Show dont Tell Rewrite: 1


i fucking hate writing ...
Staff member
I don't want hand holding
+damn magazine

-at the abbey

-tree of blight

+castle that fell from the sky

Writing a conclusion
-vampires tomb
+merehurst - cratings a vibe

-delver – telling players what they think
+mission to they nethwatch keep
-don’t follow the lights
-5th edition funnel

Specificity is the soul of narraive … but specific on the right thing

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i fucking hate writing ...
Staff member
There’s a place for the raw communication of facts. But facts communicate very little compared to the power of a persons imagination to fill in the details.

“Show, don’t tell.” is pretty common advice in many writing circles. A well written adventure shows the players what is going on instead of telling them. That then allows the players to filter the scene through their own lenses and draw their own conclusions, which will in almost every case be the same as what they would have been told. But because the players then discover it for themselves it resonates much more viscerally with them. In spite of this, a great many adventures tell the players instead of showing the players. What does it mean? In short: conveying a conclusion directly rather than communicating what leads to the conclusion.

Describing a bandit gang as evil or describing the Baron as a terrible person is an example of telling. The bandits are evil. The baron is a terrible person. Ok, sure. Whatever. In these cases you’re telling the players that the thing has some aspect. The [bandits/baron] is [evil/terrible.] Instead of telling you want to show WHY the thing has that aspect and then let the players draw their own conclusions. The Baron routinely publicly flogs people to death in the town square. The bandits crucify one person from each wagon they hit. Now the players get to draw their own conclusions. Instead of abstracting the specifics of a situation in to a conclusion [Evil! Terrible!] you show an aspect of them that is evil/terrible. This could be done through exposition "They crucified old Sam. They do the same to every wagon they hit." or through events in the game such as the party coming upon a destroyed wagon train with several people crucified. In both cases the players are then left to draw their own conclusions about the parties involved, and certainly will have a much more visceral reaction then simply being told that, in the abstract, they are evil.

This abstraction of information, telling instead of showing, can creep in in unexpected ways. Describing a monster, or a temple, as scary, for example. That's a conclusion. Instead describing a scene in which the monster/temple is active and having the players think "man, that's scary!" is much more effective.

And do it tersely. No one said writing a good adventure was easy.
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