Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Learning to create mood and tone as a storyteller!?

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Learning to create mood and tone as a storyteller!?

    Hi,

    I am looking for material that helps me to understand and learn how I can create an immersive role playing experience for my players. I want to become better at describing things, especially on the fly.

    I think this example is pretty impressive and kind of my goal, but at least getting better would be nice:
    https://youtu.be/Sp7ZUrZPUFY

    Thanks for any tips, book recommendations (even from other systems), YouTube videos and so on!

  • #2
    My unpopular opinion: Don't ever do this to your players. They've come to play a game, not to listen to you monologue, and the longer you make them wait without asking them to make a decision or otherwise interact with the environment, the more you run the risk of losing their attention. You can count on maybe a minute at the most before at least one of your players has taken out their smartphone to check their Facebook. If you're describing a spooky slaughterhouse, you don't need to describe the shape of the windows, the smell of the air, and the sound of the wind in detail, because everyone can imagine a spooky slaughterhouse and often the players' imaginations will do a better job "painting the picture" or "engaging all of the senses" than your words will, without running the risk of them zoning out or getting bored or forgetting a crucial detail. Just give a general description, maybe a sentence or two. Note two or three interesting details, especially things that the player characters can interact with, and describe them with a short sentence each. If the players need to know more they will ask.

    Personally I would recommend ignoring everything in that video and instead follow the advice in this article.
    Last edited by Charlaquin; 02-08-2017, 04:31 PM.


    Onyx Path Forum Moderator

    My mod voice is red. I use it so you know when I'm speaking in an official capacity, not as an indication of tone.

    Going by Willow now, or Wil for short. She/Her/Hers.

    Comment


    • #3
      Sound is a surprisingly useful thing (actually it's probably not that surprising). It's something you don't notice until it goes away again.


      Comment


      • #4
        Well, when it comes to recommending resources I think you're already on the right track. The Gentleman Gamer's videos is a great source of masterful mood and themes being intertwined with narrative, but for that his best videos I'd wager are his guides to vampire (both Masqherade & Requiem) and werewolf. One of the best tools available to an ST is being able to visualize how a character in the world views an environment or another character and his in character guides are a perfect resource for that. Another favorite resource of mine is the Darker Days Radio podcast since they go over a wide range or gaming topics from both OWoD and CofD, but one of their best resources is the Secret Frequency where they find real world sources of supernatural superstition and then theorize how to incorporate that into the many different gamelines.

        Comment


        • #5
          Whenever I do a long description, I make sure to periodically say something that refocuses the players and touches them directly. This can be something as big as asking them a quick question that doesn't break up the narration but keeps them "active", to something as small as talking directly to one of them. For example, I could ask them how they feel about something in the darkness, or if it reminds them of something. This technique is about keeping people engaged. Either ask them a question, give them a small choice, or make sure to talk about them - first two make them active, and third one works under principle that people like being talked about :P.

          This might be unpopular question, but: what about your narration suck? It's very hard to improve without acknowledging what areas of your GMing need to be improved. This is also why it's incredibly hard to help people improve their GMing over the internet, because it's like coaching a football player through emails without having chance to see him play, ever.

          EDIT
          Have you seen a professional storyteller storytell a story? I'm not talking about RPGs, I'm talking about things like fairy tales or folk stories. They are fantastic role models to dissect when looking for good descriptions, though it's a different medium. Best people to observe in order to improve are...uh. I'm not sure what the term is in English. In Polish, you would call them "gawędziarz". Bards? People who tell stories, but they keep engaging their listener in a conversation instead of doing a monologue.
          Last edited by WHW; 02-09-2017, 12:40 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by WHW View Post
            It's very hard to improve without acknowledging what areas of your GMing need to be improved. This is also why it's incredibly hard to help people improve their GMing over the internet, because it's like coaching a football player through emails without having chance to see him play, ever.
            This is very true, though I would add that it can often be helpful to provide advice targeted towards common mistakes newer GMs make, and dispelling bad GMing advice that is commonly given over the internet. (For instance, giving trite advice like "engage all of the senses" followed by what is ostensibly an example of doing so, consisting of 15 minutes of unbroken narration, and then immediately pointing out that the example is not what they would ordinarily do in an actual game. No offense to The Gentleman Gamer, but that video was objectively a bad way to disseminate the advice he was intending to give.)


            Onyx Path Forum Moderator

            My mod voice is red. I use it so you know when I'm speaking in an official capacity, not as an indication of tone.

            Going by Willow now, or Wil for short. She/Her/Hers.

            Comment


            • #7
              More traditional games lean heavily on describing areas, then monsters, then combat. It's sort of set a standard. I think they've finally gotten away from having pre-made adventures with 'read this aloud' boxes describing every room entered. I think descriptions are important, but you can be brief about it, a couple sentences. Sound helps, of course. In some games you're going to want to place the emphasis on certain things, in vampire the life of people, the hunger, the thirst, the way blood can almost overwhelm the senses. Werewolf you'll flip through the senses, the differences between the Uratha and 'the herd,' who are so weak in comparison it might drive the players away or towards them.

              A lot of the game is going to be interacting with NPCs, and simply portraying them as someone with their own personality, quirks and affectations and wants or needs can go a long way.

              Comment


              • #8
                The thing about involve all the senses is that...it works. For certain players. One of most important things in GMing is identyfing needs of your players and guessing what kind of playstyle they prefer. There are people who will get bored if you talk for more than a minute, and there are people who will be dissapointed if you boild down a creepy slaughter house to "it's a creepy slaughter house + 2 sentences". Not everyone like it rough, and not everyone like it gentle, and some like to vary it up, if you get what I'm saying.
                The worst thing is that asking your players for their preferences rarely will give you reliable data. People are not trained to properly assess their own feelings and needs, and many times, they will sincerely say something they think is true, but it isn't. Especially in current day and age, where you pretty much trip over ONE TRUE WAYS TO ROLEpLAY any time you go into RPG-related internets; these things remain ingrained in your brain and you will often repeat them even when they don't apply to you. I have one player who always babbles about deep plots and intrigues and all the DEEP things, but actually get bored by it, can't wrap his head around it, and doesn't engage with it. He works much better with simple plots, simple ideas and simple descriptions. He will never agree with that, though, because since he was a teenager, all the RPG related media bombarded him with constant reminder that Deep Roleplaying Is Good, Shallow Roleplaying Is Disgusting.

                So know your players. Good GM masters one style, Great GM is good (not necessarily master) at multiple tools and styles in order to make it enjoyable for everyone at the table, because 7 out of 10 times, you will have people with clashing needs in any given party, because most parties are social groups first and RPG groups second.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Charlaquin View Post
                  My unpopular opinion: Don't ever do this to your players. They've come to play a game, not to listen to you monologue, and the longer you make them wait without asking them to make a decision or otherwise interact with the environment, the more you run the risk of losing their attention. You can count on maybe a minute at the most before at least one of your players has taken out their smartphone to check their Facebook. If you're describing a spooky slaughterhouse, you don't need to describe the shape of the windows, the smell of the air, and the sound of the wind in detail, because everyone can imagine a spooky slaughterhouse and often the players' imaginations will do a better job "painting the picture" or "engaging all of the senses" than your words will, without running the risk of them zoning out or getting bored or forgetting a crucial detail. Just give a general description, maybe a sentence or two. Note two or three interesting details, especially things that the player characters can interact with, and describe them with a short sentence each. If the players need to know more they will ask.

                  Personally I would recommend ignoring everything in that video and instead follow the advice in this article.

                  So, see, here is a thing. When my GM pulls out a long description on me, I actually have tons of things to do - I'm processing all the data and adjucating how character feels about everything as the description goes. She is forming an opinion, getting scared, thinking, flinching uncomfortably, planning, and so on. Without proper stimuli from GM, I can't do that, because there is nothing to react. I don't need a speaking part to interact with a GM piece. Boiling down descriptions to few sentences would absolutely kill a slaughter house experience to me, especially the sense of dread and horror.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    There's more to creating mood and setting tone than length of description.

                    And a description doesn't need to be doled out in a great speech whenever a door is opened, a few sentences can be expanded upon whenever the characters do things.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Sure, but there also isn't anything spooky about "this is a spooky cemetary". Length of the description can control tempo, and sometimes you actually want a bit of action retardation; standing in front of a scary building and giving your characters time to doubt their decision to come here is a good example of where longer might be better than shorter. Obviously it's important to make sure that you are efficient with your words and are not wasting time. Which is why a lot of people ask how to make lenghty description good - it's hard but important to make the most out of the time you invested into this specific narration piece. It has to pay for itself, so to speak.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by WHW View Post
                        Sure, but there also isn't anything spooky about "this is a spooky cemetary".
                        Did anyone say it did?

                        Length of the description can control tempo, and sometimes you actually want a bit of action retardation; standing in front of a scary building and giving your characters time to doubt their decision to come here is a good example of where longer might be better than shorter. Obviously it's important to make sure that you are efficient with your words and are not wasting time. Which is why a lot of people ask how to make lenghty description good - it's hard but important to make the most out of the time you invested into this specific narration piece. It has to pay for itself, so to speak.
                        You're just talking about lengths of description again, this has nothing to do with mood and tone. You broached upon it with tempo but then you veered back.

                        It doesn't matter how long or how short you talk, if you're just describing what an area actually looks like you're not setting any mood, or tone other than blunt. It's how you describe it, and what you do to describe it that helps do these things. In a frenetic action sequence, you keep things quick. In a tense showdown you have time for the atmosphere to drift in, to place the emphasis on the everyone involved and how ready they are.

                        And you use other senses because they're important for these moods. Vampires can smell the scent of blood from across the room, can hear the heartbeats of their ghouls where, alone or even with their coterie, there's nothing. Bringing these things to attention sets a more standard 'vampire' ambiance. Even if you're going to throw that out and go another direction, you can shift focus to long trenchcoats, the katanas that ruin the way they hang, and pale men with careless bravado who wear sunglasses in the dark.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by WHW View Post
                          The thing about involve all the senses is that...it works. For certain players.
                          I mean, there's nothing inherently wrong with narration that involves visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory description, particularly if you can do so succinctly enough to hold your audience's attention the whole time. It's just that "engage all of the senses" is very canned, unhelpful advice, and a 15 minute monologue that is then immediately discarded as "not what I would normally do in a game" does nothing to help someone learn how to "engage all of the senses".

                          Originally posted by WHW View Post
                          One of most important things in GMing is identyfing needs of your players and guessing what kind of playstyle they prefer. There are people who will get bored if you talk for more than a minute, and there are people who will be dissapointed if you boild down a creepy slaughter house to "it's a creepy slaughter house + 2 sentences". Not everyone like it rough, and not everyone like it gentle, and some like to vary it up, if you get what I'm saying.
                          The worst thing is that asking your players for their preferences rarely will give you reliable data. People are not trained to properly assess their own feelings and needs, and many times, they will sincerely say something they think is true, but it isn't. Especially in current day and age, where you pretty much trip over ONE TRUE WAYS TO ROLEpLAY any time you go into RPG-related internets; these things remain ingrained in your brain and you will often repeat them even when they don't apply to you. I have one player who always babbles about deep plots and intrigues and all the DEEP things, but actually get bored by it, can't wrap his head around it, and doesn't engage with it. He works much better with simple plots, simple ideas and simple descriptions. He will never agree with that, though, because since he was a teenager, all the RPG related media bombarded him with constant reminder that Deep Roleplaying Is Good, Shallow Roleplaying Is Disgusting.

                          So know your players. Good GM masters one style, Great GM is good (not necessarily master) at multiple tools and styles in order to make it enjoyable for everyone at the table, because 7 out of 10 times, you will have people with clashing needs in any given party, because most parties are social groups first and RPG groups second.
                          Granted, knowing your audience is important. If you know all of your players enjoy lengthy descriptions and would like to spend several minutes at a time lisening to you monologue, that's great. But as you make clear here, you can't really count on the players who claim to want that actually wanting that, and when it comes to player engagement, better to err on the side of brevity, especially since players can always ask for more description if they want it.

                          Originally posted by WHW View Post
                          So, see, here is a thing. When my GM pulls out a long description on me, I actually have tons of things to do - I'm processing all the data and adjucating how character feels about everything as the description goes. She is forming an opinion, getting scared, thinking, flinching uncomfortably, planning, and so on. Without proper stimuli from GM, I can't do that, because there is nothing to react. I don't need a speaking part to interact with a GM piece.
                          That's great, but you're only one of probably 4-6 people at the table, and I as GM can't count on all of them to have your engagement style. If you know your players well, and you happen to know that all of them genuinely enjoy that kind of lengthy narration, great. But it's not good general advice to count on that.

                          Originally posted by WHW View Post
                          Boiling down descriptions to few sentences would absolutely kill a slaughter house experience to me, especially the sense of dread and horror.
                          I'd wager it depends on the sentences.
                          Originally posted by WHW View Post
                          Sure, but there also isn't anything spooky about "this is a spooky cemetary".
                          Did you actually read the whole article I linked? Because he gets to actually providing an example narration, and it's not just "this is a spooky cemetery."

                          Originally posted by WHW View Post
                          Length of the description can control tempo, and sometimes you actually want a bit of action retardation; standing in front of a scary building and giving your characters time to doubt their decision to come here is a good example of where longer might be better than shorter. Obviously it's important to make sure that you are efficient with your words and are not wasting time. Which is why a lot of people ask how to make lenghty description good - it's hard but important to make the most out of the time you invested into this specific narration piece. It has to pay for itself, so to speak.
                          Indeed, an important part of the GM's job is to control narrative flow and tempo, and narration is a tool in doing so. Slow scenes are boring and fast scenes are tiring, and you need a mix of both to keep the engagement curve dynamic and interesting. But slow scenes don't have to mean the GM rambling for minutes at a time while the players listen quietly. Again, unless you know that's what all of your players want, but that's not something you can count on.
                          Last edited by Charlaquin; 02-09-2017, 02:43 AM.


                          Onyx Path Forum Moderator

                          My mod voice is red. I use it so you know when I'm speaking in an official capacity, not as an indication of tone.

                          Going by Willow now, or Wil for short. She/Her/Hers.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by nofather View Post
                            Did anyone say it did?
                            It kind of looks like the Angry GM did in the article I linked, if you don't read the whole thing.


                            Onyx Path Forum Moderator

                            My mod voice is red. I use it so you know when I'm speaking in an official capacity, not as an indication of tone.

                            Going by Willow now, or Wil for short. She/Her/Hers.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Sure, I agree. They are all tools you can use to achieve a specific result. But length is also a tool that can be used to do certain things. So I'm disagreeing with advice like "keep descriptions under 1 minute" or "engage all senses is bad advice". "Engage all senses" and "don't engage all senses" are both equally bad advice, because correct advice is "know when to do it, and know when not to do it". You need to know your objectives and goals, and then find a way to arrive at them making as fewest sacrifices along the way as possible. Sometimes this makes you go on a 4 minute monologue, sometimes it makes you turn into machine gun of snap declarations. There is no perfect solution that works everytime for everyone. Again, you might be honestly giving someone advice that made your group play more fun and awesome, and it might actually hinder recipients fun, because they play differently.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X