Solving Setting Mastery

So last time I talked about setting mastery and how it can screw up a game. In retrospect I think I overemphasized the bad parts. At its best, it helps people becomes natives of the setting. When they’re not jerks, they help everyone else get into the spirit of things and best of all, save […]

Setting Mastery

Back when D&D 3 came out, the designers talked about “system mastery.” Knowing the system better always helped you play a more powerful, effective character, but 3e made this an explicit design goal. Some feats and spells were just plain better than others. Later on this turned out to not be such a great idea, […]

No Content, Really

Vampire: The Masquerade? Shadowrun? Cyberpunk 2020? AD&D 2nd Edition and its worlds, like Planescape? Mind’s Eye Theatre with the grey book of box set? Rifts? Rifts, even? Deep cities? Scene-driven adventures? Networked NPCs? Secret societies? Metaplots? No apologies. No excuses. HEY NET PUNK.

Mapless 2: Cheap Content!

No really, it’s cheap. Google search cheap. Because I searched for “mapless fantasy” to see what other people had to say about it today. Even the image contains a cheap joke! Obscure, but cheap! Anyway, I point you to Joe Abercombie’s words, which make a lot of sense to me. I don’t hate maps. I love […]

Mapless Fantasy

I was working on an Exalted book. I forget which. One of Geoff Grabowski’s development notes was something to the effect of, “It’s not the 80s. We don’t need a map for every damn thing.” (NOTE: May have not said “damn.”) He was right, and while he wasn’t saying maps were bad, he was talking […]

Things I Was Not Told To Do

There seems to be some confusion about what freelance writers do for RPGs. I remember being told once, with the sort of confidence that someone only exudes when they’ve never asked anyone, that freelancers simply expand the contents of an outline and don’t do their own design or anything. This person is on the editorial board […]

Dirty Secrets

So, the preview/advance PDF for V20 Black Hand dropped. It’s my first book for Vampire: The Masquerade. (There’s more coming.) A preview means that it hasn’t been through a final editing pass, but has been released for general consumption and error-spotting. This book is the successor to Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand, a bizarre […]

Chariot: A Reckoning Approaches

The last days of Atlantis are upon us, in more ways than one. Wood Ingham’s Chariot Indiegogo campaign hit the thousand pound threshold, which means I’ll be writing a supporting cast expansion for the game. It’s in the nick of time, too. There’s only a day left to join the campaign. I encourage you to […]

Followup: Diegesis vs. Representation

Jason Corley asked a couple of questions about yesterday’s article on diegetic game design. I answered. Here’s how it went down.   Interesting…how do you distinguish this type of design from purely representational design?  By addressing social and thematic elements, and by reverse-engineering game-oriented concepts into things in the world. Example: “Mr. Johnson” is a […]

90s Design: Diegesis

Misunderstood and awaiting revival, diegesis is one of the distinctive features of the 90s revolution in RPG design. It’s a fancy word though, so let’s stop and unpack. I’ll start with a dictionary definition: the lowest form of analysis.   the telling of a story by a narrator who summarizes events in the plot and […]