Friday, February 24, 2012

Buy a Bell

Lately, the only posts I want to write are these.

From the 10,000 word post, in reference to the manner in which information should be relayed to the party:

"Repeatedly. Note the point above; your players will have forgotten, so don't hesitate to remind them over and over and over ... don't presume that, having been informed once, they have the detail in their head when they identify the action they wish to perform. In reality they would find it hard to forget the huge purple elephant in the room. The player's imagination may need to be provided this information again, since the player's sense of hearing, smell and sight cannot be relied upon."

In effect, you are the players ears, nose and eyes.  You are the tactile sensation of their hands, you are the rumble in their bellies, you are the rush of lust they have when they see a pretty girl walk by.  You are the constant and ever-present reminder that they get sleepy or that their feet hurt, that the weather is causing their nose to drip or that they need to pee.  YOU are that reminder, because the party will forget or ignore those little elements that make us human ("humanoid") in a most inconvenient and real way.

For you or I, living in the real world, our feet hurting may seem unimportant.  In a fantasy world, it may seem downright inconvenient.  But its real.  It has the feeling of being real.  Its far more relatable than dungeons or dragons ... and when mixed in with the dungeons damp and the dragon sizzle, it fleshes the characters out with real flesh.

Any idjit can describe a 20x20 room and say there are four goblins in it.  Any idjit can say there's a door on the far wall and that the goblins have big boobley eyes.  That sort of detail is easy to convey ... and is included in your handy dungeon kit for your everyday use.  The gentle reader certainly doesn't need advice that says, "don't forget to mention the fountain in the corner when you describe the room."  Of course you should describe the fountain.  That's why you put it on the bleeding map.

What you need to get into your head is to describe all the things that CAN'T be put on the map ... and to describe them in such a way that the party experiences those things just as though they were happening.  If you tell them once that there's a ringing in their ears, they'll forget it.  If you tell them twice, they might write it down and they might conjecture a bit.

But if you want them to understand that the ringing is annoying as hell, then describe the ringing every thirty seconds.  Describe it and describe it and describe it, until the player gets up from the table screaming.  Then you can say, "see ... the ringing is just like that."

If you really hate your players, buy a bell.

2 comments:

Butch said...

I appreciate this attitude, especially in tabletop.

One of the nice things about playing online is there's a historical record. You can scroll back and see, "Oh right -- the room is lit with torches in wall sconces, not a chandelier on the ceiling."

But in tabletop, forget it. It's so easy to miss (or forget) a detail like that. But in real-life you would be instantly and effortlessly reminded of the lighting. So, repeat as necessary.

Another fun part of that -- most experienced players assume that, if the DM says it three or four times, it must be important -- or why else would he keep mentioning it? It's a great way to drop in those red herrings.

Alexis said...

Yes. When I'm done all this, I must write 5,000 words on the foolish assumptions of players.