Show and Tell

DiceMasterNick
DiceMasterNick
edited March 2010 in General Discussion
So Im wondering: what is your DM "style"?
A DM has many paths to success at his/her disposal when deciding how best to paint a picture of the world the players live out their fantasies in. There are many tools a DM can choose from to accent a game like, colorful maps, background music, or even a website like OP, yet not all DMs use all these tools. However, the one tool we all use, is our voice. How best then to tell the story? Do you embellish every dungeon with descriptive text? Do you ramble on about the unique details and history of every culture the party encounters? Do you change inflection and add accent to even impersonate the voice of your NPCs? Do you yell out battle crys? Do you get out of your seat and swing your imaginary sword?

Id like to know what works for you. Where do the seasoned DMs of OP find themselves most comfortable. Share with us your story telling style and maybe some of your most memorable gaming moments in doing so.

If possible, Id also like to hear a bit from our players out there. How do you prefer your DM tell the story? What aspects of story telling draw you in at the table and keep you coming back for more?

Dont forget to check out "part 2":http://forums.obsidianportal.com/comments.php?DiscussionID=1273 to this topic: the RPG formula

Comments

  • gnunn
    gnunn
    Posts: 423 edited March 2010
    My campaign has only had a couple actual dungeon crawls, but has had a lot of traveling sequences, as such I generally write up brief descriptive blocks for each type of terrain transition (swamp to hillside forest to mountains etc.) I don't think it's really that unique, but it seems to do the trick.

    The one thing I came up with recently that I feel adds a bit of depth to my environmental descriptions was to develop a 10-day forecast to predetermine the weather during a travel sequence. I found that taking 10 minutes to roll the daily weather before my weekly sessions allowed me to narrate weather transitions adding quite a bit to the game atmosphere, especially since 4 out of my 10 days rolled up as thunderstorms the first time I did it. Attempting to travel in a thunderstorm makes an otherwise routine travel sequence an entirely different experience. For storms, I also rolled a d12 to determine the hour it started an even-odd roll to decide am or pm and then the usual duration roll.

    Having this information prepped ahead of time meant I was able to seamlessly incorporate weather factors into my descriptions without stopping to roll mid-game.
    Post edited by gnunn on
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850 edited March 2010
    I like this idea Grunn. I don't typically make roles for weather, but I do try to think ahead of time of what the weather will be like, given the season. In one of my campaigns our party is just finishing up a dungeon delve into some Minotaur infested Dwarven ruins. I had originally spent a good deal of time designing the dungeon, but very little time thinking about the finer details, such as giving a physical description of the dungeon's inhabitants or the different topography of the dungeon itself. As a result, after a couple of sessions of gaming in the ruins, I could tell that I was losing my players interest: each new dungeon room or encounter seemed too much like the previous one. So I began to add flavor text such as the following to each new room or encounter:

    _"In the room before you is a giant minotaur that stands a whole head taller than any minotaur that you have yet encountered. This is far from the only striking feature of the beast
    Post edited by arsheesh on
  • gnunn
    gnunn
    Posts: 423
    It's very true. The descriptive setup adds a lot to the game. I also try to make sure and incorporate more than just what the players see. I try to include descriptions of what they hear or even smell.

    re smells: One trick I've used a couple times is to make my players roll a fortitude save upon entering a room with a rotting corpse or be sickened. The last time I did this was two sessions ago when they entered a barn that contained a panicked horse and the week-old corpse of its owner who had been kicked in the head as he tried to saddle it. Incidental gross-out checks and descriptions of smells make the tough characters feel more macho and adds another layer for the imagination to latch on to.

    Another thing I would like to do more of is to include interactive settings. Items scattered about an area that can be picked up, destroyed, or moved around in the course of a fight; pits that opponents can be bull-rushed into; items that can be dropped on opponents. Some day, I would love to run an old-fashioned bar room brawl that involves a ton of chandelier swinging, balcony breaking and improvised weapons just picked up off the tables... or even the tables themselves.
  • cowboyhugbees
    cowboyhugbees
    Posts: 3 edited March 2010
    stylistically, i try to keep everything very "video game-y". i'm totally new to tabletop RPGs, and the extent of my RPG experience has been based in the great RPGs that i grew up playing (FFVI and VIII, lately the "Tales of" series, countless Zelda games). so, instead of fighting it, i decided to embrace it. i draw dungeon puzzle ideas and story elements from games i've played in the past, and go from there. some of my players also draw from their gaming experiences (for example, one of my players likes Oblivion a lot, and suggested implementing an alchemy/crafting system). my absolute favorite thing to do is play music that's appropriate for each setting. it sets the mood, and helps suspend disbelief.

    another thing i like to do is adhere to the "say yes" philosophy. it seems so simple, but it's quite liberating, and can really enhance the enjoyment of players. for instance, one of my guys wanted to institute a "bonus" system, where the character who made the most damage points in the previous encounter would get a +1 to damage, or the player who took the most damage would get a +1 to defense, etc. i liked it, and he spearheaded the idea.

    finally, to add to that a bit, i like giving responsibility to the players as well. it has been said that people enjoy their jobs the most when they have control over their environment, and are responsible for the creation of projects. for instance, most of my players draw their own comics, and another player is a writer. so, in order to involve them, i asked them to chronicle our sessions with comics linked by short stories (in journal form) in the adventure log. i think it's coming out pretty well, and it gives ME ideas for where to go for the next adventure.

    if you wanna, you can check out our adventure log "here":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/dwarrodell/adventure-log
    Post edited by cowboyhugbees on
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850
    I like the idea of incorporating music at key points in an adventure. I've tried this a few times and it has helped to set the mood. Also, your idea about involving the players is good. For more ideas related to this, check out "this":http://forums.obsidianportal.com/comments.php?DiscussionID=1231&page=1#Item_37 thread.
  • DiceMasterNick
    DiceMasterNick
    Posts: 56
    I find that dialog is key.
    Something I learned from my highschool writing instructors.
    Many times I will right quotes for my NPCs to use at various times. Little one liners and battle crys are always good to have on hand. Sometimes I'll even write out whole paragraphs on what an NPC plans to say, and then try to write a few retorts he/she may have depending on how the players respond. This kind of thinking can be seen in a lot of today's modern video games. Dragon Age Origins is a great example. The player selects one of many dialog options which provokes a unique initial response from the NPC but ultimately the core of the information is still delivered.
    Dialog is also a great way to "show" and not "tell" the story. You can let the players read a lot between the lines of what a character is actually saying and let them interpret and envision the situation themselves rather than just spelling it out for them. So rather than, "the inn keeper greats you as you walk in the door" why not use: "Greetings, Travelers! We'll armed folk such as yourselvs are always welcome at the Prancing Pony, and so long as every sword is sheathed, drinks are on the house" the Inn Keeper stammers with a nervious smile and sweat on his brow.
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850
    By the way "hug-a-cowboy", I just checked out the link to your players write up- Holy [email protected] man! Wish _I_ had my own campaign illustrator. Great job all of you.
  • DiceMasterNick
    DiceMasterNick
    Posts: 56
    One time, the party of players ran into a traveling caravan that had stoped along the road for respite. The players then encountered a friendly Gnome that invited them to play a game of cards.

    Then i actually broke out a deck of "Three Dragon Ante":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-Dragon_Ante , and we role played our characters as we gambled for in-game gold.
  • gnunn
    gnunn
    Posts: 423
    DiceMasterNick:

    I totally do the dialogue thing too! I give each of my NPC's a sort of catchphrase that is an epithet or something else they often utter to help me get into character and distinguish between different characters' voices.

    e.g. Ipswitch Cogsworth, the foul-mouthed gnomish foreman has his favorite curse, "Garl's nuggets!"
    Abner, a know-it all farmer turned watchman speaks like Yosemite Sam and calls his companions "galoots" or "eedjuts"

    I find that having these little key phrases helps distinguish the dialogue. Plus, I can easily elaborate or modify their keyphrases mid-game to add variety.
  • JimTriche
    JimTriche
    Posts: 483
    I have recently come to appreciate the value of multiple directions and flexibility while GMing.

    The PC's don't want to go along with the idea you had, so what now?

    I have about 30-50 "mini" adventures all written up in vague outline, about 3 to 6 pages for each adventure. Each one has a corresponding 3x5 card in a file that's organized first by season (Spring/Winter whatever) then by legality (We play Shadowrun) If they want to search Shadowland or the newspaper I randomly draw 3-5 of these cards. The cards have basically an ad. In my game it's usually a vague question, no incriminating lingo, and a phone number. In fantasy games you would have a lot more leeway I think for descriptions. Anyway each card has a 3 digit number on it, that corresponds to one of the outlines in a large binder. And if you're clever, you can have clues or pressures in those outlines that leads back to your main adventure plot. And your players should never accuse you of railroading since they have a fair number of choices.

    Granted, this is a lot of work, but the good thing is that the outlines shouldn't expire, they're good until they're used (well, not all will be, but those can be tweaked easily) and you'll always be ready if the players do something completely unexpected and derail your game. (I say unexpected but most seasoned GMs know that the unexpected happens so often it's when they do what they're supposed to do that you're surprised!)
  • DiceMasterNick
    DiceMasterNick
    Posts: 56 edited April 2010
    Hey, check this out. On of my players is a photoshop expert and thus created a masterwork character:

    "Link1":http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b379/Fricklemypickle/zachs/WillisComplete.jpg

    Here is what he had to say about its creation
    "I started with a real life picture of some "Rhino-man" sculpture (by ~dankatcher). Took some photo's of body hair and dreads/braids. Changed the color of the limbs, Cut and pasted the hair. Used the erase tool at like 10-50% to blend it all.
    Thats the fastest way to explain what i did to create Willis Mantooth.
    Total time in the makings was about 3-5 hours over 3 days. "

    Here is a link to his character in our campaign : "Link2":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/yggdrasil-saga/characters/86333

    (PS: I know this post dosent really belong in this discussion, but I couldnt really figure out where to put it... and this is my own discussion topic anyway, so there)
    Post edited by DiceMasterNick on
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850
    Hey, this thread _is_ called "Show and Tell" so if the shoe fits... Really nice job on this Dankatcher.
  • DiceMasterNick
    DiceMasterNick
    Posts: 56
    just to clarify, the artists name is Zack Bollman. He credits dankatcher for the source image that he used for editing... but Zack made the final project.
    I think you can find the original image "here":http://dankatcher.deviantart.com/art/The-Rhino-86064039
    If thats not it you might have to browse around his website a bit.... but its in there somewhere.
  • Raamses
    Raamses
    Posts: 1
    Im the creator of the picture, My name is Zach Bollman.
    I just emailed the sculptor on how i liked his art and how i used it for this game. He loves it.
    I do a few things on Photo shop but not much so to be called an expert was fun haha. Thank Nick for that.
  • DiceMasterNick
    DiceMasterNick
    Posts: 56 edited April 2010
    "Its Alive!"
    I've finished creating my very own Airship and wrote a detailed account of its function, design, and construction.
    Using the technologies of Eberron and a copious dose of imagination I have created what I think is a most awesome vehicle for adventurers. Check out this "link":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/yggdrasil-saga/wikis/yggdrasil and then try to tell me you wouldn't want to sail the planer skys aboard the Yggdrasil. I think you'll agree it is a great catalyst for an adventure campaign. I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing Yggdrasils being employed by other DMs in their own campaigns. ;)
    Post edited by DiceMasterNick on
  • onsilius
    onsilius
    Posts: 50 edited April 2010
    **yawn**

    Why would anyone want to fly on your airship when mine costs 10 gold chortnums and comes with a laser? It doesn't have any "warm up" times, docking deficiencies, or annoying pets... oh, and did I mention it has balls?

    "Airship 3xtreme":http://lh5.ggpht.com/_UPT7udVVPQE/S79Q2MRd1UI/AAAAAAAAATw/pqand3lgEVE/s800/yggship.JPG
    Post edited by onsilius on
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850
    Err?...!?! Wow!
  • DiceMasterNick
    DiceMasterNick
    Posts: 56
    Fake plastic balls and a lazer? Sounds a little red-neck.

    lol, good one onsilius
  • onsilius
    onsilius
    Posts: 50
    No! It's an elemental laser, and the balls are --Living-- balls! Plus you can see them for miles so everyone knows you have them.
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850
    I don't know Nick, I'm not sure how you're going to be able to compete with gargantuan dangling balls, not to mention a gazer-beam.
  • gnunn
    gnunn
    Posts: 423 edited April 2010
    I'll show you how you compete!... with [REDACTED]!

    **ModEDIT: Let's keep things slightly more work safe, please.
    Post edited by Taloff on
  • gnunn
    gnunn
    Posts: 423
    I think this show and tell thread may have a little too much showing...
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850
    Egads, I fold. I got nothen on those cantaloupes!
  • gnunn
    gnunn
    Posts: 423
    Okay... so after being mildly chastised for my previous post... can't say I blame the mods, I figure it's time to get back to more productive showing off...

    A while back, I created a calendar in Google Docs to track in-game time, since OP does not have similar functionality yet. I linked the calendar to my wiki and vice versa. Well, I just adjusted the links slightly to incorporate some new options from Google docs.

    Now, rather than displaying in a clunky docs spreadsheet with formatting tools and things cluttering the screen, I have instead linked to an "html export of the page.":https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=0ApgBfncCduKOdG9wZ21FRjlucTVYSEVVaHpwWENCQmc&hl=en&output=html It's cleaner in terms of functionality, though Google doc spreadsheets still have aesthetic challenges (I really wish I could hide the cell borders!)

    Nevertheless, if you've been wanting to include a calendar in your wiki, you may want to give this a try.
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850
    So I was totally surprised and very impressed with the artistic initiative that one of my players took in designing images of the weapons that he wanted to one day equip his character with. He used photoshop to create the images. You can find a link to these pictures just under the (lengthy) character description of his character "Shrizyne":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/tales-of-darkmoon-vale/characters/shrizyne-zaumtor. If you like what you see, I'm sure he would appreciate your feedback.

    Cheers,
    -Arsheesh
  • HoustonDM
    HoustonDM
    Posts: 14 edited May 2010
    getting back to the original post, my dm style is to find the most interesting terrain and weather and use them, regardless of the rolls. description is by far the most important thing in the game, but not so much that your players want to hit the skip button.

    i try to figure out the 3 most likely paths the players will take and plan accordingly, gathering portraits and names for npcs and preplanning maps and monsters. i even make some magic items on 3x5 cards just in case they loot stuff. of course, nothing ever goes to plan, but that's just fun.

    oh, and i do voices for every npc. it helps.

    shameless plug: "Shadows of the Dragon God":http://obsidianportal.com/campaigns/shadowsofthedragongod
    Post edited by HoustonDM on
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