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 [...]

Freewrite: What, a Manipulator Again?

A friend of mine asked me last weekend why I don’t play fighters. Said he wanted to see me drop the social manipulator and do something reckless.
He might have a point. We’ve been in four games together. Five if you count the Better Angels incident. In two of them, my characters were social maneuvering and [...]

Just Because It’s Not Your Scene…

Into every game, a couple scenes that not everyone’s enjoying seem to fall. (Heck, even the enjoyment varies. Some people have characters who are into it but are dead bored themselves, or are enjoying the scene but the character has no use for it.) It’s reasonable not to be having fun. We aren’t a tabletopping [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

Freewrite: You Ever Had One of Those Days….

You ever had one of those days…
Where you think you wish your GM hadn’t read the boxed text. It’s not like you have a problem with boxed text, per se. Boxed text is cool. Descriptions are nice. This boxed text is something you’ve read and read and read again, something you’ve internalized. You are one [...]

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 [...]