GM Workshop

A community-created and maintained place for Game Masters of all systems to bounce ideas around. It's a place for inspiration and sharing tips.

MW GUIDES add-on: GM Writing Exercises

Originally Posted by hecklenjyde View Post
Atmosphere. The seedy bar with dim lighting, mismatched/broken/mended furniture, smoky air and grimy unwashed patrons gambling coin in the corner. The dank, dark, dripping cave with a small stream trickling through it, bats in the ceilings and centipedes as long as your arm creeping around limestone stalagmites/stalactites. The tall leafy forest with thick jungle undergrowth, dim beams of light shining down through the canopy and vines and poisonous spiders/snakes on every other branch. The alleyway, narrow and garbage filled, with hard packed earth on the ground, alley cats/dogs/rats and sewer grates. The merchant stall/shop with an assortment of wares to choose from (insert your required weapons, armour, clothing, food, basket weaver here).

That is: Describe a scene with a suitable atmosphere, include various descriptions of plot objects and misc objects. Include visual (smoky room etc.), audio (conversation, clink of coin/mugs), olfactory (the smell of smoke/tobacco/unwashed bodies) and tactile (the sticky floor from beer spills) senses. It ought to include obvious things (people, potential dangers, entry exit points) that characters need to know straight away, as well as secondary things which can include other 'plot object/s' and 'red herrings'. Possibly followed up with a second description that highlights the plot object/s and dismisses the red herrings in the event that players miss or latch onto the wrong things.

As another thing that is possibly useful for GM writing, is a list of suitably descriptive words that will evoke an adventurous atmosphere. Instead of creeps, why not slinks? Instead of tall, why not soaring? Instead of dark what about inky or sinister? If you want to encourage GM creative writing, having a list of adjectives, verbs and adverbs to inspire as a starting point might not be a bad thing, as well as some examples taken from literature or created by other MW GMs so people can see what sort of stuff is good descriptive writing. I learn best by seeing and imitating.
The setting exercise is a great idea, especially as a follow up to the map exercise.

There are two problems that I have with the list of "adventurous adjectives" though.

1) sifting through the dictionary and thesaurus to create a list of cool words is a lot of work, especially when i can just link dictionary and thesaurus .com and include rhymzone .com for those special rhyming moments we have as GMs...

2) words evoke different imagery and ideas for everyone. Getting a list of "cool words" that any two people would agree on, especially 2 writers will be an impossible task.

As such I think it's best to give an example or two as you did and then list those resources.

Some RPGs will give you a list of books/movies you can use as inspiration when playing the setting. I look at these lists and some click with me right away, while others are way off.

The point is not to provide a list that everyone agrees on, the point is to provide enough of a sample to cater to a wide enough range of people.

An excellent resource. The links will be included. Thank you very much for the research and idea, I'm positive lots of people will find this especially useful.

I believe I'll put these resources in the forward to as to be a primer for the exercise as a whole.

Great work!

Set the scene:

Setting the scene is important as a GM. Without an accurate description of the setting your players will have little hope of understanding their environment and may unintentionally behave inappropriately.

Consider your genre or gaming system of choice and think of a typical scenario. For a fantasy setting this might be a tavern or a cave or a castle. For sci-fi this might be a space station, alien planet or ship.

When you have decided the locale you will use, envision it and list out:
5 descriptive details and 3 potential points of interest that the PCs can interact with to cause some sort of effect. You can do more if you like.

Once done, consider the mood of the environment. For added challenge, find a suiting piece of mood music to link to on youtube. Listening to this may even enhance your imagination of the scene.

Write out your scene and consider it a minimum of 100 words, maximum of 500 being sure to include all of the details you drafted.

If your scene is filled with sentient life, consider doing another where sentient life is completely absent and vice versa. Writing a scene with sentient activity or without will require different kinds of descriptive techniques.

The Trap/Puzzle:

Craft a unique trap or puzzle that players must uniquely solve. This can be tough for new GMs.

While other areas focus on being verbose and descriptive, presenting a trap or puzzle often requires absence of words and description.

While a typical trap or puzzle might include a pressure plate that triggers several arrows from a wall or a series of stones that are marked with pictures hinting what element must be applied to them, try and think up a unique contraption as your players will likely expect cliche stand-bys like the bucket of acid that falls as you walk through the door.

This challenge should have at least one solution worked out by the GM that is not a typical roll-to-solve challenge. If you would like to build in multiple solutions that is up to you and your imagination. Stat out the trap or puzzle according the rules for your system of choice.

Once you have designed the trap or puzzle, create two write ups.

The first is the scene in which the trap or puzzle appears but in which it is not detected yet by the players. Then write up another scenario in which you describe the apparent physical features of the trap or puzzle without giving away what it is or how it operates (otherwise you'll be informing the party of how to solve the puzzle.

Finally write a description describing the device if the trap or puzzle is disarmed/bypassed and one where the challenge is failed/triggered.

That's three writeups, not two.

I hope there will be a true discussion of trap creation and placement someplace else?

Originally Posted by dauphinous View Post
That's three writeups, not two.

I hope there will be a true discussion of trap creation and placement someplace else?
please define: true discussion as the answer is "probably not".

To be honest, I never really used traps until D&D where such things are integral. In most other game systems they are just things that slow the game down by getting in the way of the plot. In D&D however, they are far more necessary to the game.

As such I was planning on putting more emphasis on this in the 3.5 college.

If you have notes you'd like to add to either dauph, please do put them forward.

I meant something discussing how to and not to use traps. It's actually not all that different from placing geographic features on an overland map.

A proposal of text about trapsTraps should be placed in such a way that they make sense from the perspective of the location's denizens, and so they serve an actual purpose. Don't put a trap every five feet unless the particular space is meant to be a kill zone unused by the residents. Otherwise, your residents would be tripping them all the time. Do generally keep them to logical points, such as area transitions (doors and doorways, archways, stairs, etc.) and containers.

When your dumbest denizens are intelligent enough to understand the concept of 'that's a trap, don't step there', roughly Int 6 or so, you can include traps in trafficked areas. They'll be able to step over or around the trap where less intelligent creatures will forget it's there. That's still not very intelligent, though. They need to be kept to logical, memorable points, or have some kind of identifier to serve as a memory trigger. Creatures with a sharp sense of smell might mark their traps with a difficult to detect aroma, for example, or there may be visual cues only detectable from the direction they don't expect intruders to approach from.

When your dumbest denizens are Int 9 or so, you can be more annoying with traps. This is the point where you can start including traps with a button you can push to disarm it for two seconds, or where you have to walk on a particular set of bricks to avoid it, or climb the wall to get around it, etc.

Attended traps can be placed anywhere. These are traps which require a creature to somehow detect the intended victim and activate the trap. It can be as simple as a kobold standing in plain sight with a rope that rings a big bell, or as complicated as you want. The most important thing about such traps is they must be logically feasible, not only for the creator and his minions to have actually created it, but also for it to function. If you have a kobold behind a wall holding that rope for the bell, you have to explain how he can see anyone to pull it. Maybe the wall is an illusion. Maybe he's being telepathically controlled by an invisible creature. Maybe there's a scrying device, a well hidden periscope lens, or something else. You have to decide what it is, though, and determine if there's any way at all for the PCs to notice it.

Generally, use traps sparingly, especially when you want the party to move quickly through an area. A trap is a type of challenge that usually only one character is involved in overcoming, and at best, it's really just a couple of die rolls that require no actual interaction, character development, or description to get through. At worst, it's just a source of damage or inconvenience as the fighter blunders through it to save time.

I'm sure people will have disagreements with that, so I certainly wouldn't just drop that into anything without having other folks add, subtract, divide, and conquer it.

That's something I would put in the 3.5 college, it's more D&D DM suggestion/procedure than a creative writing exercise that applies to anything. It could technically go in adventure writing too, but I don't think it's as appropriate because a lot of games never use traps and never have any reason to include them on any kind of consistent basis (ie, social oriented modern games, etc)

On that note I think we can button this up.

I'll get a draft ready as soon as I finish up game posts for you to look over and then we can ship off the guides to Michael for whatever evil he has planned. article up, pending Dauphs edits but the framework is up.

Thanks everyone who provided feedback!


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Last Database Backup 2017-09-21 09:00:06am local time
Myth-Weavers Status