December 29, 2019

Delivering Exposition

Today’s #GMAdvice centers around best practices with detail when delivering expository description.

Even outside the tabletop RPG setting, when people are telling a story about something that happened to them, we all know when someone does it well and another does it poorly.

The former cuts out the extraneous detail, instead focusing on only the story’s core elements. The latter has unnecessary twists and turns and takes forever to get to the point.

The former keeps your attention throughout the story’s twists and turns. At its climax, you laugh or are shocked, or disgusted or whatever it is they intended you to feel. The latter had lost your attention a long time ago.

So what are some of the things the good storyteller does that the poor one does not, especially in regards to delivering description in a tabletop RPG setting?

  1. They are concise.
  2. They effectively transition between each beat in the description/story. Part of that is intonation. And the other is how they express their intent and emotion during each transition.
  3. Their intent of what details are used to begin with is incisive and obvious to a reasonable player.

To practice, try and write down how you would describe a sample setting to a group of players. Edit it in writing given the above criteria and measure the difference. Next, do the same except say it out loud and record what you say.

When working directly with players as the GM, ask if you can record some of your sessions and play back the tape as it were and analyze yourself. It’s how you get better!