I’ve been working on Constellation Cards (formerly “flip-a-card”, my branding is crap) for the better part of 6 years. Recently, some positive encouragement motivated me to bring it back to life and try to get it ship-shape.

You can try the Tabletop Simulator version of the game by subscribing to Constellation Cards on Steam.

I want to talk about the technical aspects of how I created the cards in their current form, and what my next steps are for the game.

Read more "The Stars Are Right" »

I started a tweet with these words: “I’ll never be off superheroes in some form”. And it’s true!

I’ll talk about why, and what “superheroes” means to me, starting with this reply.

Read more "The Superhero Buffet" »

The Quantum Ogre is a concept in TTRPG encounter design. The basic idea is that the game facilitator has decided the PCs will encounter an ogre, and regardless of what choices they make or which paths they take, they will encounter an ogre.

There are debates about whether this is good or not, and I’ll leave those to other people. Instead I want to look at how to put this power in player hands, because players can be excited about things happening, only for them not to happen because of how the facilitator has structured things. What if we could reward player excitement, and take some of the weight of encounter design off the shoulders of one player?

Read more "When players want quantum ogres" »

Shows like “Supernatural” and “Lucifer”, as well as older stuff like “Forever Knight”, gave us the Occult Detective: a character with some kind of magical or divine connection who solves crimes and fights mystical bad guys. Sometimes they know a little magic, sometimes they’re actual gods, but whatever the case, they’ve got a gun (or something as good), a friend (or partner) on the force, and a ton of unresolved sexual tension with some hot supernatural supporting cast.

Easy win, right?

Read more "Reinventing the Occult Detective" »

“I have to come up with something but I don’t have any ideas!”

If you’ve said these words, this process will help you fix that problem. It’s not perfect. But if you feel blocked, or lost, it will get you started. You can use it for characters, plot lines, fictional worlds, and anything else you can describe.

Why is creativity so hard to get right? Because what you create has to spark strong feelings in your audience. It’s easy to say “this work made me feel this way” after you experience it. It’s harder to go the other direction and make a new thing that sparks the feelings you intend it to.

It’s like cooking stew. You choose ingredients, put the best ones in the pot, stir, and serve. A mixture of experience and experimentation yields the best stew.

Read more "Creativity Through Rearrangement" »

“This media is problematic”.

I’ve heard dozens of variations on this refrain, hundreds of times. I’ve seen people respond to it with hostility - “what’s your problem?” - or confusion - “what’s the problem?”. I’ve heard people say that such critics are unpleasable. “They’ll never be happy”, they grumble.

What can we take away from this kind of situation?

Read more "The Unpleasable Progressive and Red Rock Mountain" »

Twitter is taking an awfully long time to die, but its death is widely seen as inevitable.

Some people have already fled to other social media sites, e.g. Mastodon, or the newer Bluesky or Threads. I did too, to be fair.

But the whole idea, that my stuff lives on the servers owned by people manifestly committed to shitty behavior, still feels bad.

POSSE is essentially a fancy new acronym for a very old idea - publish and syndicate content. The tools, like RSS and Atom, have been around for years. ActivityPub is really neat, but it’s an evolution of an existing concept.

So what does all this mean?

Read more "POSSE Comitatus" »

There’s an excellent thread on Twitter about magic, urban fantasy, and the Dresden Files in particular.

Since my reply to it talked about my frustration with worldbuilding in contemporary urban fantasy and how I respond to it, let me illustrate what I consider to be “good”.

The vampire has been with us for millennia. Before Bram Stoker’s Dracula, cultures around the world had their own stories about blood-drinking undead fiends. Works like “Nosferatu”, Anne Rice’s books, White Wolf’s “Vampire: the Masquerade”, and more continued to flesh out what vampires were about. They became metaphors for sexual assault, disease, and other social anxieties, but equally were cast as darkly magnetic, powerful, and tragic figures on the outskirts of polite society.

Read more "Building a Better Vampire" »

How does your fictional world’s summoning or conjuring work? When your magic users call for something to appear, what’s going on that makes it work?

Here are a few sample models I’ve seen in fiction. Each approach implies different things about how to break the summoning, and the entity’s attitude toward being summoned. They can also be combined.

Read more "How Does Summoning Work?" »