A roleplaying game holds the power to summon the incredible locations, captivating characters and raw emotion of the finest works of literature and film. Too often it only delivers the satisfying figures, disappointing results, gains and losses of your average budget review. The difference? Words!
Language is the vital energy that breathes life into our creations. At its crudest, our words animate only isolated stick-drawings: "My elven fighter fires an arrow at the orc."
Whether a hit or miss, a good tactical choice or not, these words contribute nothing to the atmosphere of the game. But language properly crafted can achieve far more: "As always, the stench of orc-sweat takes Sire Qelindor Erewan back to the burning village of his childhood. Slipping behind a shoulder in the rock, his emotions become as cold as the granite around him. He draws his bead, relaxes and breathes out. The only sound to break the heavy silence of the underground cavern is the scratching of the sentry. As the orc plucks a louse from its collar, steel-toothed feathered death flashes toward the exposed rolls of fat."
Then comes a magic that can only be tapped in Play By Post Role-Playing Games: Editing.
Your time-pressed GM and other players will only read so much so reread it, cut over-long sentences into two and remove everything you can. Leave only intention and atmosphere:
"Orc-sweat evokes once more the memories of Qelinor's burning childhood village. Becoming like his granite cover, the elf draws his bead, relaxes and breathes out. The heavy underground silence is broken only by orcish scratching. As a louse is plucked from a momentarily exposed roll of fat, steel-toothed death flashes forward."
So, my three-step Formula for Summoning Atmosphere in you posts is:
1. Decide what your character wants to do.
2. Inspire the GM and other players with your amazing description of the attempt.
3. Edit this to break up over-long sentences and remove unnecessary waffle.
Now a confession: I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm new to the site. I love writing and I'm intrigued by this style of gaming's potential to conjure atmosphere through words. But there must be a balance between description and moving the plot forward. I don't know what it is. I would love to hear the opinions of experienced gamers and Game Master's: how much should a player write? How long is a piece of thread?
I agree about balance. What I've found in the games here that seems to work very well is that they categorize your actions into: Out of Character: Specific Action: and In Character: so anyone can get what they want from your post. For instance, if you want to dwell on some role-play then you can use In Character: but if you're just address the Dungeon Master so he knows your actions then you can use Specific Action: its clever really.
Good topic Adelardus and good observation by Seraphina. After playing here for awhile I've seen all types. Some like to make each post so long you rather not read it, others are super short as if they are in a rush and then some just go with the flow. What Seraphina said is actually what helps this because we cannot reform players but we can make the best of what they do put. Even so, making an effort to make the game better is always a plus but really the most important thing is to show up because worrying if you're good enough might actually make some frequent less.
In my opinion everything should just flow. If you have to think about length then you're probably not enjoying yourself.
You're probably right, FairMaiden.
Re-reading the three examples I gave, the 2nd, unedited one reads much better to me now. I'd change a word or two in it, but example 3 has about as much atmosphere as 1! Its butchered by savage over-cutting. Seraphina's advice - to offer a concise summary under the "Specific Action:" Title - would remove the concern about length. But though I overdid it, a quick re-read and pruning would do no harm:
"As always, the stench of orc-sweat takes Sire Qelindor Erewan back to the burning village of his childhood. Slipping behind a shoulder in the rock, his emotions become as cold as the granite around him. He draws his bead, relaxes and breathes out. The only sound to break the heavy underground silence is the scratching of the sentry. As the orc plucks a louse from its collar, feathered death flashes toward the exposed fat."
But though I got the detail wrong, the underlying principle - to write your game entries as if you were writing Game of Thrones - I passionately believe. You've created an interesting character and setting: use language to make them live!
Edited: Adelardus on 4th Jul, 2015 - 6:48am
Gamers are so engrossed into video versions of Role-playing Games that they are not much into writing. I think most of them see writing like work because they don't want to think about their character on that level. Maybe we should start a thread about the benefits of Play By Post over other ways of playing Role-Playing Games.
The understanding is in the details but if the comprehension isn't there neither will the atmosphere. While you can describe a wonderful scene if the person who reads it doesn't try to grasp what you are picturing then it will be lost as fluff.
All really good and valid points.
I found a recommendation in a location not on this board. It works well for Play By Post and other Role-playing Game .
It boils down to this. So your character has an action. First thing you do is to Describe the Attempt. Make sure the details flow and fit for the actions allowed in one sequence or turn.
Second, where appropriate, Roll for Results. Since the action is not fully resolved, until the GM/Dungeon Master/Ref and player decide the final results, the die rolls are a small part and not the major part of the action.
Third, Narrate the Outcomes. This last step if not defined before, is generally done by the GM.
I have played in several Play By Post games done through various services and media. One of my all time favorites, was one where the GM compiled the scenario events into chapters, recapping what previously happened. This provided a concise means of catching up a new player or refreshing current players enthusiasm.