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October 19th, 2020

smiling shadows

names that know

shadows of the shadow

Ways that a DM can describe a D&D scene DM Skills

There are more to scenes than just the 5 senses.

Show Don’t Tell can be a powerful tool in the DM toolkit but should also be used sparingly lest the momentum be slowed.

Life is as much our reaction to it, as it is our interpretation of it.

"When describing the world in this way, the main thing you want to focus on is how the characters react to the world around them. Instead of saying a pungent smell fills the streets try civilians walk around with their cloth covering their noses. Doing this builds character in both the world and the NPC’s, and raises more questions than the simple description could provide on its own."

Another way to describe with character is to give the location character. For example, a dark alleyway can be described in a multitude of ways. Giving it character can provide an excellent description that can really change the way your players view something. Instead of a dark alleyway, it is moody, brooding, sulking, or more. Describing locations with the intention of creating emotions can provide a lot to scenes that would otherwise be as simple as the dark alleyway.

There is a huge difference between saying that the goblin is crazy, and describing its actions to convey that it is crazy.

Other senses a DM can play with

Sense of time

The world seems to slow as you see the blade flashing towards you.


Before it even hits, you know that no matter how fast you are, your arm will be in the blades path.


There's a flash of freezing cold as the frost covered steel touches your skin...


to be instantly replaced with the searing heat of pain shooting up your shoulder.


The strength of the blow surprised you, as you feel yourself knocked back at speed.

Internal Sense

Suddenly, the pressure you were feeling in you lower abdomen releases, and a pungent smell hits your nostrils.

Sexual Arousal

You feel slightly embarrassed as this encounter reminds you of that one special evening with mistress midnight.


The memory steels your resolve. You will survive this, and make it back to that inn.

Feel on skin

Sense of shadows & lighting

Perception of status

Silver buckles and buttons to a fantasy character = wealth. Body posture.

"Emotion is Better than Description. Engagement isn’t about narration, it’s about emotion. It’s about making the players feel like they are IN the action. Being descriptive isn’t the only way you can do that."

"Use strong narration sparingly to establish the mood at the start of the fight and to punctuate decisive events. Use medium narration occasionally throughout the combat to keep the mood up. And use short, emotional, and fragmented narration most of the time to maintain the pace without losing the feeling. And, of course, switch consciously between narration and resolution like a dolphin."

Use the narration to convey useful information.

Let a player earn their win by telegraphing some of the bigger enemy decisions

The dragon starts inhaling... – what do the players think the dragon is going to do on its next turn and how should they react?

What does the wind-up for a powerful attack look like?

In video games enemies have predictable patterns and 'wind-up' animations

Let the player win because they made the right choices not because they were able to wail on the monster for long enough.

Allow intelligent enemies to talk to each other, like an attack squad. They don't all share the same brain, they need to communicate somehow.