Accidentally Making a Game

The Years of Adventure did not always have a name, let alone all of the systems, character options, appendices, and tools for players and GMs to explore. It began, as many projects in tabletop gaming do, as a means to fill a gap that we identified in our weekly games. Brandon was running a Worlds Without Number campaign at the time, and saw that there was a lack of support in that and other games when it came to simulating large-scale domains or political systems. That was where The Years of Adventure began, and the large scale of our game has remained a through line during our development as a totally unique way for both players and GMs to experience and explore their game worlds. That original system is now almost unrecognizable, but the process of creating it was what started us on this path.

When Brandon first invited me to take a look at the domain system that he had created, I expected to give my opinions and perhaps help him play test it within our weekly campaign. I never imagined that his ideas and mine would snowball into the behemoth of a system that it is today, but that’s what happened. Little by little, as we talked more and proposed new fixes and ideas for the games that we were playing, we realized that the game we wanted to play was in our heads, we just had to write it. 

We worked hard in that first year, our skills complimenting one another and our vision for the system changing over time. We both wrote and wrote and crafted the systems that we have today, attempting to capture and provide guidance for any form of play or character archetype that could exist within a tabletop game. Where we don’t have a system, spell, or technique in our game, we tried to provide encouragement and guidance for players to do what we did at the beginning of our process: create it themselves.

During this time of focused creation, we learned so much. We took ideas and inspiration from other games that we loved. We made sure that classic tabletop archetypes and abilities were well-represented and possible within our system. Brandon and I have made a great team, unafraid to push against the other’s ideas to ensure that we were producing the best possible product that we could. This has been one of the best things I have ever accomplished, and the satisfaction of our collaboration is something that I will always hold as a source of pride.

We didn’t advertise to our tables or friends that we were embarking on a huge project until its first version was almost completed – nearly a year after starting. We wanted to present something that was playable, and in the weeks leading up to us beginning our first test campaign, we felt a level of pressure and nervousness in the simple question of whether or not our game would be fun to play? We knew that the systems were unique. We knew that a campaign in the Years of Adventure would traverse more in-game time than any other game we had played, but we didn’t know if others would enjoy what we had created.

What we have found could not have been more satisfying. The freedom that we sought in beginning the project was immediately apparent in everyone that has begun to learn and understand our rules. Our friends and play testers, like most tabletop gamers, are an incredibly creative and involved group of people, and they gravitated towards the character systems for the ease and flexibility that our classless, technique-based system allowed. They began creating multiple characters, each engaging with our game world, Teia, in unique ways. Different combinations of characters and players showed up each week at our open table, and those characters, now numbering close to twenty strong, were all completely unique. We have engaged in naval battles with pirates, mass combat with villagers defending their homesteads, dungeon dives into some of our favorite adventure modules, political intrigue with the leaders of cities, and so much more. 

Perhaps it is my own bias talking, but the world that we have created and supported through The Years of Adventure feels more alive and engaging than any I have ever explored or created in tabletop gaming. In the first six months of play testing, Teia saw three years come and go, nations have clashed, players have uncovered mysteries and political schemes, and they have made a genuine impact on the world. New spells and techniques have been written, motivations have been solidified, and each week we are excited to continue our adventure.

When we began this process, I don’t think either of us could have imagined that the project would grow into what it is now. We made a list of goals during our first official meeting, and slowly but surely we have crossed off many of those goals, added more, and crossed some of those off too. Now, we have an opportunity for our most important goal to be achieved: for other people – strangers – to play and experience our game and create stories and adventures for themselves. We are so excited for this next step, and we hope that you will join us in our passion and let us know how we can continue to improve the game that we (and hopefully you) have had so much fun playing.

Happy Adventuring!