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Describing rooms

One of the things I do is that I’m also so centered on the map. I love it when light is indicated on the map (we’re currently in The Halls of Arden Vul and that module doesn’t indicate light 💔).

The single biggest influence on how I describe a room is when I was little and me and grandma would go down into the cellar under her workplace where she kept a case of soda by the door and we never ventured very far in there but the light didn’t reach the other sides of the room is how big and dark it was.

Ideally, and I am always trying to get closer to this ideal, I wanna:

That last point I used to go back & forth on whether it should be last or first. Often times they’ve negotiated with it to even enter through the door, or they’ve listened through the door or something, but other than that I like giving a brief rundown on the hard landscape in there before getting into the squishy and shambling parts of it. Not every drawer of every chest, just—it’s a brightly illuminated pentagonal room, 50 feet across, with a big hole in the ceiling and this thing is crawling around in here along the walls, looks like a blue slithery serpent but it has six opposite pairs of legs and claws running down the length of it’s body and it says something in an unenlightened language.

Anyway, main point I wanted to make is that if I have my own experience of what I need to get a cross for a room, that also makes boxed texts less useful. I’ll look at the boxed text because oftentimes important info is only in there, but I’ve also looked at the map and my awareness of the party’s light. Stuart gives the advice that:

Never assume sight. Assume dark. A simple way to do this is to imagine the darkness as alive. Instead of being a simple black absence regard it as a kind of active liquid. It does not meekly disappear on the lighting of a candle. It follows the players like a stalking predator.

The darkness is following them, surrounding them. It infiltrates slender claws behind shadowed columns, reaching towards the lantern, hungering to snuff it out. It backs away reluctantly before the light, it follows carefully and relentlessly, creeping as close as it can. It leaves chew marks in the corners of your sight.

This mindset is great. It makes me think of the player’s torches and frotzes as if it was poison, pushing me away temporarily, of course I keep track of it, turn by turn until it can no longer hold me at bay and my illimitable dominion will engulf them.

So when the box set is a second tier level of importance compared to the information I get from the map and their torches, I’m less intimidated by it. But I’ve had a mellowing of heart in one regard:

Since I think boxed text is bad compared to a more easy-to-run item-by-item format (like the excellent “Date of Expiration” uses), I’d get stubborn and refuse to even borrow phrases from it. That’s an obstinacy I no longer have. And to no-one’s benefit. Instead, I’ll now lift phrases straight up even though they’re not mine. “Towering glass windows”, “light sifts through”, I don’t speak like that but it’ll do. Saves mental energy, lets some of the module’s own flavor shine through. I’m not setting out to read the entire box, I’m still sticking to my own priorites of what I need to convey for our groups particular needs and habits, but I’m not disallowing myself to read from the box (or, in my case, translate from the box since we’re often using English-language modules).