Friday, July 10, 2015

Writing for Other People

I've been going through some of my materials for my game. I've mentioned before how my notes are for me, and just have enough information to remind me of what I was thinking when I wrote it.

In a lot of ways, the really old monster descriptions are like this. Information can be a bit haphazard, because what's there is just the stuff the creator needed notes for.

For example, my monster descriptions in my own notes are short. They don't describe the monster especially well, because generally I have a mental image or a miniature in mind already - so they don't need it. They lack mentions of treasure, mostly, because my placement method doesn't care about that and I do everything case-by-case. They don't always mention numbers, because that'll be set in play.

They go into great detail on combat stats and the effects of special powers on foes. They mention if they'll negotiate or not and the effects of specific magical colleges (especially if Immune to Mind Control or affected by Turn Zombie or Pentagram). Colors get brought up a lot because I have a terrible mind for what colors to mention.

But I've also written monsters for other, and even posted one or two.

The big difference is when I'm writing for others, I need to give them everything. I can't assume the stuff I am perfectly comfortable winging is what they are perfectly comfortable winging. You have to spell it all out because that allows the reader to decide what's worth using straight-up and what they'll change.

Don't get me wrong - short and incomplete descriptions can really inspire people. Generally if you have enough information about how things are meant to work in play (combat stats, mostly, and effects of special powers) the person who reads it will have what they need to play. They'll have the monster fight and affect others the way the writer intended, which is good because it's better to vary from that with intent than by mistake. Better they are deciding for themselves if trolls should be a different color than deciding what you meant by "Special Attack: Petrification Ray (20')" because you didn't explain it out.

Reminders are great for yourself, but when writing for others it's better to spell it out. IMO.


  1. I'd agree with your conclusion. Actually, I take it too far: I spell things out even for myself, as I suspect I'm liable to forget things when the time comes. That said, that practice grew out of prepping adventures for others...

    1. That's not a bad habit, though - better you wrote too much for yourself and not need it than to not write enough and have to flip through books to find it and disrupt play.

    2. You'd think so, but I've found myself flipping through notes looking for things, equally disrupting play!

      Since starting GMing a regular campaign again (which needs to get back up and running soon), I've taken the philosophy that everything I need for the session should fit on a single printed page of paper - sans maps, of course. So far, this has served me well; may actually get these posted up sometime soon just to share.

  2. I prefer more information because it is easier for me to delete some things I don't like than to add something to a monster or encounter myself. Even the things I don't like can inspire ideas.

    1. Indeed; this is actually part of the reason I get long winded with my own posts.


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