log in or register to remove this ad

 

100 ways to engage the senses

Heathen72

Explorer
The title says it all:

How do you try to engage of the senses of your players to add flavour to your games? Do you draw on the full range of the character's senses (taste smell, hearing, touch, sight) when describing your world, or do you just tell them what they see?* What sort of props do you use to or tricks to aid in that?

To clarify, I am not referring to mood music so much, nor the "old maps made of parchment aged with coffee or tea". Don't get me wrong, I love a good handout, but the smell of those maps just makes me want to get a good espresso. No, I want those never-fail images, sounds, feelings and tastes that make a grab your players and puts them straight in the environment, and keeps them there.
Here are 10 that my group used to get you started:
  1. Cutting lemons to create the smell of a grove of fruit trees
  2. Turning on a gas heater (which made big "woosh!!" sound) to create the sound of a fireball billowing down a corridor towards the players
  3. Making use of an actual creaky door or floorboard to create a sense of foreboding
  4. Using different essential oils and incense to create the aroma of an middle eastern trade market.
  5. Turning off the lights to convey the sense of vulnerability and isolation
  6. Giving the players some stout, or mead, because they said it was what their characters always drunk
  7. Making the players hold some ice for a minute to make them think about how incredibly cold their players were.
  8. Using some mothballs to create the camphor-y smell of an old academic. "He is mostly bald except for some flyaway hair at the side of his liverspot mottled head and his favourite attire was an old elbow patched houndstooth jacket, but no matter what he wore he always smelled like this..."
  9. Breaking an actual twig (or a pencil) to suggest a failed sneak attempt.
  10. Saying "click" when your players aren't paying attention...

* I mean the basic 5, mainly, not so much the other senses such as balance, position of limbs, hunger etc - apparently there are almost 20 distinct senses, and I want to keep the thread simple. That said, if you have starved your players for a day to create the sense of hunger for them, by all means, tell...
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

CorditeJimmy

First Post
I did a modern horror type thing, which ran late at night, with candles by each player for illumination. As they gradually lost their grips on reality and gave into posession by the big gribbly extra-dimensional horror the candles slowly went out. By the very end the last non-posessed character had a single candle left in front of them, their last thread of sanity, serving as a barrier between them and the 5 now evil players who'd fallen to the dark.
 


Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
A soundtrack- music or sound effects or a mix of both- can really get your players engaged with the game.

I used Kodo's theme to [ame="http://www.amazon.com/Hunted-Original-Motion-Picture-Soundtrack/dp/B000005D8L"]The Hunted[/ame] to signal the start of a hunt- one in which the PCs were the prey- and the effect was uncanny.

In just a few seconds after the theme started in earnest, the players started to act as if they were actually being hunted: their voices rose, the speed of their speech increased, and instead of doing what players usually do- taking time to make good in-game decisions- they acted as if under real time pressure and made decisions (good & bad) and went with them...usually in just a few seconds.

A different game group entered a graveyard, expecting to do battle with undead, when my CD player- that evening, set on "shuffle play"- spat out Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave." Now, the song has nothing to do with undead, but it does have a sinister sound, and the title IS part of the song's lyrics. We all paused for about 15 seconds, and several players at the table involuntarily shuddered, creeped out by the coincidence.
 

Hussar

Legend
I play online, so, I can really only appeal to two senses - sight and sound. That being said, I spend a lot of time on the visual aspect of my campaign. A pretty, but less functional map will always score higher for me than a functional but ugly map, for example. NPC pics often come from a variety of sources like conceptart.org which adds a lot I think.

I had a theme song to play before every session of my Savage Tide campaign that really focused the players. One thing I hate about Maptools is that it does not support sound streaming. :( This is about the only place where OpenRPG scores higher for me. Having the ability to stream music and sounds to the other players could really enhance the scene.

Now, if I could just invent a usb gadget that would let me bitchslap players once in a while, I'd be a happy GM. :D
 

fba827

Adventurer
for humid, arctic, arid, etc type settings you could adjust the thermostat appropriately for the day. Though, use this one with caution, most people don't smell good when they sweat too much, or other people might just zone out if they're too busy feeling hot/cold.

But stuff like mood lighting or background music are often mentioned because they are easy and (generally) effective enough.


Also, anything you do use/do, i'd suggest making sure it was quick/easy to implement; if it can't be done casually in a few seconds, the pauses to do something may break the very immersion feeling you are trying to create.

Small anecdote: D&D used to have this line of products that were adventures that came with CDs. The CDs would be mood music and sound effects (i.e. "when the players open the door to the old tomb, play track 33" and it would be a door squeaking noise and footsteps, etc). It was fun but because we had to keep pausing to jump around tracks on the CD, it broke the mood.

In a related idea, maybe grab some sound files of various things like door squeaks and footsteps and play them if you have urban style adventures, or wind noises on repeat if you have arid desert setting, etc.
 
Last edited:

Heathen72

Explorer
I did a modern horror type thing, which ran late at night, with candles by each player for illumination. As they gradually lost their grips on reality and gave into posession by the big gribbly extra-dimensional horror the candles slowly went out. By the very end the last non-posessed character had a single candle left in front of them, their last thread of sanity, serving as a barrier between them and the 5 now evil players who'd fallen to the dark.

This is the coolest thing I have ever read. :)
 




Wepwawet

Explorer
for humid, arctic, arid, etc type settings you could adjust the thermostat appropriately for the day. Though, use this one with caution, most people don't smell good when they sweat too much, or other people might just zone out if they're too busy feeling hot/cold.
Instead, use one of those multi colored lamps to light the room blue for arctic cold ambiance, and orange or yellow for hot desert places.
Colours are very effective at emulating temperature, and there's no sweating or shaking because of too hot or too cold :)
 

Heathen72

Explorer
So, from posts above we have
11. Extinguishing candles to represent loss of sanity and the approach of the end of humanity
12. Frayed lamp cords or wired chairs to evoke the sense of electrocution
13. Nerf guns to the face to create the sense of surprise and pain caused by a trap
14. Using flatulence increasing chilli to set a swampy 'atmosphere'
15. Appropriate music including 'theme song'
16. Conceptart.org
17. Pre-recorded sound effects of weather and dungeon 'events (creaky doors etc)
18. Adjusting thermostat to simulate gameworld temperature
19. Adjusting lighting colours to simulate gameworld temperarues
20. Mood lighting
 


An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top