Articles from January 2009



What Can’t You Do?

When people write characters, the emphasis is often on what the character can do. It’s useful—after all, what they can do determines their roles in the plot, what sorts of scenes they can be written into, and in some cases how they react to other characters. What a character can do is a vital piece [...]

Characterization Exercise: What Keeps You Going?

A good plot requires conflict. Conflict produces tension. Tension in high quantities can get overwhelming. That’s just realism, right?
But it wouldn’t do to have characters who snap under the pressure the plot puts on them—at least, not without coming back stronger when they need to. Which leads to the question: What is keeping these people [...]

Characterization Exercise: What’s In Your Workspace?

This writers’ trick has been around for a while, but it never gets old.
People tend to change the areas around them to fit their own preferences. Bring things in, remove other things, change the positions of yet other things. Most of what’s done will say something about the person whose personal space is being described.

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The Generic Villain’s Guest Speaker (On Career Antagonists)

The Generic Villain’s presentation continues with a few whispered words to the “volunteer”, ending in a somewhat louder “Make it good enough, you can leave.” This time, it’s the volunteer’s turn to speak.
Your host says an amusing enough presentation will get me out of here. I think I’m supposed to talk about talking your way [...]

Impractical Applications (Powerful Characters)

I went out on a bit of a limb with the Powerful Characters riffs (I’m almost surprised I haven’t been buried in people calling my approach to NPCs crazy, honestly). But I’m not the type to push ideas like that without having put the theories to the test, and I have a lot of practice [...]

Breaking the Unwritten Rules

….and breaking my concentration on secondary character aspects, but this needed to be said. May as well be a rebel all the way.
In the vein of yesterday’s riff, you’d be amazed at how many of the unwritten “rules” of running a game you can break if you’ve got skills and an agreeable group.
One of my [...]

How to Avoid the DMPC Label with Powerful Characters

They told you it could not be done. That the PCs must be the complete focus of the story, that those more powerful than they who would otherwise be on their side should be distant and uninterested. They told you that party escorts must be interchangeable hirelings, that an NPC could never be at the [...]

Power: What It Is, What It Isn’t

I see a lot of people discussing character power level and why it should be limited For the Sake of the Story, particularly for secondary characters. Nary a month goes by on the Giant in the Playground forums without someone getting into an argument over what constitutes a DMPC and why the party shouldn’t be [...]

Announcing Project Characterization

A good blog post is hard to find. Literally. Not everyone’s back posts are particularly easy to search, and there are a LOT of archives out there; I can think, off the top of my head, of several dozen different blogs, most of which have been going for at least four months, which I would [...]

Characters on the Fly

I spent last week talking about ways to make an in-depth, detailed character. But sometimes, that’s not what you need. It’s the middle of session, or you’re in the middle of a scene and can’t take the time to detail extras. You need a character for living scenery, or a list of names and what [...]