Monday, July 2, 2012
Battle Reportification Part 12 - Setting
The deal with setting is that it is very easy to get carried away when detailing it, when you have the opportunity to show others everything that you have done and just how awesome it is. The problem is often when you want to show them EVERYTHING and the story becomes less about what is going on and the characters and more of an opportunity to show how awesome the world you've crafted is. That's lovely and all, but there is a place for everything. Present your world in moderation, don't try and flood the readers with an overload of input so that they lose track of what is important. Make sure that you are not spending too much time on the setting alone and check to see if you have been advancing the plot and revealing more about the characters or changing the characters in those pieces that are already known.
With that small piece about moderation done (many people can probably think of one or two GM's who have done an RPG where the players where pretty much there to enjoy the ride because they were on some serious rails) we can get to why you do want to show the world your setting and dedicate some scenes specifically for that purpose. Abra-kadabra-alakazam we have magical inspiration, guidelines, interest, the usual. Its getting hard to come up with new stuff that these developing scenes actually do for you, so I'll make this bit short (like I said in some past post, this blog is supposed to add on to what you guys might want to have help with, not go over the same old that I've already done). Basically the only thing that is remotely new I have to say about setting is that this is when you have that opportunity to show off just how awesome your universe is. You can reveal just how detailed you've made those levitating towers in terms of their cultural and religious significance, the history behind them, their current use and the crowd that hangs around them that type of thing. Again, heed that warning I started the post with (not the picture about magic. Ignore that).
How do you want to develop your Setting then in a scene? Again, and I cannot stress this enough, moderation. Have fun with what everything looks like and giving others a snapshot of your universe, but remember that you don't want to bore them. They can only take so much history and description. Not everyone likes pages of text full of nothing but detail (there are a few instances that are horrible. Read Master and Commander and wait for there to be 3 pages solid [LITERALLY. THREE. FREAKING. PAGES] on just the sails and the ropes that are involved with them). Imagine that it is just a snapshot. You can categorize that snapshot and decide that you are only going to describe things to a specific level of detail, and leaving further description for when you have an actual scene that involves those details. Or you could vividly paint the portrait of a small section of that city that is key to the Battle Report (keeping in mind that the setting does not always have to be the Battle Field but should be directly connected to it in some way).
But HOW should you actually detail the setting in a scene that is devoted to it. You don't want to throw away words just for the sake of description, you don't want some filler conversation interspersed with descriptions of the scenery just as a lame excuse to show it off. No, you want a scene that gives you a chance to show off what you've done for your world. You want something to be happening that requires the perspective to change so that characters look around at or interact with the scenery (note that I will go into the non-material parts of setting in this post, just probably another paragraph or two from here). This should be some sort of sequence that is not fast paced and particularly important to the plot (if its fast paced that would just be distracting having all sorts of detail for no apparent reason). You might want something where an officer is being briefed by a commander, and they go for a stroll on the walls of the city. While strolling they talk about the details of the mission, and everything that influenced the decision to go for the mission. This could include the local political situation or problems within the city with crime on the rise from people being scared and cooped up after a long siege and that is why you have to act now and it is so important that you kill as many of the enemy as possible (nvm, I guess I got to the non scenery bit in this one) and here you get a chance to at least show what the city looks like and smells like. That stench of overflowing sewers wafting into the noses of the commander twisting his face in distaste, forcing him to pause while telling you how important it was that you take as few casualties in return so that you are still functional in the coming surge from their city position. If you have already determined the details for your setting you can use them to create all sorts of minor pieces to include little snippets of. You don't have to say it right off the bat, but alluding to it in some more casual ways will look really good as it will demonstrate that you aren't a hasty author trying to explain everything off the get go with no real depth to your story other than what you talk about. For instance the over-flowing sewers could mean that there is a plague that is giving the city dwellers bowel movement issues, or there could be a revolt in the inner city as mutants rebel against the awful conditions they are forced to endure (and of course they are the ones that maintain the sewers) and so long as you leave enough hints as to what it is you will show people that you have put a significant amount of effort into your setting and that they should be excited to read more of your story as you have so much more to show them.
I'm going to use the end of this post to give a shout out to Graven Games, go on their website in order to have the opportunity to win a contest for some modeling tools to sculpt cables or tentacles or all sorts of different items. If nothing else check them out because they are awesome, but in this case you could get free stuff so you might as well check it out!