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Showing posts with the label Storytelling

Time for Practice

If you want to become proficient, or even competitive, at games it is likely going to  take a lot of practice. You aren’t likely to win the first game of chess you play (unless someone is letting you), and of course there is strategy to learn after you get the basics down. The same can be said for many kinds of games. Certainly the skills required in sports need practice to become good at them. Dribbling, passing, catching, scoring. You might have some innate abilities, but there is always something to improve. If you don’t, you might embarrass yourself when you get out there on the courtfieldpitchrink. Sometimes even seemingly simple games like Go become deceptively complicated when you start digging in. Can the same be said of tabletop roleplaying games? Do we need to practice them, and if so what do we practice? Ponder the answers as Never Say Dice discusses practicing TTRPGs. Isn’t it just "pretend with rules?" What is there to practice? One simple description of tabletop

Santa's Gifts of Love and Forgveness

The methods of Claus, the Great and Powerful are universally known, told, quite literally, in song and story. (Much of the established canon comes from one particular poem , in fact, making it both a song and a story.) Long before the Elf/Shelf Surveillance Network was set up, we were assured that Santa simply knew if we were "bad" or "good," and admonished to be the latter if we had any hope of receiving the presents we were expecting. The punitive lump of coal is an interesting holdover from an era when the stuff was commonplace - but it persisted long after most children had ever seen a lump of coal, let alone had to help carry it or feed it into home furnace (there also being an implication of punishment and drudgery for those benighted children unfortunate enough to find themselves part of an anthracite yuletide). But... you never actually hear about those, do you? That's a side of St. Nicholas rarely seen. Some regional traditions pass these duties off t

The "Thanksgiving Story" Story

Thanksgiving really is one of the most American of holidays (if you ignore that weird Canadian version , anyway). Even more than, say, Independence Day, there's a clear disconnect between the celebration itself, the story it's commemorating, and the actual messy history. It is, in its own way, an origin myth of (white) American identity - of Europeans fleeing persecution to a new land, which welcomes them through both a bountiful harvest and the kindness of a native population willing to share it with them. It's the pilot episode for Manifest Destiny , blatantly ahistorical to even most elementary school students, and, weirdly enough, genuinely accepted as such. Most depictions of the holiday, at least prior to the rush of Cold War hagiography that presented American history as a theatrical attraction with a "NO COMMIES" sign at the entrance, was focused on the imagery of food and family. Specific foods at that, making this one of the few ritualistic meals to surv

Partyin' with the Party

Celebrate good times. Come on. It’s a celebration. (I will.) Between birthdays (and births), deaths, adoptions, holidays, graduations, engagements and weddings, honors of all kinds, personal milestones (like a 100th blog post ), and everything in between, our regular lives are simply filled with opportunities to celebrate. Just looking at the month of November in the US we have Dios de Los Muertos, All Saint’s Day, All Soul’s Day, Daylight Savings, Election Day, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving... and that's just hitting the “big” things in the US. That leaves out all sorts of official (like Native American Heritage Month) and unofficial (National Fast Food Day) recognitions. It also doesn’t recognize that Halloween just passed and holidays like Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa as well as many others are on their way. While we may have touched on adding holidays in other posts, it would be good to talk about celebrations in general. So take a moment to celebrate with your parties an

Hitching a Ride on the Ghoul Bus: Treehouses of Horror and the Freedom of Halloween Episodes

The Halloween Episode is a rarity among rarities, a riddle wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in wax paper. In episodic shows, the passage of time is generally ignored - it draws too much attention to the artificiality of the premise and questions how the world of the setting syncs chronologically with the world of the audience. On top of that, when holiday episodes do come along, they generally have certain expectations of tone and theme - particularly when it comes to Christmas. Halloween episodes, though, are something different: the only real expectation is that they’re going to break from the normal “reality” of the show. They don’t necessarily have to be scary (or even have the trappings of scary things), but they do have to be weird. In some cases, particularly with more serialized shows, this shift allows for a new perspective in the ongoing story, a different way of seeing the narrative that will put past and future events in a new context. My favorite example of this would be Mill

Fantasy Forward: Government and Politics

And so we come to the big one in terms of showing advancement and development in your sword-and-sorcery fantasy setting, one that touches, and is touched by, all others: government. Kings, Emperors, and other monarchs are an inevitable element of any setting based ostensibly primarily on medieval Europe, but beyond that, things tend to get… sketchy. But those sketches are a great place for imaginative creators to fill in details , and shifts in governmental structures are some of the clearest signs of change in any civilization. And, if your setting includes more than one location, you can try out different, competing approaches and see the way they interact… often with the players/protagonists in the middle. So from barony to republic, from kingdom to anarcho-syndicalist commune , let’s explore how you can use government and politics to move your fantasy forward! - B A : For deeply political tabletop campaigns, it takes a special kind of group and a special kind of game. Just the sou

Fantasy Forward: Economics

Last week, we started a new series of posts on how one might go about changing the stagnant nature of many “default” sword-and-sorcery fantasy settings by exploring how various aspects of the setting might develop over time and how the protagonists (or players, if this is in a tabletop RPG) might have an effect on these changes. While we started with one of the most obvious factors (technology), this week we thought we might go with something a little less so: economics, including the effect dungeon crawling might have on a regional economy that finds itself inundated with recovered treasure and artifacts… not to mention the adventurers who show up looking to get in on the action.  - B A :  The economy might be one of the most difficult things to consider in a game world - it's dangerous to upset the balance of your tabletop games. Just as with our technology post, a small change in the economy can have huge ripple effects. This is something we were even touched on: the city with a

Fantasy Forward: Technology

It’s come up a few times, and may be considered ironic for someone who co-founded a gaming blog, but I have trouble getting into media that gets classified as “fantasy” - in as far as the term is generally used in gaming and publishing, and the preconceptions this usage brings. In other words, sword-and-sorcery stories and games set in some variant of medieval Europe, frequently featuring a stock set of species including elves, dwarves, orcs, and Hobbits halflings. It’s taken a while to put this hesitancy into words, especially since I eagerly devoured these kinds of works when I was younger - but I think this ultimately gets to the crux of the matter: something I’m calling the Been There, Done That (BTDT) Threshold. We all have them for everything we choose to engage with, and they’ll vary based on the things we’ve consumed and the amount of variety we’d like to see. In this instance, my exposure to this kind of fantasy had hit a critical mass, so the baseline where I’d go “been ther

Never Say Disc: Return of the Jedi

Star Wars Day may have come and gone, but this May has a different significance for the franchise: the fortieth anniversary of the third film, The Return of the Jedi. Not only did this movie bring the original phase of Star Wars to a close, its significant in the lives of the Never Say Dice founders as the both the first Star Wars movie to be released in our lifetimes, and as the series’ ending during our most formative years (Ewok movies notwithstanding). While it’s no longer Star Wars’s cinematic capstone and many of its plot points have been rendered moot in subsequent installments, Jedi remains an important part of our development, both in our relationship to the franchise and in our understanding of what narrative means and is capable of. So let’s venture to the Galaxy Far, Far Away for the final time… or so we once thought. A : Return of the Jedi is little more than a marketing ploy to get children to buy toys. That's why they put the Ewoks in there. Cute little furry things