Smell is the sense most strongly associated with memory — and the least-used sense at the average gaming session.
Has anyone ever tried to use scent in their games? (You in the back, keep the jokes to a minimum…) Lighting a scented candle every time the party is in a particular city, striking a match, lighting a cigar — anything like that?
As corny as it sounds, it strikes me that this could be a pretty powerful technique for forming mnemonic associations at the gaming table. The major limitation seems like it would be the limited range of ways you can generate different smells.
Someone needs to invent a smell-o-gaming machine.
Powerful idea, pretty hard to execute. Incense might have the most impact and be easiest to use.
I’d really hate to see the orc dung scented incense stick, let alone take a whiff of it.
Interesting… I agree with the hard to execute, and furthermore, potentially dangerous to focus. My wife has pretty severe allergies to a lot of things, and I’d hate to see an RP-heavy moment dissolved because of a sneeze- and tear-fest.
And since this can’t go without SOME kind of joke… “You enter a 10 by 10 room. In the corner is…” you open a box and the fresh scent of warm pie drifts over the room as your players’ eyes close and smiles overtake their faces.
“Guarding the pie is…” Finding the orc dung scented incense stick was difficult, but you are sure of one thing as you look at your players: they will never eat pie again.
Makes me want to take up cigar smoking and start playing a noir game. Thanks a lot Martin!
Seriously though, while adding scents to your game might be fun I’m not sure how practical it is. After all, the archetypical gaming lair is the dungeon-quality basement, and without good ventilation, pretty soon your attempts at introducing smell into your game will just turn it into a muddled spicehouse of indistinguishable heavy scents. I suppose if you keep scent to a minimum or make sure you have good ventilation, that shouldn’t be an issue.
In addition, just like music at the table prior to MP3s, it’s another thing to juggle at the table. I suppose you could have a “gaming incense bitch” who you cue to start new sticks that you’ve indexed ahead of time to keep things simple for you, but that in itself seems difficult.
I DO think it could be used for a lot of fun if it could be used surrepititiously. Every time, just before that shadowy female theif stumbles across your party, they detect the subtle smell of her Jasmin perfume… Then later as they’re passing through the market district they smell it again. Alert party members keep an eye out for her, but she’s no where to be seen. It appears to be coming from a small unmarked shop half-hidden in that alley. Could this be a clue to their advesary’s habits and regular routine?
I think they DO have scent machines now. They take what look like CDs each with a different scent. I’m sure they don’t have anything esoteric but it might do for “rainforest” and “country meadow”
“You encounter a troglodyte shaman! He smells just like this…”
The DM pulls out a container of rotting fish and eggs that he’s been keeping in the hot sun for the last two weeks.
It’d be memorable, anyway.
All jokes and difficulties to implement aside, martin is right about smell being really really powerful to our memory. If you had a dank dusty smell peoples minds would suddenly go to feeling like they were in a dungeon.
I like Rick’s example. It works really well. That’s a beautiful use.
Outside of incense you could have scent vials, armoatherapy stuff. Then they could just sniff the vial.
Words are powerful, but the mind must move with them.
Eyes are tricked, but not easily.
Music infuses the world, but one has to listen to be moved.
Touch astounds us, but we must touch, to be touched so.
Only scent can move us without our will, for it goes deeper beyond that which we know.
A person can shut himself off from all senses, save scent. – jac
I am tempted to use it in a game, but I fear the smell has no chance to get through the smell of 5 strongly (rather heavy) built middle-aged men, meeting after a hard day of work in a smoke filled basement room with too many candles and beer bottles (from previous weeks) – in the middle of summer.
I am sure it can have nice effects at the gaming table (in other circumstances than described above). I have used small requisits at the table, like a handful of dried leafs, small stones and a little piece of fabric which the PC completely overpaid, because of the sample I had brought with me made impression.
I would like to see one of my players using smell. Maybe the wizard everytime he casts a certain spell (cloudkill is an easy one even without preparation, but digest a cabbage for high level, spell intensive campaigns). Spells like sleep, daze would be appropiate. A perfume for a charm spell or an egg boiled for 30 minutes for a sleep.
But before I give this away to my group, I just decided to bring the smell effect, when I am going to play next month.
I have used scent in a game and I have to say it was very powerful.The characters had been holed up in a secret room to recover from recent encounters.The character on guard hears the noise of a very slow moving large beast coming towards them.So they douse the lights and hide quitely in the room scared to make any sound.Thinking on my feet I thought I could really make this a great game experience if I enhanced the mood.I dimmed the lights around the table, got the players to close their eyes as I made scraping sounds of the creature getting closer and closer to their hiding place.Then I raced to the kitchen cupboard and removed the bottle of chlorine bleach and opened the lid at the table for a moment.One of the players says “hey I smell chlorine” and instantly all the players know that the green dragon that had been hunting them(long story)was on the other side of the door.Well I had the players sitting on the edge of their seats at the table and when one of them accidently coughed the others nearly (silently) killed him.
That was three years ago and they are still talking about their “submarine like, near death experience”…..God I love being a GM
“(You in the back, keep the jokes to a minimum. )”
For those wondering, this was directed at me. 🙂
Martin uses smells in his game, although I’ve not seen them actually tied to the adventure at hand. 😉