Articles from January 2011



Of Worlds and Wiggle Room

So like yesterday, this was set off by dropping into a discussion of licensed RPG properties that Fred Hicks had started on Twitter. Mechanics may not be my thing in the same way that some other game features are, but I like to think I’ve got a pretty good sense of what works and what [...]

Plot, Setting or Premise?

A couple of days ago, I got tangentially involved in a conversation on Twitter, on the subject of RPGs based on licensed properties, and how common they are these days; what really got to me during that chat was Steve Kenson pointing out that an overwhelming number of people seemed to be looking for some [...]

Stories I Follow

Yesterday I talked about characters’ internal narratives—the kinds of stories that they’ve internalized and often act according to. I wasn’t able to go into as much detail as I would have liked on how to find an established character’s internal narratives. I can, however, show you some of mine, and things that helped me find [...]

Characterization Exercise: The Stories They Follow

From time immemorial, people have told each other stories—about why the world is the way it is, about generic youths who all had one of three or four names and somehow managed to make good, about the kinds of people they’d want to be and the kinds of people they’d want to sleep with. For [...]

Tales from the Sketchbook: Aisling’s Gambit

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, why they demanded drawing, [...]

The Generic Villain’s Digression on Dramatics

I may follow the Laws of Dramatics, I may study and reference them constantly (it’s how you survive in this game, need I say more?), but I’m not going to say that they always make sense. They fit patterns, yes, but I don’t think there’s any logic, human or otherwise, that could fully encompass them. [...]

Impractical Applications (A Sample of Sidequests)

Over the last couple of days, I’ve talked about sidequests and how one might classify them. There’ve been plenty of examples in my games, some more so than others.
Exposition sidequests (or at least, sidequests with exposition-type traits) are common in my game, mainly because I have so many plot threads going on at once that [...]

Three Types of Sidequests

When I talked about sidequests yesterday, I mentioned that one of the factors influencing the likelihood of a sidequest working for a game group was its type. But what are these types? Looking over the topic, I found three basic categories of sidequest, and a few strengths and weaknesses of each.
The first type is the [...]

In Defense of the Sidequest

Most of us, or at least those of us who are videogamers as well as writers and roleplayers, are used to the concept of the sidequest. For those who aren’t, basically it’s an optional digression from the main plot, often in order to accrue some sort of additional benefit or information. The question then becomes [...]

The First Rule of Starting an RPG

An RPG doesn’t need to start with every little detail worked out. It helps, but it’s not necessary. I’ve seen games with rules for half-built characters, and games where the characters were talking IC and nobody’s sheet was even remotely finished. There are games where you can get away delegating figuring out what brought the [...]