Saturday, August 22, 2009

Room Description

Room descriptions basically break down into two categories; one being a static setting the other of course would be a kinetic setting. It's an over simplification, but I'm willing to work with it. A kinetic room's description will be altered by the players' actions before they interact with the room. A chamber full of goblin will not stay preserved in a described position if the party starts bashing a door down. A static room's description remains the same until the players' interact with the room. A magical fireball trap set to toast the first player through the door will not care if the party is high-fiving and slapping each other on the asses in a nearby room.

With each category of room there are two levels observation, the perception of the room and the truth of the room. Upon entering a room the GM describes the room with details important and unimportant. As the party interacts with the room the truth is revealed depending on the skill levels of the party and actions taken.

The following room description is the perception of a static setting.
The party opens the heavy wooden door into a 10'x30' room lit by a series of three bracketed torches on the north wall. A jumble of sacks and wicker baskets lay against the south wall. At the far end of the room appears to be a white marble statue of woman with six arms wielding a sword in each hand. A necklace of human sized skulls hangs over her bare breasts. From the waist down her human body turns into a snake. Her serpentine lower half is coiled around a pedestal. On the pedestal is a silver orb. There are no apparent exits.

This is a basic room description with dimensions, an inventory of the obvious items in the room and details of the more interesting items. There are four basic components to the room.
1. The torches.
2. The sacks and baskets.
3. The statue.
4. The silver orb.

This is the initial perception of the room. Not the players begin to interact with the room, gathering information and the truth of the room begins to develop.

1. The torches. The middle torch bracket can be pulled down and a secret passage slides open. Simple, but everyone loves a secret door.
2. The sacks and baskets have grain in the bottom. So somewhere close there is an inhabitant that needs to eat. It eats grain so it will be fairly intelligent and not a mindless monster want to eat your heads. At least not without sautéing it in garlic and onions first.
3. When is a statue just a statue? In fantasy gaming not too often. They are a favorite guard dog in dungeons. This little beauty is here to defend the orb.
4. The silver orb is the true interest in the room. Is it magical? Is it just a large round silver ball? Is it a silver dragon egg? Maybe it's just a painted wooden ball. In this case it is an Orb of Warning. The orb is activated if removed or knocked off the pedestal. It will emit a loud screeching noise alerting the grain eaters nearby.

Our next setting will be the kinetic room. The first description will be if the players managed to mute the orb or left it alone.

After traveling through the secret door the party reaches a set of four stairs that leads down into room flickering with bright firelight. Several gruff voices can be heard from inside. Most speak common others are speaking orc. The smell of roasted meat and beer fill the area. Inside the room the players see eight men sitting around a table eating. All are wearing battered leather armor and some wear weapons and others are leaning against the wall. Two women servants tend to a fire.

The dimensions of the room are left out as are finer details because the important job of the GM at this point is to describe the situation. The immediate threat of eight brigands is going to absorb their attention. Other details can be doled out as the players investigate later.

The next version of the same room is if the players set off the Orb of Warning.

After traveling through the secret door the party reaches a set of four stairs leading down into a room flickering with bright firelight. Across the entrance to the room is an overturned table with spilt beer and tankards splashed across the floor. There is a large fireplace against the southern wall with meat roasting on a pair of spits. As the first player descends the stairs three men armed with crossbows pop up from behind the table and fire.

Same room, completely different situation. The other five men wait against the wall for the players to rush in so they can attack from the rear. Rooms are no islands of themselves. What happens in one room can affect what happens in the next and so on. Adventures need to be fluid as well as populated rooms. The inhabitants are not frozen in position waiting for the players to enter. Once the brigands are defeated the truth of the room can be discovered.

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