Articles from July 2012



Reprise: How to Foil Investigation Magic

Originally posted on August 18, 2009. Note that the idea here isn’t to completely render investigation magic useless, it’s just to make sure it doesn’t cut straight through everything; a little challenge is good for a character, hm?
When people start talking about creating mysteries in settings with magic, the magic often comes in as a [...]

Reprise: Four Ways to Show a Character’s Skill Without Having Her Use It

Originally posted on June 30, 2009

One complaint people often have about bad writers is that they claim their characters are good at doing a certain thing or have a certain interest, but there’s next to no evidence in the text that it’s actually true. Characters who love books [...]

Reprise: The Generic Villain vs. the Plucky Comic Relief

Originally posted on July 26, 2009.
You often see these little nuisances hanging around the protagonists. They’re characterized by being engaging underdogs—usually small and cute, but sometimes just lesser in power or Narrative Vitality than the protagonists themselves and somewhat more personable. (Given what angstballs today’s heroes are, though, that’s not hard.) [...]

Reprise: Impractical Applications (PC Plot-Hinting)

Originally posted on July 30, 2011.

I think I just began a story.
In one of my games, we’re rotating people who are functionally serving as GMs, or at least as hosts, as the characters we play run around between worlds. There really isn’t a metaplot; I’m not entirely sure there’s a plot, most [...]

We Interrupt This Posting….

I hate writing personal posts. Personal opinions, not a problem; I certainly have plenty of those. But personal, this-is-my-life in more detail than just “They sent me home from work with Inspiration” today posts? Particularly when they’re admitting that what I’m doing just isn’t working, even for a short time.
That being said, I need to [...]

Shades of Creepy

On the one hand, I’m rather fond of messed-up social dynamics and mindscrewy plots and behaviors, in my fiction and sometimes even in my gaming (when done well): they’re interesting reading, they show me a part of human nature that I really don’t want to deal with face to face but do think that I [...]

Characterization Exercise: “Now That You’re Borrowing My Shoes….”

While it may not necessarily feel true for a lot of people, most people have some specific role they fill which, if it were to be filled by someone else, would require a certain amount of instruction. Fictional characters, be they from a story or game, almost all have roles like this; after all, designing [...]

The Generic Villain’s Case for Cultural Understanding

This one goes out to all those Hands of Darkness employed in high-level positions in governments that have strong cultural differences with their neighbors, particularly the masterminds and the ones who keep a positive public image. You know who you are—and if you don’t, you’d better be learning fast. I’m here to tell you something [...]

Impractical Applications (Cities and Foundation)

I’ve spent this last week talking about designing cities—or at least, the buildings and streets and general visuals of cities, from  recently built to well-aged to old and deserted. I’ll admit it now: my inspiration really didn’t come from any of the games I’m currently running. In those, I’ve generally been given a canonical foundation [...]

Abandoning a City

This week, we’ve already talked about young cities and older cities, so let’s move on to the next common spec-fic city: the abandoned, most often ruined, city. After all, abandoned cities give all the architecture without any of the potentially intimidating politics (though if you can organically slip politics into an abandoned/ruined city somehow, I [...]