Friday, February 28, 2014

Bleff, Word Porn and Roleplaying

As a part of my tabletop roleplaying section, I will start adding tips for storytelling and character designing, which I hope someone will find useful.
Last year I started playing a game with some friends, called Bleff. In this game, for about 2-6 people, players take turns to draw a card which contains many weird, little known words, such as xantocianopsy (the ability to see colors blue and yellow), or adoxography (writing that doesn't really give you important data, but is interesting nonetheless -kinda like this blog?-). They then choose one, and read it outloud, after which each player must write a definition for it, without actually knowing it. So for instance, adoxography may be 'writing using an adoxous system' (which still doesn't mean anything but sounds about right) or 'unintelligible handwriting'. After each player has written down their fake definitions, and the reading player has written down both the real and a fake one, he proceeds to read them all out loud. Finally, each player says which definition he thinks is the right one. Each player who makes the correct guess gets 2 points, whereas each player whose definition got chosen, gets one point for each player who chose him.
For instance, I may not have guessed that ailurophilia is the excessive fondness for cats, but if my definition 'someone who likes sticking lures on people' is chosen as right by 3 people, I still get three points (usually you use a board and your token moves forward X squares, where each square is a point, and the first one who reaches the goal wins).

How does this game relate to roleplaying, you may ask? well, I think crazy words can be a good inspiration for character design. Take a word like Schadenfreude, which is german for 'the joy that comes from watching others suffer', or 'alexithymia', the inability to express emotions verbally. Both are great places from which to start brainstorming a character. Say alexithymia to me, and I will think about Alex, a shy boy who has trouble expressing himself verbally and because of that prefers to do it through art, maybe painting. Or maybe a Bard who only speaks through singing? Or a mute warrior, blocked by childhood traumas?
And xantocianopsis, you could even start a whole campaign around it: 'only some, can see the colours yellow and blue. That's why the green emeralds can only be found by those who...' blah, blah, blah, you get the idea.

Another good source for inspiration words, if you don't already use it, is subscribing to a Word of the Day service (even lernu, the esperanto learning site, has one!), or following the Word Porn facebook page (and suddenly my site got a lot of traffic from people who thought they'd find NSFW content).

So, what is your favourite English word? or maybe one in another language? I personally like Cellardoor a lot, because it sounds really well when my tongue rolls around it... Tell me in the comments, and then you can create a character or story based around it! and tell me, too, if you found this advice useful! I'd love to hear about campaigns based around japanese words like komorebi, the light that filters through tree leaves, or even esperanto ones!


  1. I've never heard of Bleff but I am intrigued now. Interesting thoughts on the word exercise.

    1. The idea is that you post a word, and a character based around it, as a comment :­P

  2. Having just been invited to play, I'll leave this link to's International House of Logorrhea for other players to take inspiration..

    Now, onto the carnage.

    Sarcous - Of flesh or muscle.

    Sarkus is a beefy ex-gladiator, slaver and pimp. Hairless and ruddy, his sculpted physique running slightly to fat is often seen in the bath-house. His voice purrs when making a deal. Sarkus wields a spiked hammer and is a skilled wrestler. His thick fingers can crush a grown man's throat. Sadistic, decadent and utterly mercenary, he loves his work.

    1. Cool character! Kinda reminds me of Big Belwas from A Song of Ice and Fire (I think that was his name), but with a shadier past.
      Thanks for participating!

  3. I would, but unfortunately I lack creativity and imagination. So instead I'll just say that this was another great post, one I'll definitely bring up with my role playing friends. Thanks again!


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