Today, I'm blogging about the "sweaty-toothed madman" technique of adventure writing.
Don't bother googling it, I just made that shit up... but not out of thin air.
I fondly remember watching the movie Dead Poet Society in 1989. Very relatable since I was, and still am, an anti-authoritarian creative writer.
So, what's this sweaty-toothed madman technique about? Sometimes, saying (or writing) the first thing that comes into your mind is a winning strategy. Game Masters who love coming up with details on the spot do this all the time. Maybe they filter out the more ridiculous notions, maybe not.
Let's take an example - a black box. The PCs have it in their hot little hands. They want to open it, and you (as GM), don't have a clue what's in there. Now what?
The safe option is to stall for time until you can think of something suitably interesting. Perhaps, the black box doesn't open right away... or skeevers attack just as the thief pries the lid to have a peek.
However, if you want to come up with something off-the-wall and possibly inspired, say the first thing that comes to your mind.
In the following scene, Keating (Robin Williams at his best) coaxes something from one of his students, Todd.
Keating: A picture of Uncle Walt [Whitman] up there, what does he remind you of, don't think, answer.
Todd: A madman.
Keating: What kind of madman?
Todd: A crazy madman.
Keating: No, you can do better than that, free up your mind, use your imagination, say the first thing that pops into your head, even if it's total gibberish, go on, go on.
Todd: A sweaty-toothed madman.
Keating: Good God boy, there's a poet in you, after all. There, close your eyes, close your eyes, close 'em, now describe what you see.
Todd: I close my eyes...
Todd: And this image floats beside me.
Keating: A sweaty-toothed madman with a stare that pounds my brain.
Keating: Oh, that's excellent, now give him an action, make him do something.
Todd: His hands reach out and choke me.
Keating: That's excellent, wonderful, wonderful.
Todd: And all the time he's mumbling.
Keating: What's he mumbling?
Todd: Mumbling truth, truth like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold. [laughter]
Keating: Forget them, forget them, stay with the blanket, tell me about the blanket.
Todd: you push it, stretch it, it will never be enough, you kick at it, beat it, it will never cover any of us. From the moment we enter crying to the moment we leave dying, it will just cover your face, as you wail and cry and scream.
Keating: [Whispering to Todd] Don't you forget this.
[For mobile devices, you may not see a video...Click here, instead]
Indeed, we all have something inside of us worth a great deal.
So, that's it, essentially. Closing your eyes isn't necessary, but letting your imagination flow is. The results don't always produce great things; however, the sweaty-toothed madman technique occasionally beats the pants off everything else.
I don't remember mentioning Dead Poet Society in my book How To Game Master Like A Fucking Boss, but it's possible. If I have time, I'll take a gander later today.