Join me for SIRENS: Battle of the Bards on Kickstarter — FUNDED!

SIRENS: Battle of the Bards

Friends, I am so pleased to announce I’m writing for SIRENS: Battle of the Bards, a Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition campaign setting, featuring a stellar team of authors. I’ve been having so much fun I handed in my drafts a month ahead of schedule!

Do you love art? Satine Phoenix? Music? INTRIGUE? REBELLION? Then, the city of Salvata has something for you! I warmly invite you to check out SIRENS: Battle of the Bards on Kickstarter (which has already funded) and join Apotheosis Studios to celebrate this gorgeous game setting with fantastic art, music, prose — and so much more. Huzzah!

My 2019 List of Publications

Hello everyone! 2019 was quite the interesting year. Instead of waxing poetically about it for hours on end, I am summing it up with an image of a big fish. Said fish has eaten several other fishes, and is currently being skewered in the gut by a fisherman, whilst other fishermen, who are mere peasants enjoying the spoils of their own efforts, witness said undertaking in their tiny boat. The illustration is by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and is literally called “Big Fishes Eat Little Fishes” (1556).

Pieter Bruegel the Elder | Big Fish Eat Little Fishes | 1556 C.E.

My list of publications is short this year. I published two stories, one of which included the backdrop for a solo card game–super fun! Plus, a fun character for charity-related purposes. Had a blast overall, especially with A. Happy Gnome!

Stories

“Arrows, Blood, and a Long Overdue Cat Nap”, TALES OF EXCELLENT CATS for Monarchies of Mau, 2019, Onyx Path Publishing/Pugsteady

“Only the Strongest has the Heart of a Wizened Queen”, PROVING GROUNDS card game, 2019, Renegade Games

Games

A HAPPY GNOME for ExtraLife Charity, Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, 2019, DMsGuild.com

Thus far, it does look like I’ll be light on announcements through the end of 2020 as the calendar winds down. More news as winter ripens. Hope you had a fantastic year! And, if you didn’t, I hope you’ve retained your inner fire. We’ll all need it to get through the elections.

What I Mean When I Say 3-D Character Design

Yuna Final Fantasy X-2

Assume that the first 5,000 words of this post is a treatise on the use of propaganda to make it socially acceptable to attack opponents and commit horrific acts throughout history. I want to write it, but I have work to do and I’m grumpy(1)(2).

It was pointed out to me that I haven’t blogged about designing games or writing stories for a bit, and that’s something I definitely want to sprinkle in here and there. Often, the challenge for me is that I have my own lexicon(3) for creative elements. For example, I hate the terms “crunch” and “fluff” with the fiery passion of a thousand red suns, because I feel those terms devalue both the necessary work that systems designers do and the talented efforts of setting designers. Instead, I call the systems the “engine” for a game, because that’s what makes a game go. The setting, then, is the “vehicle”. Combined, they make a game filled with passengers (e.g. the characters). Without the engine or the vehicle, you don’t have a game. You have a pile of rules or you have a bunch of descriptions. You definitely need both to play.

What about those passengers, though? Well, circling back to my goal to define what I mean when I say “3-D character design”, I envision all game’s characters to be a personality that lifts right off the page. Player-characters aren’t photographs, because they’re not static. They’re active, and their stories are shaped by a player sitting at the table. In many games, I also like to envision the GM’s characters to be the same way, because that offers more potential for conflict and interactions. Thus, three-dimensional characters are more life-like than 2D; they are full of desires, fears, and quirks–just like the people filling their shoes.

I’m of the mind that three-dimensional character portrayals actively support a better play experience(4), because we–the designers–are presenting characters for two reasons. First, the characters are there for the GM to narrate. The more characters there are, the easier it is to portray them as photographs because they’re elements needed to build a narrative. But, even tweaking those characters just a little bit makes them more fun to interact with and more emotionally compelling to rescue, fight, investigate, chase, etc.

Second, the characters we present are not only necessary for the players, they also underline the play experience; you typically can’t have a game without characters (or roles) of some sort unless it’s intentionally designed not to have them. Character depictions are also a strong indicator of what that vehicle (e.g. setting) is like for the game, and when these portrayals are flat it sends a strong message to the players at the table.

For example, many players internalize they are not welcome in a game if the art and text doesn’t not include their identities, because they don’t feel a connection and can’t see themselves playing the game. This happens on both a subconscious and conscious level, and it is tied to one of the reasons why people buy games in the first place. To have fun, people need to feel vested in a game, and that investment depends on any number of factors. I’ve found that one of the best and surest ways to increase a player’s interest, is to focus on three-dimensional characters that many different types of players would be attracted to.

Three-dimensional characters do take some work to create, but I personally feel having this as a design goal makes us better designers and writers. The identity portion of that is part and parcel to ensuring characters are handled appropriately, and to that end I’m teaching a class called Writing the Other: Writing RPGs Sans Fail with K. Tempest Bradford. Outside of the discussions to sensitively portraying different identities, there are tons of techniques you can employ to zero in on making better characters.

Now that I’ve defined what three-dimensional characters are, I’ll address tips for designing them in a later post.

(1) Politics and winter. I have a great life, but nothing sends me into a rage faster than attacking women’s rights and seeing a bunch of dudes be smug about it. And winter, because this season has been way too long for sure!

(2) Broke my pledge to check in less, but I’m glad I got that out of my system now.

(3) It has always been this way, ever since I was very little.

(4) The same is true in fiction. Flat characters are boring to read!



[Announcement] Writing the Other 2017 Classes

I am pleased to share that I am teaching a Writing the Other class about RPGs in February 2017. The full text of the announcement, including instructions on how to get updates, is on the newly revamped www.writingtheother.com website.

In addition to the classes that I am teaching, I thought you might be interested in the works of these talented instructors. Please consider checking them out!

New Writing the Other Classes

2017 is almost here and we’re already planning a full year of Writing the Other classes! In addition to Weekend Intensives every other month there will be at least three Multi-week Classes. And we have an exciting roster of new classes and Master Classes coming up:

  • Writing Inclusive Games – Creating RPGs Sans Fail with Monica Valentinelli | February 2017
  • Master Class: Writing Bisexual Characters with Faith Cheltenham | February 2017
  • Master Class: Writing Your Future Self – Creating Older Characters with Ellen Klages | early March 2017
  • Master Class: How To Fail Gracefully with Mary Robinette Kowal and K. Tempest Bradford | April 2017
  • Master Class: Avoiding Offensive Tropes in Horror with Chesya Burke | Summer 2017
  • Worldbuilding Intensive (instructors TBA) | Summer 2017
  • Master Class: Writing From the Diaspora with Ken Liu | Autumn 2017
  • Master Class: Beyond Belief – Writing Plausible Atheist and Religious Characters with Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward | Autumn 2017

We also plan to have Master Classes on Writing Lesbian and Gay Characters, Writing Characters With Mobility Disabilities, and Depicting Class in Fiction later in the year.

For more about these classes, visit www.writingtheother.com.

Announcing In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons

volos-guide-to-monsters

To celebrate the November 15th release of the upcoming supplement Volo’s Guide to Monsters pictured above, a new Adventurer’s League module called In Volo’s Wake was released to friendly local game stores on November 4th.

Today, I am thrilled to announce that I was one of the writers on this set of mini-adventurers along with my kickass developer, Shawn Merwin, and Rich Lescouflair. In Volo’s Wake will be available online at a later date. I’ll share a link with you on my blog when it is. For now, if you want to check it out–head on over to your friendly local game store and ask them about it. Wahoo!

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Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.

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