Articles from July 2010



Impractical Applications (You Need a Retcon?)

Earlier this week, I discussed retcons. They’re a touchy subject among GMs, in my experience, and among players: there’s a lot of dignity tied up in them, and a lot of weight. But I’ve seen a number of them that were verging on necessary, and that managed to work, both in my game and in [...]

Why I Mistrust a Planned Game Ending

A couple months ago, Trask on LivingDice, comparing games to well-known TV series, wrote a post about why a GM should write the ending of the campaign first. While I agree completely with the advice when it comes to writing a story (most of my efforts didn’t have the ending pre-planned, and rather suffered for [...]

Inspiration By Explanation

It’s not that rare that we get really, really stuck. Gamers, writers, you name it—the block happens to everyone. It’s what we do about it that varies. There are a lot of things we can do about it, but one of the most counterintuitive I’ve found is just finding someone who isn’t completely familiar with [...]

Characterization Exercise: What Do You See In These People?

Lone heroes happen in stories, but they’re not the world’s most common creatures, and games almost invariably involve a group, either homogeneously PC or a combination of PC and NPC (or a parallel all-NPC group if the GM is feeling like a challenge). This, of course, means we have people. People working together, fighting alongside [...]

To Retcon or Not to Retcon? Seven Questions to Ask

To retcon or not to retcon? It’s a harder choice than you might think. The nice thing about a retcon is that it gives you, if not a blank slate, then at least one without as many marks that could get in your way, or if nothing else without that one mistake you really wish [...]

On Retcons

It’s hard for the creator of a long-running work to remember everything, and harder still to get everything right on the first try. As often as not, whether you’re a gamer or a writer, you find something that you would absolutely love to implement—it would be awesome, thematic, whatever the appropriate adjective is—but you’ve already [...]

Generic Villain’s Philosophy Corner: What Is Villainy?

I recently stumbled across a question: What is it that makes us villains, in particular? Why are we the bad guys? Yeah, it’s a little more philosophical than our usual, but it’s worth asking, and even more worth throwing your conclusions in the hero’s face. Just don’t spend so much time contemplating it that you [...]

Impractical Applications (An Unexpected Success)

Last week, I talked about a fight scene I was running, in terms of the difficulty of figuring out what sort of yardstick the primary characters were going to be. I’m going to go on a bit more, about some of the other factors of the fight itself.
The first was just the sides. In most [...]

Facilitating Gamebuzz

Yesterday, I talked about the creation of a feeling of intense achievement beyond expectation (or “gamebuzz”), and why and how its effect on the players in an RPG can be utilized. But what sorts of factors aid or hinder gamebuzz?
In my opinion, the most important factor is an apparent absence of pre-planning. That doesn’t mean [...]

The GM’s Secret Mood-Weapon: Gamebuzz

Overwhelming emotion is the hallmark of the good storyteller, regardless of medium. Catch up the audience in the moment, throw them around a bit, and immerse them completely in the emotion, and the payback will be worth the effort. Most people seem to prefer the negative emotions—fear, rage, maybe sorrow, you get the idea—since they’re [...]