Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Describe Stuff


Originally, I had a different introduction for this blog post (see below).  But reading this post on Raging Owlbear, I'm just going to say that providing descriptions is, like, the GM's #1 job.  Take that away and why even bother having a GM.  Just do some wargaming skirmishes with miniatures, instead.

It is fortuitous that I was thinking about Clash of the Titans this past weekend - specifically the character Thallo. Because without those stray thoughts, you wouldn't have this blog post and I wouldn't have found out that Tim Pigott-Smith just died.  He played Captain of the Guard Thallo.

So, I was walking the twins and thinking about descriptions.  Going the extra mile, taking it to the next level, and just how important that is in RPGs.  Of course, keep in mind there's a world of difference between fully describing something the PCs experience in their virtual reality type of environment and the adventure writer's crappy novella about the town the PCs are visiting, all the townsfolk, and 1,000 years of history that nobody gives two shits about - just get on with it!

Anyway, it struck me that Thallo's description of flies when he's talking to Perseus is the perfect example!

Even back then, when I was about 8 and watching Clash of the Titans seemingly every day, I knew that Thallo's words were beyond mere mortal description.  As a wordsmith, he was like the Gods, and probably would have made a fucking boss GM, too.

Let's take a look at what he said...

Accursed, hell-sent swarms of blood-gutted marsh flies.

Any adventure writer or GM can come up with "marsh flies."  That's nothing.  Describing them as "blood-gutted marsh flies" is better, we can both see them clearer and get a better sense of their feeding habits.  It's visceral.  But "accursed, hell-sent swarms of blood-gutted marsh flies"?  Damn, that's awesome!  The players now know where they're from or where they seem to be from, that their evil, possibly demonic, that they come in swarms, probably plaguing that entire marshland area.

Great descriptions do more than convey information - they're symbolic, the programming language that literally makes the game.  Words are the tools we gamers use to create and interact with that virtual world.

Sure, you can go overboard.  After all, Lovecraft did that all the time and no one remembers him or his creations. That was sarcasm, yes.  When it's called for, go off the rails - describe stuff like there's no tomorrow.

So, be like Thallo and Lovecraft - do your job as either an adventure writer, GM, or both!

VS

p.s. Want more advice like this?  You can get Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss and Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss II.