This is RPG-ology #32: Doing Something, for July 2020.
Although this is actually about a gaming referee technique, I’m starting with an example from a book, my novel Verse Three, Chapter One, freely accessible on the web. It also begins with magic items, but moves beyond that to objects in other settings and genres.
As the story unfolded I needed to have one character, effectively a support character or non-player character, give one of my main characters a specific small magic object in a magically-shielded bag, but had to do it in a way that would not make it seem obvious that this was my intention. The easy way to do that was to put several other small magical objects in the same bag, so that the immediately important one would be just one of several. That’s one trick you should note. Somewhere in the Harry Potter books, probably in The Half-Blood Prince, Harry enters the Room of Requirement in its guise as the place to hide things so no one can find them, and Rowling mentions several objects as examples of the mass collection of junk. One of them is a tiara, I think sitting incongruously on the head of a bust of a man, if memory serves. Then in the final book, The Deathly Hallows, we come to a place where he has to find the Diadem of Ravenclaw, and neither he nor we know where it is–but in fact he and we have seen it already, and just didn’t realize it was important because it was hiding amidst all the other junk. I had already done the same thing with my important object, dropping it into a bag with four other objects. My five objects were a paper clip, a coin, a six-sided die, a cat’s eye marble, and an acorn. Read more
This is RPG-ology #26: Monster Design, for January 2020.
Not long ago a member of the Christian Gamers Guild asked for advice in designing monsters. This article has been republished from Gaming Outpost’s Game Ideas Unlimited series from August, 2001, only slightly edited for republication here, originally entitled “Game Ideas Unlimited: Monster Design.”
Sometime a couple decades ago, someone I had known over the Internet and met at a convention asked me to be a judge in a contest he was running. Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition was slated to be released in perhaps a couple of months, and there was already a lot of pre-release information about it floating around. He wanted to have people submit new monsters for use in future D&D games. Knowing of my somewhat intimate familiarity with the old Original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons™ rules set and acquaintance with at least three of the other versions of the game, he thought I would be able to contribute something to the judging. He also asked two other people to judge, whose skills and perspectives were very different from mine.
I took the notion very seriously. Before I looked at the first of the entries, I gave a lot of thought to what made a good monster. Some of the things I valued were contradictory—that is, it would be very difficult for a creature to score high on every quality I sought. But I reduced my consideration to eight qualities, eight aspects of creatures which I thought made them, in a general sense, well-designed monsters.
And if you’re designing monsters for your own campaign, or for some Internet contest, or for publication somewhere, you might like to give some thought to these qualities. You won’t always try to make every creature score high in every category. But if you’ve thought about the categories, you’ll be making tradeoffs that reach your goals at a reasonable “cost” in terms of what you sacrifice. Read more