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  • #16
    Originally posted by Elythia View Post
    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!

    What do you find impressive about this video? I'm not asking in bad faith, because I think it's more productive to find out what aspect of his performance you want to work on, instead of dissecting the video itself, which I also find problematic. I assume he spent 15 minutes describing the same slaughter house because he wanted to show off as many different tricks as possible...but didn't want to restart the scene each time he moved to different tool. I feel that it would be much better teaching video if it was 25 minutes long, with 3 or 4 descriptions that actually are realistically long (so let's say between 1 and 3 minutes), with rest of the video discussing what each of these tried to achieve.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by WHW View Post
      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.
      No arguments from me there.

      Originally posted by WHW View Post
      So I'm disagreeing with advice like "keep descriptions under 1 minute" or "engage all senses is bad advice"
      Neither of which are things I advised. I said that you can only count on one minute at the most without providing the players an opportunity to engage before you start losing the attention of at least one player, and I think that unless you specifically know that this is not the case for a particular group of people, I think it's a good general guideline. That doesn't mean never take longer than a minute to describe anything. It just means be aware that player attention is a limited resource that gets expended by narration, and if you don't know how long your players' attention lasts, don't count on it lasting more than a minute without giving them an opportunity to do something besides listen. As for "engage all the senses", I don't think it's bad advice. I don't think it's advice at all. It's a nice sound bite people like to give out when asked for advice, but it doesn't mean anything to anyone who doesn't already know how to "engage all the senses".

      Originally posted by WHW View Post
      ""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.
      "engage all the senses", "don't engage all the senses", and "know the needs of your players" are all non-advice token phrases that don't help someone understand what to do. That's why I'm constantly linking people who ask for GMing advice to Angry, as he's one of the very few sources I've found that actually gives specific instructions that someone can use instead of the usual vague coans people offer in response to these kinds of questions.

      So, the advice I'm going to stick by here is to describe the scene in a few short sentences, with particular attention to things that can be interacted with. If the players want more description, they will ask for it. If you can include details of sound, scent, feel, and/or taste as well as sight, do so, but not at the expense of player engagement. This is something you have to judge based on body language, which takes practice, but if you can tell you have everyone's wrapped attention, by all means, continue narrating in greater detail, but err on the side of brevity. Players will ask clarifying questions if they want to know more, but they won't ask you to stop if you're losing them, they'll just zone out.


      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.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by WHW View Post
        What do you find impressive about this video?
        I like the way how he describes things. (The length is actually not the point I wanted to discuss. ^^)
        You get a feeling of isolation, being cut of from the world and the whole place becomes creepy before you even entered it.
        The description is also not over the top, what makes it even better in my opinion.

        ---

        Thank you for posting that article! I am definitely going to read it!

        ------

        Edit:

        (And I'll also have a look at the podcast that was mentioned, even though it might not improve my ability to describe things. ^^).

        I personally like descriptions that don't use words like "creepy, scary, ...". It's like avoiding the answer what exactly is "creepy" or "scary" about a person, a place or a sound. Answering that question instead of using those words is part of a good description in my opinion.
        And that's also a point were the description in the video really shines.

        I was also looking for additional resources myself, and found two books that might partly cover what I am looking for. The first is the Cthulhu Storyteller Book of the third edition, that has a chapter that describes how to portrait different kinds of horror in a game etc. The other one is for the same setting, but only available in German. It's called "Düstere Orte" (Dark Places). It's supposed to cover topics like "What makes a place scary?", some example places and "How to create your own dark place..".
        I don't know, if these books are any good, but I might have a look at them.

        --

        My players usually don't ask for any details unless it's absolutely necessary to understand where they are or how something works. Most of my descriptions are very brief, if I didn't prepare them. (And even if I do prepare a description it's not as good as the one in the video.)
        So most of the time the world feels very... monotone, I think.

        Maybe practicing by looking at pictures an try to describe what I see helps, I don't know..
        Last edited by Elythia; 02-09-2017, 09:46 AM.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by Elythia View Post
          I like the way how he describes things. (The length is actually not the point I wanted to discuss. ^^)
          Sorry for derailing the topic, in that case. I was just bothered by the length of that video.

          Originally posted by Elythia View Post
          You get a feeling of isolation, being cut of from the world and the whole place becomes creepy before you even entered it.
          The description is also not over the top, what makes it even better in my opinion.
          Yeah, I think it started out pretty well. His issue was that he needed players there to work off of, or at least pretend to have players. After the point where he describes the exterior, he should have addressed his hypothetical players and asked what they do. Of course, had he done so, and particularly if he'd had real players, I think the other issue I take with his example would have been clear - he doesn't give the players anything to do in this location. He spends a lot of time and attention detailing how spooky the place is, but doesn't point out anything to do there. If he'd had any players, and if he had prompted them for what they do at that point, I imagine there would have been a few moments of awkward silence as they tried to think of something and then someone would have either asked if there was a door or hesitantly said "uhh... we go in?" Maybe if he had more experienced players, someone would have said they look in a window, at which point he could do his face at the window jump scare.

          Originally posted by Elythia View Post
          Thank you for posting that article! I am definitely going to read it!
          No problem. I hope it's helpful, though it seems like it might be focused on a different issue than you were asking about. If so, sorry for distracting from the point.

          Originally posted by Elythia View Post
          I personally like descriptions that don't use words like "creepy, scary, ...". It's like avoiding the answer what exactly is "creepy" or "scary" about a person, a place or a sound. Answering that question instead of using those words is part of a good description in my opinion.
          And that's also a point were the description in the video really shines. [/quote]
          So, the "spooky cemetery" thing keeps coming up, probably because the article says early on that everyone can imagine a spooky cemetery. But if you continue reading, he's not actually recommending describing your scenes that way, he's just illustrating that you don't need a lot of extraneous detail to get the idea across because the players' imagination will do that work for you. When he gets around to providing an example description of a spooky cemetery, this is what he writes:

          "You step through the iron gates and enter the creepy, overgrown cemetery at dusk. Most of the fallen grave markers are obscured by thick underbrush. Monuments and ancient mausoleums rise up on the hills surrounding the cemetery grounds. Directly ahead, you see an obelisk-like monument with strange runes. Before you can go any further, there is a sudden explosion of dirt and rocks as six animate, rotting corpses burst from the ground.”

          Granted, he does use the word creepy, but that could easily be replaced with "ancient" or "crumbling" or "isolated" or what have you. The point is, he keeps his description succinct and focuses things that there can be investigated or interacted with.


          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.

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          • #20
            I almost finished reading. I think the main thoughts "Where to start, what next, how to end" are all good to structure your description.

            But the description itself is.. well, it doesn't feel realistic enough for me. I think it's better to create the feeling of isolation instead of just telling "you feel isolated". In the video he said, that they hadn't seen another car for some time now, talked about the absence of sound and the city lights far in the distance.." etc. After hearing that I felt isolated! ^^

            But the hard part is to be able to come up with that kind of description on the fly. How do you know how to evoke a certain mood at a scene? And how do you practice and improve that skill?

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            • #21
              Well, if nothing else the podcasts will be a fun listen too.

              As for how to practice and improve your storytelling skills, the answer may surprise you: live & practice.

              The best resource for the CofD comes directly from our own world and experiences. No matter what the situation the world of CofD mirrors our own and therefore anything that happens here can happen in a Chronicle. Other than that practice is the next most important thing. No one improves in a vacuum, so I recommend if nothing else a simple creative experiment. Just before bed (or really any time that's convenient for you) either write down or just imagine one event that happened that day through the lens of the CofD. How does that event change? What makes it strange? What makes it terrifying? What makes if wondrous? And most importantly, how could this be worked into a story.
              Last edited by Dusksage; 02-09-2017, 06:37 PM. Reason: Polish

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              • #22
                When my friend wanted help with learning how to create Conditions on the fly because she wanted to become a CofD GM, I gave her similar advice - during her whole 2 weeks long family trip, she was supposed to write 3 conditions per day inspired by whatever happened during that day. It was a lot of work, and first 3 days were painful for her, but after first week she started understanding how to make it work and by the end of the trip, she was a master condition writer.

                I have some advice too, but I need to prepare for my own game which takes place in less than 10 hours from now, so it takes priority. But I will try to remember to take notes based on my own experience from the game, so it should be fresh.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by WHW View Post
                  When my friend wanted help with learning how to create Conditions on the fly because she wanted to become a CofD GM, I gave her similar advice - during her whole 2 weeks long family trip, she was supposed to write 3 conditions per day inspired by whatever happened during that day. It was a lot of work, and first 3 days were painful for her, but after first week she started understanding how to make it work and by the end of the trip, she was a master condition writer.
                  I'll try that. Writing and just speaking. Let's see what happens.

                  I think I will also look for descriptions in books. Maybe I create a list of expressions for different topics like isolation, scary, God-Machine related etc.
                  Last edited by Elythia; 02-11-2017, 03:43 PM.

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                  • #24
                    Yeah, but here is a thing: I was checking her "homework" every day. She was sending it to me on email, I was reviewing it, pointing out mistakes and sending it back. It's hard to improve without someone to tell you if you are progress forward, taking steps to the side, or even regressing. Honestly, you could post them here and ask people to point out what they think about these conditions.

                    You can probably use it as a double training, because you could work on your descriptions too. Try to create a description for your conditions that's evocative and captures feel of it. Make sure that your Conditions can fit on a index card and are easily readable! This should train your brevity.

                    Your idea about looking up words related to concepts is good. Words have certain associations, and these associations spark certain things in your listeners mind. If you want to ENGAGE ALL SENSES!!!!, try doing it like that:
                    Prepare a large paper sheet for yourself. One you can scribble on and make diagrams and thought maps and stuff. You know how it looks like. Pick some concepts you want to work on - like "scary cementary". Prepare a list of things that could be described on the scary cementary. List out the senses you want to engage. You want to describe your chosen cementary elements through lens of these senses. Sounds easy? Don't do it yet, though!
                    Now, give yourself another thinking space and write words and concepts realted to the mood you want to create. We want creepy, so you want to list out things that are considered creepy and scary. They don't have to be cemetary related. Think about things that creep you out and make you scared. List them. Now, prepare your list of senses. Try to extract sensory input related to these scary things, and write it next to that scary thing. What kind of noise bugs make? How do they smell? What is their texture? This doesn't have to be related to senses; but it's good to work with categories and key-concepts. After you are done with listing these words, go back to the Scary Cementary. Look at things you wanted to describe, and look at list of descriptive words you have created. Now try to use these words to describe your cemetary elements.
                    I often use synesthesia; that is, I mix senses. Smell can be "crawling" or "wet", sound can be "sharp and hard", and so on. It's okay to use synesthesia, especially in creepy scary situations. But be careful to not overdo it, as instead of creating atmoshpere, you might make it weird in funny way.
                    After you are done with senses, try doing it again, this time with emotional keywords, and any other category you can come up with.

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                    • #25
                      I think this Hurt Locker developer blog post has a lot of useful advice for building mood and adding to descriptions, particularly from about half way 'Storytelling Violence'. Note that this is the redlines version, so take it as such. (The final tightened the language, fixed the issues highlighted by David, and incorporated various suggestions from the reader comments.)


                      Aims to write stuff you like.
                      WoD | Changing Breeds, Umbra, Book of the Wyrm, Shattered Dreams
                      CofD | Werewolf the Forsaken 2nd ed, Idigam Anthology, The Pack, Demon Storyteller's Guide, Hurt Locker, Dark Eras Companion, Beast Player's Guide
                      The Trinity Continuum | Æon

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                      • #26
                        I'm not sure how relevant this is but I found it when I got bored of the first video https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sGXWO8fF-4 covers running Vampire games.

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Originally posted by WHW View Post
                          Yeah, but here is a thing: I was checking her "homework" every day. She was sending it to me on email, I was reviewing it, pointing out mistakes and sending it back. It's hard to improve without someone to tell you if you are progress forward, taking steps to the side, or even regressing. Honestly, you could post them here and ask people to point out what they think about these conditions.

                          You can probably use it as a double training, because you could work on your descriptions too. Try to create a description for your conditions that's evocative and captures feel of it. Make sure that your Conditions can fit on a index card and are easily readable! This should train your brevity.
                          I meant the daily training about including things around you. I don't want to write conditions. ^^
                          I think feedback would be nice, but I actually don't want to translate everything into English. Besides the extra time, you express things in different languages differently. Especially if you try to improve your "language portfolio" it becomes even more difficult. Unless here are some native speakers it wouldn't make sense, I fear.
                          So the only feedback I could get is from my group, after the next session.

                          Hm, .. but maybe I should try(!) to translate at least descriptions, that I consider important. For example my players are going to examine the building in the "missing persons" plot of CofD. Besides the portals it the very first time they will see a device from the God-Machine. None of the players knows what it is. Two of three haven't even heard the name by now. And the one that does, has no idea what a God-Machine could be.
                          I like the comparison to Cthulhu on the one hand, so that there is more beyond the surface and so on. But I also want to use the God-Machine as a contrast to the "Inferno"-like stuff that going on in my chronicle.
                          I already explained that part in more detail here:
                          http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/m...ump-and-ghosts
                          So I want the cold, emotionless machine on the one side and the passionate, feeling, but evil being(s) on the other side. (So a fallen Angel is not the only kind of demon and there is definitely a real hell not only a personal one...
                          That part is kind of inspired by the "This is Hell" plot of CofD.)

                          Originally posted by WHW View Post
                          Your idea about looking up words related to concepts is good. Words have certain associations, and these associations spark certain things in your listeners mind. If you want to ENGAGE ALL SENSES!!!!, try doing it like that:
                          Prepare a large paper sheet for yourself. One you can scribble on and make diagrams and thought maps and stuff. You know how it looks like. Pick some concepts you want to work on - like "scary cementary". Prepare a list of things that could be described on the scary cementary. List out the senses you want to engage. You want to describe your chosen cementary elements through lens of these senses. Sounds easy? Don't do it yet, though!
                          Now, give yourself another thinking space and write words and concepts realted to the mood you want to create. We want creepy, so you want to list out things that are considered creepy and scary. They don't have to be cemetary related. Think about things that creep you out and make you scared. List them. Now, prepare your list of senses. Try to extract sensory input related to these scary things, and write it next to that scary thing. What kind of noise bugs make? How do they smell? What is their texture? This doesn't have to be related to senses; but it's good to work with categories and key-concepts. After you are done with listing these words, go back to the Scary Cementary. Look at things you wanted to describe, and look at list of descriptive words you have created. Now try to use these words to describe your cemetary elements.
                          That's more or less what I meant. But you actually already laid out a plan "how". Very nice! Thanks!

                          Originally posted by WHW View Post
                          I often use synesthesia; that is, I mix senses. Smell can be "crawling" or "wet", sound can be "sharp and hard", and so on. It's okay to use synesthesia, especially in creepy scary situations. But be careful to not overdo it, as instead of creating atmoshpere, you might make it weird in funny way.
                          After you are done with senses, try doing it again, this time with emotional keywords, and any other category you can come up with.
                          I consider myself very careful with that. If I can't find a good description "instantly" I prefer to keep things general. I don't want to risk to make it sound "weird/funny" instead of "creepy" for example.

                          Originally posted by Bunyip View Post
                          I think http://theonyxpath.com/hurt-locker-storytelling-and-red-linesdevelopment/"]this Hurt Locker developer blog post[/url] has a lot of useful advice for building mood and adding to descriptions, particularly from about half way 'Storytelling Violence'. Note that this is the redlines version, so take it as such. (The final tightened the language, fixed the issues highlighted by David, and incorporated various suggestions from the reader comments.)
                          I own that book, I will definitely have a look at that section. Thanks!
                          I also noticed that there is a nice part in the V20 book, with example descriptions for Fear, Anger, Loneliness and Despair and other helpful information. Personally I found the explanations there more helpful than what I have read in the "Storytelling section" in the CofD books so far.
                          I have to admit I am very slow at reading. So I usually don't read a book from the beginning to the end, instead I just read the topics I need at the given time or find interesting. ^^

                          Originally posted by Live Bait View Post
                          I'm not sure how relevant this is but I found it when I got bored of the first video https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sGXWO8fF-4 covers running Vampire games.
                          I'll have a look at that tomorrow. It's already late here. But thanks in advance!
                          Last edited by Elythia; 02-11-2017, 07:19 PM.

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Elythia View Post
                            I own that book, I will definitely have a look at that section. Thanks!
                            It was cut from the final book, so the only place you'll find it is via that link


                            Aims to write stuff you like.
                            WoD | Changing Breeds, Umbra, Book of the Wyrm, Shattered Dreams
                            CofD | Werewolf the Forsaken 2nd ed, Idigam Anthology, The Pack, Demon Storyteller's Guide, Hurt Locker, Dark Eras Companion, Beast Player's Guide
                            The Trinity Continuum | Æon

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