Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Game Mastering Observations

The power of All FIVE senses

Making a memorable adventure involves truly engaging your players senses. Too often DMs will only give the barest description...usually involving sight. There are five senses. Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste, & Touch.

Sight & Sound are the most common...but Smell is probably the most powerful, merely mentioning certain smells will trigger responses from your players. The smell of a corpse, rotting eggs, or mildew will immediately cause a visceral reaction in almost everyone. The smell of baking bread, jasmine, or other wondrous scents will often illicit responses as well. Scents are especially important in cities to bring it to life. From unwashed beggars, to open sewer grates. Combine the good and the bad, "You smell the delicious aroma of Madame Bulgga's Sourdough bread over the stink of the Melchii the Beggar, who smiles at you with his two good teeth, reaching his grimy hand toward you."

Taste & Touch are the ones most often overlooked. Touch doesn't have to be the characters touching something with their own hands. While trudging through a swamp, feeling something slither past your leg, ala Star Wars in the Trash compactor, will definitely cause a reaction. The same goes for the sensation of numbness or stinging from various poisons or magical effects. Perhaps the creation of a fireball that the Wizard has just identified the enemy casting sucks in the air around it, causing the player to feel that air movement. A stinging in the eyes from acids in the air, or even just dry heat. These are all additional senses that typically go unnoticed in a game.

Air movement, and cold are the Hallmarks of Horror. Trudging up Mount Doom, you could imagine the heat that the volcano produced, but also imagine the sulfurous stench of the volcanic gases, the scent of unwashed orcs and goblins.  

Combining the senses in odd combinations can cause interesting results as well. Imagine telling a player that they touch the door handle and immediately taste wild flowers.One of the things that is lost in current editions of OGL games is material components, bat dung for a fireball for instance.

Using these techniques will make your game much more memorable.