I haven't played D&D in more than a month and I've done damn little work on the subject...and damn little writing here. C'est la vie.
I tried a little experiment at the last running I gave, back around the last weekend of July, in which I attempted to provide a little of the purple descriptions that accompany most published material from the fantasy universe: "As you slash your way through the forest, feet growing cold from the snow that lays two feet deep on either side of the broken trail, the stygian darkness on either side of the party seems to close in, to suggest that something evil and unnamed dwells deep within, preparing to strike without warning..."
Whereupon I was pelted with peanuts, potato chips, empty pop-cans, all to the accompaniment of groans and pleadings for me to cease. I tried several times, always with the same response. Seems that my players would rather get down to the business of playing, and fuck all the mood shit.
Now, I know there are some out there who are all about the mood. But I have to agree with my players on this one. I can't be bothered, really, to extensively write out descriptive paragraphs that don't actually move the game along, particularly if they're not likely to be appreciated. And--just for the record--what other game outside of a role-playing game even considers the mood?
I have played poker under every condition imaginable. In train stations and on trains, on school desks, while minding tables set up at open houses, in community centers and in living rooms. I can't remember, EVER, anyone suggesting that we should dress up or change the lighting, just to make it seem MORE like poker. I would have to say the same goes for bridge, chess and baseball. In the last example, we may put on uniforms, but that's so we can tell who is who, NOT to enhance the game.
Some might argue that razzing the batter falls under the category of mood enhancement, but really I've considered everyone who ever did that was a fuckwit of the first order...the last league I played in didn't allow it.
Why, why, why can't D&D stand on its own merits? Why does it need any show?
For me, arguing that the game shouldn't just be about rolling dice is along the same line that poker shouldn't just be about cards. The dice are not just rolling about for no reason--each throw has a significance. I don't think any of my players really give a shit about the mechanics of it...they are too wrapped up in what the die says, than in being exhausted at having to pick it up to throw again.
No, seriously. To hear some talk about it, you would think that we all sit around the table thinking, "Oh damn, I have to roll AGAIN to attack? Can't I do something else?"
I don't know what games you people out there play, but I have players who are on the edge of their seat waiting for their chance to swing, to find out if they kill the rat bastard lycanthrope or if they're going to risk another round of damage and disease. Maybe its the way I play, I don't know...but I don't find I have to spend a lot of time explaining the color of the wererat's fur. It's usually enough for the story when the party discovers the town ratcatcher who has been "overwhelmed" by the rat population turns out to be the cause of it all.
Mood? I'll tell you what mood is. It's having an angry, bloodthirsty party screaming, "KILL HIM! I smash the motherfucker with my MACE!"
All the cheesy descriptive paragraphs in the world won't match that kind of emotion.