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Showing posts from July, 2017

Off the Beaten Path: 3 Little Games

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Between conventions, retreats, hang outs, meetup, and monthly events, one of my favourite things to do with my friends is try out weird little games. It's how I end up playing things like Lost in the Rain or Slayers or Before the Storm. At every turn, whenever I hear someone mention the words "it's this weird little game" I'm instantly listening and usually buying just moments later. I love one shots and I love intense experiences. So far, I've found the best way to get that in the short term is these tiny little games.

What makes a great little game? The same things that inspire any good game: it hits the notes it promises and hits them hard plus it's easy to play and grok. When I'm playing these games, I'm looking for how many hiccups there are on the way, how good it is at pulling emotional feedback, and how much work it is for me as a gm or a player. To me, little games should be pretty fast to pick up and play. There shouldn't be a tonne …

Absolute Power: Playing Oppressed as the Oppressor

If you don't know, I recently went on a WWII Poland and East Germany tour. It was unsettling, horrifying, impressive, incredible, and deeply upsetting. I don't have words to describe some of the things I heard, saw, experienced, or felt. I only saw echoes of a past I couldn't comprehend. I was hearing stories and seeing scars I would never have. This wasn't my past. I could listen and bear witness but I could not understand. I could stare at the wall of hair, the piles of shoes and glasses, and walk through the gas chambers into the crematorium and still not understand.

The world is inherently full of horrific things. Our history as a species is bloody. It is full of corrupted power, politics, war, and death. It has mass killings, starvations, genocides, chemical warfare, biological weapons, conspiracies, vast political lies, and bloated bodies. Some of us have benefited directly from this world. We sit in our homes and complain about how slow our internet is or how ex…

Let's Be Bad Guys: Playing the Villain

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Villains are the classic heart of a good story. As much as we love to say the heroes are the beating heart, it comes down to how they respond to the world around them and how the villain of the story is maneuvering. The heart felt moments, the beautiful moments, the breathtaking action sequences happen on screen for your heroes. But behind all these dynamic, flawed, beautiful heroes is the villain, classically twirling his moustache and spouting out his secret plans for the viewer.

In gaming though, we don't really give screen time to our villains. In fact, we make a lot of effort to hide what our villains are doing. In Trad games, our villains are the classical types, whose plots are laid out like breadcrumbs for the heroes to follow. In many story games, the villains aren't anymore grey than they are traditionally. Except sometimes there aren't villains. There's just some people who can be bad guys if you piss them off.
But in that transition from trad to story, how…

Believable NPCs: What Makes A Person?

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The question I get asked most as a GM is how I make my characters so believable. When I'm running a game, people often talk about how layered the npcs are or how alive they seem. My players fall in love with them. They want to help them. They want to save them. They want to be involved in their plots. Why though?

What is about npcs that can make or break a game? How can we make these characters feel like they have life and purpose? Really, making good npcs comes down to how effectively we, as facilitators, can use the npcs to communicate a realism to the world. They are tools, like any other tool, allowing us to infuse a certain feeling and style to the world we've put the characters in.

On top of that very huge demand, we're also using them to impact our PCs and our players. Npcs have a huge responsibility that comes down to making the players care, just as much as making the characters care. Partly this means using the npcs to invoke a certain amount of bleed. Which inh…