Drawing Inspiration For Games

As a GM, one of the greatest things that I found kept me back when I first started trying to provide a gaming experience to my players was my desire to create an “original experience” for them.

This led to a number of things that didn’t work: trying too hard to be original can mean that you reject the useful methods of the past that have been proven successful, and it can also mean that to compensate for the lack of existing material, you simply pass over into the realm of spectacle.

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Improv GM’ing Dos and Don’ts: Connect the Dots

If you missed the previous entry in this series, Improv GM’ing Dos and Don’ts: Improv is not Unprepared, I’d suggest going there now and checking it out.

This is part 2 in an ongoing series about improvisational Game Mastering for tabletop roleplaying games. As such I’m assuming you know more or less where I’m coming from with regards to the preparation you need to do before starting the game.

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On Archetypes, Heroes, and RPG Characters

This was originally going to be a velotha’s flock post, but I decided that some of this should be a stand-alone thing. One of the issues with game design, I feel, is that most of it doesn’t really go down the road of storytelling. Even more narrative-focused games often do so with a focus on “story over rules” rather than following any sort of storytelling praxis.

I think that there are a few reasons for this, and I’ve got a brief breakdown of what I think GMs and designers can do to prevent mediocre storytelling in their games.

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Improv GM’ing Dos and Don’ts: Improv is not Unprepared

When I GM a game, I’m an improv guy. I can’t do it all the time, and I can’t do it with every game, but when I run a game, I tend not to do a whole lot of work ahead of sessions on specific sessions. Recently I’ve been running pretty hard on the improv stuff, and encouraging some other people to take up a similar style, but I think that I need to point out that there are a few caveats to consider that I don’t know I’ve fully explored elsewhere.

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Breathing Life in Characters Part 3: Personal Quirks and Histories

In parts 1 and 2 of Breathing Life in Characters, we have talked about how characters gain depth by being part of their societies and traditional schools of thought. This part will examine individuality and the ways that characters can develop as single entities among their fellows while maintaining the ties to the world that make them feel lifelike.

In addition to existing as part of a society, characters should have a degree of individuality. Everyone has a certain personal history and will have their own experiences within the context of the world, and as with the social and philosophical elements of a character these elements can be painted first with broad brush strokes and then refined further into individual elements.

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Breathing Life in Characters Part 2: The Self and Philosophy

The last post in this series looked at the concepts of politics and opinion. Once you have the external elements of a character down, it’s a good idea to look at their worldview. You may not want to do this for minor characters, especially ones that the players are unlikely to interact heavily with, but characters who may need to make consistent decisions or who are going to be showpieces of a session need to get a little more fabric put into their design, and their self-concept and philosophy. Like with political beliefs, many characters from the same society will have similar religious and philosophical viewpoints, and you can create a sort of baseline that lets you direct actions in a believable manner without a lot of micromanagement.

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Breathing Life in Characters Part 1: Politics and Society

One of the things that makes or breaks any story are the characters involved in it, but creating great characters goes beyond individual personalities and delves into the experiences and social contexts of the world that they live in. In short, your characters should be opinionated.

Creating a living world is necessary for characters to be truly vibrant, and one of the best ways to do that is to look at current events and issues that characters are likely to engage themselves with. It is important to remember that in places where there is total agreement there is also little interest to be found: everyone agrees that the invasion of orcs is going to be problematic for the stability and sovereignty of the kingdom in the long run.

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Things I Learned from Being a GM & a Designer

I’ve been a GM and game designer for years now, and one thing that’s always struck me about the process is how much skills overlap there is in the process, and how many nuggets of wisdom carry over from one to the other. I’ve been thinking about some key points now that I’m working on two projects that should see the light of day relatively soon.

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Threads of Narrative: Managing Open Worlds in Tabletop Roleplaying

Game Masters of tabletop roleplaying games have to create a story that works well, and that can often be difficult not only because a story has to be engaging, but because it’s difficult to keep track of the way in which a story will unfold; it’s easy to forget about some minor elements, or conflate them too heavily with the main plot, and wind up coming to a screeching halt. One great way to handle this is to think of each plot as a thread; it develops from the previous events in sequence, but will eventually be brought to fruition by the players’ actions.

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