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Extra Experience Points: Gaming Satire

On Writing A Column On Writing For - A Column

Greg Chatham
November 06, 2001


There are certain rules you must abide by when writing a column for

1: Don't talk about Dice Club.

2: Don't say, "I'll be right back!" You won't be right back. Your series on the appetizers of gaming (Ding-Dongs and Dragons) will end up in the columnist limbo graveyard, a digital Deadlands where the sky is filled with dusty, glow-in-the-dark dodecahedrons and Jeff Freeman rules with an iron exclamation point from his castle of 2-liter soda bottles like a twisted King of Closetland.

(Look for more on the columnist limbo graveyard, Jeff Freeman and his recyclable fortress, and his chief rivals for power in our upcoming supplement, "Stuff We Should Have Told You In the Core Rulebook." Now with more art depicting what might be a girl holding what is definitely an limp zombie penis.)

3: Don't reveal that you are a fictional character created by John Tynes, Robin Laws, and, oh, let's say, Timothy Hallinan. (You aren't a loser if you don't know who these people are--Hi, Maureen! Hi, Luan!--I don't even know who John Tynes is. They talk about him all the time on the forums here and I dropped his name in the hope of getting some street cred. The truth is, your mom could write this column. Yes, Luan, your mom. She's probably more in touch with Today's Gamer than I am.

Let's see, if I look up John Tynes in the review archives I find he's written... Oh, he wrote Puppetland. I have that. He wrote Power Kill, too, which was like Violence and Freebase, but with the all subtlety of Spike Lee and John Woo having a gunfight in a church filled with exploding Black Jesuses. Robin Laws is the guy who invented Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese system of wind and water management. Timothy Hallinan, well, I was going to choose a name at random out of the credits of, oh, let's say, White Wolf's Freak Legion: A Player's Guide to Fomori, the greatest gaming supplement ever published on the subject of fraternity life. A name like SCAR Studios.

Then I put some thought into it. If Timothy Hallinan had a hand in creating me, I could have really cool dialogue, sleep with beautiful women, drink beer from Thailand, and I wouldn't have any extra appendages. So don't feel bad if you don't know any of those people. They don't know who you are either, and as fictional construct, I won't hold it against you if your lack of gamer and out-of-print detective novel lore keeps you from appreciating this part of the article.) Also keep it to yourself that the columns are written in-character by porn greats Joey Silvera and Randy Spears (father of Britney).

4: Don't make up stories about how you might be someone important, like SCAR Studios, to make readers think you might be famous. For the record, I am not famous. If I could figure out how to read the page that tells me how many people read this column, I could tell you just how famous I am not. If I ever figure it out, I'll create a "Am I More Famous Than You? Index" and you can find out for yourself. (If you are more than or equally as famous as Peter North or Herschel Savage, you are more famous than me.)

5: Don't give away your secret sexual weakness. Giving away your secret sexual weakness would allow Zoloft the Destroyer an edge over you in the final battle between good and evil. I'm not saying that he would use it against you himself, because you may not be into that sort of thing, but he might know some traveling vampire hos that could use it to their advantage. Personally, giving away my secret sexual weakness might encourage hot fan girls from the Philippines to put on garter belts and thigh-highs and try to seduce me. My girlfriend wouldn't like that.

These are the rules Sandy emailed me after I passed the stringent entrance exam required of all columnists. ("Cough.") He said I should never mention them to anyone. I guess he should have made that rule number 6. He also asked me never to tell anyone about his plan to abduct all readers and take them to a remote island populated with genetically-created orcs (as opposed to the robotic kind--they're on the other island) and riddled with steam-powered, randomly generated dungeons, where he would rule over you all like Lord British and force you to take part in Renaissance Faire musicals. Not writing about that should have been rule number 7.

To that list, I'd like to add my own rules of column writing that I came up with after reading too many college newspapers.

8: Never write a column about writing a column, not even in an ironic way, like writing a column about writing a column and mentioning the rule about not doing that.

9: Don't start your column by telling your readers what your column is about. Let the smart people figure it out for themselves. Obviously, I've been writing a serious look at the pros and cons of a direct distribution system versus everything being sold on eBay. Duh. Show, don't tell, as they told us in CW301. Told us? Hey!

10: Don't make fun of people you meet at the game store. No, not even the guys they keep behind closed doors in the reserved gaming room so the people playing Mage Knight can do so and still keep their self-respect. There's a difference between making fun of Gary Gygax and making fun of a big fat gamer who looks like the offspring of Harry Knowles and Ron Jeremy, plays a homebrew hybrid of old-school and 3rd edition Star Wars for 12 hours every Sunday, then goes to IHOP and orders chocolate pancakes with human faces on them. Gary Gygax can say to himself, "Screw this guy, I wrote Boyz N The Hood." The guy at the game store just wanted to know if you played Traveller and doesn't necessarily have the ability to protect himself with delusions of grandeur.

10b: OK, you can make fun of the people at the game store if they work there, especially if they work at a Wizards of the Coast store. I told them to stop saying hi to me. I don't care if it's in the mall, it's a game store, not the Gap. I'd also like to let the employees of The Hobbit in Fayetteville know that I AM NOT STEALING ANYTHING!

11: Don't write about how horrible tragedies make you reassess what is important in life, like killing things to gain levels, beating Diablo 2's expansion pack with all the characters in Hell mode, and making fun of role-playing's sacred cow, Synnibarr. (Again, for my non-gaming readers, I don't know what it is, but everybody here seems to think it rocks. I'll take their word for it. After all, they were right about how dark Little Fears is. And how it was very easy to play. And the other good things they said about it while ignoring the things that didn't make sense and the sentence fragments.

Sentence fragments are very scary and so are those dot-dot-dot... thingies. My computer graphics show that if the number of sentence fragments in Little Fears continues to grow at the current rate, by the author's Final Words the sentence fragments will have spread across the layouts of gaming supplements... all over America.)

12: Never write touching, personal columns of social commentary that will just embarrass everybody. No one wants to read about the time you learned about your period while playing Shadowrun, or the very special game of Pokethulhu you ran where the players learned about incest, drinking and driving, paying too much for their mufflers, and the dangers of autoerotic asphyxiation.

I'd like to offer these as the fast-play rules for column writing on Of course, as game designers are always happy to remind us, the most important rule is to have fun. If these rules hold you back, throw them out! Keep only the rules you want. You can cancel anytime.

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