Universal Principles of Design, published by Rockport, has taught me dozens of excellent techniques. One technique is referred to as “Personas”, where you try to create diverse profiles of potential users so that you can consider each of their needs & preferences. I suspect that using a technique like that might help improve our presentation of games to a wider variety of audiences. As roleplaying game designers, I feel we have a big advantage when it comes to creating fictional users and anticipating their needs.
Here is my list of different Personas which you can feel free to use for your own designs. These are in no particular order and any resemblance to individuals living or dead is purely accidental.
1) Richard: Richard is a middle-aged Caucasian male with a classical education and a long history with the gaming hobby. He cut his teeth on basic D&D and still considers 2nd edition to be a bad decision. His experience focuses on the older games such as Rolemaster, Tunnels and Trolls, Runequest, Gurps and Champions. He has a broad experience with telling good and realistic stories as a fair and benevolent dungeon master.
2) Zak: Zak is a well-off Caucasian teenager from the suburbs from a dual-income home. He just started playing Pathfinder over the summer and is having a blast killing monsters and taking their loot. He picked up D&D 4e and it looked interesting, but he considers himself is strictly as a player. His Tuesday and Friday nights are spent drafting magic cards at the local gaming store and he considers himself quite the expert in that game.
3) Gloria: Gloria is an Caucasian woman, just turning 18 and considering college. She embraced drama class enthusiastically and has tried her hand at improvisational theatre. Unfortunately for Gloria, a genetic condition has set in of late and her eyesight has deteriorated over the last few years. She has never been exposed to an RPG.
4) Suzanne: Suzanne is a first-nations youth in an isolated community. She has had some difficulty in schooling due to the poverty gripping her people. She has been trying hard to improve her reading and writing skills and has gotten into reading fantasy novels of late. She has never played a roleplaying game, though she listens to every story that her elders are willing to tell.
5) Mohammad : Mohammad is a devout Muslim gentleman of Arabic decent, currently living in the middle east. He is passionate about designing new roleplaying games, particularly those originating from the Forge. He thinks that his current game will have an impact on his society on a whole and help people explore themselves and their faiths during these turbulent times.
6) Lily: Lily is a mature Chinese woman with a master’s degree in psychology. On her off hours, she plays in a game of Lamentations of the Flame Princess with a few other women from the university she works at. She has embraced the Old School Renaissance movement, enjoying pitting her mind against the pitiless fantasy world. Years ago she had played a number of Vampire: the Masquerade LARP’s as well and she appreciated the experience, but was weirded out by the extent people were playing in character.
I hope that some of these persona are of use when examining your own designs and your potential audiences.