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Too much prose in RPGs?

guachi

Adventurer
Tracy Hickman's I3 Pharaoh is a textbook example of concise organization. It's written to be used at the table.

Also great are most of the TSR UK modules. Bad art, but great design.

I've been reading the Southlands and City of Cats Sourcebooks for Midgard. The books at least clearly try to give ideas for play at the table, though the Southlands book is for an entire continent and comes up short before of the. I can see (and sometimes it's explicitly said) that what the are presenting is designed for adventure hooks.

(As an aside, I like boxed text. I also like that the monster is listed at the end others the players too ignore everything else. Though I've gotten in the habit of saying "monster in the room" and then reading the description)
 

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Reynard

Legend
I think boxed text is the least egregious form of adventure prose. Some GMs need the help setting the stage. Those that don't can just paraphrase or whatever. My only real issue with boxed text is that if you loosen up the railroad you might find yourself tripped up by contradictions in the boxed text if you aren't careful.
 

Smackpixi

Explorer
I rather like the “delve format” but understand it’s critics. Theres some line between a wall of text expecting the dm to read through, highlight, notate, and make the scene their own and a railroad the dm box text, xyz monsters attack from the east, npc cares about abc, floor collapses if more than two medium creatures are in area F. Maybe both really is what I want on facing pages. Option a is technically better I suppose for running a good adventure, and let’s the dm explore a scene and develop it, but I feel like sometimes,I just wanna show up, hungover, and flop open a book or pdf and let it tell me what to do today cause I’m in no way prepared.
 

The assumption that I’m going to read and memorize even a 32 page adventure that will take me multiple sessions to play is unfounded. I’m not 20 years old anymore - I can hardly remember what I had for lunch yesterday.

Which is why I’ve come to prefer PDFs rather than print adventures - I can copy and paste the content into a format that’s effective for me at the table.
While I'm starting to face that gaposis, 32pp of typical old school really isn't much to memorize
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
That I like prose should come to no surprise to anyone who has read many of my posts in the forum--I have problems being concise, especially when I don't have time to edit. But I agree that running an adventure from a novel is not very convenient.

I wonder how the rise of VTTs will change this. I love many of the Frog God Games adventures, but man they are TOMES. They love to give pages of chronologies, back stories, essays on the history of the adventure, long side bars on a god or NPC, and on and on. Even moreso with the Goodman Games "Reincarnated" series of 5e updates to classic adventures--which are more coffee-table books than convenient at-the-table game aids. Yet, I love reading this stuff. I have long periods between sessions (I run an 8-hour session once per month) and reading the adventures is part of my enjoyment as a DM. These books, howeverm are hard to use at the table--partly because they take up sooo much of the table's space.

For FGG, however, when prepping adventures I'm mostly working from the PDFs and setting up maps etc in a VTT. If you think that having lots of prose is annoying in printed material it even less helpful in a VTT. At least most adventures prepped for VTTs make it easy to push the prose out of the way.

What I would love to have is that whenever I buy an adventure book, it provides a code for VTT assets and/or a just-what-you need PDF (that you can print and put into a binder if you prefer analog). That would be the best of both worlds.
 

S'mon

Legend
I've been reading the Southlands and City of Cats Sourcebooks for Midgard. The books at least clearly try to give ideas for play at the table, though the Southlands book is for an entire continent and comes up short before of the. I can see (and sometimes it's explicitly said) that what the are presenting is designed for adventure hooks.

I find most of the Kobold Press stuff I have has a good balance of concision and description. It varies a bit by author, but overall their house style has much superior playability compared to Paizo or current WoTC (very early WoTC stuff, like 3e Forge of Fury, was fine - they went bad around 2004 and never really recovered IMO).
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I find most of the Kobold Press stuff I have has a good balance of concision and description. It varies a bit by author, but overall their house style has much superior playability compared to Paizo or current WoTC (very early WoTC stuff, like 3e Forge of Fury, was fine - they went bad around 2004 and never really recovered IMO).
Kobold Press publishes great quality material. Well though out, play tested, and professionally edited. They also do a good job putting out good-quality digital versions of their material for a wide variety of platforms and software. I'm too invested in Frog God Game's The Lost Lands setting, but Kobold Press's Midguard setting is a contender.
 

S'mon

Legend
Kobold Press publishes great quality material. Well though out, play tested, and professionally edited. They also do a good job putting out good-quality digital versions of their material for a wide variety of platforms and software. I'm too invested in Frog God Game's The Lost Lands setting, but Kobold Press's Midguard setting is a contender.

Yes, I have a lot of KP adventures on Roll20 and they are usually done well.
 

Update: In 2015 (or thereabouts) I backed E.G.G. Jr's "Marmoreal Tomb" kickstarter. When he failed to deliver, Troll Lord Games took over the project, and it's finally just about to completion. I've just been perusing the PDF, and it's a prime example of what I was talking about when I started this thread. Pages 4-15 contain the backstory of the module's creation, "how to use this book", a bibliography of inspirational sources, DMing advice, etc. etc. etc. All in walls of text. The actual content itself seems to start on page 16, but it jumps from a history of the dwarves in the region to special rules for character creation to one-paragraph summaries of surrounding areas to factions, rumors, etc.

Finally on page 28 there is a sub-heading "Game Start" which begins with..."Special Rules: Tremors Around the Pass". Followed by two pages of special rules on tremors.

Finally the book starts to describe some of the areas, but the entries are loaded with more background, special rules, etc, all in long-form paragraphs.

Overall my favorite part of looking through this is that the layout and structure and wordiness evoke 1980's gaming so vividly. So there's some nostalgia value.

I doubt I'm going to ever actually use this product.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I believe it was Twain who started a letter "I am writing you a long letter because I didn't have the time to write you a short one" - being concise is challenging. Layout is also not great, it's too hard to find something.

Some of the OSR books published (not all, dear lord) have had some very tight and evocative prose - to the point where it's art. For example: "At some point in your past you decided you didn’t need it anymore"

I don't think I'll ever manage to write a sentence that... evocative and startling.
 

Reynard

Legend
I started prepping the Deadlands campaign Horror on Headstone Hill and immediately thought of this thread. It looks like a great open world campaign but I am definitely going to have to scour the walls of text for informto build my own flowcharts and NPC and faction relationship maps.
 

bennet

Explorer
When you are 19, nursing a hangover, running a 2e game for 8 people, turning the page as they enter room 43, being able to read out a boxed text description of the room is fracking useful. Make my life easier, don't force me to regurgitate a room back in on the fly Mathew Mercer prose. Get out of here.
 

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