Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I had a few goals of my own going into my bachelor party gaming session. One of them was:

I have Gygax' Role-Playing Mastery and though I don't think I'd recommend it-- it seems to spend a lot of time talking about the obvious, one thing did catch my eye. On page 83 Gary talks about adding flavor to games and gives a list of 7 things to shoot for:
  1. wonder & fear
  2. adventure & heroism
  3. problem solving
  4. role-playing
  5. combat, conflict & battle
  6. group operation
  7. enlightenment & education
Well, actually you can see it's more than seven things. Three, four and five seem pretty straightforward to me but the others are interesting. I really felt my session in the abandoned nunnery was a success because it elicited fear-- was it Jeff Rients touching on the similarities between gaming and horror movies? Anyway, I feel I can design scenarios to evoke fear. And it works. And it is a cool goal to have. But wonder?

How would you evoke that? I would like to try. Just describing things with words, can it ever be the same as seeing the Grand Canyon, or Bridalveil Falls? So, as I was brainstorming for the bachelor party session I always had that in the back of my mind, what would be marvelous, what would make the players pause, surprise them. I'm not sure if I pulled it off.

Part of the problem may be cliche, the players all pretty much expected something big and bad down that hole. And my connubial temple visit sort of turned into a Pirates of the Caribbean ride (at least in my head). But I'm not convinced you can evoke wonder with verbal description. Have you managed it?


  1. Heschel's book God in Search of Man begins with an insightful discussion of the wondrous and sublime.

    If your library has a copy, it might be a great help to evoking wonder through description.

  2. Perhaps he means "wonder" as in mysterious--i.e. "how did that get here?"

  3. The only time off the top of my head was the time I described the big council chamber of the dragons in that old 2e "Council of Wyrms" setting--and that due simply to mentioning the size of the place" "Whoa, ten miles across?!"

  4. Thanks all, when I get a chance I'll check out that book, David. Also, wow, 10 miles across is BIG. But intuitively I think this might be one where visuals will win out every time, maybe a reason to have images ready to show players. My post about the Ural Giants, for example, how do you describe them in a way that does any justice?

  5. I'd love to think that it can be accomplished just with words (and maybe judicious use of hand motions). Perhaps taking things out of the expected range and into the epic/extraordinary. If they expect a big bad monster to be down hole, have the big bad monster burst through into the surface world and cause large amounts of chaos on an unbelievable scale.

    Most examples that come to mind for me are, unfortunately, along the same lines of seemingly insurmountable odds placed against the players. I'll have to think on this a lot more and see what else I come up with.