Posts belonging to Category GM Advice

Recurrences, Plot and Catch-22

We all know about recurring villains. They’re fun, they save you chargen, they exist as reasons for the PCs to get better and as targets for them to go strike at when they might be otherwise unmotivated—in short, they’re blasted useful, so we use them. Good stuff. On the other hand, that means that every [...]

Cultures and Children

We don’t often think about children in speculative fiction or our games—at least, not once we stop reading entirely in the children’s section. They might be incidental characters, might possibly serve in a MacGuffin role, but they’re not likely to be the protagonist. As such, it’s easy for us to forget about them in a [...]

Characterization Exercise: Where Is This Problem Going?

I blame the US government shutdown for this one. If I hadn’t been tracking it, trying to figure out whether I’d be out of work (and then, when I’d go back to it), I’d wouldn’t have gotten suckered onto far too many comment threads. (Curse my curiosity!) If I hadn’t been looking at the comment [...]

Challenge vs. Slog, Part 2: Contextual Slogging

Yesterday, I talked about mechanical factors that could turn a challenging battle into a boring slog. Today, I’m going to talk about contextual factors; reasons why what’s going on in the game could bring out the slog in an otherwise awesome challenge.
We really can’t see the relevance. One of the things that helps keep a [...]

Challenge vs. Slog, Part 1: Mechanical Factors

There is nothing many game groups like more than a challenging fight. But somewhere in every battle is a point where it goes from a brilliant challenge they’ll be talking about several plot arcs down the road to the worst thing a fight can become: the dreaded slog. The slog might not defeat the characters, [...]

Weaponized Weaknesses

I’ve talked a lot about the kinds of things a character can turn into weapons—but then there’s one of my favorite ways, one that backfires easily, but that works spectacularly. What happens when a character uses her own weaknesses as part of her arsenal?
Things get interesting.
Part of it is just the effect. A character uses [...]

Exercise: Ten Questions

Sometimes, you have a character (or other story element or feature) who just isn’t coming through. Sometimes, you have a person—in your audience, in your game group, wherever—whose take on what you’re doing you just can’t figure out. And sometimes, you can get these two things to cancel out.
In some order, choose yourself a character [...]

Purpose-Based Location Design

(Yet another for RPG Blog Carnival.)
Locations don’t come naturally to a lot of people. Sure, they might have one feature they want to play with, or a very vague idea of outline, but the rest is the geographical equivalent of a probabilistic haze. Honestly, that’s normal. We don’t have to know everything. But we can [...]

Can, Can’t, and Shouldn’t: Three Ways Location Shapes Behavior

This is another post for RPG Blog Carnival. Thinking about locations seems to bring out the best in my inspiration.
Locations have many different effects on the characters who occupy them: physical, metaphysical, emotional, you name it. But one of the biggest effects a well-designed tactical environment creates is a change to behavior. Particularly, it creates [...]

Battlemap? What Battlemap?

When I looked over the prompts for this month’s RPG Blog Carnival (Location, Location, Location, hosted at Campaign Mastery), one of the first that stood out to me was “How do you represent a location if you don’t have a matching battlemap?” It’s not that I’ve never had that problem, just that I’ve never seen [...]