Sew You Want To Be A Hero Is Worse Than Stuff And Nonsense Except When It’s Better

Part 1: Threadbare Returns
Part 2: The Novelization Of A Dungeon Crawl Is Still Boring
Part 3: Halloween Wars
Part 4: Undead
Part 5: Spooktacular Free-For-All
Part 6: Dark Side
Part 7: Power Gaming
Part 8: It’s Not Ogre Yet
Part 9: Dark Side Boogaloo
Part 10: Magic Tea Party
Part 11: Threadbare Really Needs To Stop Trying To Criticize Racism
Part 12: The Final Battle Begins
Part 13: Finale

I can only assume that Threadbare author Andrew Seiple either isn’t hearing criticism of his attempts at anti-racist themes or else he just doesn’t care, but Very Special Chapters about racism have destroyed both of his books that I’ve read so far. The second book of the trilogy, Sew You Want To Be A Hero, was overall an improvement on the first, but the flaw that most crippled the first book has, if anything, gotten worse. Sew You Want To Be A Hero tends to focus more on fights with large parties which allows them to bounce back and forth between multiple perspectives based on whoever’s doing something interesting, and thus is far less prone to retreating into detached narration of the fight, which is good, because when Threadbare actually describes its fights, they tend to be really good.

This book is also far less enamored of the big reveal, especially as time goes on. What big reveal moments it does have tend to be resolved within a few pages rather than, as with Anise Layd’i’s identity in Stuff and Nonsense, the entire book, and by the end the book is relying much more on the question what’s going to happen next rather than what’s going on right now. People who’ve been reading these posts as they come out are probably getting sick of hearing that, but I’m gonna drop the one reference in here anyway, because it’s an important note to make for people who’re only reading the summaries.

And on top of that, the book has shaken off the aimlessness that was the original’s second biggest problem. Whereas Stuff and Nonsense was just a string of four-ish random side quests dumped onto an eleven year old girl and her favorite toy, Sew You Want To Be A Hero is about Threadbare finding Celia again (whose name is also Cecelia, now). Threadbare has Compulsive Hero Syndrome and is regularly distracted from his quest by people in need, but when he finishes saving his friend or the townsfolk or whatever he’s gone chasing after this time, he immediately reorients to his main goal of finding Celia, which gives all these episodic side quests a sense of narrative cohesion.

Part of the problem with Sew You Want To Be A Hero is that it’s developed one new flaw: Death has become completely meaningless. This wouldn’t actually be a problem if it’s something they’d figured out before anyone had died, or even if the people who had died in book one were treated evenly. Caradon is completely dead, beyond saving, but Zuula, who died at almost the same time (and didn’t she actually die before Caradon? I forget, but it was a question of minutes either way), is still around and can be preserved from death indefinitely by Threadbare’s necromancer powers. Caradon’s death is a big deal, but it’s the only death in the entire story that’s irreversible and you can feel the hand of the author demanding that Caradon and only Caradon stay dead. Having a “no one really dies unless there’s a TPK” mechanic is perfectly fine for a LitRPG setting, but having the climax of the first book revolve around “holy shit, people are actually dying” only to then pull back and say “ha ha, just kidding, nobody ever dies for real except when the plot demands it” is a pretty big problem.

Not as big as Threadbare’s persistent and consistently terrible anti-racist chapters, however. The internet is full of “keep your politics out of my media” types who are suspiciously only angry when left-wing politics form the thematic foundation of a work, so I want to be clear that the problem here is not that Threadbare wanted to have an arc about how racism is bad, the problem is that Threadbare botched that arc so horribly that it is actually super racist about it. The African American fishman in the Outsmouth arc is an obedient lackey to the evil racist Hatecraft for basically no reason at all, except that apparently when white guys start barking commands in an unknown language, African fish people are immediately compelled to obey. This is also the second non-white culture that has been depicted as fundamentally non-human, with the running total of actual human black people in the story still coming in at zero. In fairness, not every human character’s skin color is explicitly described so some of them could be black (or Arab or whatever), but Celia has frizzy red hair which makes her implicitly white which makes her relatives implicitly white, which covers Melos, Caradon, and Anise, by far the most prominent human (or ex-human) characters, and the others just don’t have skin color described at all.

I wouldn’t normally consider this a big enough problem to discuss in the summary, but like in Stuff and Nonsense, Threadbare has specifically drawn attention to how Racism Is Bad, which makes its failures in that department stick out like whoa. The story’s trying to win brownie points for being all woke and progressive and whatever, but it’s completely oblivious to how it is in fact being racist every time it brings up how opposed to racism it is.

D&D Solar System Syncretism I: How This Works

This post is pretty self-indulgent, but it’s also 36 hours past when I usually post the Friday article, so I think it’s pretty clear at this stage that it’s either a self-indulgent post most people will skip or a non-existent post that all people have no choice but to skip.

My recent musings on setting syncretism came from a hobby project to combine as many D&D settings as possible into a single solar system, that you can travel between using some kind of Spelljammer-esque space magic. I’m dealing with copyrights held by like eighteen different companies here, so I could never actually release a finished product, but it’s a fun exercise anyway. Some things fit in, others not so much. I’m going to go through the construction of this setting before delivering the final result, so you can sort of look at this as an example of how to syncretize different settings. I’m doing this on a lark and not because I think it’s actually a good idea, which means I’m not applying the usual standards of “this setting is too lame, we’ll have to exclude it completely” that you’d want to get a really good syncretist super setting, but other than that, I stand by these methods.

First of all, let’s look at what we’ve got to deal with: The 5e DMG lists seven official D&D settings, those being Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Greyhawk, Eberron, Mystara, Dark Sun, and Birthright. Not listed but officially supported is Ravenloft, the setting for the Curse of Strahd AP. Supported by previous editions but now not so much as mentioned are Ghostwalk and Council of Wyrms. Also the super-settings Planescape and Spelljammer, but those are obviously mutually exclusive to this single solar system idea, although we will be borrowing elements from them.

Right here we run into an immediate problem: Over half of these settings are very similar. Greyhawk and Mystara have a ton of overlap, Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, and Birthright are politically and tonally distinct but culturally and climatologically similar, and even Eberron is more different in the civilization that occupies its landmass than in what that landmass actually is. They’re all temperate mostly-European settings with usually some jungles and deserts tossed in at the edges. Only Dark Sun and Council of Wyrms have an environment that immediately makes you think “yeah, this is a different planet,” although Ghostwalk and Ravenloft have enough weird weather stuff going on that they kind of work as different planets if you squint (and Ghostwalk isn’t anybody’s favorite setting, so if we make it super cold, no one will complain).

Luckily, we’ve got plenty of settings left to build our solar system from, so we can always use these climatologically similar settings as different continents on the same world or, especially for the smaller ones, moons orbiting other worlds. That still means we need to plumb other settings for what our major planets are going to be, however.

Continue reading “D&D Solar System Syncretism I: How This Works”

Sew You Want To Be A Hero: Finale

Cecelia Quest 5

Cecelia enters the dungeon, stepping through the woods at the edge. She’s attacked by a massive raggedy man, but Threadbare’s LitRPG mechanics don’t care about size and level 7 is level 7, so Cecelia and what’s left of her crew – the necro-knight Graves and also Anise – tear through it with no difficulty. As they approach, she realizes a few things: One, the trees are all wrong, including the one Caradon notched to measure her height on her birthdays, which is a weird detail for him to forget. Two, like the raggedy man, the house is ridiculously massive. Kind of like it would seem from the perspective of someone about twelve inches tall.

She got to the top, and peered down the hallway. There, at the very end, was her grandfather’s room. Light spilled from under the door, and she could hear the old man humming, as he did when he sat up and worked before he went to bed every night. An old familiar melody, but she knew it for the ruse it was now. “He left you behind, didn’t he, Threadbare?” She said, looking instead to her own room, darkness beneath the crack under the door.

“Left you behind to stall me, while he escaped. Come on. It’s me, Cecelia, all gr-grown up now,” she said, tears spilling from her eyes. “Come… come out and we’ll talk about this. I’ll get you some paper to write on or s-s-something.” Oh, the tears came freely now, and she tugged off her helm, shook her head. Her hair bounced, short but frizzy as it had ever been.

I think I got that paragraph break right. It looks wrong as a single mega-graph, but there’s a page break right there so it’s hard to tell. In any case, Cecelia’s hair has been a recurring motif for the past couple of chapters. She decided she was going to get it cut short after she finished murdering a village because it had gotten in the way while she was stress vomiting over it (this scene wasn’t as noticeably botched as the time Celia stress vomited over a screaming eagle having tried to kill her, but it was unexceptional enough that I didn’t bother commenting on it). The idea of shaving her head out of some kind of guilt or something has since been referenced once or twice. There’s a joke in here somewhere about that one time she ran a gauntleted hand through her hair, but I can’t find it.

Continue reading “Sew You Want To Be A Hero: Finale”

Sew You Want To Be A Hero: The Final Battle Begins

Cecelia Quest 3

The good news (besides Threadbare’s second interminable Very Special Chapter about racism) is that it does look like this book’s climax is actually going to be about Cecelia and Threadbare confronting one another as enemies rather than pulling a bait and switch where Cecelia and the stormtroopers show up just after Threadbare has left. The people of Outsmouth say they have nowhere else to go and don’t know how to live except by fishing, so they formally swear allegiance to Threadbare, Lord of Outsmouth, and get ready for a fight. Now Cecelia’s inbound with two hundred trash level stormtroopers and a couple of mid-level knights and casters. At the beginning of the chapter, she meets with Zuula’s daughter, and the dialogue dances around the fact that they both know Zuula but have opposite opinions on her without actually getting either of them to realize this:

“Well, nothing can make or break you like family. I should know that. I owe everything I am to my father, as well. Well, that and surviving the barn fire that was my mother. Fucking green bitch.” Mastoya barked laughter. “Guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the rotten tree.”

“I’m sorry. The only half-orc woman I ever knew was a good mother”

“Would have been nice to have that kind of mom,” Mastoya said. “Ah well. The past is past. All right, Dame Ragandor, you’ll have your shot.”

This is another bomb under the table moment, where instead of making the reader wonder what’s going on right now, the book is making us wonder about what will happen next. Narrative law demands that eventually Mastoya will confront her family (unfortunately, I do not find it likely that this will result in her killing Zuula permanently), and here the narrative alludes to the question of which side Cecelia would take in such a confrontation.

After getting the small talk out of the way, they get to the point of the meeting: There’s an old one cult in Outsmouth, which means the whole town has to be completely torched. Cecelia is not a fan, but is convinced that there isn’t any other practical way to quash the cult and prevent them from ushering in the end of the world. Also, Cecelia still hates Anise Lay’di specifically for “wearing her mother’s face” even though, again, Cecelia never knew her mother, so why is this violation so personally compelling for her? Anise also gets on her soapbox about how daemon cults are okay but old ones are doubleplus ungood. I’ll leave out the second part, because it’s the first I’m interested in:

“Yes. Daemons just want to show people the folly of virtue and torment the weak until they either get stronger or perish so that they stop sucking down resources,” Anise said, matter-of-factly.

This is a pretty stock villainous philosophy, but it is a philosophy beyond “mwahaha, mine is an evil laugh,” so normally I’d approve of this sort of thing. For this story specifically, though, isn’t this basically just Zuula’s philosophy? Like, sure, there’s some minor differences – Zuula is explicitly indifferent, rather than opposed to, traditional virtues, and she advocates immediate murder of the weak rather than torment that may eventually result in murder of the weak – but its fundamental principles are identical. Is this intentional? Is Threadbare actually going somewhere with this? Or is this story so lacking in self-awareness that it can give a protagonist and an antagonist explicitly stated near-identical philosophies in the same book without even noticing? If it is intentional, they’d better wrap that up by the end of this book, because after Outsmouth, I doubt I’m ever reading Right To Arm Bears, even if the title is kinda funny.

Continue reading “Sew You Want To Be A Hero: The Final Battle Begins”

Sew You Want To Be A Hero: Threadbare Really Needs To Stop Trying To Criticize Racism

At long last, my work on my Kickstarter is mostly complete. There’s still a bunch of data entry to do and I have to manage my freelancers, but while that can be time consuming, it doesn’t drain focus the way writing stat blocks or assembling maps does. That means that focus is freed up for reading books and then writing snarky blog posts about them, so Threadbare is back! When last we left our heroes, they were investigating a vaguely Lovecraftian cult that is super into having sex with sea food, something which our protagonists never fail to comment upon as weird and creepy, which leaves me wondering why the author felt the need to actually include it if he was going to put so much effort into distancing himself from it. It’s not like it’s a requirement of the genre or anything.

Chapter 11

Pastor Elpy Hatecraft lingered for a moment more, dwelling on the artifacts of an antediluvian nature retrieved from the very depths of what in aeons past had been a submarinic trench. The local peasantry had mistaken it for a mere lake, and more ignoramuses they, for it was clearly a hoary relic from a bygone age, when squamous tentacles reached forth deep from umbral places beneath the earth, to rend and manipulate the soil and the geography about them. Lake? Bah! The brobdingnagian body of water the quaint and curious locals referred to as Lake Marsh deserved a far more Sesquipedalian surname. He had a few in mind, but he’d been waiting until the engraver got back to him with quotes, for changing all the signposts.

This spoof of Lovecraft’s writing is pretty good, though. There’s some pretty archaic words in there, but the author actually knows how to use them, so it doesn’t come across as thesaurus abuse. Well, not as much, at least. The juxtaposition between the brooding cosmic horror and waiting on quotes from the engraver is funny, too.

Hatecraft is having his deep one lackey load up the boat with the treasury he’s amassed soaking the townspeople for all they’re worth.

“Load faster! Make haste!” He commanded the beast, and it muttered and grumbled, in its loathsome way. The barbels on its cheeks twitched in time with its irritable susurration, its very existence evidence of an uncaring cosmos full of helpless gods, a form that offended the reasonable man’s eye and raked at the very sanity of all logical onlookers.

Though, the effect was somewhat spoiled by its pants.

The brethren and sistren had put their foot down about that, they wanted YGlnargle’blah’s envoy to wear pants when he wasn’t engaging in blasphemous rites. Which was absurdity of the first order, but they HAD insisted, and so the herald of the octopodlian apocalypse, the evidence irrefutable of the truth of YGlnargle’blah, and the prominent celebrity in the rite of blasphemous conception now had to wear canvas shorts when he was off duty, as it were.

So Hatecraft is super racist against fish people, like how Lovecraft used his stories about fish people to express his racism for regular people. This is not a bad angle, but the details of the execution come across like a missed opportunity. If you’re going to make a character a direct critique of a real, actual person, you need to make sure that the character reasonably resembles them in more than just the specific aspects you want to critique. I brought up in the last post that having Hatecraft be an investigator rather than a cultist would be a better fit, and that is triply true if the character is meant to be a criticism of Lovecraft’s work and ideology.

Rather then a cultist exploiting the town (something Lovecraft never did), Hatecraft would be an investigator who just kind of assumes that the fish children are evil, the townsfolk who get it on with the fish man are deranged lunatics, and everything is being done according to the will of a hideous elder god, but then it turns out that no, the local townsfolk just find this fishman super charming, his betentacled sea god religion caught on because of his popularity, and that religion doesn’t have any norms against polyamory so he’s had kids with a bunch of women around town. You could still hit most of the same beats just by having the party encounter Hatecraft before the townspeople. Threadbare and company accidentally awaken an elder god early causing a revolt against the king’s garrison, the party goes to the church to investigate the “evil rites” and end up having a tea party with fish children, they go to the library to figure out what’s up. The cultists can still show up to take Annie Mata to meet their deep one herald of the abyss, and then the deep one just takes her on a candlelit dinner and tries to sweep her off her feet, and when asexual Threadbare running Annie Mata expresses no interest throughout, the deep one, understanding but dejected, goes home to listen to sad Taylor Swift music. And then Hatecraft’s investigations bring in the US military Darth Villainous’ stormtroopers.

Continue reading “Sew You Want To Be A Hero: Threadbare Really Needs To Stop Trying To Criticize Racism”

Syncretism

“Syncretism” is the religious concept that two or more previously separate religions were secretly the same all along. Sometimes this is presented as “both religions contained part of the whole truth” and sometimes this is presented as “your religion is just my religion wearing a funny hat.” We’re not actually talking about religions, here, we’re talking about fictional settings (anyone who thinks adding a “what’s even the difference” joke is still edgy will be flogged), which means we are focusing mainly on that first one, the challenges of combining different settings together.

This comes up a lot in free form roleplay. All my examples are ten years out of date because I last did this kind of thing in high school, but while the specific settings that are popular have changed and the medium for creation has almost certainly moved away from the forums and chat rooms I used as a teenager, I expect the basic principles still apply to babby’s first crossover setting even today. Back before I reached my elderly twenties, the most common crossover setting was Kingdom Hearts. It was popular amongst the kinds of nerds who did freeform roleplay in the first place and had what appeared to be a built-in means of stitching any number of settings together. One example I remember in particular involved someone making a map of an expanded gummi map that included four different worlds from Star Wars (I remember Bespin and I think Coruscant, but the details don’t matter).

I bring up this example because it’s a good demonstration of how not to do syncretism. Method #1: Different settings are haphazardly jammed together without any means of influencing one another, and quick excuses are used to paper over why they have completely different tone, technology and even physics from one another. I’m sure there was some explanation for why the Millennium Falcon could travel to Bespin but not to Halloween Town, even if it was just “we never explored what lay beyond these four worlds because they seemed pretty sufficient,” but the seams between worlds are extremely obvious. The Final Fantasy style fire/lightning/blizzard magic has some overlap with the Force (Force lightning is a thing), but there’s no precedent for mind tricks and telekinesis is a very high-level trick in KH, usable only temporarily as part of a special super-transformation, while it’s one of the first tricks that Jedi learn. Star Wars ships are buckets of bolts clearly distinct from gummi ships, which, as the name implies, are made of some kind of gelatinous or play-doh-like cartoon substance. The fact that the Galactic Empire has a giant army of stormtroopers and star destroyers demonstrably capable of traveling between some worlds doesn’t lead them to become an immediate and overwhelming threat to all neighboring worlds because their inability to travel past the original Star Wars worlds is handwaved away.

This method also has precedent in the “wormhole randomly opens up between Federation Space and the Galactic Empire” conceit that was popular in the 80s and 90s, and while that’s perfectly forgivable in the context of a Star Trek vs. Star Wars hypothetical situation, it’s not so forgivable in the context of actual Trek/Wars crossover fanfiction or roleplay, again because the seams are so obvious that it makes the setting very obviously artificial. It also means that the only thing you gain from the syncretism is the ability to take characters from one setting and put them in another. There’s no shared history.

Continue reading “Syncretism”

Still Alive

Just want to let everyone know that while yes, the blog has been distressingly fallow for a while, that’s just because I need to put together a Pathfinder conversion for my Kickstarter in a hurry, which, it turns out requires me to create about a hundred Pathfinder stat blocks. This is very time consuming and I’m committed to making my December ship date, so I’ve had precious little time and focus left over (it doesn’t help that Sew You Want To Be A Hero followed the same mediocre trajectory as Stuff and Nonsense rather than shedding its flaws to fulfill its full potential – in retrospect, it was foolish of me to gamble on a book that might end up bad while getting back in the saddle). The good news is that I’m something like two-thirds of the way done with the conversion.

Irrational Behavior Isn’t Random

Every now and again, someone will try to defend a fictional character’s incoherent actions by saying that it’s because of realism and that real people don’t always behave rationally. While it’s true that real people don’t always behave rationally, they still have some reason for doing things. It might not be a good reason, but there is reason, and it is the storyteller’s job to explain that reason. Characters can make dumb moves for no better reason than “it was the middle of a gunfight and they didn’t have time to think of something better” or “they’re unreasonably suspicious and think everyone is lying to them, so they don’t trust their partner even despite all the times their partner has come through for them,” or “they really want treasure and are willing to take absolutely suicidal risks to get some.”

Each of these three examples leads to predictably sub-optimal behavior. Someone who tends to lose their head in a fight will frequently make dumb mistakes when fists and/or bullets are flying, someone who’s unreasonably suspicious will be unreasonably suspicious of everyone, someone who’s suicidally greedy will be suicidally greedy for all treasure. And if these motives are set up in advance, no one but idiot pedants will try to nitpick their motives as not making sense.

Even actually diagnosably crazy people have reasons for taking non-optimal actions, even if that reason is “because I’m certain this Kwik-Mart manager is a pawn of the alien conspiracy spying on me.” If there really were an alien conspiracy spying on a plucky investigator through alien spies wearing Kwik-Mart manager skinsuits, it would make sense to avoid that Kwik-Mart’s whole block and maybe sneak there in the middle of the night and burn the whole place down. That’s an insane delusion, but the actions taken as a result of that insane delusion make sense.

The vague, ambiguous statement that “they’re crazy” or “people aren’t always rational” does not excuse characters behaving in a manner that’s contrary to their own goals without explanation. In order for irrational behavior to be used to explain character action, that behavior must emerge from character motivation, because everything used to explain character action must emerge from character motivation.

As one example, when people ask why the protagonists of A Quiet Place don’t just move to the waterfall, saying “people aren’t rational!” is not an explanation. Most people arrive at the “why not move to the waterfall” solution within weeks of watching that movie (if not hours), while the protagonists have had two years and a much stronger incentive to try and find a way to get safe from the monsters. The entire movie revolves around how people have developed methods to hide from these monsters, it is the driving conflict and motivation behind everything that every character does (I mean, except the one guy who gave up and screamed, but that reaction being unusual was the whole point of that scene), and this obvious solution has gone completely ignored. Real people would’ve figured that out and immediately pulled up stakes to get where it’s safe, because that’s what people facing life-threatening danger do. When the Abbotts fail to do that, it makes them less believable as characters and thus makes it harder to care about them. For some people, this problem doesn’t occur to them until after they’ve watched the movie once, in which case it will still impact repeat viewings. For others, it hits them within the space of the waterfall scene and damages the movie as it happens. That’s not a trivial nitpick. It’s a flaw. Characters need coherent motivations and their actions need to flow from those motivations. Just saying “sometimes people are irrational!” does not immediately excuse characters behaving contrary to their goals.

These Kickstarters Look Fun

In an effort to avoid the total implosion of this blog, let’s look at three Kickstarters I’ve happened across recently that look neat.

I’m going chronologically, which means the first one up is also one I’m not sure I want to recommend: Seeds of War. It’s some kind of realm management/mass combat dealy, which is going to have a built-in web app…if you pay a $5/month subscription fee to pay for server hosting. They discussed in an update that there won’t be a downloadable version because they don’t want users to have to download a patch every time it gets updated. Which, uh. That sounds dumb enough to cast concerns over the team’s general competence to the point where I’m reconsidering my pledge. The other end of things is that I really like realm management systems so I figure I’ll give this one a go in the hopes that it might be an interesting failure even if it does crash and burn. There’s nothing stopping me from just using the .pdf without ever touching their web application (my current plan), so we’ll see how that goes.

Now that I’ve set expectations very low, let’s soar over them by talking about Almost Real, a 60 page illustrated book (available in .pdf format) about creatures that didn’t evolve, but could’ve. The first one is already a thing, but rather than buy it at full price I backed this Kickstarter at the $15 level to get .pdfs of both. They’ve already made one of these things, so I see no reason to suspect they’ll fail to deliver this one, and the premise sounds fun.

Finishing on the one I am most looking forward to and which also has the most time left before its deadline, Spellcaster University is a video game in which you build Hogwarts in order to raise a graduating class of wizards strong enough to defeat Sauron. I’m not sure how much depth it’s going to have, but it does look like it’ll have a reasonably charming art style and lots of fun customization options, so whether or not the gameplay proves particularly engaging, I’m willing to back it on the basis of being a build-your-own-Hogwarts kit even if fighting Sauron comes down to, like, spamming fire wizards or something.

Tune in Friday, when I may or may not have posted more Threadbare and will probably keep this blog alive by posting about Kickstarters I’ve backed which are already finished or something.

NPC Arcs

In a tabletop roleplaying game, the PCs are the main characters. This is an important conceit. Players should feel like they’re important. But also they’re usually boring, static character who very stubbornly resist anything like a character arc. Players usually do not create characters with the intention that they will change and evolve in any way except through ever-growing power. If your group is all really invested in narrative and roleplaying and such, you might all sit down together and intentionally create a party where this is not so. Probably your group doesn’t want to do this, though, which means the narrative has be carried entirely by NPC character arcs, and it has to do that without taking the spotlight off of the PCs.

This is tricky, because the PCs are boring, but fortunately you have an ace up your sleeve: Anything that happens to a PC is automatically going to be more interesting to the player running them, because it is happening to them, specifically. While ordinarily having the role of pushing the plot forward handed off to a character who is not changed by that plot at all would be terrible, for the specific medium of TTRPGs it’s actually totally fine.

Side note: There are exceptions to this rule even amongst books and movies. Batman, Paddington Bear, and Samurai Jack change the world around them rather than being changed by it, putting other characters through arcs by forcing their flaws into conflict with their redeeming qualities and hoping their noble ideals triumph over their base instincts. If you want to pull this off outside of a TTRPG, your static protagonist needs to stand for something and be so unwaveringly committed to that stance that they can bend the world around them. As mentioned earlier, though, for a TTRPG your audience will cut the protagonists insane amounts of slack just because they designed the protagonists themselves.

Other than handing off responsibility for plot momentum to the PCs, an NPC’s arc works mostly the same as a (regular, non-static) movie or book protagonist’s would. I’ll drop the standard disclaimer here that this should not be treated as a formula to be rigidly adhered to but rather as loose guidelines that should be followed when they work and discarded when they don’t, although if you need a blog post to tell you that then you’re probably at the level of craft where following guidelines exactly is your best bet anyway.

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