Game Design 101: Power 19

Today we begin exploring the Power 19. Since this is a pretty big topic, I am going to be splitting it into two parts. Today, we explore the nature of the questions themselves and how they can be applied to your game design. Next week, I’ll be exploring the arguments made against these three design methods. There is a strong counter-culture against the Power 19.


So what is the Power 19? It is a system created by Troy Costisick as a way to explore the Big 3 in a much more focused manner. It was the source of a lot of debates for a long time when the Forge was still active. In my opinion, you are best using the Power 19 in one of two ways. Either focus on using it as a way to make sure you are at least considering certain aspects of your game or else use it after you have an initial draft as a way to hone it into a more precise design. Is your design doing what you intend?


<h3>The Power 19 Questions</h3>

1) What is your game about?
2) What do the characters do?
3) What do the players do?

Do these three look familiar? They should, it’s the exact same basic questions as we saw in the Big 3. Since I’ve already talked about them, I’m not going to rehash them here. Instead, I will just point you towards the original article and leave it at that.


4) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
5) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?

Since the First question of the Big 3 is the same on the Alternative Big 3, the Power 19 skips over it and instead offers us these two questions that relate somewhat back into the second question of the Alt Big 3. They aren’t precisely the same, but do explore a bit about how you are going to support the initial question through aspects of the game design.


6) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?
7) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?

As with the final question of the Alt Big 3, these two questions explore the concept of rewards and punishment to enforce the desired behavior relating to what the game is supposed to be about. As ever, this labors under the assumption that there will be a reward/punishment system. Keep in mind however that rewards may be intangible rather than specific parts of the system itself.


8) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?

More or less, how does play work and is there some sort of GM? Do players take turns telling what is going on or do they just play their own part? Do they even get that much? This question falls somewhat under the mechanics of how the game is played.


9) What does your game do to command the players’ attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)

The core of this questions seems to fall to the idea of making sure your game isn’t just a set of rules without anything to make it interesting enough to actually play. How are you drawing players into your setting?


10) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
11) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?

Almost every game has some sort of mechanic. These questions are about making sure your mechanics are focused on the core of your game instead of just being there for the sake of existing. With our game that focus’ on Trolls hunting Dwarves in the span of a single evening, do we really need a mechanic for treasure hunting or meal preparation? Maybe, but probably not. Focus on what is going to make the game feel right and where the mechanics will serve a valuable purpose.


12) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
13) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

This is surprisingly important. Some games have no method for advancement, some have a set pace of advancement and quite a few use a variable system of advancement. How characters grow is most important for games meant to be played over a long period and where characters transition from one game into the next. How your advancement or lack of advancement works can have a major impact on the replay of the game.


14) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?

I feel like this is retreading of question 9 somewhat. Where it differs is that it focus’ more on the emotional state rather than simple questions of participation. Did you mean for your Lovecraftian Horror game to have elements of humor? Was your teen drama supposed to feel like a tense chess match between two players? Maybe that was your intent, maybe not. Either way, being aware of what you want for the game can have a value in how you develop or alter the systems.


15) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?
16) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
17) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?

All of this goes towards the flavor and uniqueness of your game. How do you make it something other than a clone of an existing game? What makes this game even worth picking up for the person who buys or downloads it? Hopefully you are excited about all of your game, but knowing where you are most excited may help to recognize what is the most important part of what you are building, at least to yourself.


18) What are your publishing goals for your game?
19) Who is your target audience?

Knowing your audience and goals will have a strong influence on your finished work and design. A free release PDF is probably going to be made differently from a hardback book for sale. A game geared to teen readers will be far different than one crafted to be played by a half-dozen adults. A lot of this is going to play into your last few steps, but knowing them early on can potentially help to shape how you develop the game out.



This is a tool. Like any tool, it may or may not work for you. It is built on certain assumptions and those assumptions may have nothing to do with what you are designing. Still, some of these questions may at least help you to think on what you are doing in greater detail. Of course, as I said before, we are going to be looking at the arguments against this method next week.


I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you like the idea of using the Power 19 or do you have the same animosity towards it that others in the past have expressed?


What are your thoughts?

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