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 [...]

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 [...]

How Not to Talk to Yourself

Yesterday I talked about things a GM can do when running a scene in which it makes sense for the focus to be NPCs talking to each other. Enough positivity; let’s look at what not to do.
Don’t make it an uninterruptable soliloquy. Heck, don’t make it something where it could technically be interrupted, but the [...]

The Art of Talking To Yourself

Running a scene, or even part of a scene, in which the only ones talking are one or more NPCs is a vexed issue among tabletoppers. On the one hand, the PCs are expected to be the focus on the action; if they weren’t, why else would we be playing? The game’s about the PCs. [...]

Isn’t That a Bit Too Much Power?

I’m not going to try to claim that the power fantasy isn’t an integral part of the RPG experience. The illusion of competence, lots of shiny effects with which one can attempt to butter-knife through one’s foes—that’s always been a part of it. But there are always those who get the shinies on their first [...]

Running for Smart PCs

It’s pretty easy for a GM to manage a group whose idea of ideal characters to emulate are your standard sword and sorcery hero. Provide plenty of things for them to pound/spellcast at/otherwise beat to a pulp (possibly with variations for the ones who do it from behind, or do it with a little bit [...]

Ravyn’s Rules of Mind Control

Into every game, a little mind-controlling the PCs seems to fall. And why not? It ensures they’re fighting one of the scariest things on the field, it forces them to change their tactics, and it gets one or more of them out of your hair. But when we’re doing this, we still need to remember [...]

Honest Manipulators

Most of the manipulative characters in both fiction and RPGs are absurdly good liars—you know, the type who could sell shoes to snakes or convince a person that the sky was red while standing outdoors at noon on a clear day. But that hides the fact that the people who are terrible at lying can [...]

Working Around “What Am I Doing Here?”

One of the perennial problems of playing in an RPG is the risk that you’re going to end up with That Character. The one who was a really cool concept originally, or who fits your style perfectly, or what have you—only then you get to the actual game and they end up completely unsuited to [...]

Reprise: When Players Choose the Battleground

Originally posted on September 8, 2009.
There are some patterns I tend to see in RPG combat, particularly regarding enemy behavior. In fact, it seems like most GMs are following a simple algorithm: “If the PCs know about the enemies, the enemies make the PCs come to them. If the PCs don’t know [...]