Saturday, March 13, 2021

Jojiro's GM Exercises II

 As before, this is just a post of me answering the next set of Jojiro's questions.

Question Set 1 - "Using Your Words"

Some noise is coming from a building.

-A tired Game Master somewhere, probably

1) Rewrite this, still as a single sentence. You want to convey that the structure is not sound.
"The house groans in the wind like a dying man rising from his bed."

2) Rewrite this, still as a single sentence. You want players to picture a safe haven, a feeling of comfort that we get with freshly baked cookies at grandma’s house. But do it implicitly – “Grandma’s baking noise is coming from the safe haven” is not the point of the exercise, here.

"You flip through the station's shortband comm channels on the long drift towards the docking ring - geninfo, corpo, corpo, corpo - and settle on the bossa nova lounge music setting and listen to the hosts bicker to each other in what you think is Martian Diasporic (you can barely understand normal Martian Standard), but it's been 48 years, 7 months, 12 days out cold in the empty since you last heard a real human voice and that's all you need right now."

3) Rewrite this, still as a single sentence. You want to convey that this location is mildly dangerous.
"A dry, cold breeze pours out of the barrow mound's stone entryway, as if some enormous lung was sighing in deep, ancient frustration."

4) Rewrite this, no sentence limit. You want to convey that this location is lethally dangerous – try to suggest a different type of danger than what you used for exercise #3. 
"From somewhere just past the doorway you can hear the steady click of bullets loaded into a revolver and a woman singing quietly to herself - " I know that you mean so well, but I am not a vessel for your good intent..."

Question Set 2 - "Focus/Texture"

"Describe where you think the GM is trying to draw their players’ focus to. Describe what you find the texture/tone to be."

5) "The dungeon entrance is kinda big even to the humans in the party, but it positively looms over the halflings, like a bloated elephant. There’s even trumpeting and general cacophany to match! It’s a right circus in there." 
I have no idea what this GM is attempting to do here. None of these descriptions or word choices make sense without any greater context, so I will presume that they are ineptly describing a dungeon inhabited by several hobgoblin ska bands. Which, if this is the case, this entire thing could be expressed in "You hear the distant echoes of a great deal of trumpets, and someone screaming 'PICK IT UP!' in Gobbledegoblin."

6) "As you round the bend, Martha, you hear the crackling of flame and popping of glass. The upstairs window that you spent much of your childhood daydreaming from bulges outward and shatters with a resounding crash, and the stoop where your mother always stood in the evening to greet your father groans as it folds in on itself." 
GM is trying to focus on the personal connection of the location/event to the player. I think it's a bit redundant, since the player's connection would have been already established before going in. Focus on the explosion.

7) "The floorboards creak and groan despite the party’s best efforts to stay stealthy. The incessant scuttling sound continues too. First in the wall. Then in the ceiling. Then down another wall, and finally to the floor beneath your feet. Cackling follows the scuttling, half a beat delayed."
GM is trying to signpost the present and pressing danger through claustrophobia and the auditory presence of unseen enemies. By this point the attack is imminent, I'd say the group gets one more round of actions before combat starts.

Question Set 2A - "Focus/Texture Cont."

"A person hits a person.”

-That same tired Game Master, probably

8) Rewrite this, no sentence limit. The focus should be on a specific body part, the texture is meant to be visceral. You’re drawing out a moment and making the hit meaty and with impact.

"Ayo, you duck to the right and feel his sword swing wide just past your left shoulder. Your fist collides with his gut with a thoom, and then a crack of his breaking spine. He flies back, collides with the wall, you hop forward and catch his head as it bounces, catch solid footing, and with a heave-ho pulp him like a pumpkin and leave a halo of cracks in the stonework.

"This man is very, very dead. Little white maggoty things, stringlike soft and squirming, cascade down to the floor and squirm away out of sight. Several of them, like long silver hairs, start to burrow into your hand."

6) Rewrite this, no sentence limit. The focus is on the person who hits, not the person who is being hit. The texture is something personal to the person who hits – you’re framing this as an important moment for them as a character.

"It feels entirely too easy to do it. The man who had been for years this unreachable force of cruelty and hate drops like a sack of potatoes. You've seen chickens die with more dignity. Fitting, you suppose. He was in the end, nothing more than a cruel old man with a golden hole where his heart should be.

7) Rewrite this, no sentence limit. The focus is on the scenery, and the texture is one of bleakness. Whatever combat is happening is ultimately pointless, and you’re trying to make sure the party knows it. Zoom out, make the fight less personalized, less meaningful. Distance your description.

"The valley has been reduced to a sodden field of churned grey mud, and the downpour shows no signs of stopping. Both warbands retreated to higher ground hours ago, leaving only corpses. In the dying light and sheets of rain you can just make out a few distant lanterns from the heartbreakers at work. Wouldn't want any undead rising during the night. You have a sinking feeling that there are too many dead, and neither enough visibility nor breakers to get them all.

"The breaker closest to your position, the only one you can properly see, sets down their lantern, struggles a moment in rolling the corpse over, and with one heavy overhead swing of their pick punches through gambeson, rib cage, and heart"

8) Rewrite this, no sentence limit. The focus is on conveying facts. There should be as little texture as possible. It’s the end of the session, everyone is tired, and while making this accurate is important, making it anything more would be a waste of time. You can see one of your players is already half-asleep. You may want to rush this and call it a night.

"You crack the skeleton in the head with your warhammer and the skull shatters in a cough of yellow-white dust. Bones clatter to the floor and there's a little burst of blue flame. That's the last of them, and we'll call it here for tonight."

9) Rewrite this, no sentence limit. You are trying to focus on a pathetic target of the hit, but not like, an assault victim or anything serious. Tonally you’re aiming for a slapstick character who is the butt of jokes, bad timing, and who keeps getting beat on.

"The troll, who still looks barely awake, reaches over and grabs the goblin in one hand and slam-dunks them into the ground. They bounce straight up in the air until there's just a little speck and then the sun glare is to much to see them at all. The troll tears a tree out of the ground, yawns, waits a beat, then two, then you hear the screaming getting louder and clearer and closer and the troll wordlessly points towards the bald, rocky hill in the distance. It draws back the tree, the goblin's screaming reaches a fever pitch and !WHAM! the goblin careens screaming off into the distance again. Up on the hilltop, you see a little puff of dust followed a few seconds later by a roll of thunder, and a moment later there is a very faint "F U C K!"


  1. Attentive readers will be able to name the exact comic panel that served as the basis of #8

  2. Thank you, good sir, for introducing me to The Crane Wives