Articles from February 2010



The Generic Villain on Phase 1

It’s well known that the Laws of Dramatics state, restate, reiterate, repeat, and otherwise pound repeatedly into our heads with all the strength and half the subtlety of a radioactive metropolis-stomping monster that the heroes always win out in the end. But did you know there’s a Law of Dramatics that confers similar narrative immunity [...]

Impractical Applications (Character Damage Sampler)

When I wrote my riff on why people don’t trust fear, self-loathing, and similarly negative emotions as mainstays of a character concept, particularly not in RPGs, two of my awesome regulars, Michael and Shakespeare, pointed out ways in which those sorts of emotions could make a character better rather than making her impossible to deal [...]

Opening Up the Setting

“…and the third key they ground into uselessness and gave to the dean as a badge of office?” I ask. It’s the second session of my boyfriend’s first serious attempt at running tabletop, a solo Call of Cthulhu campaign, and we’re breaking character a moment to speculate on the fate of one of the keys [...]

Fear and Loathing in Chargen

(Warning: This is a late-night post, deals with some rather intense subjects, did not go through my editor, and as a result should probably be read as conjecture. Hopefully it’s interesting conjecture.)
One of my friends asked me today, “why do so many decent character types get outlawed in literature?” He went on to talk about [...]

You’re Not Yourself Today

Most characters have a standard image of some sort: a set of mannerisms, habits and instincts that overall can be used as a way of signifying that particular character. Recognizing this and keeping to it is a good thing on its own, as it keeps you from having to worry about people complaining about a [...]

The Ninja and the Plot Twist

Question: What do plot twists and ninjas have in common?
Answer: They come out of nowhere, generally make everything better, and both are much more impressive on their own than en masse. Why?
As the ninja strikes from surprise and leaves only the shocked friends of the target behind (at least in theory), so too does the [...]

Can Big Drama Be Done Quietly?

I play games in which grand and dramatic is pretty much the gold standard. It’s part of the system, I can deal with that. I see a lot of people writing in ways that are grand and dramatic, and hey, power to them. But there’s one thing I notice, and that’s that they seem to [...]

The Generic Villain on Varying Approach By Target

It’s something I know I shouldn’t have to say to the master manipulators, I’ve probably said it before, but I don’t think I can stress this enough: when dealing with anyone, be they protagonists, fellow Hands of Darkness, minions, innocent bystanders, you get the idea, one size does not fit all. You would be amazed [...]

Impractical Applications (Conversation Ready)

So this week, I found myself in a situation where my players were investigating two of the eight or so suspects for a long-arcing mystery I’m working on. In order to not scare their marks too much, they were splitting into one group of two and one of three, and going to talk to two [...]

The Bare Minimum to Hold a Conversation

One of the things I’ve found about my characters is that I don’t really understand who they are until I’ve gotten to play them a time or two. The converse to this, unfortunately, is that the first time I play any given character, odds are she isn’t ‘complete’; I don’t have the full sense of [...]