In fiction writing, there are three generally accepted character arcs: change, growth, and failure. Of course, in writing novels, the author can plan and plot this all out for maximum effect. In the collaborative storytelling nature of role playing games, this is much more difficult. The player may want a growth arc, but is continually given choices that lead to either change or failure. Before I dive into the nuances, let me explain the different types of arcs a character can experience. Change Arc The series of events in the story leads to a change within the core of how...Read More
Author: J.T. Evans
About The Author
J.T. started role playing at the tender age of 10 years old one sweltering Texas afternoon. Since that fateful day he has eaten his way through dozens (maybe even hundreds!) of different systems in search of great and different tastes. When not sitting at the gaming table, he works at a Day Job keeping computers secure and writes fantasy stories in his spare time.
Part of my life is dedicated to writing novels (first one out next year!), and in many of the classes I’ve attended and books I’ve read, there is mention of “character agency.” To expand on these two words, the concept basically means that the character’s actions should drive the story forward as opposed to having them react or respond to things happening to them. The character should happen to the world, not the other way around. Yes, there is a balance in there because sometimes a character needs an outside catalyst to force them to move in a certain...Read More
As a creative fiction writer, I’ve never had a problem coming up with unique and compelling backstories for my characters. I usually scribble down a page or three of backstory for each PC I create and for most of my major NPCs as well. When I get super invested in a character, the background can swell to many more pages than that. However, I’ve run into a quite a few players in the past that struggle with backgrounds. Conversations with them usually go something like this: Me: What is your character? Player: An elven ranger. Me: What did your...Read More
The last thing a game master wants is for parts of his or her carefully crafted world to be immediately forgotten or dismissed. This is especially true of NPCs, but sometimes it can’t be helped. If an NPC is only there to sell the party a new sword, a fresh horse, or a set of fancy clothes for the upcoming festival party, then chances are the players will simply dismiss the NPC. GMs can be guilty of this as well, and this is fine if the NPC’s sole purpose is to finish off a transaction with the PCs. However,...Read More
Diseases are universally feared by everyone. They affect the rich, poor, healthy, sickly, old, young, and everyone in between. In fantasy games, your holy avenger won’t protect you from contracting the black plague. In science fiction games, being the captain of a star cruiser doesn’t stop the evil nanobots afflicting the rest of your crew. It’s not an enemy that can be knocked out or have its throat slit in a dark alley. Even a good saving throw or resistance check doesn’t guarantee prevention of disease, and these illnesses can bring even the highest wizard or mightiest warrior to...Read More
I suffer from “ooh… shiny!” syndrome. I love finding new toys and playing with them for as long as I can until… the next shiny toy pops up on the horizon. This applies to my role playing life as well. Looking around my office right now, I have at least fifteen different systems I’ve never played or run on the shelves. There are at least another dozen that I haven’t touched in more than a decade. It’s not because they aren’t good systems. It’s because I only have so much time to game and a limited number of groups...Read More
Most groups getting around a table consist of 4-6 players (sometimes more!) and a game master. The players sometimes cycle in and out of the group, creating a strange dynamic for the game master. Then are times when groups atrophy because of people moving away, work schedules changing, or other commitments pulling them away from the table. In the past, I’ve had gaming groups drop to two people: one player and the game master. This is usually the final nail in the coffin for the gaming group, and most folks dissolve the group at this point. However, role playing...Read More
While the players around the table are generally on the same side and trying to cooperate to accomplish a common goal, there are times when secretive or contentious actions need to take place between the characters. There are a few reasons for this, and when done properly, these secret notes can add some spice to the game. Just be careful with them. Players don’t mind it so much when the GM keeps them in the dark, but they get very suspicious (rightfully so) when a fellow comrade in arms begins to keep things from the other players. Passing the...Read More
A few years ago, I was running a game in the midst of a deep dungeon delve. As things go with these delves, a character in the group died. The character had hired a faithful hireling and dutifully kept him alive. The hireling was more than just a backpack-carrying torch bearer. The PC treated the NPC as more than a stat block that existed to reduce his encumbrance. When the character died, we didn’t want to break the continuity of the storyline we had going on and drop a new character in without explanation. We also didn’t want to...Read More
When it comes to role playing, there are many styles of players, game masters, and games out there. We’ve all got different labels for these different parts of the hobby. Generally speaking, these styles and stereotypes can be boiled down to three different categories: gaming, narrating, simulating. Gaming In this category we find the question, “How do I win?” As many of us can espouse, getting together to have a good time is “winning the game.” For others, there needs to be a defined in-game mechanic wrapped around the gameplay to define the top dog at the end of...Read More
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