I Set The Scene, But You Fill It Out

Aloha Johnn!

Before I dive into today’s GM tip, I have a quick hint for Campaign Logger GMs. Especially if you’re transferring text to CL from OneNote on Windows

When pasting text from OneNote into CL, use CTRL+SHIFT+V to bypass Windows default of pasting as an image. I explain this in more detail with a short demo video here.

Ok, let’s talk about when it become exhausting or difficult coming up with details all the time, and how to fix the problem….

Amazing roleplay isn’t acting and funny voices. A huge part comes from using your imagination to put yourself in the scene as the PCs, walk around in their shoes, and interact with the nitty gritty details around them in the encounter as they would.

It’s the details part that blocks many of us. Either you do a lot of prep to have lists of stuff ready in advance, or you sweat it out behind the screen.

Master of the 5 Room Dungeon, @CasualOnesRay, shared on the RPT Discord this fantastic tip on how to get players to give – and use – these all-important small details:

Heya Johnn, just read your email blast on GPT. I hadn’t considered using the tool in such a way, and found it rather compelling!

In particular, this bit on areas to improve:

“Engaging Descriptions, Action 2: Share some responsibility with players by asking them to describe their actions or surroundings occasionally.”

I was hoping to offer you some my experience with this, in the spirit of sharing and caring.

It is something I’ve always encouraged players to do. I ensure I tell my players, “I set the scene, but you fill it out.”

I’ve found that a lot of players seem to have difficulty with this, particularly during combat, and especially when said combat uses a battle map.

To help encourage them, whenever they take combat actions or perform something that has the potential to be narratively interesting, I ask “How do you go about doing that?” or “What does that look like?”

It’s taken a while, especially considering two of my players are only 17, but with time, I’ve found that all players at the table have begun to preemptively fill out the scene and ask clarifying questions about the tools or infrastructure available to them.

For example:

Player: “We’re fighting in the kitchen, right? Okay, I haven’t had a chance to draw my Mustang City Hunter, so I grab the kettle and throw it at the lead Tyger Claw.”

Me: “Absolutely. We’ll treat that as a throw light melee weapon. Roll…”

I’m sure you’ll find your own excellent way of encouraging such things in your players, but I have found this to work quite well, and has led to some truly epic encounters!

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Fantastic tip, Ray! Thank you.

In that thread, @ExileInParadise also added this great advice:

One thing I’ve used when a player reverts to “I roll to hit” or whatever out of character is to simply say: “Okay, can you tell us the story of that…” for whatever the action is.

It’s a simple prompt that’s been good luck for me — hopefully it can help you too. I ended up with that as a printed reminder at the top of my GM screen in my line of sight to the players.

And for players that need an example, the sword fight in The Princess Bride and the combats in John Wick have been helpful to get people thinking.

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Great tips! Thanks guys.

Details are important for vibrant roleplay. But making them up all the time becomes difficult. So invite players to help provide them.

Ask questions like:

  • What does that look like?
  • How do you go about doing that?
  • Can you tell us the story of that?

I like to also often give them a choice:

Player: Hey Johnn, is there anything useful around to help with the stuck door?

Johnn: Yes! There is indeed something useful to help with the stuck door — what might it be? It’s your choice as long as its worth less than 5 gold.

This turns it into a bit of a puzzle, while also being a reward, because most players will try to pick something cool with future use in mind.

Try asking these questions next session and let me know how it goes!

Have more fun at every game!

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