Johnn Four

Author Archives: Johnn Four

Villainous Banter: Using Propp’s Reconnaissance Scene

Bypassing a trapped stairwell, they descend into a room with three terrible monsters (umber hulks) trapped behind bars on one side and a tough metal door on the other. The Hobos quietly investigate. However, they hear a voice on the other side of the door: “Has anyone got pants?” Then a loud thunder crack nearly shatters the portal.

This enrages the umber hulks and the creatures start battering their cage. The portal opens. On the other side is a shovel-wielding pantless half-elf. (Welcome new player James and his bard, Captain William Blien!) “Hello. I have no pants. Can you help?”

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How to Roleplay NPC Mannerisms

Memorable non-player characters are distinct. Whether you created an NPC or it came out of a published adventure, it is up to you as game master to make each quest giver, tavern goer, and orc slaver different from the rest.

The key to creating a believable, distinct cast lies in your performances. This might seem daunting, especially since every other player at the table has only one character to worry about while you have dozens.

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Space Opera Part 3: Making It Personal

I love space opera, laser swords, and ray guns, jet bikes in space swooping around ships bigger than they are and winning. These epic stories in vast galaxies sometimes take place a long time ago, far far away, and sometimes they’re in our own time and space, but you need to play a video game well enough to even be noticed by the star league. I love the scope, tone, and feel, but those things all play second fiddle to what makes space opera most compelling to me: the characters and their personal stories.

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7 Tips for Creating Awesome Legends

Myron Yorick, the king’s younger brother, went into the service of Our Lady in White, as was customary for younger siblings. He was a potent preacher, full of ecstasy and fire. When his discovered his brother’s plans to give preferential treatment to decadent Coraltoni wine merchants who would undercut the valuable Sweetblood trade, he resolved to do something about it.

He usurped the throne, threw out the Coraltoni pisswine vendors, and launched a war with Coralton over the trade routes to the Sword Sea. And though he eventually fell, he did not go quietly — the assassins who killed him had to poison, shoot, stab, beat, and burn him with magic before tossing him in the river, where he finally died of hypothermia while trying to claw up out of the ice. Then, as his body was cremated, he sat up in his casket.

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Wrangling Unruly Campaign Outlines: How To Keep Track of Plot Threads

At the end of a long campaign, I want my players and I to feel totally satisfied. I mean the sort of satisfaction one gets when a story wraps up with no question unanswered. The kind of story that ends with every major character’s arc finished and accounted.

This is a challenge when there’s only a single person telling a story – just think of all the novels that have left you hanging in one way or another over the years. But when a group of friends gets into collaborative tale-spinning one chapter at a time with long breaks between, it is almost impossible to wrap up everything with a tidy bow.

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Kingdom Building Part II: Who Rules the Kingdom?

Knowing who is in power is important in any game where you want locations to serve as more than a simple backdrop, because the character of those in positions of power often reflects that of the kingdom itself. Having your ruler emphasize the themes of your kingdom will hammer those details home to your players. It is also useful information to have in the back of your mind when anything that affects kingdom law or policy occurs in-game.

This article takes you through the process of choosing an appropriate government type for your kingdom and then discusses how you can use this in play to give your campaign world more depth.

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Six Ways to Raise the Stakes

In RPT#666 I wrote an article explaining how to improvise rising action during the game. This approach adds tension at a tactical level, looking at the story one encounter at a time.

However it is also possible to add increasing tension as a fundamental structure to the story. This essay explores ways to embed rising stakes into your stories.

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6 D&D Dungeon Ideas to Make Dungeons and Rooms More Interesting

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0156 (Updated November 20 2022) How can we get D&D dungeon ideas and make our dungeons and rooms more engaging to our players? The following tips will help you liven up routine dungeon adventures and breathe fresh life into dungeon-ruts. If you’re not a fantasy GM, then when you read the word […]

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