Articles from September 2009



The Generic Villain on Innocuous Dwellings

We know that grim, forbidding castles are good for public Hands of Darkness looking for intimidation factor, and secret lairs work best for those who consider no image to be their best image. But some of us need to look like productive members of society, and it’s hard to do that when you can’t invite [...]

Impractical Applications (Mouse Guard In Medias Res)

Do I begin the story with finding a book while on vacation, falling for a game system, and realizing that running something else for the next few weeks would be a perfect way to buy time to make my next plot arc in my primary game sing? Or should I just hit you, like I [...]

Beginning In Medias Res

Judging from the dragon inhaling for another breath above, the troglodyte with the whip making threatening gestures not far behind it, and the vampire they had been supposed to hunt decapitated on the ground nearby, something had clearly gone wrong, and figuring out what took second place to getting out of there alive.
They weren’t sure [...]

Proposed Houserule: Improvised Gear

“Why didn’t I pack a…?” It’s a pretty common lament among gamers, particularly those who rolled up characters five minutes ago and didn’t spend too much time on their inventories, the ones who expected a city game and ended up in the wilderness (or more rarely vice versa) and the ones who just don’t think [...]

Characterization Exercise: Recap!

This one’s a nice and simple exercise, perfect for story character, RPG PC, and RPG NPC alike. Take an event: something that was just written or played out, something that happened a while ago, even something alluded to in backstory notes or something that’s probably never going to happen but would be fun to imagine. [...]

What Do You Want?

This one’s probably more important for the side characters, but I think a lot of cliché plots could ultimately be improved by people taking this question into account. And so I put it before you as a way to get to know your characters. Sit down with them, and ask them, “What do you want?”
A [...]

The Generic Villain on Secret Underground Lairs

Not everybody’s got the situation for a grim, forbidding castle when constructing a base of operations. For some of us, the object of the game is to not exist; to have no footprint, leave no trace, show no signs that there might indeed be a Hand of Darkness there. For many of them, the Secret [...]

Impractical Applications (Gut-Puncher Scenes)

Yesterday, I talked about gut-puncher scenes, making sure that something that happens shocks the audience to the bone. I’ve only run one scene I’d really call something like that—maybe two if you count the flood a few weeks ago. But what I’ve done worked astonishingly well.
My gut-puncher ran against a major obstacle; how does one [...]

Gut-Punchers: Give Shocking Scenes Their True Impact

Major events get decent reactions, we all know that well—but what really gets people to stand up and take action are the gut-punchers. These are the ones that arrest everyone who hears them, that play out in memory long after the dust has settled, the rains dried, the blood congealed. I doubt there’s anyone reading [...]

This Was NOT in the Manual

I’ve never made much of a secret of favoring play-by-IM as my gaming medium. After all, it lets me self-edit so I don’t put my foot in my mouth quite as badly as I would in person (though I’ve been discovering that’s still not enough to save me); it allows for game groups scattered over [...]