Steal This Game

The other day I get an email that says (basically) “Hey, your ideas are great. I’m writing an adventure that I’m going to publish, and I’m imitating a lot of your stuff like Revelations and Action Shticks. Is that okay?”

Okay? Not only is it okay, I absolutely encourage it.

If I’ve come up with an innovation that you like, don’t reinvent the wheel, use it! Outline your adventures using the anatomy of an action scene. Write out important Revelations. Plan interesting Action Shticks. I think everyone should use these ideas (where appropriate) because I think they lead to better game design, which means better games at the table.

Are these ideas perfect? Probably not. So take them out and use them, and when you find ways to improve them, tell the world. Evolution ensues. The art of adventure design has come a long way since the 70’s but in a lot of ways it has not come nearly far enough. Nothing sadder than an unpushed envelope.

“Does that mean I can just copy parts of your adventures and use them in my own publications?” Heh heh. No. Not if it isn’t Open Game Content. Nor should you want to. Make up your own stuff. What I’m saying is use the structure and techniques to build your own material. Use the design concepts, not the content.

Open Game Content

Revelations and Action Shticks are described in all of my adventures, but those definitions are Product Identity, so by the Open Game License other adventure designers can’t use that text. To fix that, here’s an Open Game Content version so you can include these definitions when creating your own Revelations and Action Shticks.

The following is Open Game Content in accordance with the Open Game License:


A revelation is a critical point in the game, changing how players see the situation and possibly how they react. A revelation is something the players need to know to understand what is going on or how to deal with the situation.

Having a list of revelations helps you keep track of what the players need to find out to advance the plot, making it easier for you to emphasize those points during play.

Action Shticks

Action Shticks are classic challenges or situations that go with a particular environment or situation. They are dramatic moments or events that work regardless of the specific plot. Another way to look at an Action Shtick is as a mini-encounter within the main encounter, a smaller challenge for the heroes to overcome before they tackle the main challenge.

Action Shticks are interactive situations, not just combat maneuvers, and should give the heroes a chance to make choices. A good Action Shtick reinforces the genre and lets the heroes really act like heroes from a comic book.

All Action Shticks are optional and can be used in particular scenes as you see fit. Because Action Shticks are intentionally generic, you can easily transplant them to other adventures, or use them time and again: even if the heroes don’t have to rescue an airplane in distress in one game, you can use that same Action Shtick to spice up some other adventure.

[Open Game License]

Now have at it.

    Ben Robbins | May 10th, 2007 | | show comments