Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Spreadsheets and action

I already discussed action sequences and combat and whatnot in a previous post. but we got talking, with my friend Claire, and I described how I use a spreadsheet to plan my scenes.
So why not share it, too?

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Now, to me choreographing an action scene in a story is a fine balance of three processes

  • I have to imagine the sequence, run it in my mind like a movie
  • I must know exactly who does what and when, in what order etc.
  • I must find the right words to show it all on the page

Continue reading


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Gamers versus Game Designers

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OK, short rant.
I’ll make it quick, I promise.

Two days back I witnessed a lengthy discussion between roleplayers comparing the merits and flaws of two popular gaming systems*.

The thing went on for a couple of hours as the involved parties compared narrativist and simulationist approaches to the rules, whether one system “outperformed” the other, the rate of fluff and crunch in the respective handbooks.
It was damn boring, and supremely futile. Continue reading


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A community to back my heroes

I’m doing some work on a forthcoming sourcebook for a roleplaying game.
Savage Worlds being the engine, the rules are not a problem.
As long as I do not re-invent the wheel, I’ve ample margin for trying new stuff.

Now, in most “heroic” stories – no matter if we’re talking fantasy, science fiction, historical, western – one of the key elements is, the hero speaks for a group, for a clan or tribe or culture.
It’s a simple mechanism, it has lots of anthropological implications (the hero as everyman, etc.) but it also has a very good, simple  effect on storytelling: the hero (or heroes) have somebody they care abut, and that cares about them.
Maybe non even in a personal, one-on-one way, but community is important.
Think about the way in which Spiderman is an expression of New York and its people… Continue reading


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Outlines and Images

English: A line art drawing of a warrior woman...

I’m doing something I never did before – I’m going through the outline/index of my next book (a roleplaying game supplement) noting the number and kind of images that might be needed for each chapter/section.

This is a first for me, because I normally write fiction – and then there’s only the problem of the cover* – or academical papers – where all the images needed are part of my job: field shots, microscopic photographs, graphs and maps.

I can handle the illustration of my academical work, and I can handle covers (sometimes) – but trying to imagine what images will be needed to illustrate a roleplaying game book… ah, that’s something else altogether! Continue reading


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Across the age divide

Sometimes we have the sheer luck of being witnesses to something wonderful – and I think when it happens we should share it with others.

Cover of "Necessary Evil (Savage Worlds; ...

Cover via Amazon

For the weekend I was in Modena, lovely city, at the local gaming fair, Play – I was helping the Savage Worlds Italia crew, giving game demonstrations.
Short Savage Worlds RPG sessions, two hours to help interested parties to get an idea of the system, the settings, etc.

It was my last game in the very intense two-day event.
I was tired, my voice was going, and I was mastering a game called Necessary Evil – a super-heroes game in which super-villains are all that stands between humanity and cruel alien invaders.
The game is fun, tongue-in-cheek, the sort of game in which to save some innocent civilians, the “heroes” burn down the city hall, blackmail the chief of police, start a huge brawl against alien shark-man warriors and on their way out, they rob a bank.

I had a good solid game ready – some investigation, some devastation, great opportunities for roleplaying.

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Characters at Large into the Media Landscape

452719337_640I’m taking part in a strange experiment.
As part of my online course on The Future of Storytelling, the 50.000-odd students were asked last week to create a character, give him/her/it a web presence, and let them interact with each other.

So, during this week, some 50.000 imaginary web citizens entered or will enter the net – as Facebook profiles, as blogs, as G+ identities, as tumblrs, as e-mail addresses, as podcasts.
They are out there, or will be soon, interacting with each other, and with… you.
With us.

There will be stories born.
There will be stories, I think, developed across the media landscape – a weird, heady mix of storytelling, multimedia and roleplaying game.

Now, admittedly – setting up a character with a virtual life is no laughing matter.
It takes time, imagination, effort.
Outlining the character was simple and fun – I picked an old character from some stories I wrote 30 years ago.
But then translating it to the web in a believable way… ouch!
It’s a chore – I got bogged down in passwords, nicknames, whistles and bells.
But the results… ah, the results will be fun.
Of that I’m almost certain.