Formula for Summoning Atmosphere in Role-Playing Games
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?
Support: Changed title to reflect content.