Have Fun Designing: The Rule of Cool

Getting excited to work on your project shouldn’t be hard, but sometimes it’s not at the forefront of what you want to do. For professional game designers, I could see this as a real challenge trying to push forward. But for us hobbyists, it perhaps means somethings wrong.

The Rule of Cool is something RPGs are known to throw around. Saying “screw the rules”: as long as what’s happening is cool, allow it! But what if you’re trying to come up with those rules? In general, we’re trying to shape the rules so that scenes, player power, and really the story as a whole doesn’t get out of hand. We want our rules to enable the rule of cool, not always be beaten back by it.

Trying to design rules like this can be draining, even when our hearts have already been poured into our work. Sometimes, there’s a blockage of creativity that forms as we design, slowly building up fear that our rules aren’t perfect. When enough of this accumulates, it slows your fun designing, possibly even clogging it right up.

The best solution is to re-open the flood gates; wash out that fear. Go back to why you are doing this in the first place, and start again there. Anything that’s not working towards that goal: scrap it. Something preventing you from having fun designing? Get rid of out it. Do the work you want to do. Apply the Rule of Cool to your design work. If it’s not fun, kick it.

I recently had a flood gate open the past couple weekends, and I went back to designing the core character abilities in Hostargo. These are the awesome powers, magic, and technology that are really the reason I want to play Hostargo. I get excited when I think about playing with these abilities (and GMing them, which is just as important!). When I re-focused, I started cranking out progress like none other.

It won’t last forever, sure. Eventually I’ll have to get back to some of the finer details that I just have to be patient with to get through. But I think with every refocusing, every “washing” of the fear, the final task gets easier and easier.