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Whatcha Whatcha Whatcha Want: Crafting Character Motivation

There’s an old axiom that every story, regardless of medium, is ultimately about someone who wants something, but has obstacles standing in their way. While that’s probably overly reductionist, it’s true that both characters and plots are driven by desires and motivations. But how much do these need to be developed? Does every character need a complex motivation, or were Tears for Fears right when they said that everybody simply wants to rule the world? B : This will be a tough one to tackle, because character motivation comes not only from a creator’s intent, but also from their audience’s interpretations. Whether it’s someone reading words thousands of years after they were written or someone sitting on the other side of a gaming table, every audience member’s own desires and experience will determine how they see a character’s motivations, no matter how those motivations are being presented. Believability often comes down to accessibility. We might not want to become Jedi ourselves

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Over the years, I've heard many an author, agent, editor, and publisher claim (facetiously or otherwise) that the concept of “genre” exists solely to make it easier for bookstores to arrange their stock, that it’s ultimately a marketing invention to better move product. It’s funny, though, I don’t think I’ve ever heard this sentiment from the people who enjoy said product, jokingly or otherwise, whether they be readers, players, or audience members. A divide of this scale can’t help but lead to questions. Are both groups talking about the same thing? What exactly is a genre, anyway, and what role does it play in the telling and experiencing of stories? I first began to question "genre" in a college creative writing workshop. Until then, I had taken for granted that the categories of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, and thriller had been structured and organized by nature like the Periodic Table. This certainty wasn’t broken by coursework or  some newfound clari

Tales from the Grove: Storytelling in San Andreas

Recently, Andy and I found out that we had each started new run-throughs of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas , a game that both of us have loved since its original release, but neither had ever completed. We took it as an opportunity to play together (even while apart), keeping track of each other’s progress throughout. Now that we’re both done, we thought we’d discuss some of the game’s storytelling and characterization, and what San Andreas can teach writers and gamers looking to tell stories from the more… complicated side of the law. - B B : It’s appropriate that San Andreas starts with CJ’s return home, since picking the game up again felt a homecoming for both of us. My story (far less exciting and tragic than Carl’s) is that, now that I’m satisfied with my current hardware setup, I’ve been using the PS2 a lot more often, which meant returning to a complete Grand Theft Auto series playthrough I had started some years ago. Thanks to the lockdown freetime, I burned through Grand Thef

Analog Effects for Your Digital Table

Even before the pandemic, playing tabletop games digitally, or even streaming your sessions as a podcast through a video platform, was becoming pretty widespread. Around this time last year, at the very start of the pandemic, I was writing about gaming in isolation , providing a brief guide on how you could continue your group roleplaying online. Since then, digital tabletop roleplaying games have seen an explosion in popularity with the continued need for social distancing. I’ve used this medium to run a game allowing me to reconnect with old friends across the country, and even joined a few games myself for a chance to play and make some new friends... also across the country - the digital tabletop sure widens options for people to play with! Compared to playing at the table, though, digital play does lack a certain something . It's difficult to match, and probably impossible to beat, sitting around a shared table with friends, rolling out the dice, and just having a good time i

Freedom's Just Another Word for Much Too Much to Choose: Option Paralysis and RPGs

They’ve finally done it, the players have made it to your big set piece. It wasn’t quite how you planned (not that ever is), but you’ve left yourself plenty of room to improvise. So much that… you have no idea which one to go with! Or maybe you’ve got a player who feels utterly incapable of coming to a decision if there isn’t an obvious course of action. Per the Oxford English Dictionary , “Option paralysis” (also known as “choice” or “decision” paralysis) is the inability to make a decision when presented with a wide range of choices, and it can take many forms at the gaming table… and even before you sit down! In an activity where our imaginations are frequently the only limiting factors, option paralysis is a near-universal problem. Let’s talk about the ways it can come up, and how we can cope with it. - B B : I find this often hits at the very first stages of coming up with scenarios, especially if you feel like you don’t have a good starting point, but also when you need to start

Start Your Risus Engines!

Planning on a Sunday drive this weekend? Oh no you ain’t, you’re going to play Pole Position! You may not have your Atari 2600 or 800 set up and ready to go (mine are safely packed in their dust covers). You may not have access to a sit-down arcade cabinet with wheel, stick shift and pedals. What you do have that's ready and easy to access is Risus: The Anything RPG . What is that? You can read about it in various places, including my Introduction to Risus on this blog. In a sentence: Risus is a rules-lite, versatile, and downright fun “anything” TTRPG. In my last Risus post , we looked at builds of the characters from Gauntlet for an arcade-themed setting I’ve been working on for far too many years, reminiscent of media like ReBoot , Tron , and Wreck-It-Ralph . This week, we’ll add Pole Position to the ranks of games included in this procrastinated sourcebook. If you’re somehow not familiar with Pole Position , you may want to go check out this historic arcade racing game. It

Pi Day^2

Once again, a Happy Pi Day to everyone and a Happy Blog Anniversary to Never Say Dice! We sure are glad that we've been able to put out some great posts every Saturday over the past year, and we’re especially that you've joined us. Special thanks to everyone following @neversaydice2 on Twitter who's helped us get to (and beyond!) 314 followers for this special occasion. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all of you. Last year, you may remember us baking up a few pie-pun filled adventure hook treats for you. This time around, we’ve decided to do a brand new set that will be radian minute for you. First, though, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite posts from the past year, and a few thoughts on where the blog will go from here. - A Andy : One of my favorite co-posts of the year would be the one we wrote about The Twilight Zone . We covered a lot of ground in that post, and it was one of our first to get over 100 reads in its first week. We posted it right before we got