If You are a Game Master, Read Steven Pressfield’s Blog

It is a bit of a paradox. In order for an RPG to be a good to great experience, must be treated like a game. There are situations, you present them to the players, the players make choices, you roll dice, consequences happen and you present the next situation. However, utilizing the tools of story and narrative produce the elements which your present to the players.

A writer who’s earned his stripes deep in the trenches is Steven Pressfield. Each Wednesday he provides a brief lesson about some element of writing. Sometimes it’s about the “mental game”; that is getting yourself to the the desk to actually write. Sometimes it’s about the business of writing. How do I find an agent? What do I do if someone wants me to read their manuscript? Mostly it’s about the technique and tools of writing.

One thing I love about Steve’s Writing Wednesdays is that he is to the point and doesn’t mess around. A really good example was this week’s post about the characteristics of a villain speech. It’s a direct steal for game masters.

He lays out the four basic ingredients for a great villain that you can use to construct your big bad guy.

  1. The villain doesn’t think he is the bad guy. Make your villain feel like they are addressing an injustice, preventing catastrophe, preserving something important.
  2. They actually have a point. Your bad guy should be trying to address some actual problem. Law is getting the upper hand in this world and creating cultural and political tyranny and stagnation. There has been a famine and the gods demand blood.
  3. Their view is based on the real facts on the ground. They aren’t making shit up or just looking at the situation incorrectly. There really is a problem. It’s just that the villain’s solution is fucked up. There really is a famine. The portents all say, sacrifice is required.
  4. The bad guy’s solution is functional and effective. What they intend to do will actually solve the problem. It’s going to create the effect they are looking for. Yes, burning down the city and murdering the ruling class will bring about political change. Yes, the dark gods do require blood sacrifice and they will bring mild weather and good harvests if you kill 1,000 prisoners from the neighboring tribes.

There’s lots of other tidbits you steal from his blog and go right into your campaign.


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