John’s technique for doing this revolves around a slick little template for writing up locations in your campaign. Thanks for letting me turn this into a TT post, John!
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When I’m writing up adventures/dungeons/areas I use a template that has the five senses, special notes, enemies, and a “something of interest” field.
I try to fill in every one of the descriptors. Then when I’m at the table, I just grab three or four to fit into my opening explanation of the room. I also try to write down something evocative about the area.
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It would fit well onto an index card, but I usually just copy and paste into the Word file that I’m making up for the dungeon/area/etc. I don’t give a full description for everything, but try to think of my descriptions like the dungeon itself.
I’ll describe a room like this:
“You see the slimy rough (feel) stone walls stretching a few feet above your head (sight and size) in the oblong room. The pillars that support it are spaced every 10 feet are so and look solid enough to withstand Ragnarok (sight, evocative). Wind blows through the large and long room from corridors off to the side.”
Then when I get to the corridors, I try to grab one or two linking elements to get them down to the next place:
“The wind blows past, more fiercely and coldly. The slime traces a windblown path down the columns as you proceed past them.”
I try to keep linking in different descriptors to maintain the original immersion, but not detract from the game elements. Used with a picture or two that shows something similar to what I’m describing, I’ve gotten some pretty rapt audiences. One time they forgot to do anything — they were just waiting to hear what came next.
Update: Ready-to-use printable versions of this template are now available for free directly from Silvervine Games: Area Descriptor Templates.
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What do you think of John’s template? How would you modify it to fit your GMing style or game world?