Posted tagged ‘Writing’

Monday September 19, 2011-A Very Pointed GM Story

September 20, 2011

So, on a whim I suggested playing Dresden Files to my brother a few months back and he agreed.  With my Star Wars Campaign, everyone came to my house; my brother driving over thirty minutes to play.  Honestly, my brother always drives out to play games with me and after two years, I was beginning to feel a little self-centered about this.  Feeling obliged to sharing some of the driving, I offered to come to his house to play, which he was happily agreed to. 

On the day of game, I was assembling my “GM’s bag of stuff.”  I knew that I wanted to push the use of Fate Points and really did not want to force him to constantly be marking his Character Sheet as we volleyed successes back and forth at each other.  I have dealt with this issue before and in the spirit to avoid paper burns or hard pink erasers, I wanted to grab some chips.  I have come to hold the chip with the same spiritual reverence and superstition as players hold their dice and dice bags.  Perhaps I have spent too many years Game Mastering or teaching too many new systems, I cannot tell; but I am still using the same dice I purchased twenty years ago.  The hours I have spent; marking poker chips with detail pictures or written effects, or wandering through craft shops looking for glass beads is tenfold compared to the time I spent buying my dice.  It took less than a moment for me to know what chip to bring.  I have gamed at his house before, I think it was four years ago; we game in his dining room that has a yellow pine table-use dark blue glass beads in my lower drawer; they will show up nicely on that table. 

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at my brother’s house and he wanted to play in the basement.   The previous day I mentioned bringing my laptop and the potential of how handy it would be to have a computer during the game session.  Apparently, he had made some arrangements because he does not have any wireless.  Acknowledging that I am not the Lord of this Castle, I descended into the basement/computer room only to find that the table was a dark brown, nearly black in color.  My dark blue transparent beads were invisible within the lighting.  Needless to say, it was hard to remember how many Fate Points anyone had and nobody played with them. 

The next game session was two weeks later and this time I was prepared for his basement.  Forget any lowly glass beads, I went with gold coins.  The type of coin found in buried treasure; rough, hard press, and organic.  More importantly, the shiny gold would leap out on that dark sinister stain. 

Yet my intentions were blocked again.  This time we gamed in his dining room; after all, we didn’t use the computer at all.  We were back on a yellow pine table where the gold coins simply blended into the surface.  The only times where Fate Points were used was when I asked if he wanted to use one.


4/8/2011-Clone Wars Story Arc-Part Two-The Basic Story “All Roads Lead to the Core”

April 8, 2011

Chess Game Cliché –The Heroes and Villain have to win the hearts and minds of the populas.

Cat n’ Mouse Cliché – The Villain is at the forefront of every conflict.

The Villain

The female Besalisk, Major Shahhat, is the villain of this story.  By lumping Lucas’ Cannon about this species with the background of the Mythical Basilisk, which the species is tied to, creates a visual inhuman threat.  Major Shahhat is an imposing creature on sight and her motivations are poisonous extensions of greed.  An obese octopus destroying most of what is around her, while hording what is left.  If a Hutt symbolizes complacent gluttony; then this Besalisk symbolizes resentful greed.    Major Shahhat not only will take what you have, but is insulted by the fact that you have it.  She is a large bloated six arm and four legged creature of hate that the heroes will need to overcome.  Her troops and tactics reflect her personality. 

The Story

With the Trade Federation controlling most of the Rimma Trade Route, the Separatist’s military leader Major Shahhat wants to move deeper into the galaxy.  She desires to seize the riches of the Core Worlds, starting with Herglic Space.   This sector, with an incredibly large docile species, can easily be a launching point to take opulent Core Worlds.  Besides, Herglic Space’s luxury is nearly comparable to those of the Core Worlds; an appetizer before the entrée. 

Her invasion begins before the Battle of Geonosis with poison and panic.  Endorsed by Count Dooku and backed up financially by the Retail Caucus, Major Shahhat buys both; the means for propaganda and inter-sector manufacturing on 26 (of the 40) star systems.  The first corporation, The HoloMarket Corp, has started a subversive crusade to create fear and panic through Holonet broadcasting.  The Second corporation, The Enlighten Funding Foundation, is removing the middleclass while destroying the efficiency and quality of the sector’s manufacturing.  After the Battle of Geonosis, Major Shahhat secretly moves her droid troops into the sector for her invasion.    


The real twist within this story is that the troops are the Cat n’ Mouse.  As the heroes pit their troops against the Separatist’s, Major Shahhat moves them around fairly effortlessly destroying anything she held.  The real Chess Game is dealing with the population’s attitude, which means chipping away and undoing the propaganda and economical machine that Shahhat has set up. 

Another twist about this story is that; as the heroes use the military, the more damage and change is inflicted on the population.  Herglic Space starts out as a near utopian suburb, only to be slowly turned into a polarized military complex.

Clone Wars Story Arc. Part One-Writer’s Perspective

April 5, 2011


Overview of Era

Although this era has been defined by Lucas’ three prequels, “The Clone Wars” has its own distinctive setting despite all of George’s “poetry elements.”  The greatest element is how much the Jedi Order has become institutionalized and centralized in comparison of all the other eras.  All Jedi are trained on Coruscant under the laws imposed by the High Council, those Jedi who do not fall in line with the High Councils’ wishes are marginalized within the Order.  Furthermore, this is the only time where the Jedi Order is fully apart of the Republic’s bureaucracy.  High Council members meet with the Republics’ Executive and Legislative Branches on a daily bases.  In many ways the Jedi Order seems to function as a fourth branch of the Republic, a catch-all branch assuming duties to support the other branches of government- let’s call it “the Gopher Branch.”  The final distinction is that the whole galaxy is being torn apart by a 19th -20th century style of warfare.  It’s a war on all fronts by two groups of equal power; the Republic is being led by the Gopher Branch.  The two big “poetry elements” that this era gives us is; first, the metaphorical dehumanization of war becomes literal through the use of cybernetics and tissue scaring by the Force and second; a Jedi Purge book-ending the era. 

This era is defined by war that is feels like World War One and Two, industrialized armies of equal strength covering a vast amount of space and resources.  The war is a Chess Game Cliché on any level or scale; from the squad leader all the way up to the Generals.  Each side is so equal that only the specialized qualities of each leader are pivotal against the other to determine victory.  As a GM, if you want huge battles, highly developed villains, and pressure on each decision the heroes make; the Clone War era is your choice.  Unfortunately, the Star Wars Mega-plot is extremely heavy handed in this era.  No matter what story arc a GM creates; in the end, there is a three day period that the Republic successfully conducts a Jedi Purge, destroys the leadership of the Separatist Government, wins a galactic war, and declares an Emperor to lead the Republic. 

The Golden Rule of Clichés: To follow my own rule, we need to graft another cliché and/or bring in a good twist, to give some depth to the story.  Any of the other three clichés are feasible.  The Cat n’ Mouse Cliché can create a more of a Vietnam or Korean War feel to the game.  The heroes are moving forward in battle towards the Big-Bad-Guy, only to lose ground or have the battlefield shift making dramatic issues for heroes.  A Daisy-Chain Cliché fits within a story element where the heroes need to pursue something in addition to their own strategy to gain the upper hand.  Yes, the Master Mind Cliché works well, as every gain the heroes get includes a counter attack by the villain.  Personally, I would want to avoid the Master Mind Cliché because they easily dominate the next two eras.


For this story arc, I am planning to combine the Chess Game and Cat n’ Mouse.  I am dismissing the other two because, the Master Mind Cliché fits with the next two proceeding eras and I just did a Daisy Chain Cliché with KOTOR.  I do want to keep thing mixed up and semi-original.   For a twist, I think I will make the Separatists good guys compared to the Republic.

3/30/2011-KOTOR Story Arc-Part Two-The Basic Story “A Covent of Arcs”

March 30, 2011

Daisy Chain Cliché-The Heroes have to secretly hide “The Three Arc of the Codex” before the Jedi Purge.

Chess Game Cliché- The Heroes need to out maneuver the Jedi Council in hiding the Codex. 

The Story

Just before the Jedi Civil War, before Darth Revan and Malak reveal their evil intentions, the Jedi Master and Watchman Prod-yoke foresees the coming of the Jedi Purge.  The High Council finds Master Prod-yoke’s claims of the future as hysterical and deranged, labeling the Watchman as an alarmist.  Deep down the Masters can recognize that the High Council could easily be dissolved along with all their work to create a centralized Jedi Order, however they simply cannot see all Jedi destroyed.  Council Member Vrook Lamar does not easily dismiss Prod-yoke’s claims as the rest of the High Council does, but rather takes an interest in this Watchmen’s actions.

The Jedi Watchman creates his own council, the Preservation Council, who are Jedi that believe in his prophecy.  This group is dedicated in preserving the Jedi Order; although they strongly feel they cannot prevent or escape the upcoming Jedi Purge, they believe that their teachings and ideas can survive.  They create the Arcs of the Codex, three specialized chest that house a holocron each with specific teachings of the Jedi.  Their intentions are to hide each Arc of the Codex somewhere throughout the galaxy to be used after the Purge by the Stko Skared, the new Jedi who will need the teachings. 

The heroes will be given the job by Jedi Master and Watchmen Prod-yoke of hiding the Arcs of the Codex.  Each of the Arc of the Codex represents one of the three tenants of the Jedi Code; Self-discipline, Responsibility, and Public Service.  They will be hidden on a planet which properly corresponds to their codex (sort of vague and under interpretation by the GM on what it means to “correspond” but that will be in part three.)   Naturally, the more the heroes try to hide their actions the more sources of information and political capital they use, gaining more and more attention of High Council Member Vrook Lamar.  Thus a Chess Game of resources between the Jedi High Council and the Preservation Council is firmly established.  Yes, the second twist is that the real antagonist is the Jedi Council itself. 

The Final Twist

In all actuality, the holocrons are worthless; the Arcs themselves have all the holocron data written in binary on the surface of the Arcs themselves.  However, the Arcs are built out carbonite and within each of them is a Force-Sensitive Pre-adolescent left in a state of suspended animation in the species of the world that the Arc was left on.  Jedi Master Prod-yoke and the Preservation Council believed that these Stko Skared, Sleeping Force-Sensitives, within their frozen state would escape detection from the wrathful Sith set on destroying all Jedi.  Years later, they would emerge as the New Jedi with all the teachings they needed within the very beds they had slept in for so long. 


I feel that this is a really good story arc which embraces cannon and has a few surprises that will take the players for an entertaining ride. 


3/29/2011-KOTOR Story Arc. Part One-Writer’s Perspective

March 29, 2011

Overview of Era

“Knights of the Old Republic” has many unique elements that tie into the standard George Lucas “poetry” of Star Wars.  The greatest unique element is that the Republic fails or nearly fails on so many levels and yet will survive to become the colossal authority and bureaucracy seen in episodes’ 1-3.  A well-populated, yet fractionalized, Jedi Order will try to consolidate power within their own and fail with their first galactic crisis; because they see themselves as a separate institution from the government and their problems.  The Republic does not have a large blanket of influence either, but rather a web of stringy trade routes that connect the systems that they control with wide gaps of uncontrolled and unexplored regions- all within the Republic’s own backyard.  Additionally, the galactic civilization has a plethora of aggressors; there is the Sith, Mandalorians, Hutts and all those other assemblages of governments to fight against.  Top all this mayhem off with a past of lost empires and dictators that have left their mark on the galaxy.  It also contains two George Lucas “poetry elements;” First, a gigantic weapons in the Star Forge and Mass Shadow Generator, Second, a Jedi Purge that ends the era.

This era is ripe for the Daisy Chain Cliché; after all, the two videogames that defined the era used this cliché.  If you are a more creative GM who wants to bring their own worlds to the Star Wars Universe; then both this Cliché and KOTOR are good choices because there are plenty of open spaces for you to fill in and then have your heroes explore.  Furthermore, the whole Mega-plot can easily be dismissed because how loosely controlled the galaxy is.  If you want to make a collation of planets to replace the Republic, go ahead you don’t have to struggle with cannon here. 

The Golden Rule of Clichés: To follow my own rule, we need to graft another cliché or bring in a good twist to bring in some depth to the story.  Any of the other three clichés seem rather feasible.  The Cat n’ Mouse works well for the same reasons as does the Daisy Chain, exploration into new parts of the galaxy.  The Master Mind can work by using any of the enemies of the era-Sith, Hutts, Mandalorains, or something new.  The Chess Game could work also because in this era war seems to be conducted around figureheads and their fleets rather than holding strategic points with armies. 


For this story arc, I am planning to combine the Daisy Chain with the Chess Game Cliché and add a few twists and end up with a moral dilemma.  I rejected the other two clichés because; the Master Mind is done so often in RPGs and there are other Star Wars eras where it is the dominate cliché; and the Cat n’Mouse combined with the Daisy Chain I thought would really just drag out.  I think as a twist, instead of going to find or get stuff, the heroes will have to leave things or hide them. 


3/23/2011 The last Cliché Standing

March 23, 2011

We finally have reached the end of our own familiarity and will now boldly go where no man has gone before.   I will try to convince you, how something that I have never done or heard being done within gaming, should be considered a Cliché.   

The Chess Game Cliché: This plot device is when both the hero and villain pit themselves against each other with some massive force.  The massive force could be armies, Mechs, or hulking spaceships.  The two might frequently exchange dialog, but they are safe from a direct confrontation.  Star Trek has many stories stemming from this cliché; Wrath of Kahn is a prime example.  Essentially, the two are attacking each other’s resources, whittling them away until one of them can move in for the kill.  This type of story has action and tension; but most importantly, defines the heroes.  The villain and heroes have their personalities extended into their massive force; a cunning person will fool their foe while a brave person will make tactical attacks, creative people will introduce a new elements, the list goes on.  There is a huge amount of versatility within this story device, but you will need to have a well define villain and detailed massive force. 

There is one large snag when creating this cliché, complexity.  A larger than life battle automatically makes complications, the group of heroes will pursue different actions that will split them up and each successful action will have a reaction by the BBG.  Things can get out of hand quickly.  The best thing to do is try to keep the group to two or three different things, each to a particular scale and perhaps leave the full battle alone until everyone returns to it.  Return of the Jedi does this well; to the point where the actual destruction of the 2nd Death Star is left to a secondary character.

3/21/2011-No gaming talk, just some Big Love

March 21, 2011

Hey everyone, I know today’s blog is not a gaming topic; but it is so rare for me to stick-it-out long enough with a series to actually watch the finale, that I just had to write about Big Love.

In reading many of the Big Love’s finale reviews, I am amazed how many people disliked Bill and the comparisons to the likability Tony Soprano, from the Sopranos, and Don Draper, from Mad Men.  I think the problem I have always had with Big Love is that it is a completely alien setting to me.  The initial concept of multiple wives raised my curiosity and I watched the show to understand what it was like.  Unfortunately, there was nothing for me to anchor onto so I could start relating to any of the characters.  With the show’s finale, I still feel like I have no understanding what it would be like to live in polygamy because I do not know if I have been shown any of that with this show.  I do feel like I have a good idea what it would be like to live in a household with a very ambitious and conservative man.  I am not an ambitious man nor am I conservative; I don’t know anyone who is.  Also I do not know any highly religious people, whose beliefs put them in a minority.  However, I can relate with Tony Soprano, because there are times where I wish I could send a few guys over to somebody’s house to “fix” a problem and I have known people who have fallen to violence as a solution.  Additionally, I can understand Don Draper’s infidelities because I have had the same thoughts and know people who have fallen to their lust.  I relate to these two characters; despite never acting like them, because I have felt the same impulses that they act on.  Bill Henderson, I cannot relate too; I have not felt anything that would tempt me to be that highly ambitious in public life nor multiply the work in maintaining a household by having more than one wife. 

Furthermore, Bill’s story is about him moving up in the world, not falling from the top.  Sopranos and Mad Men start their stories with the leading men at the top and the question is how they will stay there.  We do not see messy cost and sacrifice that they had to make to get there, all we see is the repercussions after the fact.  Why? Because, it is easier for us to like a guy and find out that he did some bad stuff in the past; instead of watching that good guy doing some bad stuff to get ahead. 

I think the long term success of Big Love is that we continually want to understand this family and we cannot, coming back season after season with the hope of “getting it.”  Each season, all we are given are new things that we cannot relate to. Sure, these things develop character, make sense, and move the plots; but that is part of the lure.   We understand part of the family so we must be closer to get that emotional relation that would put us into the story.  I think this is why so many people are dissatisfied with the finale, after five years of watching this family, they still cannot relate to them.