D&D, Workshops, Writing

D&D Workshops: Creating Immersive Descriptions…Even if you Don’t Read Fantasy

The first session of our D&D Storytelling Workshop Series was a hit!!

In case you missed it, a bit of background: I have created a three-workshop series for local children, focused on developing the storytelling skills that will help them become Dungeon Masters for their own games at home.

Workshop One focused on setting a foundation for storytelling (we discussed the concepts of plot, action, dialogue, narrative, etc.) and creating immersive descriptions for a variety of settings while using as many of the Five Senses as they could.

*I will note here that I am using the term “setting” to describe a specific location or environment in which an event occurs, not worldbuilding as a whole*

I’ll post the notes and details of the workshop separately…for now, I’d like to focus in on a question from one of the participants: a mother who wanted to learn about D&D with her young son. She had never played D&D before and did not have much experience with fantasy settings (she is more of a murder-mystery kind of gal). During our discussion on creating immersive descriptions, she somewhat self-consciously asked:

“Can I still create a good D&D setting if I don’t really read fantasy books?”

The answer is a resounding YES!!

First and foremost, you can tell any kind of story you like with D&D. Though the name “Dungeons and Dragons” may suggest otherwise, the design of the game works just as well with a variety of genres.

If you do wish to create a fantasy setting, it is perfectly acceptable (and I’d even say it’s encouraged) to pull from your own memories and experiences. Sure, fantasy settings have magic and dragons and other, well…fantastical things…but that doesn’t mean that your imaginary tree should look and feel any different from trees you’d find on your walk through the park!

Even in an imagined world, using realism in your descriptions go a long way in making the environment feel immersive for your players. First of all, it makes your delivery of the description much more natural and fluid (I find it quite difficult to describe something I have never experienced before). Secondly, if you take inspiration from the “real world”, it also gives your players something they can easily relate to.

For example, the primary setting I used in the Introductory One-Shot was the “Luminous Lake”…a place which was very much inspired by a weekend holiday to Loch Lomond, Scotland. I sat on a rocky outcropping on that bonny, bonny bank, and simply wrote was I was seeing and experiencing; and thus, the vast, crystalline blue waters of the Luminous Lake came to be, a breeze sending small, white-crested waves tumbling into the rocks at my feet, gulls laughing gleefully as they continued their spiraling dance overhead…

…after a few moments of reflection, that same mother described a campsite that would make many an adventurer envious: spacious tents, conversations around a crackling fire, smells of ale and food, children laughing as they splashed in a nearby river…She didn’t need Tolkien’s help to transport us into her story and neither do you!

 

A good place to start is by considering your own five senses:

 

eye_face_eyes_eyelashes

What do you see?

…a quiet campsite, last night’s embers still glowing in the fire pit…

…tall, proud, evergreen trees reaching up to the sky…

 

sculpture_auricle_ear_stone

What do you hear?

…the bright chattering of birds greeting the morning sun…

…the broken snore of a man who spent too long at the pub…

 

honey_fluid_fluid_flow

What do you taste?

…The sticky sweetness of a honeycake…

…the deep tang of wine…

 

hand_hold_fingers_touch

What do you feel?

…the rough-hewn edges of a wooden table…

…the cool, smooth edges of a porcelain teacup…

 

dog_nose_black_sky

What do you smell?

…the warm, earthy smell of a farm stable…

…the salty brine of the sea…

Remember: Immersive D&D settings aren’t delivered in pages of prose, they’re created through engaging the senses. Just go out there, experience the world around you, and bring a pencil and paper along 🙂

campfire_stock_outdoor_pot

 

2 thoughts on “D&D Workshops: Creating Immersive Descriptions…Even if you Don’t Read Fantasy”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s