Daily Illuminator

March 28, 2014: The Devil's In The Details

Details breathe life into your game.

As a long-time roleplaying game editor, I've seen a lot of adventures and setting source material come across my desk. One of the things that I enjoy reading the most when I'm working on these projects are those quirky details that writers come up with while molding their words into something that supports their vision of what makes for a fun product. Specifically, I'm talking about what you might consider set dressing or tiny bits of world-building that a player or game master or both might snag and make into a much bigger thing than ever anticipated.

So, what DO I love to see specifically?

That particular list goes well beyond the scope of this article, so instead I'll present you with a table of examples. Roll a d10 or pick something that suits your fancy – or that works for your chosen setting.

d10 Result

  1. Three cats are swatting at a golden wind-up creature of a sort you've never seen before.
  2. The person you are talking to has a piece of straw in his or her hair. As you converse, it makes its way down one strand of hair, migrates around the back of the person's head, and ends up back up on top of the person's head. (Is it REALLY a piece of straw?)
  3. That coil of rope you want to use is covered in some form of slime. Upon closer inspection, you can see shimmering worms gliding through the ooze.
  4. The five fist-sized chunks of obsidian on a shelf in front of you are talking to each other in your native tongue.
  5. A black velvet pouch contains five iridescent purple eggs. Are they actually eggs or simply stones?
  6. A heavy tome has been opened to a page with an illustration of a creature out of legend. You could swear the creature moves when you look at it out of the corner of your eye.
  7. The plate in front of you contains the usual fare you'd expect in this part of the world – except that the plate is balanced on the back of a turtle.
  8. The metal door that blocks your way has a single word on it: Mine.
  9. Hidden within the folds of the cloak is a soggy handkerchief wrapped around a tiny speckled frog. The decoration on the handkerchief indicates it belongs to someone with the initials "AES."
  10. A crystal pocket watch ticks away the time. At the half-hour mark, a single tone (C#) rings out from it. On the hour, it rings out in a glissando from C# up to G. You see no visible way to prevent the watch from sounding out.

In short, I love whimsy and I adore hints of mystery. See what happens when you add little touches like this to your own roleplaying game session!

(For more articles like this, you can also visit the Kobold Press website, where Miranda writes regular columns that contain a collection of curiosities for your game. One of her more recent columns contains things you might find in a garden.)

-- Miranda Horner


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