Browsing Archive: March, 2019

What Boxed Text Shouldn't Say

Posted by Ron Lundeen on Thursday, March 28, 2019, In : RPGWriterTips 
I've talked before about how boxed text, or read-aloud text, is the most direct way an adventure author speaks to the players. This kind of text is great for setting a scene, relaying critical mission information, or focusing player attention on specific elements. However, there are a several things good boxed text shouldn't include. Here are my rules for what you shouldn't say in your boxed text.

* It shouldn't mention creatures. Your boxed text shouldn't say things like "..and then four orcs...
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Game in a Game

Posted by Ron Lundeen on Wednesday, March 27, 2019, In : RPGWriterTips 
Lots of adventures include subsystems. By "subsystem," I mean any kind of rules system that stands outside the core rules of the game and is useful for (and perhaps specific to) a particular adventure or campaign. One of the most well-known is Paizo's Kingmaker adventure path, which uses a complicated set of kingdom-building rules so the players can grow their empire as their characters advance in levels. But a subsystem can be simple and add a lot to your adventure. Here are 3 straightforwar...

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Common Words in Uncommon Settings

Posted by Ron Lundeen on Friday, March 22, 2019, In : RPGWriterTips 
RPG settings are truly fantastical, with incredible terrain and inhuman opponents. As a result, the language we use in our everyday world requires careful consideration in RPG writing. Be aware of the following points, which I see from time to time and occasionally make myself:

Killing the Dead. You can't kill dead things, or even undead things. Undead don't fight "until slain" or "until killed"; they fight "until destroyed" or similar. The same goes for constructs, robots, or similar. Wheneve...

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ABM (Always Be Monologuing)

Posted by Ron Lundeen on Tuesday, March 19, 2019, In : RPGWriterTips 
An important aspect of RPGs is their collaborative storytelling nature. The players are a key part of the storytelling, and if they don't get the story, that's a recipe for disappointment and missed opportunity. As a result, it's important to put as much information in the hands of the players as possible, particularly information about motivations and plans of the villains they face.

What's a good mechanism to communicate a villain's motives and thoughts? The monologue! Sometimes derided, the...
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Villains Do Villainous Things

Posted by Ron Lundeen on Thursday, March 14, 2019, In : RPGWriterTips 
Let's start with two quick lists: the first provides good traits to give a villain when you want to show they're villainous. The other list provides bad traits to give a villain when you want to show they're villainous. 

Good traits to show someone is a villain:
Cruelty or abusiveness
Casual or wanton destructiveness
Corrupted motives 

Bad traits to show someone is a villain:
Ugliness or disfigurement (especially facial disfigurement)
Exceptionally overweight or drama...

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Presenting Encounters

Posted by Ron Lundeen on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, In : RPGWriterTips 
I've been thinking a lot recently about how to present encounters. Pathfinder and D&D do this very differently; here are a few examples showing what I mean.

* The Pathfinder Method: Makes encounters very long in column-length; different sections and effects are set apart; aims to be comprehensive.

D2. Goblin Prison
The goblins keep the rare prisoners they capture in the five wooden cages in the back of this room. They aren't particularly skilled at locksmithing, and have simply attached stolen d...
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Free Adventure: Against the Evil Keep!

Posted by Ron Lundeen on Thursday, March 7, 2019,

Here’s an adventure! 

While the heroes are traveling through a narrow valley, they spot an evil keep. The massive fortress of dark stone is 35 feet across and nearly 50 feet tall. Flags hanging from iron spikes depict flames, gruesome beheadings, and other wickedness. Two massive iron ballistae are mounted atop the keep’s tall towers. 

Creature: If the heroes approach, the evil keep attacks!

The Evil Keep      CR 19

XP 204,800
Advanced fiendish mimic
NE Colossal aberration (shapechanger)
Init +3...

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The Secret Language of Character Descriptions

Posted by Ron Lundeen on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, In : RPGWriterTips 
Adventure authors don't speak to players directly; the communications are filtered by the GM at the table. There are some obvious exceptions to this, such as boxed text meant to be read aloud to set a scene, but there are some secret ways an author can communicate tactics to savvy players. It's sort of like a hidden language. Much of it rests in how the adventure describes the enemies the players face.

An enemy's appearance doesn't just convey the likely threat (and armored hulk with a huge sw...
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About Me

I'm Ron Lundeen, game designer for Wizards of the Coast. Before that, I worked as a development manager for Paizo, Inc. and as an RPG freelancer. I've recently had products in print for Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, Petersen Games, and Ulisses Spiele. My opinions here are my own and do not reflect those of Wizards of the Coast.


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