1.6 Skip the Empty and the Mundane Rewrite: 1


i fucking hate writing ...
Staff member
A style guide for the adventure instead of the adventure, like for a film? Yes, but that seems relevent for a different topic?
and skip trivia. which is expanded minimalism. which is in another section

Rooms – skip the empty and mundane
The DM only has so much ability to absorb information quickly during the game. When writing descriptions it's important to concentrate on the aspects of the encounter that are unique and/or interactive, the elements that are meaningful to running the room.
There's a shorthand phrase for this: Everyone knows what a kitchen looks like. I also know what a bedroom looks like. Everyone who ever reads an adventure knows what a kitchen looks like. They also know what a bedroom looks like. Why is the room description and DM's attention being wasted telling us what the kitchen looks like? We know what the kitchen looks like. What makes THIS kitchen special? Tell us that. That’s what we’re paying for. The special. And it’s completely ok if there’s isn’t anything special about it. Just skip it. We don’t need to know the guard room has a table … unless there’s something special about it. Special has many meanings. It could be a bit of description that cements the room in the DM’s mind. It could be directly related to the adventure, like a map, or the mumbly-pegged hand of the princess. But if it’s NOT then you don't need to include it in the description. Feel free to say “the guards pull down the table to hide behind.” That’s great. That’s action oriented. But don't just give a laundry list of things in the room. When you do that it distracts the DM from what’s important. They have to dig through the mundane and boring descriptions to find the important stuff in the room. You’re supposed to be helping the DM. Describing a table almost NEVER helps the DM.

This principal applies to most parts of the adventure. The tavern the party will walk in to? Is that special? What's special about it? Don't just include a description of the barkeep, his wife and kids and the usual "cheerful tavern" description. Just like with the guard table, it's okay to cement a description with, say, a Green Dragon head, over the bar, or some other description to anchor the tavern with. But we don't need an exhaustive description of a "normal" fantasy tavern. We all know what that is. It's common for NPC's to fall in to this trap also. Exhaustive descriptions and long stat blocks aren't needed for most NPC's. Maybe a quirk or two to make them a bit memorable and then move on to what IS important about them. Or, move on if there is nothing important about them.

This former kitchen has a cabinet full of large pots and pans, most battered and showing signs of heavy use. The cabinet drawers have battered utensils in them, three forks, two spoons and five knives, as well as a ladle. The upper cabinets have some old crude chipped plates. Nothing is really worth anything of value.

Over at his 9and30kingdoms blog, John took some time in 2013 to talk about Ordinary vs Extraordinary Descriptions. His example is nicely terse, but could use more evocative language. He also touches a bit on the next point, below, Room Names. http://9and30kingdoms.blogspot.com/2013/02/ordinary-vs-extraordinary-descriptions.html

Understanding the purpose behind your location can help add flavor and context to your rooms. Guy Fullerton addressed this over at his Unvisible Citadel site in 2012 in a post called “Interesting Room Trappings?” Guy’s point was that boring rooms result from not having a concept for your location. Once you think a bit about your location you can come up with all sorts of fun things. http://unvisiblecitadel.blogspot.com/2012/12/interesting-room-trappings.html
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