Part 3: Running Games as Lean Sprints
Running the Table
There are 5 simple steps in the lean sprint methodology:
Plan, Sketch, Decide, Build, Test.
Each step leads into the next, iteratively, for a tried and true efficient work cycle. Before I get started describing each step I want to clarify that for Dungeons & Dragons, Step 5 is going to be ‘Play’ and not ‘Test’.
In UX and product design I run lean sprints on a M-F schedule, 1 step each day. This schedule will be different for you depending on how often your game sessions occur, but the methodology will remain the same.
In this first step we make a sprint plan, setting goals for our upcoming game. In our first sprint, we solely use our MVP to create our first game. Future games will rely on the MVP as well as discoveries made during the previous game(s).
What is going to be the goal of the upcoming game? What problem does it solve? What feature(s) in the MVP does our game goal address? This first step is entirely figuring out the goal of the upcoming game, or sprint.
This step is called sketch, but also involves some reseach. The first half of sketching is simply researching existing solutions to your problem or game goal. Learn from others. Using this knowledge, begin sketching out ideas and concepts for how you think the upcoming game could be run to solve the planned problem.
Look at the ideas you sketched and pick the best one. But it’s not that easy. This phase is called “decide” but it also involves storyboarding the idea you pick. We’re making a ditry plan for what we are going to build.
How do we think the game should start? What’s the hook? What’s the gist of the game? How might it conclude, and where does it lead to?
Sketch these ideas out as storyboards.
“Build” is actually just that. We’re going to take our storyboard and build the game without worrying about anything else. We have a goal that addresses MVP features, we have a storyboard of how to solve that goal, and we know that goal will fulfill player needs.
This is the creative push of making locations, non-player characters, monsters and items. You know the goal and the plan, focus on making amazing work to bring that storyboard to life.
You’re going to meet with your players, run your game, and take notes. I’m not here to tell you HOW to play Dungeons & Dragons; everyone plays it differently. I am telling you to take notes, however.
During testing in UX & Product design, we uncover new required features or find things just aren’t working out. This isn’t failure. This is learning. The same process will happen when you play your game. Your notes are what you learned from running the game, and these notes will influence your next planning session, starting the lean sprint cycle over again.
This 5-step iterative process is designed to be easily repeatable, each sprint building off of the knowledge you learned last game.