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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Awe and Wonder:

Are we there yet?

I am very bad at some aspects of Game mastering.
I am horrible at horror. I don't like horror movies and the like to begin with. I think because I have not exposed myself to horror the methods and subject matter I would need to master to instill a sense of dread in players are pretty foreign to me.
That's just one example. There is something I find even harder to instill in players.


How do you describe it when a group of players round a bend and the  great salt tower, gleaming, crystalline,  massive, and,  solitary in the center of a now dry lake bed? This is one of the wonders of your  world, There is quite literally nothing else like it. A spire of carved salt that rises into the clouds. People go on pilgrimages to see it , and stories are told about it around camp fires all over the known world. 

So the players write it down and decide their next move. 

Describing awe is one thing, you can say  "You are all overwhelmed by the solitary beauty of the spire." However getting the  players to actually be  impressed, to actually think, "Wow... this is something special!" Creating that feeling is far more difficult. 

For me, I think using visual aids, is a great way to  move things towards awe. Describe the grand canyon. No description does the actual location justice. Then look at a picture, especially one that has people in it so  a viewer has a sense of the canyon's vast scale. Suddenly a sense of wonder can creep into a viewer's brain. The  same can be said for location in an RPG. If I were to draw the salt tower as this massive, bleak yet beautiful, then I might be able to put the seed of awe in the players minds.

Unfortunately I'm not much of an artist.

Even with visual aids however, players who have been playing for years might look at special locations as just so much backdrop to what they are doing.

Awe needs to felt as much as understood.

My feeling is that awe is one of those things that is missing from many RPG's. Some times designers tend to focus n the  strange and the  odd. Which is great, but not if it's is in the player face constantly. A player can only  experience some thing as awe inspiring or  out of the  ordinary if the  world around what every they are experiencing is present ed as far more ordinary, If every boat flies a flying boat is just another vehicle. If every wizard casts lighting bolt, players will never be impressed by the smell of ozone and the crack of thunder produced by a lighting bolt spell.  There can be no Awe without the ordinary.
My theory is the  only way t inspire awe with our really  amazing  ideas is to make sure we pay close attention to the ordinary day to day details of our game worlds. Take as much care as a GM describing the inn keeps, scullery maids and farmers huts as you do the cloud Castle of Sshazalara. It might not happen right away but eventually all that ground work and  description will pay off.
It will pay off when your players eyes light up as you describe something truly different, something truly awesome.

Thanks for reading.