Articles from August 2010



Magical Location Design: Establishing a Mood

I talked yesterday about designing a magical location around the effect it was supposed to have on the audience. But it’s one thing to say “I want this effect”, and another thing entirely to get the effect in question. How do you go about it?
First, of course, is actually choosing the effect. It goes without [...]

Three Starting Points for Designing Magical Locations

What fun is a fantasy world without inherently magical locations? They make it clear which genre you’re operating in, provide a little color, and because of the ability to use elements not present in mundane locations, can often create a more intense and targeted mood than their mundane counterparts. I usually begin with a combination [...]

The Generic Villain on Recruitment Spiels

Decrease the ranks of Good by a few. Add to your own at the same time. Is it any wonder we like doing a little recruiting in our spare time? But if we’re going to try to recruit the forces of Good to our side, we need to do it well. Half-attempts only get us [...]

Impractical Applications (Carmilla Demonstrates Talky Villains)

I may pride myself on my talking-prone villains, but none of them are what inspired this week’s stretch of post. Rather, it was the running antagonist from the Dresden Files RPG game run by one of my friends during my hiatus, a Red Court vampire by name of Carmilla.
She’d started out as an element from [...]

The Uses of Ancient Civilizations

There’s one in every world, isn’t there? Somewhere in history, there was a civilization. It was advanced, or at least looked advanced, probably in the areas of magic or technology. At least one society is descended from it, one way or another (or so they claim). And it’s not here now.
Ancient civilizations are ubiquitous because [...]

Characterization Exercise: Who’s Your Ideal Enemy?

There’s a lot to be said about the peculiar dance between two enemies: a blend of mutual hatred, a peculiar sort of chemistry, and who knows what in the middle. It makes conflicts interesting—but like a good romance, it requires that the two enemies be, in their own way, a good match.
And you can learn [...]

Tales from the Sketchbook: The Peacock

A picture paints a thousand words; a picture with context can say a lot about a game; but explanations of the random sketches of an artist-gamer can say the most of all. In this series, I look at the just-had-to-draw-them images distilled from my games: what they are, what they mean, [...]

Personal Observation: On Villains With Recruitment Spiels

An “Are you sure you want to continue fighting me?” in the middle of a fight. An “It’s a pity they’ve already got their hooks in you” between conflicts. A philosophical debate between enemies. I admit it, I’m a sucker for villains with recruitment spiels. But that’s because, as villains go, those types are interesting. [...]

Willing to Talk

One of the advantages I’ve always found of tabletop RPGs as compared to console RPGs is the ability to talk to one’s enemies, whether it’s face to face, by distant proxy, even (perhaps especially) in the middle of a battle. In fact, battle banter is one of the few situations in which I will almost [...]

The Generic Villain on Dealing With Antiheroes

I talk a lot about protagonists, and their various species, since they’re the primary threat to our plans, our standing as Hands of Darkness, and in many cases our very existences. The heroes are coming, and we need to know how to deal with them. But in that narratively determined focus on the heroes, we [...]