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How to describe a scene in D&D

    Dungeons&Dragons is a game in which the players take on a role and inhabit and explore a world more magical and fantastical than our own. Each location they visit has eons of history that are unbound by the boring rules of our world’s physics. But you don’t reflect that when you only say “you walk through a forest”, “you see a mountain” or “you enter a room”. Level-up your DM’ing by expanding your environment descriptions.

    Engage their senses

    You can truly transport a player when you describe a setting and engage their senses, either positively or negatively. When describing a forest you can talk about the scent of pine, the warm breeze of a summer afternoon, the soft, mossy underground beneath their feet and the chirping of birds. In a dungeon however they smell the overwhelming stink of decaying flesh, they feel old bones that litter the ground break beneath their shoes and all they hear is the scuttling of rodents, the dripping of stale water from the ceiling and a sorrowful moan from deeper down into the dungeon.

    Set the tone

    If you want your players to get into the right mindset for what you have planned. You might want to put them at ease or on edge. When they step into the town you could describe it as quaint and homely and as a place they might want to eventually settle down in. A crumbling castle however can be described as ominous and to quote Star Wars they might “have a bad feeling about this”. Set up their expectations and either follow through or flip it around.

    Don’t over elaborate

    When you give a description and engage either some of their senses or feelings, they have enough to go off of. They can then ask for some elaboration or just continue on their way. But if you ramble on about the majestic mountains or describe a rock with way more detail than is necessary the game grinds to a halt. They either get bored or spend an hour figuring out why I described that rock so explicitly. I find that my players love it when I paint a pretty (or gruesome) word-picture and let them take over to inhabit that world. It is a collaborative storytelling game after all.

    Want a cool creature to throw at the players once the scene is set? Read here how you can get the most out of using Mimics or Goblins.

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