1.4 First Things First


i fucking hate writing ...
Staff member
When writing an encounter description (room description? whats a good word here?) there's a natural order to the writing. When the players first encounter the room then what's the most important thing for the DM to relate to them? This is almost always the most obvious and/or pertinents thing in the room. If you open the door and see a giant red dragon, then that's probably what the room description should lead with. If you can HEAR something before you open the door then that's probably what you want to lead with. If twelve Sardarkar Death Troopers are charging at the door with lit plasma rifles, then mention that first.

This same principal holds for rooms that are more mundane. If you look around the room then what do you see? A rope hanging from the ceiling, a writing desk and cask? The introduction to the room should mention those three items. Further bullets, paragraphs, sentences, etc can then follow up and relate more about those objects as appropriate.

The general principal here is two fold. First, note the important and/or obvious things first. Second, move from the general overview of the room to more specifics. The DM, when scanning the room text during play, with view that opening overview first and relate it to the players. While they are considering their actions the DM is then scanning the more specific text and when the players announce "I'm looking at the rope." they can then quickly find the rope section and relate it. Freom the general to the specific. From the obvious to the hidden.

Ruins of Grendleroot, by Mike Shae, has several encounters of this sort. Note the description. The Area Aspects, a summary of the room, don't mention that there's a creature in the room. The read-aloud doesn't mention a creature in the room. The DM text doesn't mention a creature in the room. The DM could be excused for not thinking that there's a creature in the room. But there is, one of the people the party is looking for is laying prostrate on the floor, worshipping the alter. Multiple opportunities lost, from the Area Aspects to the read-aloud to the DM text.
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