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Showing posts with the label Worldbuilding


Last week , Andy dove into one of the most "D&D" of all topics, Alignment, to ponder (if you'll pardon the expression) the role it can  play in our modern tabletop experiences. As editor, of my (self-assigned) roles (I swear I'm not doing this on purpose) is to add links wherever possible to back background information, support claims, and, if it's a topic where I have interest, but little experience, act as bookmarks for further research on my own. The links in " Misalignment " largely fell into that last category. I am something of a Dungeons & Dragons outsider - ironic for a person who co-founded a gaming blog, as the game/system is largely synonymous with tabletop roleplaying as a whole. Aside from sitting in on a few games and haphazardly reading the handful of TSR books (spread across multiple editions, naturally), my D&D experience comes from media attached to the franchise: several generations of gamebooks, the original Dragonlance

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

Fantasy Forward: Culture

This week in our ongoing “Fantasy Forward” series of posts, discussing ways to make sword-and-sorcery settings feel less pre-packaged is going to deal with something… squishy. Something touchy-feely. Something that, I feel, is rarely used to its potential in imagined settings: culture. We’re not expecting anyone to become trained sociologists or, heaven forbid, anthropologists in building out their fantasy settings (although I’m very curious if anybody with said training has incorporated that into games of their own), but there’s plenty of room to develop how people (regardless of species) live, learn, love, and do things. Real world cultures are the product of generations’ worth of history, experiences, stories, and beliefs, which can be a lot to live up to! How can we come up with original cultural elements in our fantasy settings, and how can we convey them to our players and audiences in ways that feel natural instead of forced? - B A : Music! Art! Literature! These are all amazin

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

Bad Enough Dudes

Quick, name off your favorite video game villains! A number of characters likely come to mind, even if you only have limited experience with the medium, but while you were able to name a few, many would have been simply "that guy from..." But that's understandable - in the format of electronic games, a villain must, first and foremost, present an obstacle for the player (in addition any characters they may currently be inhabiting) to overcome, with all other concerns such as character and motivation secondary. So what makes a memorable and compelling villain in an electronic game, and how are they developed through narrative and gameplay? Let's spend some time talking about the Best of the Bad and how they got there. Before we can explore what makes a great video game villain, though, we'll need to define what "villain" even means in this context. Is Berzerk 's Evil Otto a villain? Are the ghosts in Pac-Man ? The bonus point saucers from Space Invade

Tales of the Extra-Ordinary

We’ve talked before about how gamemasters and narrators can use details to build story. But these details don’t always need to be part of the plot, and are often as much about the worlds the characters occupy as they are the events they’re taking part in. And while we all draw inspiration from our own out-of-game experiences , aren’t people playing games and engaging with stories to get away from everything they have to deal with in the “real world” (such as it is)? What kind of “slice of life” details to build the setting and atmosphere, and what risks bogging things down? And, in collaborative forms of narrative like tabletop roleplaying games, how do we encourage others to share the details of their own characters’ lives in a way that grows the story for everyone? - B B : As I’m sure our readers are no doubt aware, my favorite tabletop game, and the one I have the most experience running, is Paranoia , a game which is as much setting as it is system. Games like this can be somethin

A Solstice of Broken Worlds

I'll say it up front: I am no fan of winter, despite the fact that some media I enjoy features it prominently enough to call it a central character. It's probably no coincidence that these are harsh and violent stories of twisted motivations, revenge, and betrayal where the weather is a monster to be feared. I'm no fan of the cold, the lightlessness, the monotony... sometimes, I think being born in California might have affected me more than I realize. Recently, I discussed choosing games to match your mood and situation , and mentioned that the change in weather and real-world frustrations had led me to return to a few games I had taken breaks from: Fallout 3 and Demon's Souls . With the winter solstice just around the corner, I thought I'd explore why these games are speaking to me at this particular moment, and what I (consciously or not) am looking to gain from them. Both these games could be described as "post-apocalyptic," but a more appropriate t