- Works In Progress
- Yangzee City Campaign
- Contact Form
- World of Weirth
Getting back into writing more narrative-style content for D&D adventures has led me to do a bunch of research on keeping my theme and tone consistent. Two recent resources that have been very eye-opening are Adventure Writing like a F***** Boss by Venger Satanis and Stealing Cthulhu by Graham Walmsley.
These two resources have been incredibly valuable.
One part of AWLAFB that really grabbed me was the chart Venger made called “Making Conflict More Interesting”. With categories like “The enemy is something unusual” and “The enemy has something unusual” it gives you, as a writer, a prompt to make your NPCs or villain characters different from what your players may be expecting.
While this is a great idea on its own, it occurred to me that you can use this tool to enhance characters and environments, not just to make them different, but different in a way that is consistent with the theme or tone you are working to build.
Create Prompts for Your Intended Aesthetic
What is the theme of your setting or environment? What tone are you trying to create? Is there a mood you have in mind? Using these concepts to define the aesthetic will help you to build the right kind of descriptions for monsters, villains, and environments your players encounter.
Walmsley isolated a few terms that Lovecraft uses in his writing to set a tone and create an atmosphere. I made a chart of these, plus a few more:
|Beautiful, Comely||Ugly, Deformed|
|Soft, Smooth||Jagged, Compacted|
|Fine, Delicate||Coarse, Gnarled|
Choose more of your own words that define the aesthetic of the environment you want to describe:
For the interior description of a low-rent Tavern: Stale, Smoky, Greasy and Grimy.
For a long-forgotten tomb: Desiccated, Powdery, Exhausted, Desolated.
The thesaurus is your friend!
Once you have chosen the words you feel best represent what you are working to convey, write them on a sticky-note and put them right in front of you while you are writing. When you get to a place in your narrative where you need to emphasize or re-establish the tone/theme, see where it fits in the chart below. “They” refers to the NPCs or villains in your description.
These descriptors can be used for an immediate description of what is in front of your characters, for a Callback – referencing something that happened earlier, or as Foreshadowing.
Using the tomb as an example:
- They are something _____ (Desiccated, Powdery, Exhausted, Desolated)
- They have something ____ (Desiccated, Powdery, Exhausted, Desolated)
- They know something about the _____ (environment, other NPC, Villain)
- They say something about the _____ (environment, other NPC, Villain)
- They do something to interact with the _____ (Desiccated, Powdery, Exhausted, Desolated) environment
- The environment has a _____ (Desiccated, Powdery, Exhausted, Desolated) feature
- The environment is expected to be _____ (Desiccated, Powdery, Exhausted, Desolated), but is instead (the opposite)
- The environment’s _____ (Desiccated, Powdery, Exhausted, Desolated) nature has an unusual effect on the senses
- The environment transitions from “the expected” (Desiccated, Powdery, Exhausted, Desolated) to the unusual (the opposite or something else altogether) over time
- The environment transitions from “the expected” (Desiccated, Powdery, Exhausted, Desolated) to the unusual (the opposite or something else altogether) over space
- The NPC/Monster/Villain is only intermittently _____ (Desiccated, Powdery, Exhausted, Desolated), or only some PCs can perceive the nature of the NPC/Monster/Villain
- The environment is only intermittently _____ (Desiccated, Powdery, Exhausted, Desolated), or only some PCs can perceive the nature of the environment
Avoid getting carried away. While you want to be consistent and building upon your theme, remember to keep your thesaurus resource handy. Move from one “level” of description to another as the adventure progresses – for example from Dry to Withered to Desiccated. For example, the descriptions of the rooms may begin with a “layer of dry sand and grit on the floor“, then later “the floor and withered furnishings are covered in a film of dust, the air is so dry your nose is starting to bleed“. In the final description the room and its contents may be “nearly white with a coating of desiccated limestone powder“.
This thematic build-up can make the final encounter even more jarring, especially if, when they open that final sarcophagus, it squelches and “a moist cloud reeking of putrefaction fills the chamber! While your guts roil in disgust, a glistening claw of a hand, dripping with mucus, rises from the coffin, reaching for…”
You get the idea!
Keep in mind that you can use this technique in reverse, as well. Start the PCs in an extreme environment and move them to one more mundane. As they begin to relax in familiar surroundings, you can hit them with the next, unexpected encounter!
As always, comments are welcome. Share your thoughts! What are your favorite descriptive words for setting a theme or tone for the description of an encounter?
The World of Weirth on WorldAnvil
You can check out the World of Weirth lore on the WorldAnvil site.
Hobby Progress 2020
YTD (Sept 2020): 35
WIP on the workbench: 23
World of Weirth - WIP
* Magic in the World of Weirth - In playtest "beta"
* Tower of Zenopus - Introduction - Complete
* B1 - In Search of the Unknown re-boot - WIP (Maps ✓, NPC re-skin ✓, Backstory update ✓)
* B2 - Keep on the Borderlands re-boot - WIP (Maps WIP, NPC re-skin WIP, Backstory Updated ✓)
Order vs Entropy - An Alternate Alignment System - WIP
Gygax75 - Building the Faerie Realm Gary's way!
- Appendix N
- Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
- Gaming Community
- Grimdark Greyhawk
- Kings of War
- Low Fantasy Gaming Compatible
- OSR – Old School Rules
- Periodic Review
- Personal Updates
- Pulp Alley
- Social Media Networks
- Warhammer 40k
- Warhammer Fantasy Battle
- World of Weirth
- September 2020
- August 2020
- July 2020
- June 2020
- May 2020
- April 2020
- March 2020
- February 2020
- January 2020
- December 2019
- November 2019
- July 2019
- January 2019
- February 2018
- January 2018
- November 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- January 2016
- November 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- September 2014
- December 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012