Let's do an experiment using bad boxed text.

Oryan77

Adventurer
The thread asking about the old post about the 2e adventure "The Forest Oracle" gave me an idea. Every so often I go and look up that thread just for kicks because that adventure is written so poorly.

Are there any DMs out there that would be interested in a little experiment?

I would love to read some stories about a DM that writes his own boxed text similarly as bad as the boxed text from the Forest Oracle:

http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/148566-example-worst-tsr-adventure-module-s-ever-published.html
A group of seven men approaches. They are following the road east, and are making good time, neither tarrying nor running. Their faces are expressionless. One is dressed as a cleric of some sort, and another is dressed as a traveling drummer. The others could be peasants or serfs going from one location to another for the harvest season. Each carries some sort of weapon. It is plain that they are not soldiers by their haphazard way of walking. They do not seem to be joking loudly or singing as they advance.
The more confusing & funny the boxed text is, the better. Then for 1 entire session, actually read your boxed text to your players as they continue on with the game (in the campaign you are currently running, don't make a one-off game just to do this). Don't tell them anything about it ahead of time, and don't laugh or acknowledge how bad it is while you read it (or even after you read it). Just run the game like you normally would and act like everything is normal. But keep mental notes of your players reaction to all of your boxed text. You can fess up after the session just so your players don't think you're a crackpot. But then post the reactions you got here so everyone can see. :D

I'm just wondering if players would actually notice the bad boxed text. And if they did, I'd love to hear what they say about it. Will they be confused and ask questions? Will they point out how unnecessary any of the description is? Or will they play along with it as if it is normal? And to help out, maybe we can help you create this terrible boxed text?

If anyone is interested, then you can give a brief explanation of the scenes you want to read boxed text for and we can help you write it. Doing this for more than just one scene would be better too. Just make the entire session kind of screwy with your descriptions, but play it off like you don't notice anything is screwy. If a player asks you, "Dude, what's up with this description?" just say things like, "What do you mean? Oh, yeah, I guess that doesn't make sense." and quickly move on to deflect the attention. :lol:

What do you think? Fun idea? Or an annoyingly waste of time?
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Speaking from experience with home-brews on both sides of the screen, I can say without equivocation that our group would notice...and pounce on it like starving wolves.

This IS the group that I've posted about before...where a DM on-the-fly gaffes in changing the chieftain of the tribe's welcoming speech resulted in aching ribs.
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
I love the idea but could never carry it off.

Anyone want to have a "worst homemade boxed text" contest?
 

Oryan77

Adventurer
I love the idea but could never carry it off.
My problem is that I think I would not be able to do it with a straight face. I would struggle not to laugh out how lame I was being.

My players are those people that will react to any little twitch on my face. If they think my NPC is up to something, they'll look at me intently to see if they can read my face and metagame something from my dopey expression.

It doesn't help the situation when I notice them doing this and I start to grin. Then they say, "See, I know he's up to something. We can't trust this guy." Then I am forced to speak out of game, "Guys, it's a one-legged orphan dying from disease & starvation." Then they respond with, "Yeah, but you have this look on your face and I don't trust him. I check my money pouch."

Anyone want to have a "worst homemade boxed text" contest?
Might be fun. It's sort of the angle I was going for with this thread. But the thread doesn't seem to be getting much response. I'm sure a funny contest would get more attention. We'd need to set some standards and come up with a generic scenario for everyone to base their boxed text off of. :D
 

Camelot

Villager

You find yourself in a room. The room is not too large but not too small. There are no doors or windows. The walls, floor, and ceiling are all made out of bedrock. You realize you have been stripped of all your possessions. No matter how much you search, you cannot find anything else in this room. How do you get out?
 
"In this room, which is unextraordinary in all respects, save those that deserve mention of some sort, is a being that neither crouches nor stands, and does so without any obvious expression of hostility or delight. This being is neither a true beast, nor a man, nor a goblin, though it has skin of a hue intermediate between a drab blue and a drabber yellow, and a face which scowls somewhat nonchalantly in the manner of a barnyard animal, or perhaps a rain barrel. It holds in what may or may not be accurately described as its hand a pastry, arguably a tart or a cake, but clearly neither. What do you do?"
 
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PirateCat said:
Anyone want to have a "worst homemade boxed text" contest?
I'd love to have Ceramic DM back but I think this would be fun.

worst homemade boxed text said:
You run into the big cavern past several boulders and feel enraged at a donkey being drowned by an assassin. As you look up into the darkness you see a black lich mouthing the horrible words of a spell.
I think that about transgresses every rule I can think of.

Best Regards
Herremann the Wise
 

jonesy

A Wicked Kendragon
As you carefully sneak into the white round empty well lit room a rather large imposing centaur jumps out and surprises you by knocking you out with his mallet. Somehow this reminds you of home.
The party is unconscious. Roll for initiative.
 

dvvega

Explorer
I have two generic examples of bad text that I have encountered over and over in published modules and thus a lot of home brews where the DM has mimicked published writers thinking they could guide him to be a better DM.

1)
I'm not sure the first time I encountered boxed text of this style, however it has appeared in more than one home-brew and in many published modules as well. It goes something like the following generic pattern ...

The caverns is described in great detail. Maybe a couple of paragraphs of detail. You can feel the dampness, see the mist, etc. Then at the end of the whole reading, which takes around 1 to 2 minutes at least, there is the added line ... and in the centre is a large Red Dragon.

I do not know about you however if I ever walked into a cavern that had a Dragon in the middle of the damned place, I would NOT care about the rest until I had dealt with the Dragon.

2)
Is it a grammar thing because every time the party enters a village they are greeted by the village people. That single line in a lot of boxed text starts my players dancing to YMCA or some such.

D
 

Oryan77

Adventurer
I do not know about you however if I ever walked into a cavern that had a Dragon in the middle of the damned place, I would NOT care about the rest until I had dealt with the Dragon.
This doesn't seem to bother me for a few reasons:

1. If the DM mentioned the Red Dragon at the beginning of the text, nobody is going to pay any attention to the rest of the text. In fact, players may even interrupt the boxed text just so they can "act first". From a DMs perspective, it is unnecessary and annoying when a player does that. If a DM is giving you time to view your surroundings (with boxed text) before anyone has made any actions, why would you sacrifice that free time?

2. As a player, I'd like to hear the description of the area, especially if there is a Red Dragon there. How can I come up with a good reaction if I don't know what my possibilities are? There may be something in the environment that I could use as an advantage if I need to deal with this dragon.

3. I understand he is just trying to spice things up by describing his environment. It may be a little long-winded, but the amount of time I spend listening to box text throughout the session can't be all that much. I'm not so high maintenance that I'm going to be critical of a DM that is just trying to help me out as a player with (what he thinks) to be some nice detailed descriptions of his game world.

The way I see it, the more info I get as a player, the better I will be able to react in game as a PC.
 

Insight

Villager
Bad Boxed Text Submission 1
As you enter the small library annex, the first thing that strikes you is the sheer number of ancient tomes and scrolls found on the many shelves and racks throughout the 17ft by 15ft chamber. Rows of dark wooden bookshelves dominate the room, blocking your line of sight until you proceed further into the annex. You hear something dripping, a sound coming from somewhere in the chamber.

Torch light illuminates the shelves immediately before you. You see no books, but scrolls, hundreds of them, many written in an unknown and unnamable alphabet. The scrolls seem to call to you, begging to be unfurled and studied.

As you enter and explore the library annex, it is clear to you that someone has meticulously ordered and possibly catalogued these tomes. They are dusty, yes, but neat and systematically aligned. Few of these books are sticking out of their row or in lopsided order. As you examine the titles, something seems familiar about them. As if you've been here before...

Standing at the entrance, the large room seems foreboding. The sounds of your footfalls and armor scraping on stone resounds throughout the 34ft by 40ft chamber. At the center of the room is a beholder, its eyes raging with purified evil!
 

Ulrick

Villager
Here's my bad boxed text submission...

Since this hallway ends in a dead end, you all must open the door on the west wall. Upon opening the door, a trap sets off. An arrow shoots through the air...

Roll 1d20+8 vs. the character's AC. If it hits read the following boxed text. If not, read the boxed text after the following boxed text.

The arrow hits you! You feel the poison in your veins and crumple to the floor. You take 1d8 + poison damage.

The arrow misses you and strikes the wooden door with a thud. Inside is a 10x10 room. This place doesn't appear to be a bakery, a kitchen, and the orc standing within this chamber has no cooking implements like forks or knives. The walls are gray stone, hewn roughly. There is no exit to this room. An aroma assaults your nostrils that smells like warm apple pie, beckoning for you to come in and take the pie from the orc. Your fellow adventurers are getting hungry.


;)
 

Edgewood

Villager
You see, the problem I have is my players NEVER NEVER NEVER let me get through reading out boxed text. It always goes something like this...

Me: You all enter the chamber after unlocking the door. A bright light shines from what appears to be an altar where the silhouettes of many figures can be seen gathered about. The...

Player 1: I cast Invisibility and sneak up on them!

Me: Okay, hold on, I'm not done...

Player 2: I ready an arrow and delay my action. If anyone casts a spell, I'll fire!!

Me: Guys, just let me read this first and we'll decide...

Player 3: What are they wearing?

Player 1: They're in shadow. Can I see if there's any cover?

Me: Is there cov...(sigh). Seriously guys let me finish reading this and then you can tell me what you're gonna do.

I have given up on boxed text with my group and only answer their questions when they enter a room or area.
 

MarkB

Hero
You see, the problem I have is my players NEVER NEVER NEVER let me get through reading out boxed text. It always goes something like this...

<snip>
Sounds familiar. It's usually either that, or

Me: This large, well-lit cavern is occupied by a dozen vaguely-humanoid...

Player 1: My attack bonus is up to +9 now.

Me: ...claws and tattered wings, gathered around a glowing magic circle bearing what you recognise as the symbol of...

Player 2: +9? How'd you get that? I'm only on +6.

Me: ...in low voices, clearly preparing to perform a ritual of some...

Player 3: It's that new feat he took, that and the +2 greatsword from the thingummy's lair. Hey, did you see The Big Bang Theory yesterday?

Me: ...iron-barred cages along the eastern - sorry, am I interrupting?
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
As mentioned unthread, a paraphrase:

DM (as NPC Chieftan): "Greetings, adventurers! We are The People, this is our realm, and we welcome you to our village. We are a tribe of hunter-gatherers...well...not so much hunter-gatherers, more semi-nomadic hunters than anything else...but with women who farm and..."

Me (as DM as Chieftan): "Dammit! WHO WROTE THIS SPEECH? I'm trying to impress the foreigners and I get THIS?" *backhanding sheaf of paper*, "Get my writer and bring him here- my axe is ready!"

(With one player laughing so hard he was gasping for air, we had to take a break for a few minutes...)


Notice how it illustrates both bad boxed text AND a player willing to interrupt (albeit in the name of humor).
 
Speaking from experience with home-brews on both sides of the screen, I can say without equivocation that our group would notice...and pounce on it like starving wolves.

This IS the group that I've posted about before...where a DM on-the-fly gaffes in changing the chieftain of the tribe's welcoming speech resulted in aching ribs.
My groups, too. I recall showing them the map of the town they were in. By the docks there were a bunch of warehouses. One of the players was looking at the map upside down (and my handwriting isn't the greatest) and he thought they were all whorehouses. Needless to say, not much productive occurred for the rest of the session.

So, I can only imagine... "Not singing or laughing? Are you sure there isn't any humming or tittering? Perhaps a chortle to go along with some spoken verse?"
 

TarionzCousin

Second Most Angelic Devil Ever
You pull open the squeaky door--without oiling the hinges--and step into the room. Three greenskinned monsters of average disposition stare at you. None of them are wearing hats but they are standing less-than-casually.

That's when you notice that you are standing in the jaws of a razor-sharp bear trap. It snaps closed on your shin.
Now roll for damage.
 
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jonesy

A Wicked Kendragon
Let's combine Danny's text with Danny's reaction:
"Greetings, adventurers! We are The People, this is our realm, and we welcome you to our village. We are a tribe of hunter-gatherers...well...not so much hunter-gatherers, more semi-nomadic hunters than anything else...but with women who farm and...Dammit! WHO WROTE THIS SPEECH? I'm trying to impress the foreigners and I get THIS?" chieftain backhands the sheaf of paper, "Get my writer and bring him here- my axe is ready!"
Now it's awesome. ;)
 

MarkB

Hero
Entry #1
It is a dark and stormy night. A shot rings out. Illuminated by a flash of lightning you see a wizard standing five feet from a fresh corpse.
Well, it may not be very descriptive, but it makes me really want to play this adventure. I'll rebuild my Changeling detective, and the other players can be his bumbling assistants. :p
 

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