Some Practical Advice for Budding Variant Designers

There are lots of different reasons why people have a go at inventing a variant - for some it is an interest in history or drawing maps - for others it is a simple "what if" the rules were changed ever so slightly. Over the years well over a thousand different Diplomacy variants have been catalogued by the variant bank, and no doubt others have escaped. However, if you want your new variant design to appeal to potential players, there are a few pointers to note.

1. Take note of what has gone before. All the best ideas have been invented time and time again. The variant bank will categorise and record every variant, but it has to be said some are more or less the same as earlier designs. Similarly, when you are giving you variant a name, beware that the name may also have been used before as well (even though the variant may be quite different). By convention the variant bank will assign all variant it classifies with a Roman numeral to identify different games already catalogued (e.g. I, II, III, IV etc.), and will include the edition the actual designer gave it in square brackets (where it differs). Thus, John Armstrong's Global Diplomacy is recorded as Global Diplomacy II (as it was predated by Lew Pulsipher's game of the same name), whereas John himself records it as Global Diplomacy 6 (given it is the 6th version he has developed). Similarly, Eric Pedersen's Global Diplomacy is recorded as Global Diplomacy III for catalogue purposes.

2. There are some basics when it comes to writing up the rules. Most variant rules have a format more or less like this:

- The name of the variant and the designer (many variants have no listed designer as the designer never put there name on the rules and their identity has been lost over time!).
- Which game is it a variant of (usually - but not always - Diplomacy!).
- How many players it it for, the names of the Powers and the starting positions of the units.
- What is the victory criteria
- A list of special rules which are unique to the variant in question. try to be thorough and consider all ambiguities.
- A list of map clarifications (if needed).
- What is the game calendar (which year/month etc.)
- A list spaces and their abbreviations (especially if the map only has abbreviations only marked on it).

3. There are some articles on variant design which you may find helpful (or you may not). Still, reading them does not hurt.

4. There is a mailing list for people interested in variant design and you should be able to find people there who will help you refine and improve your design. To join the Diplomacy Variant Workshop mailing list, send an email to DVWorkshop-subscribe@yahoogroups.com, with "subscribe" written in the subject line (omit the quotes).

5. Please send a copy of your design to variantbank.com. I am happy to comment on any variant privately if you would like me to.

6. A good way to publicise your variant once finished is with an announcement on rec.games.diplomacy.


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