Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Structure and Plot – Part 3 of 5

After I had an approved story and treatment, I went to work writing the first and second draft. My inclination was not to offer one perspective, but to offer several. A mystery just did not work from an observer’s point-of-view because I had a lot of characters and they’re all not physically located in the same place on the ship. The logistics of having Dan sneak around like a ninja were not only boring — but creepy and Clueish. So, I added in other perspectives straight off the bat. I knew multiple viewpoints (there are three) was outside of how I normally write, but I felt it was necessary for a good story.

Now, having said that, multiple viewpoints requires something else: your ability as a reader to like the characters. There’s a reason why Dan Daget didn’t survive the final cut. *Yawn.* Since this was the first novella I wrote with a three narrator structure, I didn’t go into the story guns a-blazin’ and write it based on a solid frame. The structure was reorganized during the revisions process. At first, what I needed to do, was simply focus on the story and the viewpoints. The other niggly bits, like consistency, physics, and the like, came much later.

The three perspectives you’ll read are: Fang, a psychotic teddy bear who’s technically not supposed to be on board, Xax (a.k.a. Edna Keene) a young recruit who gets kidnapped, and Maarl, the last character I added. Maarl replaced Dan as Chief of Security; he’s a former slave and his alien race resembles lions. Maarl came last. The first drafts had Dan Daget at the helm, but he wound up being such a jerk.

Now, telling part of the story from Xax’s perspective really worked out well because you got to experience what happened to her. If I say anymore, I’m going to include spoilers and that I don’t want to do. Instead, I’m going shift gears and address how the plot evolved.

Writing a mystery enabled me to hone in on the differences between the characters and introduce new fictional elements to Bulldogs! that weren’t in the corebook. I built some layers into the plot and the characters because, in my mind, readers are smart. You’re going to figure out the whodunnit part faster than I could write it, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t have fun leading you through the story and the world.

Since this is very much a whodunnit type of a tale, I knew straight off the bat I did not want to wind up with a Scooby Doo moment where GO TEAM SCOOBY catches up with the evil villain and has a long dialogue that explains away everything. I call this technique “the tell” and I despise it. It’s natural to gravitate toward this, too, and I did my utmost best not to have a Scooby (or a Scooby snack) moment. While there was a reveal, primarily because it had to happen due to multiple viewpoints and with the way things went down, I didn’t put enough explanation in my first draft and had to tweak it some for the final.

First things first. I decided who the villain of said sordid tale was before I wrote a single scene. Had to. If I don’t know what’s going on, then certainly you won’t! Only… In Redwing’s Gambit there’s a certain amount of expectations you might have based on the alien races involved. In the game, the Ken Reeg are the McSlime-balls. Anyone who knows Bulldogs! understands not only this, but a little something about the other alien races, too. Did this factor into how the plot was structured? *whistles innocently*

To add in layers to the plot, I focused on character backstory and motivation. I really wanted (I’m sure you’re getting this deep-seated desire by now…) to help you get to know these characters to care about them. Sure, it’s a science fiction story, but I also wanted to create characters that could go onto other things; there’s a possibility there may be other adventures, game material, or stories with this crew.

On the ship, everybody’s got something they don’t want the other character to know about. Everybody’s got some secret they either want to risk, are blackmailed into giving, or feel obligated to confess.

Still, it all goes back to the main plot. Otherwise, I’d be telling you non-stop how cool this particular character was, and what’s the fun in that?

Other Parts to this Series

  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Easter Eggs – Part 5 of 5 will be published on April 23, 2012.
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Revisions and Cut Text – Part 4 of 5 will be published on April 16, 2012.
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Structure and Plot – Part 3 of 5 will be published on April 9, 2012.
  • You are reading Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Characters and Treatment – Part 2 of 5
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Research and Background Part 1 of 5



About Redwing’s Gambit: Redwing’s Gambit, the first novella for the Bulldogs! RPG, debuted on Monday, March 26th in digital. This story was written by Monica Valentinelli and will be published by Galileo Games, creator of the Bulldogs! RPG. This RPG was originally published with a d20 system in 2005. It has since been updated and released in a new edition which employs the Fate mechanic in 2011.

Another Time, a Different Novella, and an Excerpt

Tales of the Seven Dogs

The first novella I wrote for the RPG industry was for the Aletheia RPG, published by Abstract Nova Entertainment. It’s titled “Twin Designs” and was included in The Tales of the Seven Dogs Society. I contributed to the RPG, so I knew how intense the setting was. That piece allowed me to take some risks and I talked a little bit about that in my writing notes for Tales of the Seven Dogs Society. This was written in first person and I leveraged both perspectives of each brother – one a believer and one a skeptic. Ralph tends to be a lot more naive than his brother Edgar, and as the story progresses you find out why.

Due to the psychic ability that the brothers share, which is called “Presque Vu” (or the ability to see The Grand Design), the novella is more on the cerebral side. It’s a unique ability, though, and one that I loved to explore. After all, how do you know you’re interpreting your visions correctly? You could see what’s supposed to happen or have strong instincts, but do you have any idea what that means?

Here’s an excerpt from the novella:

Twin Designs

Part One: The Believer

Late at night when you’re all alone, do you ever stop to question what purpose you have in this world? Do you lie awake in your soft bed thinking “Maybe life is just some sick joke?” and wonder if you’ll be able to come back and haunt your loved ones after you’ve passed on?

I never have.

My name is Ralph Whitman and I, along with my twin brother Edgar, have the ability to see the Grand Design, a type of sight the French call “Presque Vu.” I don’t intend to sound arrogant here, but it’s just the way it is. We see connections between events that others are incapable of understanding, and we’re both able to take a step back to see whether or not a specific event will lead us closer to the Divine. Some call that higher power Fate, some God, or even a significant evolution of the Self. Call it what you will; our sight is infallible—even though sometimes our perceptions might be a bit “off.”

Now, when I say “Grand Design” I do not mean that we can foretell the future; that gift is something my brother has desperately wished for, an obsession that began when we were little kids. No, our gift is to see how events are connected to one another as part of the Master Plan, something I’m assuming all humans hope to be a part of. You see, when you know whether or not something is supposed to happen, before too long you’ll also understand why it happened.

Take the Bermuda Triangle for example. Say that you’re traveling on a cruise ship near the area, when the captain announces that a strange storm is gathering in the East. With Presque Vu, I might find out that the storm has some significance—it’s not just a random freak of nature. A few minutes pass and it’s as if my eyes are opened; I might be able to see that the storm is moving over the ocean in order to herd vessels into the Triangle. Or, I might see that the storm is an act of God meant to sink ships carrying specific passengers. Regardless, Presque Vu is an ability that is often misunderstood (or misused) because it’s a subtle art and highly complex, and of course not everyone uses it the same way.

My brother Edgar believes that those people who operate outside of the scope of the Master Plan are impoverished spirits who owe the Universe a grand debt, and are having to “do over” their mundane lives. In a way I also believe that is true, because the Plan is as real as you or me even if its purpose is beyond us all. I’m sure if I took the time to follow all of the connections we’ve seen, eventually we’d tie one truth to the next and learn the answers to the questions philosophers and theologians have spent millennia trying to uncover. What is the meaning of life? Is there a higher power? Why was I born?

I often wonder about the implications of our gift and question what would happen should we someday actually find out the Truth. I’m assuming each of our discoveries will simply lead to more questions—after all, humans aren’t really physically or mentally equipped to “see” the Divine. But sometimes I joke with Edgar about how one day I’ll end up in an asylum somewhere, dribbling milk all over my chin. So as excited as I am to be this close to uncovering the mysteries of the universe—I’m a bit terrified of the Truth’s implications. Sure, my brother and I both know there is a plan, but we don’t know whether or not the plan’s designer is a lunatic or a genius, amoral or immoral.

In the past our power has caused problems for us. You see, not every big event has to have a meaning, yet other times the smallest gesture makes a world of difference. One day a building blew up and (whoops!) it wasn’t a part of the grand plan, just some idiot bent on taking revenge for his boss not providing him with the correct type of stapler. Another time we saw on the news that a serial killer had systematically wiped out an entire family. To renew our “faith” in the plan we opened our eyes, hoping to see that this horrific, intentional act was an accident caused by a mutated mind—only to find out that the family’s death had to happen for a reason, and we were not privy to what that reason was… well, not until much later.

I guess you could say my brother and I are very lucky, because we’re able (or at least I am) to put our ability to good use, working with a team of investigators called “The Seven Dogs Society” to explore the weirdest and strangest mysteries the world has to offer. Simple truths with not-so-simple implications are often at the heart of paranormal investigation. No one knows that better than I do. No one.

We wouldn’t be here, at a sprawling Victorian mansion in Alaska, if it wasn’t for our shared ability–it’s that simple. The story of how we got here, though, well… that story isn’t simple at all. We met Terrance Chastain, one of the founders of the Seven Dogs Society, when were living on the streets of Los Angeles, running away from a world that ignored and punished us. When Terrance first saw us, we were digging through the dumpsters of a Chinese restaurant in the middle of a blistering L.A. summer—dirty, smelly, and covered in fear.

Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Characters and Treatment Part 2 of 5

This was the first paragraph I ever wrote for Redwing’s Gambit. Remember, at the time all I had at my disposal was the d20 version of the game and not the FATE manuscript.

Dan Daget, a salt-of-the-earth Asurburan, is the security chief on a ship called the Haldis. His group, which is led by a sultry Asurburan cyborg named Cass Leary, has been paid by Redwing Securities to transport a high-ranking politician to his new home on Illia* on the other side of the Frontier Zone. Things quickly go awry when evidence of sabotage is found on board and one of their crew members winds up missing. To find out who the culprit is before anyone else gets hurt, Daget must enlist the help of a violent Urseminite named Fang. Will Daget uncover the saboteur and fend off space pirates? Or will he find out that his client is a lot more than they bargained for?



The treatment evolved from the original concept for a number of reasons. At the time, I thought the story required one perspective, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. One mystery in a closed environment was “okay,” but it wasn’t enough for the readers to get a feel of what makes Bulldogs! a cool science fiction setting. Initially, my thinking was that an observant character could really dig into and tell a tale, highlighting the different aspects of the alien races and the worlds. Boy, was that ever wrong! While that technique sounds good, it didn’t work when I started writing it because I bored myself going on and on and on… I’ll talk a lot more about those evolving aspects in parts 3 and 4.

After I wrote up the premise, my next step was to focus on characters. I tweaked the premise to give all of the characters something to do. In other words: why are they traveling through space?

Premise: A group working for Redwing Security has been paid to transport a reformed mobster-turned-politician to his new home on Illia.



In a game, when players are sitting around a table, the GM has to provide the group with a reason to be together. With a full crew and cast of many characters in this story, I had to come up with a short centralized idea or goal that the characters had a vested interest in. The crew works for a company called Redwing Securities and they were paid to transport a new politician named Vincent Twist to the planet Illya. Bam! There’s the central goal. They’re all employees — not pirates, run-a-ways, or rebels — and they have to get a politician from point A to B. Where, when, and how they make it there is another story.

Certainly, any tale that has a crew or a group of characters working together will require this same sort of thing. Star Trek was about a crew that explores space from an archaeological perspective. While there was meta-plot, the episodic format lent itself to “explore strange new worlds.” Star Wars was about Rebels thwarting the Empire. At the heart of Dune was the struggle to control spice on a micro and macro level. Whether it’s on a large scale or a small one, ensemble casts have to have some reason for their existence otherwise the plot will be very convoluted and the reader will get confused. Sometimes the author, too!

From this main premise of transportation, I built the characters and included “the ties that bind.” Or, in other words, how the characters feel about one another. I did this for two reasons: one, this setting and game is owned by Galileo Games. Whenever I write tie-in fiction, I want the publisher to be involved in the creation process because I am writing for them and their fans. Some publishers are more hands on than others, but approvals are still important. Brennan’s feedback and input shaped the story and the characters; you’ll find out more about what Brennan’s involvement was when I talk about revisions.

Here are the character descriptions as I originally wrote them up. You’ll find out what changed (and what stayed the same) as I dive more into the structure and plot next time around. I’d also like to point out that I’m consciously avoiding the mechanical bits because I don’t want to conflict with any future plans Brennan has for these characters. 🙂

Name: Cass Leary
Sex: Female
Class: Engineer, Social (Mata Hari)
Race: Arsubaran Cyborg
Group Role: Team leader
Description: After suffering life-threatening wounds, Cass was brought back to life by Violet Dunn through an experimental procedure. Those who come into contact with her may not realize that she’s a cyborg, for her implants have been well-matched to her red skin, black hair and red eyes. A highly-skilled social artisan, Cass Leary charms all those who cross her path, and has even managed to convince a fierce Urseminite named Fang to be her personal bodyguard. She has no problem diffusing tense situations but prefers not to work with psychics because they cramp her style.
On this mission, Cass’s primary objective is to get Vinnie to his new home on Illia as quickly as possible. Although he was legally elected, she does not trust him — especially around the medical wing where Violet and her young assistant, Edna Keene, spend their time.

Name: Talus Paloç
Sex: Male
Class: Engineer
Race: Dolomé
Group Role: Mechanic
Secondary Group Role: Impromptu Therapist
Description: A well-renowned engineer, Talus is a likeable mechanic whose only flaw is his over-confidence in his abilities. Instead of relying on assistants or apprentices, he often programs robots to perform what he calls “menial tasks.” Because of his magnetic personality, team members often go to him to rant and get advice. Talus is fiercely protective of his friends and loves a good story, but is a little insecure about his appearance. While he has a crush on Cass, if he had a good reason to, he wouldn’t hesitate to kill Fang or the creepy Dan Daget that always seems to be lurking around. After all, he should be the only one with a secret on board.

Name: Vinnie Twist
Sex: Male
Class: Rogue
Race: Ken Reeg
Group Role: Client
Description: A former crime boss, Vinnie Twist recently won the title of High Sadralla of the planet Illia. His recent (and well-publicized) conversion to the Monosolar religion was cited as the primary reason why he was elected to this elite position. A consummate charmer, Vinnie has a soft spot for beautiful women and piles of cash. His personal mantra is not just to get what he wants, but to get what everyone else wants, too. After tying up loose ends in his home colony outside the Frontier Zone, Vinnie hired Redwing Security to safely transport him back to Igdrassa. Since it is common knowledge this small colony sits at the base of the largest gemstone mine on Illia, rumor has it that several space pirates and bounty hunters will try to kidnap him before he sets foot in office.

Name: Dan Daget
Sex: Male
Class: Fighter
Race: Arsuburan
Group Role: Bodyguard
Description: A former professional wrestler, Dan Daget believes that the way to enlightenment is through his physical prowess. When he’s not keeping a close eye on his fellow crew members, he can be found testing his physical limits. Though he’s an excellent listener, Dan has a hard time trusting people. Overprotective at times, Dan won’t hesitate to throw himself in the line of fire for the safety of his crew. On this mission, Cass handpicked Dan from her personal contacts and is paying him extra to keep a close eye on Vinnie Twist.

Name: Violet Dunn
Sex: Female
Class: Medic
Race: Arsuburan
Group Role: Chief Medic
Description: Violet Dunn was a high-ranking military physician before she joined Redwing Securities. She is a pioneer in the field of cybernetics and was the first physician to successfully fuse high-tech robotic parts to Arsuburan flesh. Although she left the military voluntarily, Violet is reluctant to talk about her past and her relationship with Cass Leary. Some of the other crew members don’t trust her because of her mysterious connection to the military. Because she feels like an outsider, Violet often goes out of her way to win her crewmates over by enhancing their abilities or appearances through drugs and surgery. Since she goes wherever Cass goes, Violet had no choice but to join this mission. Violet hasn’t shared her views with anyone else, but she has a personal grudge against the Ken Reeg.

Pilots: Two slug-like beings. Splish and Oogle.

Ship name: Haldis

* Republished from my original notes. The spelling of the planet Illia was changed to Illya for readability and consistency purposes.

Other Parts to this Series

  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Easter Eggs – Part 5 of 5 will be published on April 23, 2012.
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Revisions and Cut Text – Part 4 of 5 will be published on April 16, 2012.
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Structure and Plot – Part 3 of 5 will be published on April 9, 2012.
  • You are reading Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Characters and Treatment – Part 2 of 5
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Research and Background Part 1 of 5



About Redwing’s Gambit: Redwing’s Gambit, the first novella for the Bulldogs! RPG, debuts today in digital. This story was written by Monica Valentinelli and will be published by Galileo Games, creator of the Bulldogs! RPG. This RPG was originally published with a d20 system in 2005. It has since been updated and released in a new edition which employs the Fate mechanic in 2011.

Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Research and Background – Part 1 of 5

When I was plotting Redwing’s Gambit, the Fate version of Bulldogs! was just a glimmer in Brennan Taylor’s eye. I knew that the game was going to employ the same system as Spirit of the Century from Evil Hat Productions, but that’s as far as my knowledge went.

The first question I asked myself was not about what story I wanted to write, but how I wanted to present the tale in such a way that felt more like Fate than d20. I had played Spirit of the Century and I also participated in a game run by Ryan Macklin, too. In my mind, Fate really emphasizes and focuses on relationships or the ties that connect and bind the characters to one another.

To help me make my decision, I dove into cinematic reference material to feel out the structure or the architecture of the story. (In other words, I wanted to design an elevator pitch that captured the mood.) Farscape. Star Wars. Firefly. Star Trek. I, Robot. Earth 2. Dune, etc. Of the many science fiction titles I had at my disposal, I leaned more strongly toward a Farscape crossed with Firefly feel. Farscape has a cast of several alien races — including the ship Moya — but still manages to focus on story in spite of the sheer volume of aliens the writers have to describe. Bulldogs! has several alien races and a theological war, too. Firefly has close-knit relationships, all of which are human, but mixes up action and mystery to survive another day.

Now, in both shows, the crews are on-the-run. They’re rogues. Renegades. Pirates. Escapees. I didn’t want to mirror that in my story because I felt it was too easy and distanced itself from the heart of what Bulldogs! is. Sure, there’s pirates in Bulldogs! but the galaxy is only so big and it is at odds with itself. What makes the Bulldogs! setting unique to me are the alien races and how they interact with one another. Those connections create a lot of conflict — which is great for both a game and a story.

Before I could craft a plot, though, I felt I needed to draw up the characters and use the Fate system to ground them. Enter the treatment and the characterization of the full cast and crew.

Other Parts to this Series

  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Easter Eggs – Part 5 of 5 will be published on April 23, 2012.
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Revisions and Cut Text – Part 4 of 5 will be published on April 16, 2012.
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Structure and Plot – Part 3 of 5 will be published on April 9, 2012.
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Characters and Treatment – Part 2 of 5 will be published on April 2, 2012
  • You are reading Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Research and Background – Part 1 of 5



About Redwing’s Gambit: Redwing’s Gambit, the first novella for the Bulldogs! RPG, debuts today in digital. This story was written by Monica Valentinelli and will be published by Galileo Games, creator of the Bulldogs! RPG. This RPG was originally published with a d20 system in 2005. It has since been updated and released in a new edition which employs the Fate mechanic in 2011.

Announcing Redwing’s Gambit, a Novella for Bulldogs

Love science fiction? Have a soft spot for origin stories?

I am thrilled to announce I am polishing the final draft of Redwing’s Gambit, a novella about a Bulldogs! RPGnewly-formed crew for the Bulldogs RPG from Galileo Games. This story is about an ensemble cast who has been hired to transport a high-profile politician from one end of the galaxy to the other. The only problem is: there’s a saboteur on board and they’re way out in deep space.

Written as a science fiction mystery, Redwing’s Gambit is the origin story for the ship’s crew and clientele. The plot was designed to help readers get to know these characters and offer a glimpse into the expansive Bulldogs! setting. Oh, and there will be a little ass-kicking along the way.

The novella will debut Fall/Winter of this year. A firm publication date has not been set.

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