Articles from February 2011



Presence, Absence and Nuance

You sometimes see characters who despite not actually being present are moving the story at least as much as anyone who’s actually there. Sometimes they’re dead, other times it’s just a case of physical (or metaphysical) distance; they might be emulated, perpetually preempted whether they actually have an effect on the current storyline or not, [...]

The Generic Villain’s Infiltrator Tricks

There you are, having successfully infiltrated a gathering of those potentially troublesome to you. You’re blending in, you’re avoiding the hazards, you haven’t gone redemption-bait… now what? Hopefully you’ve thought far enough to have an in-depth plan for what to do now, but if not, or if you’ve got a plan but haven’t learned your [...]

Impractical Applications (A Culture/Anger Study)

As with many weeks, the blame for this week’s riffs can be laid at the feet of one of my players: mostly for the exchange at the end of the post, but in general for the range of characterization I’ve seen from him on the subject of anger. In the time since I’ve met him, [...]

Why GMs Love Products of Their Culture

Making a character truly belong to his or her culture isn’t just a way to give her depth, color and a distinctive style. For the RPG player, it’s also a way to score points with the GM. What’s so great about a PC who’s clearly been shaped by her environment?
First, it shows a willingness to [...]

Characters and Culture

Some of the characters I’ve run into could fit in anywhere, really. Maybe it’s just being archetypical, maybe it’s being in worlds that have a lot in common with the other worlds I’ve read, but I could swap them with other characters of their ilk all day and all it would get me is amusing [...]

Anger: Individual Variation

Yesterday, I talked about two major flavors of anger: impulsive, direct “hot” anger, and smoldering, calculating “cold” anger. Today, I’m going to look more at other variations on the theme. You can go a long way without having two people who are angry in the exact same way.
There’s already a lot of room for variation [...]

Anger by Temperature

Anger. It’s a common emotion in narratives; I dare you to name me one book, even one short story, in which it never shows up. It motivates, it expresses, it characterizes—most people can’t get away from it, and as long as it stays fictional, fewer with a flair for drama want to. One of the [...]

Delayed Followup: Proactive vs. Reactive

A long time ago I wrote about player styles, particularly proactive vs. reactive approaches to a game. The old article was something of a simplification of the issue, and since then, I’ve learned a bit more about the proactive-reactive continuum.
One of the things I’ve noticed about a proactive style is that it isn’t necessarily either-or; [...]

The Generic Villain by Comparison

Well, this is it. You might have gotten a cutscene or two, maybe even a prologue, your deeds may have been mentioned in passing or come upon too late to be prevented, you may even have been fighting by proxy for a while before this, but now, it’s time to meet those protagonists face to [...]

Impractical Applications (Ravyn Learns to Tag)

This week’s riffs on tagging (and a number of other things) were inspired by a game I recently joined, a wiki-based freeform play-by-post inspired by Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books, toying with the idea of the plot-maintaining organization JurisFiction acquiring RPG and fanfiction divisions and agents from the world therefrom. Which resulted in a game [...]