Prompts That Scare Me

The thing about writing or GMing for an audience is that we can’t always create exactly what we want—and more, that sometimes our audience, well-meaning or otherwise, will steer us right to those things that we consider our worst points. There’s no way to fix it but practice, really, and no way to figure out what it is we need to practice without looking at what we’re afraid of. So—here are the things that give me writer panic just thinking about them.

Working in a modified real-world setting. It’s been a mental block since the beginning of college, muddling my way through a game of Aberrant when I was clearly the most clueless person at the table. When you’re a perfectionist, and used to being smart, it’s even worse. To this day, if I think I’m going to have an audience of more than “my immediate game group”, and I don’t know the location intimately, I’m out of there—and while I’ll play in a mod-real-world, I won’t run in one.

Writing without color. I had occasion to try to test myself on this recently; I was asked to come up with a bunch of picture prompts for a rulebook, but learned partway in that the budget only allows for black and white. With that many characters, I need all the colors I can get (and not just for the hair and eyes; a number of them have some rather interesting things in their bloodlines, and trying to get those across without color is not easy). I might try it again sometimes, but for now I’ll leave it as it stands.

Writing in first person or third person limited with a focus on a character who isn’t all that smart. I’m not sure whether I’m more worried that I couldn’t do it, or that it would annoy me too much to keep doing; I certainly have a load of trouble doing it with my PCs. Moreso since I tend to overcorrect and leave them seeming a tad too far behind the curve.

Dealing with a fight in which nobody talks. Snark, one-liners, duels of wits and in-narration humor are my coping mechanisms when running fight scenes in game; I’m not sure what I’d do without them.

Any scene in which a sympathetic character dies onstage, particularly if it’s in an unpleasant manner. I’m getting closer, mind you. I’ve written my group finding the corpses of sympathetic characters after their unpleasant offscreen deaths (…okay, it would have worked better if one hadn’t been new to the group and another hadn’t been playing a different character from the one who knew the characters in question); goodness knows I’ve worked the group through killing some of the unsympathetic characters I’ve thrown at them (but not very many; they seem to prefer rehabilitating them). But I’m not sure I could go all the way.

Anything involving sex scenes. I tried it once, mind. Between the feeling of voyeurism and the fact that I had no freaking idea what one was supposed to do in circumstances like this… let’s just say it didn’t last. Fade to black all the way!

So there’s my eep list. What’s on yours?


  1. burnedfx says:

    Cities. The amount of NPCs assaults my brain and I fear they would become the same twelve or so NPCs with different faces. Not that twelve is a real limit.

    Oddly, this is a recent development. Specifically, when I started playing with the girls.

    I had plenty of players explore cities, modern and fantasy, when I was younger.

  2. Ravyn says:

    I don’t blame you for being nervous–and I’ll admit to being a tad intrigued by city-nerves as a recent development. Is this a case of more interaction with the city NPCs, particularly ones not marked as talk-to-able, or is something else going on, you think?

  3. burnedfx says:

    Since your post, I have thought about this a lot more and I think I’ve come up with an answer.

    In High School, running an Al-Qadim campaign for three years meant quite a few city adventures. But, as I mentioned, it was no problem.

    I might be worried that the girls (Kay especially) will want to talk with everyone.

    Her mom and sister put her back on track easily enough, but her entering a large city, she’d lose them in the crowds and (not wanting to control her character) I would allow her to get lost and the others have to search for her.

    They’d be scouring the streets, looking in every tavern, while Kay mucks about in the Market or the Street Fair, getting in to trouble.

    It might be as simple as that.

  4. Ravyn says:

    In a situation like that, it probably doesn’t matter as much if you’ve got about a dozen personalities and are just shoving different faces on them. In most of my work with cities, I’ve made most of my smaller characters living scenery–I give them a Thing They Do, and they will sort of talk about that if asked but not show all that much personality otherwise. There should exist a character of x type, who does y thing, and at that point I blank out and go on autopilot.

  5. UZ says:

    Ha, the nookie scene! I won’t bother to enumerate but in my writing such things are not rare. All the same, the subject matter can get very repetitive if it’s not heavily *heavily* character-driven. It takes a light touch.

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