Monday, March 15, 2021

Orthodoxies Response II: Narration Exercises

 "Some noise is coming from a building."

1.  Rewrite this, still as a single sentence. You want to convey that the structure is not sound.

The derelict barn creaks and groans in the wind. 

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.

From inside the ruined tower, you see the flickering light of a bonfire, as the cold night wind carries the

sounds of singing and drumming and the scent of roasted game towards you. 

Appropriate music for this (from Horizon Zero Dawn).

3. Rewrite this, still as a single sentence. You want to convey that this location is 

 mildly dangerous.

The roof is bowed under the weight of snow, and an icicle longer than [smallest PC] is tall comes

unmoored as you approach, shattering into a drift under the eaves with a sound like breaking glass.

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. 

As you climb the hill towards the monastery, you hear sounds of drunken mayhem coming from the

Great Hall- drinking songs and what sounds like a brawl in progress.  You recognize the language the

revelers are speaking- it's Orcish.

[This next bit will only come into play if one of the PCs speaks Orcish.  Both voices have thick

Scandinavian accents.]

"There's no sport in raiding these holy men, Ulfbehrt.  They don't fight back- just let themselves get

 taken as thralls."

"Aye, but will you look at this wealth! Gold cups and books with gemstones set in them."


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.

 The GM is trying to draw everyone's attention to the sheer size of this place.  My metagaming instincts

suggest that there's about to be a giant (or a similarly massive enemy) in play.

The tone feels like slapstick comedy might also be imminent.

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.

 The focus here is very much on emotional connections.  I think this GM might be trying to set up the

party for a revenge storyline against whoever destroyed this house.

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.

This is clearly intended as horror, and I think it works well as such.   This GM is trying to set up

 tension- we know that Something Bad is present, but not what it is.  There's also a feeling of decay-

visceral and disgusting.  Wasps' nest in the attic, rats in the walls.


 "A person hits a person.”


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.

You don't quite dodge in time, and everything seems to slow down for a moment as the ogre's club

comes down towards you.  It connects with your shoulder, and your arm lights up with a blinding

pain.  [Other PCs], you hear a sickening *crack* as [PC name] falls to their knees under the force

of the blow.

At a moment like this in combat, I might change the background music to something that really conveys

fear and desperation- the OST from Darkest Dungeon works well. 

9. 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.

[PC name], you wind up and slap him across the face, hard enough to sting your hand.  He looks at you

with an air of rage and incomprehension, his smug composure broken.

"How- how dare you?  After everything I've given you!  Ungrateful bastard!"

The handprint is almost glowing against his pale skin, red stripes on a face white with anger.

10. 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 smell of gunpowder hangs in the air as the day draws to a close.  The cavalry are pursuing the last 

few stragglers- you see a foot soldier swiftly taken down by a saber as he tries to make a last stand.

The carcasses of war-beasts have turned the soil black with ichor, and the crows that followed the army

on its march have descended for their banquet.  They've secured a fine victory, as they always do.

Dark clouds are roiling on the horizon, and the pines are creaking in the wind.  It's the first storm of

autumn, and the capital is still many days' travel away.

Yes, I have been reading War and Peace- why do you ask?

11. 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.

[PC name], you take down another one of the kobolds, knocking them to the ground.  They seem to

have realized that they've lost their advantage- the remaining ones turn tail and flee further into the

mineshaft.  I think that's a good place to stop- good session, everyone.

12. 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.

At this point, the innkeeper's come out of the kitchen, waving a large wooden spoon.  She cracks 

Vohan over the head with it, knocking his hat off, where it rolls under a table.  He stumbles backward

and slips in a puddle of spilled ale, landing flat on his back. 

Reading this bit, I immediately pictured the comical hireling who worked for the party in one of my

previous campaigns- a former bandit with a bad case of acne and a tattered ushanka that he never

took off.



  1. Based off these exercises:

  2. Those exercises look both interesting and useful.