Behind the Screen: Regarding Fit and Finish…

2007 November 30
by Dante

Earlier this week, I discussed the concept of the visual polish – the fit and finish – of gaming resources, books, and other miscellanea. Today I’m going to explore a different kind of fit and finish… the kind that makes your gaming sessions appealing.

Flesh out ideas

As you may know, I am an “off the cuff” style DM in many ways. I take pride in letting my storyline and interactions flex to suit the decisions of my characters and I don’t like spending a lot of time planning for elements that could get ignored.

I will, however, spend some time fleshing out major plot points, key player characters, and magic items of interest. By taking some time to complete a brief backstory or character motivation for your intermediate non-player characters you gain the ability to let the storyline diverge if the players decide to engage that NPC more fully.

A good example of how this works out played out when Vanir’s womanizing bard came across a barmaid that I decided to give a little personality to. He had really connected with that barmaid in a meaningful way, and eventually returned to marry her when he decided he wanted to settle down. If I had not taken the time to give the barmaid a little personality, or if I had decided to handwave the encounter, this nice piece of character development might not have happened.

Be Colorful

One of the best tools a DM can have is a strong vocabulary. One excellent tip that I learned from our college DM is keeping a “resource pool” of key descriptive words, names, and phrases that I can draw upon to illustrate a common element in a more interesting way.

He had been known to create his own charts of descriptive words and phrases and use them on occasion when some additional detail was required. I thought this was a very excellent idea, and I tend to enjoy augmenting this by using a Word-A-Day calendar or some other means of sharpening and expanding my vocabulary. A little tip – Shakespeare had a lot of quality insults that sound great within the context of a D&D game.

Be Creative

Nobody likes a rut. If I am doing my pre-game prep and I feel like I’ve done this plot point before, I usually end up severely altering it or trashing it all together. Especially in campaigns where you have used the same characters for awhile it is very important to be diligent about introducing new encounters and new activities.

Roleplaying is appealing because it gets you out of the normalcy of life, and if your characters experience the same repeating trends that you wrestle with in everyday life eventually they (and their players) will get tired of the grind.

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