Wednesday, January 9, 2013

It's In the Details...Or Not

I'm continuing on with my posts about providing more details within an adventure, or the term I use describing a third magnification.  This post isn't for those who don't like too much detail.  They want sparse text, minimal description and run with it.  This type of adventure design is for those groups that like to get into the minutia of the world.  Little details thrill them.  Because of this, it made me want to dig a little deeper into the way an adventure is presented.

I've never been fond of people who are weird for the sake of being weird.  It's boring and not weird.  I am not giving details to be detailed.  That would suck and also be boring.  The development of an object or person or place, to give it detail is there for the players to interact with if they so chose.  If a player comes across a silver candlestick its worth 20sp either way and that can be the end of it.  Or it can be a candlestick made by Bo Duke from Hazard County and worth a lot more.  This single candlestick can become a plot point.  There could be a collector of Bo Duke silver wares.  And it being such a known item, maybe it belong to a noble who was robbed and would pay to have it returned.  Who knows.  But adding a single tag on it of history/backstory it can become more than just a 20sp trade in.

But here's the cool thing, you can completely ignore this if you want.  I won't take away from your game one bit.  It is there for players who like to fiddle or GMs who like to fiddle.

Not every candlestick will be made by the famous Bo Duke.  Most of the time its just going to be a 20sp trade in.  Done.

In the example I gave in a previous post, everything that was given more detail is for the players to explore, to use or manipulate.  Just because more details are given does not mean the prose goes off on tangents.  If anything it means I/you/the others who write this kind of adventure has to be terse and discipline.  Edit and then reedit.  That's what I find challenging and something I enjoy.

While I may not be an expert at writing adventures I'm fairly confident at what works and what doesn't.  I also know not everyone is going to like that style.  It's not written for them.  As the writer I still have an obligation to do the best I can for those who will enjoy it.  Being able to execute the style is critical.  So when it does leave my computer and waft into the ether its done as well I could do it.  So if the people who are interested in that style of adventure tell me its not good then I am the problem and need to do a better job.  If done correctly people will have fun.  I'm cool with that.


  1. Tim, most of the games I've run have been in homebrewed settings... although I did use Judges' Guild's Wilderlands maps for a while.

    I can certainly see the value in what you're doing, I do it on the fly, myself. The issue I would have with adventures written this way is the same issue I have when comparing AD&D 1e elves with D&D 4e eladrin: The former can be used anywhere, the latter come with history and culture defined to the players such that I can't or wouldn't use them in my worlds. They just don't fit. So in looking over an adventure written this way, I see a 20 page module become 40, at a higher price, and I wouldn't use most of it...

  2. Tim, I do like to use little details like you mention. I tend not to put a whole lot more behind it than the "Bo Duke Candlestick" and see if the players run with it or not.

  3. Dave I completely understand. The details I am adding I am trying to keep them small so they are easily usable. If you have your homebrewed world, squeezing a silversmith would not change the dynamics, nor do I intend to give an extensive history. That's that part I have to be aware of and edit if I catch myself doing such a thing. And your point is exactly the kind of thing I would avoid as much as possible.

    Johnathan Yeah, I like to add a little extra detail here and there to give the adventure more depth. But as Dan writes, not so much to make it worthless for others. Its an experiment and looking to see if I can write it properly.