Sometimes, on a day that is busy beyond measure, I find myself settling down at my computer to write a blog post with the thought tumbling through my head that, maybe, this would be a good day to skip this exercise. I am frequently full of eloquent and entirely reasonable justifications for why it would best for my mental health and physical well-being to skip a day. I constantly remind myself that I can always make up for lost time by writing an additional post some day in the future, when I have the energy to spare, or that I could simply allow myself to skip a day since there is no reason not to take days of rest when I feel the need. “Rest,” I tell myself, “and you will be better prepared for whatever comes your way tomorrow.”Continue reading
Spite can be a powerful motivator. I can think of a huge number of things I’ve done just to prove people wrong, and I can think of times spread across my entire life that it has motivated me to act when I otherwise might not have. It is growing less and less frequent, though, as time passes. Spite burns brightly, but it burns quickly as well. Spite can be used to alleviate exhaustion from burnout, but it generally leaves me feeling worse once I’ve burned through it. These days, I’m pretty much out of everything I used to burn as the fuel that drove my work. I get by on discipline and inertia, but nothing has really stepped up to take the place of the hope I once felt.Continue reading
I have planted countless thoughts in my garden.
Though many took root on their own,
Unminded and without attention,
More still are those I set in place
With all the tenderness of a parent
Caring for their first-born child.
In the final entry of this week’s “Making Interesting Stuff for Tabletop Games” series, we’re going to talk through the process of what makes a character interesting. I’m going to continue to reference stuff from the past few posts, so read up about Interesting Worlds, Interesting Events, and What Makes Stuff Interesting if any part of today’s post is confusing (or, you know, if you’re interested in that stuff). If that’s too much for you to read, the main thing I’ll be referencing are the difference betweening knowing (being able to recite facts you have established) and understanding (being able to make decisions and answer questions for things you never anticipated). There’s a bunch of world building that I reference throughout the series, building further as I go through the posts, but most of it is fairly basic and shouldn’t be difficult to run with.Continue reading
Today’s post is a bit more difficult. I know it might sound strange, given the general assertions of the last two posts, about creating interesting worlds and filling those worlds with interesting events (both of which are suggested reading for today’s post since I am using the same examples and techniques across all of them), but I can’t give you a sure-fire method of making something interesting. I do my best to make things interesting for my tabletop games, but I still fail with a frustrating degree of frequency. I’m good at pretending otherwise because I’m quick enough to cover for it by pivoting to what my players are indicating they’re actually interested in. There’s no real way to teach the ability to pivot on-the-fly other than experience and getting to know your audience, so all I can do is hope that the general rules and guiding principles I use for determining what is “interesting” will be enough to help you get started. Like most of the worldbuilding and GM prep I’ve talked about recently, if you keep your preparation focused on understanding things rather than knowing things, you can almost always find a place to recycle them if your original use doesn’t pan out.Continue reading
Once you’ve created an interesting world for you tabletop game, the next step is to fill it with stuff that is either currently happening, about to happen, or has happened. You really only need one to have one built out, since the others tend to grow out of exploring one, but it doesn’t hurt to have a few different options of each kind so you can run the game your players are interested in playing. You could try to predict that ahead of time and build the precise number of interesting things you need in that direction to make the world feel lived-in, but it’s usually more fun if you have a bit of each. In my experience, it always feels rewarding when the players find ties to past events that get them excited to learn more about whatever situation they’re in, when players can tie current events to past events when they initially seemed unrelated, and everyone loves a bit of foreshadowing that pays out.Continue reading
Creating a setting for a tabletop roleplaying game is a lot of work. Regardless of whether it is supposed to be the backdrop for an entire campaign or a temporary location your players find themselves, it takes a lot of work to get it ready. I have had a lot of experience creating worlds, given that it was always my favorite part of writing stories and running D&D games, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons about how to do it effectively and quickly. Not every setting can be created quickly, of course, some things just take time to work out, but I have a few tips and principles I stick to that help me create something I can use without making it so rigid that there’s no room to improvise and adapt as your players (or characters, for written stories) explore.Continue reading
I beat the main portion of Kirby and the Forgotten Land over the weekend. The game has stayed just as enjoyable throughout as it was at the start, which is pretty great considering how many games I play that feel like the beginning got way more work than the end. There’s a “post-game” section to play through that I’m spending my time on these days, but it doesn’t really feel like it’s “post” anything. It feels like the final act of the game, despite it being pretty clearly the post-game section (all but named as such by the NPCs in the game), and there isn’t all the much new content, so I can’t really argue with it being called that.Continue reading
Dancing dots spin and whirl
As I fret and watch the screen.
Seconds tick and minutes pass
As I mourn what might have been.
Passcodes take too long to type
As I start to make a scene.
Why’d my phone have to shut off
As you started to come clean?
I’ve always struggled with hearing my own recorded voice. It seems like a common thing to feel self-conscious about, given how different we sound when we speak and when we hear a recording of ourselves speak. Once upon a time, this discomfort could be easily blamed on tinny-sounding audio or poor recording equipment, but now as the ability to record and playback audio in high quality becomes ever more available to anyone with a smartphone or a hundred dollars to spare for a decent USB microphone, we’re forced to confront that fact that it’s just us.Continue reading