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  #1  
Old Mar 8th, 2021, 08:58 AM
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On the Block - Master of Monsters

Welcome to the Writer's Block! This thread will be your personal classroom, and in it, you will proceed through a series of lessons and exercises intended to bring out the best writer in you.

For your first task, I'll need you to go through your existing games and find me three posts emblematic of your work. They needn't be your best or your worst -- we're just looking for some average representations of your writing style. Try to vary the context a bit if you can (combat, diplomacy, etc).
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Old Mar 8th, 2021, 10:40 AM
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https://www.rpgcrossing.com/showthre...11#post9079611

https://www.rpgcrossing.com/showthre...12#post8331712

https://www.rpgcrossing.com/showthre...30#post8270630

Here is three.

1: My most recent post, laying out some plot hooks for players.

2: This is from one of the last games I've played in, a few years ago. Not super long, but an attempt at building on the social interaction between party memebers.

3: Longer post, replying to several players at different areas and under different situations.
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Old Mar 9th, 2021, 12:22 AM
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Excellent! Here's how this works:

The Writer's Block is broken down into 10 lessons, each of which targets a specific area of PBP writing. Our goal is to guide you toward finding your own unique style and leveraging it in the context of forum gaming by showing you techniques that make game posts more interesting and informative for your DM and the other players.

On my side, I come from a technical background (computer engineering), but I've always been fascinated by writing and storytelling. D&D was a natural extension of the two since it's such a beautiful blend of creativity and number crunching. My strengths revolve primarily around bringing my characters to life and maintaining excellent grammar, and I was honoured with Post of the Year in 2014 as well as a victory in Outplay 2018. My primary weakness is brevity, but we'll get to that later...





_______________________________________

Lesson 1
_______________________________________

PREFACEAs a player (or GM), your goal is to write a good, solid post each time you interact. One way to think of a good, solid post (GSP) is to think in fours:

A GSP contains a DESCRIPTIVE element, a HOOK (or ENGAGE) element, an ACTION element, and a MOTIVE element. Getting one, two, or all three into a post will help your fellow gamers out, and improve the quality of your post. Not all posts will have every element, and they don't need to be in any order, but the more you can work into a series of posts, the better.

I like trying to include these four elements because they give a GM (and other players) reminders of who you are, and give them little hooks to latch onto in their responses, i.e. it helps to ENGAGE your fellow gamers. It also tends to help the GM when the time comes to write THEIR posts, and honestly, anything you can do to help a GM makes you a better and more memorable player. It also helps the GM, because he is usually summarizing your posts in his own during combat, so knowing that you use daggers (for instance) is nice. So, your post shouldn't be that you simply "swing your weapon;" instead, use your MACE. Better yet, CRUSH them with your MORNINGSTAR. It lets your GM add spice and flavour to the post too, without having to open six threads and look to see what weapon you favour. It can't always be done, and sometimes you just have to do your thing with your post. But it helps, and if you practice, you will improve. The more info YOU provide your GM, the better for him/her to remember you, and the more tools they have to describe your character in their own posts. The same goes for your fellow players.

for exampleYOU know that you have a half-elf archer, named Desethet, but for a long while, your fellow gamers and GM don't really know that. People forget things in between posts, and you should remember, most people who play here in one game are probably playing in another 3, 4, or 6 games at the same time. It may be a day, two days, or even a week since they've looked over and thought about the game, so do what you can to keep your PC fresh in their minds. Most players become focused on themselves, and people won't click open six pages of threads in order to find your character's background. So, help them out. Use it every post, when you can. Give them your name, your race, age/gender, class, etc. right there in the game thread they are reading.


A good rule of thumb is to try to not use the same term to describe your character twice in a row. The first time you mention them, use their name. Then, instead of their name the second time, use their class. Then, switch up, and use their gender, age, race, ethnicity, etc. before you repeat.

exampleKari wasn't sure if she liked the idea. The half-elf had never trusted wizards, especially those who seemed to offer free gifts. "No strings attached?" the druid asked, doubting it even as the words tripped across her lips. She hadn't lived to the ripe age of fifty without learning to listen to her instincts.


Element 1: Descriptive elementsEvery post you make should contain some descriptive elements about YOUR PC when you can work it into the post, without becoming "clunky".

NAME, RACE, GENDER, WEAPON, and CLASS are common descriptive elements that can be sprinkled about in almost all game posts. I think almost every post should contain your PC's NAME, period. There might be a time it isn't appropriate, but that's a rare, rare post.

Gender and Race are usually easy to work in (except, for some odd reason, HUMAN). But once again, unless it's blatantly obvious from your PC's name (Queen Anne), working your gender into most posts is going to help cement your PC's persona into the minds of others. If you are playing a character in a game who has a bit of fey/faerie in him, use Wildling, Feyling, Feytouched, Fey, Fairie, Faerie and rotate through them as you speak of his actions. This is just to remind everyone else in the game that he's not human, he's a bit of a nature child.

Class is usually easy to work in, but it can become easily overdone. For some variety, head to your lexicon for some synonyms. Tired of saying "wizard" all the time? So is your GM, most likely. Try mage, arcanist, conjurer, thaumaturge, evoker, etc.. And remember, "spice"; a sprinkle here, a dash there, not slathered on like roofing tar.

Another descriptive element can be an idiosyncrasy, a tic, a habit, a peculiar mannerism, a physical characteristic or attribute that helps define your PC as well. This is up to you, but many gamers find it helpful to have something unique about their PC, to help identify them, and make them stand out in a crowd(ed post). That may seem like a lot, but if you practice it, it becomes second nature.


Element 2: Hooks or Engaging elements
Every post you make should contain, if possible, some action or event to link/hook/engage/snag the other players. The simplest of hooks is to use other players' names or to refer back to the DM's post and use elements from that. It sounds simple, but everyone loves seeing their name (or their PC's name) in a post. A slightly more useful engagement is to ask other players a question or to interact with the DM's NPC's through actions or questions. Lastly, it's very powerful to tie in an action of theirs into yours, or suggest an action in your post that they can carry on in their own.

In large parties, you aren't likely to hook every person and every NPC in each post, but you can try to spread them around across several posts, trying to weave your story with theirs. Remember, you aren't just gaming with the DM and his monsters, you are gaming with other players as well, so respond to their actions, include them in your post, and you'll find your posts more interesting. Your fellow gamers will too!


Element 3: Action elementsEvery post you make should contain some kind of ACTION that forwards the plot. Sometimes, this is easy: you swing a sword or cast a spell, or jump across a moving platform. Other times, it can be harder, because you may feel there's little you can do while in a tavern waiting for your contact to arrive, but remember, you can look, drink, listen, twist in your chair, etc.. You don't have to simply sit perfectly still and wait.


Element 4: MotiveA good post doesn't just describe what the character is doing, it gives us some window into their mindset and why they're doing it. This is especially true of quiet or taciturn characters, who may simply never hold many conversations with others, or those otherwise without much dialogue, and of deceitful characters. Motive can often be shown in thoughts, and the use of thoughts (formatted in italics) can also set your post apart. Getting inside the mind of your PC, especially in mid-action, can allow for some VERY expansive posts, and properly done, can give us great insight into their egos, motivation, and emotions.


By giving others these reminders -- these descriptions -- you encourage them to draw you into their posts too. You also increase the ties between PC's, so it isn't just a bunch of people posting their own actions; it's an INTERACTION. It actually becomes a collaborative writing effort between your post and your fellow gamers.





Exercise 1.1

Please improve the following post by rewriting it using any number of the four elements (Descriptive, Engagement, Action, Motive). You can add elements, ideas, even other players into the post as needed.

Quote:
Tobias searched the body of the dead goblin, to see if there was anything else of importance. He kept his weapon ready in case something else surprised him. Don't want to be surprised, he thought.
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Old Mar 11th, 2021, 06:21 PM
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Slowly Tobias knelt next to the dead goblin, being mindful to keep his feet under him and his weapon close at hand. "I need to take this slow." the rogue thought to himself. "It would not be wise to let myself be surprised, unless I want to stay a young adventurer till the end!" a small chuckle escaping his lips at his internal joke.

With one hand, the he carefully stroked his beard into a point, pinching the longest hairs in between his index finger and thumb, as he did is initial scan of the goblin he was about to search.
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Old Mar 12th, 2021, 09:58 AM
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Great start! To finish up this exercise, please highlight and describe each narrative elements you've used in your rewrite.
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Old Mar 12th, 2021, 02:29 PM
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Slowly Tobias knelt next to the dead goblin, being mindful to keep his feet under him and his weapon close at hand. "I need to take this slow." the rogue thought to himself. "It would not be wise to let myself be surprised, unless I want to stay a young adventurer till the end!" a small chuckle escaping his lips at his internal joke.

With one hand, the he carefully stroked his beard into a point, pinching the longest hairs in between his index finger and thumb, as he did his initial scan of the goblin he was about to search.

Elements key:

Descriptive elements
Action elements
Motive
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Old Mar 15th, 2021, 01:56 PM
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Great stuff, I don't have any critiques. I appreciate a few specific things:

1) You didn't consider him kneeling an ACTION element. In the strictest terms, that could be counted as such, but since you're already covering the result of that action in the search you described below, it doesn't really need to be pointed out explicitly

2) You really narrowed in on the pieces that describe your character: name, class, age, appearance. Saying that he has a weapon but not specifying what that weapon is isn't very descriptive at all, so you not highlighting it shows a really good understanding of specifically what the exercise is.

On to the next!



Exercise 1.2

Same as before: improve the post below using any number of the four elements. Remember to highlight and provide an explanation for each of the narrative elements you include in your response.

Post
The paladin reeled from the pain and hissed at the spider as though he suddenly gained some knowledge of how they communicate. It seemed as though he too would need to reevaluate the expected tenacity of his opponent.

Being mindful of the furniture, Slyter did his best to get the nightmarishly large creature flanked by seat or sofa before lashing forward again.
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Old Mar 20th, 2021, 09:38 AM
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Life been crazy. Response coming tonight
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Old Mar 21st, 2021, 08:49 PM
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Elements key:

Descriptive elements
Action elements
Motive
Hook

The Paladin reeled away from the spider before him, his face scrunching up into his all too common grimace. A low rumbling hiss escaped his dry lips, sounding as if the elderly man had suddenly gained some knowledge on the creature’s language. "Hold on Elizabeth, I am coming!" Slyter called out, ”I must hurry, Jonathan will soon bleed out. I think it is now time I reevaluate my tactics!”

Taking a brief second to note the location of the furniture around him, the holy warrior slowly inched his way around the table that was dwarfed by the massive arachnid on top of it. Looking to get the wall the table was against behind the spider before renewing his assault.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2021, 09:52 AM
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Quote:
Life been crazy.
No worries! Your block, your rules, so if things slow down a little bit, that's fine. On my side, I tend to be less active on the site on weekends, so I might not be able to respond or post the next lesson. That said, I'll try and keep pace with you to the best of my ability.



Now for the critiques.

DESCRIPTIVE: Nailed it. From the context of this post alone, I know that your character is a holy paladin name Slyter who's getting on in years and is medium or smaller. That's a great amount of information. One could argue that "dry lips" could be included here, but that doesn't really say who your character is -- it's more of a "current state" thing.

ACTION: I think you missed the mark a little here. It's one of those situations where you end up highlighting the whole textbook because you think everything's important, but then you realize it doesn't help you when you go back to study. Action elements should be flowery ways to describe the mechanical actions your character is taking. In Pathfinder 1e, you usually have a standard, move, and swift action available to you, and some number of free actions depending on how generous your GM is. In your post above, you've used your free action to talk (calling out to Elizabeth and hissing at the spider) and your move action to get into flanking position. There's no standard action to speak of, but sometimes that's the case in-game as well. The trick here is to find those actions in the example posts, give them life, and then highlight just the relevant parts. Less is more! Note that you don't need to highlight free actions since they tend to have little mechanical effect, but if you choose to do so that's fine.

MOTIVE: I think you missed the mark here as well. I'll touch on this a bit more in the next section, but Jonathan bleeding out seems to be the primary motive. It imparts a sense of urgency and explains why he's doing what he's doing here. Everything else is just candy.

HOOK: This is half right. I like that you've included hooks, as most students tend to not do so unless I've explicitly asked, and it's the hardest one to get right. Your call out to Elizabeth is exactly the kind of hook that should be highlighted -- it includes another character in your narrative and it gives them an opening to respond or participate. Jonathan bleeding out doesn't count, because, well, that's just a thing they're doing. You also thought that particular section, so unless Jonathan is telepathic, chances are they won't be able to thank you for your concern :P

Expect me to be very critical throughout these exercises. I don't want to be a cruel taskmaster or anything, but as your mentor, it's my job to pull out your maximum potential. I want you to be the best PBP writer you can be, so I shall nitpick until it is so!

On to the next!



Exercise 1.3

Same as before: improve the post below using any number of the four elements. Remember to highlight and provide an explanation for each of the narrative elements you include in your response.

PostGregor looked around the room suspiciously. There didn't seem to be anywhere for a creature to hide. He slowly climbed the stairs and examined the door to determine what kind of material it was made of, what kind of key it might take, and if he could see any traps
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Old Apr 6th, 2021, 01:06 PM
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Friendly reminder that this exists
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Old Apr 6th, 2021, 02:25 PM
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Thank you! Lord, I thought I had my response it. Ill get one in. Sorry!
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Old Apr 6th, 2021, 04:13 PM
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That's alright! It's your block, so we'll move at your pace, but if I haven't heard from you in a couple of days I'll usually pop in with a post to resurface the thread's activity notification.
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Old Apr 11th, 2021, 11:46 PM
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Exercise 1.3

Same as before: improve the post below using any number of the four elements. Remember to highlight and provide an explanation for each of the narrative elements you include in your response.

PostGregor looked around the room suspiciously. There didn't seem to be anywhere for a creature to hide. He slowly climbed the stairs and examined the door to determine what kind of material it was made of, what kind of key it might take, and if he could see any traps


Descriptive elements: Gregor, Elven, The rogue, Talented Thief. Young man ----> All terms to describe Gregor
Action elements First set is free actions, second set is the move actions, third set is the standard actions.
Motive Gregor's motive is to scout the area for threats of all types. Scanning the room was the action, detecting any foes was the motive. Examining the door for material type and traps was the action, to detect the presence of traps was the motive.
Hook A hook relating to a impatient party member, Ragrock who is likely to charge head strong into a situation in Gregor's opinion.(Giving Ragrock a chance to live up to Gregor's expectations or show he is adapting)

Gregor paused to examine the room, his suspicion clearly showing on his smooth elven features. "I must hurry, Ragrock will not wait much longer. His impatience will be the death of us all." thought the rogue "I do not see any place an enemy could hide, I should move on."

Sure of the lack of any immediate threat from a foe, the talented thief turned his attention to any possible traps. With a silky smooth stride Gregor ascended the stairs to the door at the summit. Carefully the young man ran a gloved hand over the material of the door trying to determine its composition and locate any potential traps that was hidden along the portal.
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Last edited by Master of Monsters; Apr 11th, 2021 at 11:53 PM.
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Old Apr 13th, 2021, 10:04 AM
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Great! Let's break it down, shall we?

DESCRIPTIVE: Bang on. No complaints here!

ACTION: I definitely see where you're coming from here, though I think you should really drill down into the relevant parts of each action when you're highlighting.
  • "paused to examine the room, his suspicion clearly showing" -> "paused to examine the room": This doesn't really constitute an action element (unless it's associated with a roll, i.e. a perception check, so there's an argument in your favour there). The key of the exercise is to critically examine the various parts of the post and get a really thorough understanding of exactly what the intent of each included piece is. This particular phrase could just as easily be fluff, and if it wasn't included the post probably be worse off, but the end result would be unaffected, so it's not much of an "action"
  • "With a silky smooth stride Gregor ascended the stairs" -> "Gregor ascended the stairs": Definitely a move action -- I just want you to really focus on the part of the sentence that is relevant.
  • "ran a gloved hand over the material of the door trying to determine its composition and locate any potential traps that (were) hidden along the portal." -> "trying to... locate any potential traps": Same thing here. Correct use of the action element, but too much surrounding context.

MOTIVE: You're thinking about this a little broadly, I believe. Consider your second highlight: the thinking is "there might be traps" implying the necessity of him searching for traps, and so he takes the action, but that's not really motivation. He's a thief, that's his job, so nobody is really gaining any additional insight into the character. What drives Gregor? Why did he get into this life? Something as simple as "Last time I saw a door like this I took an arrow in the face" works much better as a MOTIVE than "there are possibly traps here," you know?

HOOK: The hook you highlighted would actually be more of a MOTIVE element than a HOOK, except that he doesn't seem to be taking that motivation to heart. If "Ragrock is impatient" caused Gregor to move more quickly, then it's some context into why he's doing what he's doing, and it's sound. In this case, Gregor seems to be taking his time to really examine the scene to make sure it's safe, so that sense of urgency is absent, and thus the thought comes off as more of an observation. The kicker is that it's definitely not a hook. It's one thing to just mention another character, but it's entirely another to provide an opportunity for that character to feed off of your post. If Gregor asked Ragrock for help, or maybe told him to hold his horses while he took care of the traps, then Ragrock's player could respond in character to start off their own post. That's the heart and soul of the hook.


I really want you to dig in and focus on specifically what the exercise entails. In your next response, give me a solid HOOK and a solid MOTIVE. Tell me something about what makes your character unique, and really immerse them in the world.



Exercise 1.4

Same as before: improve the post below using any number of the four elements. Remember to highlight and provide an explanation for each of the narrative elements you include in your response.

PostThe elven sorceress stepped into the room cautiously, looking around to see if there were any surprises to be seen. She then closed her eyes and began to look for the things unseen, looking for magical auras of traps or treasures
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