Articles from January 2012



Learning from Video Games: Zelda and the Art of the Game Shepherd

Yesterday, I wrote about the game shepherd NPC. What got me thinking about that character type (or at least, what got me thinking this time) was that one feature that all of the 3D Zelda titles share—their local equivalent of the game shepherd, someone to look over Link’s shoulder and tell him about things that [...]

The Dangers of the Game Shepherd NPC

One of the things we’ve learned pretty quickly about introducing a player or group to a world they’ve never played in before is that they might not really know what the place is like. Not everyone reads the setting info cover to cover, after all. This is usually where we bring in the Game Shepherd [...]

The Generic Villain Addresses the Audience

My contract usually forbids this sort of blatant hinting and fourth-wall pounding, but the Management’s busy applying to library school; she won’t notice a thing, and even if she is paying attention, I’m pretty sure she won’t care. So let me make a couple of things clear.
One: I’ve been doing this regularly for two years [...]

Impractical Applications (One Big River Arc)

The first arc of game I ran wasn’t without its faults; it was my first time, it required a lot of back-pedaling and improvisation, and it regularly showed that I was still getting the hang of the game world. On the other hand, it managed to work as a serviceable overarching plot, lasting about a [...]

Overarching Plots: Why Aren’t We There Yet?

During my riff on overarching plots in general, I pointed out one question that is vital to the writer of the overarching plot at every event (and, for that matter, is one of the few that should be answered event by event, rather than once and for all at the beginning). By this time we’re [...]

Overarching Plots: The Major Conflict

In general, if you’ve got an overarching plot, you should have—one might even say there has to be—a major conflict. Something has to tie all those little plot threads together, after all! But how much do you actually have to plan beforehand, and how much can you leave to your subconscious mind, the actions of [...]

Overarching Plots: Calibrating Scope

Yesterday, I talked about landmarks and steps that a plotter who isn’t interested in full-on outlines could use to guide herself through an overarching plot. Today, I’m going to go into more detail on one of the steps: determining a plot’s scope.
Scope is, as plot variables go, somewhat messy; there are a lot of things [...]

Overarching Plot for People Who Hate Outlines

If you’re the kind of person who plans everything out in advance naturally, big overarching plots probably come relatively easily; they’re all about planning ahead and knowing how to make everything fit together, event by event by event. But not all of us are outliners; I know I’m not and probably never will be! How, [...]

The Generic Villain on Poses

You are The Main Villain, and it’s your time. The part where you reveal yourself to those foolish heroes who choose to defy you. You’ve got your best armor/biggest coat/creepiest prosthetics/most intimidating combination of visible magic effects, the spot where you’re supposed to come in is just right, and all you have to do is [...]

Impractical Applications (Variations on a Perfect Location)

When I was doing this week’s perfect locations riffs, one of my primary inspirations was a rather odd spot I worked with about five years back. Odd, partly because I used the changes to it as a mood-enhancer twice, both with different versions of the place, and because one of those was for a piece [...]