Friday, January 17, 2020

Discussion: Pre-Written Descriptions

When you buy an official adventure from a company, the adventure comes with sections your meant to just read to the table. These pieces are generally descriptive writing sections that are their to paint the scene for you and your players in your imaginations. Often when doing custom work you designed yourself, I find a lot of GMs don't use those descriptions. The reason? They have it in their head, so the intention is to communicate it at the table to the players.

For years I did the same. I described things at the table as I felt appropriate there. Of late though I've also been dabbling with pre-writing some descriptions. I don't always read the description as written, but I keep close to it. I also find it helps. The page - or screen - gives something to focus on other than my players faces which helps me deal with that anxious/awkward feeling I sometimes get when giving descriptions as a GM. Also, with time to write it ahead of time, read it, review it, and then present it to the group I can be more sure I've caught all the important details.

I am curious about you and your table though. Do you pre-write descriptions to use in your custom content? If no, why not? If so, what got you to start or did you always do it?


  1. I pre-write many descriptions, mainly because I like to drop clues via word choice. Clues regarding the current encounter, and especially clues regarding future encounters.

    The party might come across a noise off the path, a klank-clunk sound, and on ivestigating discover it's just some cows that have wandered into the forest. Later, they'll hear a klunk-klank sound and they'll be thinking wandering livestock, and not prowling minotaur.

    Similarly giant spider webs on the forest path might be described as mist in the fading dusk light, and next day they'll encounter a cave entrance obscured by misty webbing .. but is actually a form of hanging spanish moss that releases a cloud of psychotropic spores if disturbed or set on fire.

    The trash at a camp site includes a netting bag and a mysterious rune pebble, and there are fish bones by the fire. Later, they come across a bullywug and in his description there is a netting bag with a fat trout for his lunch.

    Lots of clues. I only expect they'll pick up on one in three, but they'll be there.

    1. That's really cool! Thank you. I really like the psychotropic spores :D

    2. Heh, that adventure has a whole mess of mind-feckery going on (obliviax moss is involved). I even use a pre-written description for the turn-off from main road: "You'll come to a stand of willow trees, surrounded by a carpet of blue and purple wild flowers."

      (anyone with herbalism or similar skills can easily identify them as forget-me-not flowers ... the significance of which the players will discover in due time).