Articles from August 2011



From Whence Warriors?

One thing often not covered in discussions of warrior cultures (or in some cases, only covered in passing) is where they came from. After all, cultures with complex ideas about where the warrior stands in them and what constitutes a warrior don’t just sprout fully formed from a field full of dragons’ teeth—for one thing, [...]

Warrior Standards

One of the most important parts of creating a warrior culture is coming up with the standards to which its warriors are held. Without standards, after all, what is to set a warrior apart from a non-warrior in his culture, or a person who fights from that group of people over there? How is he [...]

Warrior Cultures

From what I’ve seen, it’s practically a requirement in speculative fiction to have a warrior culture crop up somewhere or other. Noble or not-so-noble makes no difference—what matters is that there is a cultural emphasis on fighting, and more to the point on fighting in some way that sets them apart from other cultures. It’s [...]

The Generic Villain on Impersonation

Last week’s riff on disguises covered ones that weren’t so much meant to be someone we weren’t as to not be who we were. Sometimes, though, we can’t get away with something quite so—heh, heh—generic. Instead, we have to appear to be someone who already exists, and that requires another set of complex factors beyond [...]

Impractical Applications (Plotting a Frame)

 My riffs on frame-up plots had their origin in some time I spent hanging out with one of my friends. He’d been looking for something to do with his players in the second arc of a somewhat political game, so I’d offered to play muse. All he had as the backbone of an idea was [...]

Good Guys Start Last

One thing I’ve noticed about a lot of stories is that the protagonists rarely make the first move. Where there exists a conflict with a villain, the hero(es) will almost invariably leave the first move to said villains, with a few notable exceptions.
One reason for this is that in general, defense codes as closer to [...]

Reading Through the Ranks: I’m Staying With My Boys

A bit over a year ago, I mentioned military reading lists as a source of inspiration. The Marines’ version of the military reading list (known as the Commandant’s Reading List, though I’ve never been entirely sure how much control the Commandant actually has over it) is one of those staples of working at a Marine [...]

Amoral Parties and Frame-Up Plots

Yesterday, I talked about plots based on someone—usually someone important to the PCs—being framed for a crime they didn’t commit. We know how these go with your standard good party: the shining heroes devoted to truth and justice will pretty much always step in for their wrongfully accused fellows. Let’s face it, though, not all [...]

Frame-Up Plots in RPGs

I’ve talked a lot already about mystery plots in general, but there’s one subset of mystery plot that strikes me as needing a particular attention: the frame-up plot. Character or group, usually one important to the PCs for whatever reason, is wrongfully accused of some sort of wrongdoing, PCs decide to Set Things Right, and [...]

The Generic Villain on Disguises

Going incognito is an old standby of Hands of Darkness, dating back to the days of long ago when we showed up as old beggars to trick proud little heroes or too-pretty princesses into doing things they weren’t supposed to. It’s good for situations where we want to try deception without worrying about our status [...]