Sep 10, 2013

Blog Carnival - September 2013 – Location! Location! Location!

Babbling at the Counter #07 – Pen and Paper

Blog Carnival - September 2013 – Location! Location! Location!

New month, new Carnival. This time it’s hosted by the fine folks at Campaign Mastery: (

If you don’t know what a Carnival is about, check the link on the sidebar.

Ok, so let’s talk about the topic at hand:
When describing a scene, I've found something really useful: don't make a puzzle. Don't get me wrong, maybe you are good at puzzles and your players like them, but unless you want to create a specific obstacle that's a puzzle, don't. What I mean is, make a room because of its narrative properties, not it's Challenge Rating (or whatever applies to your game).

When I unleashed my first invincible monster, I knew it would be a tricky thing to get right, both in narrative and mechanics. The monster had to be a threat, but the players should be able to escape. What did I do? I trusted them, and created the most flavorful room I could, giving little though to how they could get out.
It was a ceremonial chamber, with an altar for sacrifices in the middle and some tunnel to drain the blood through the floor. It had engravings on the walls that depicted the battle between the sky and the sea. It all meant nothing to me; I had no plan for any of it. All I knew was that the monster was a giant fish man.
As soon as the players realized they couldn't hurt the creature, one of them asked: "Do I have a blanket?". As he was an explorer we decided he did in fact carry one, so he proceeded to put it on his back and start flapping his arms. I was expecting them to run from the monster but they though it would be better to scare it. They used the pictures on the walls (a detail I had just added to spice the chamber up) and ignored the obvious altar in the middle of the room (one of the few things on the temple that could actually be used against the monster if they deciphered the hieroglyphs). And it was way better than what I had planned!

My conclusion today is simple: describe everything in great detail, but don't try to get ahead of the players. Expect them to surprise you using the whole scenery. Unless you are a puzzlemaster; then mind screw them good.

- The Storeman

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