.
Book IV is the province of the Game Master, and includes the rules for generating NPCs and running games in the ‘Bastards style player-driven narrative.

You don’t need to learn or use all of the rules at once, especially if you’re playing with a more experienced group. start with Book I and get used to the basics. It’s even possible to play the game using only the rules from Book I. You’re missing out on a lot, but it can be done. Many groups will be entirely comfortable just using Books I & II for most of their game-play, and certainly for the first few sessions or campaign. When you’ve got a handle on everything else, then you can expand into Book III, or not. Use everything, or just what you want, it’s in your hands.

Toolkit Mentality

Ultimately, this is your game, not ours. What you choose to do with it is more important than any suggestions we might make and we’ve designed it that way from the ground up. The division of the rules above supports a modular approach, and many systems can be tweaked or replaced entirely without damaging others in the game. We’ve even included some of the most common tweaks as Levers in Book III. Ultimately, we’ve set the game up to imitate the kind of world we want to play in, and expect that you will do the same. Look at this entire manual as a toolkit of interesting potential rules, and assemble them in the way you like. We just ask that before you do, play it our way, just once. After you’ve had a chance to see what we’ve done and why we’ve done it, tweak to your hearts content.
On the one hand, labeling things Book I - IV is direct and utilitarian, but also doesn't really do anything useful beyond being a placeholder. Burning Wheel was quite brilliant in this regard with its "hub," "spokes," etc.

Wanting for clever metaphor, I considered going something like "Core," "Basic," and "Advanced" but that doesn't seem like it accomplishes anything more than Book I-IV would. On the other hand, it would be pretty funny to have "Basic Bastard" and "Advanced Blades & Bastards" as terms. I'll have to pitch AB&B to Higgins. I can hear him groaning all the way from Estonia. It will be awesome.

Thinking on nomenclature will be my task for tonight. I'll have to sleep on it.

Until next time,


  1. Hey there, I found you via the NaBloPoMo blogroll.

    I worked in a call centre where the queues were named "simple" "complex" and "advanced" - several times they asked us to come up with words to rename these things, and we had some really good ideas but they never did anything with them.

    As part of NaBloPoMo I try to comment on as many participating blogs as I can, and I also add participating blogs to my feed reader.

    So I’m just dropping by to let you know I’ve added your blog to my feedreader, I’m reading you loud and clear, I have a link up going at my place so my readers can find participating blogs which you are more than welcome to add your blog link to.

    Looking forward to seeing your posts. You may see me drop by again during November, but it might be December before I finish my first drop by to blogs if I don't get faster at leaving comments. :)

    Happy NaBloPoMo to you!

  2. I can't help you directly at the moment (inspiration for better names has not struck), but I thought you might find solace in this programmer's proverb, knowing that others have the same difficulties.

    "There are only two hard problems in computer science: P vs. NP, naming things, and off-by-one errors."