Articles from January 2010



The Generic Villain on Minion Job Requirements

Many of our plans are most easily foiled by the actions of our minions. I get that. It’s Dramatic Necessity. But just because it’s Dramatic Necessity doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least make it difficult for the heroes to take advantage of our little lambs rather than just utilizing holes a mile wide in their [...]

Impractical Applications (Plot-Vital)

This week, I riffed on plot-vital possessions. To be honest, I’m likelier to see plot-vitals than actually use them; I prefer plotting around people or events to plotting around things. But I once played in a game that soon turned out to hinge on a plot-vital possession—when the plot-vital possession wasn’t even in the players’ [...]

On Oil, Shovels and Gamer Psychology

How would you respond to someone who’s just been talking about needing to change the oil in her car telling you “On the way home, we’re going to pick up a bottle of oil and a shovel?”
No, “What does it have to do with role-playing?” isn’t the right answer. I’m getting there.

Photo by vertige
Figured [...]

Maunderings On Value

How do you tell if information is valuable?
You can tell it’s valuable if people want to hear it. If they ask you for it, if they ask questions about it, if they interact with it. You can tell it’s valuable if, even when you deliver it in spurts rather than all at once, they come [...]

Secondary Character Exercise: Someone Else’s Story

One of the biggest problems people often see with secondary characters is when their creator doesn’t take much of an interest in them. I’m not saying they suddenly need to steal the story, but it helps to spend a little time in their heads, make them more than just caricatures on the page. Empathize with [...]

But You Must Take It With You–And Here’s Why

While we know of many reasons why a plot-vital possession can be good for a story, the difficulty can be getting it into the story, particularly if it doesn’t belong to the characters in the first place. For it to stay in the story, the characters need first to pick it up and take it [...]

Plot-Vital Possessions: Why We Plot Around Them

Cursed swords. Magic rings. Amulets whose purposes take half the plot to get explained. Funny coins. How many different stories have you seen that were set up by somebody finding an item that looked interesting, pocketing it, and moving on? How about an item that was a gift from someone important enough that the character [...]

The Generic Villain Hires Assassins

In our job, we often find that there are single individuals that we want dead. Sure, we can raze an entire village looking for them, so on and so forth, but that creates protagonists, and do we really want to deal with that? And people who are inured to that kind of carnage still sometimes [...]

Impractical Applications (Organizations)

I’ve had a lot of reason to think about rank and organizations in my games: my game group is pretty much perpetually interacting with a rather powerful organization, to the point of having two or three contacts who are seeking higher positions within that organization (one actually a full-fledged friend of all the group) and [...]

What Can Rank Do For Your Game?

So you’ve incorporated your players into an organization, and you’re trying to figure out how to make that rank system you’ve been working so hard on matter. What can rank do for you? A lot more than you might think.
The most logical use for it is dangling a carrot for your players—do this, and this, [...]