Atmospheric Descriptions


The current Monday Roll20-based D&D games are proving just how effective some atmospheric descriptive text and the hint of things happening just out of sight can be. On paper, the current area being investigated by the players should be a pushover, with the majority of foes in the area being barely able to touch them. The reality of their game experience however is one where they are three weeks in, and have barely covered half the tunnels in the area they are investigating.

The slow and careful pace has been prompted by a number of factors: thin, winding, branching tunnels with few extended lines of sight; many, many low level but intelligent opponents capable of setting traps and ambushes, that use tactics such as hit and run to distract the players; and unrelentingly awful descriptions of the foul tunnels and their inhabitants. There are also audible clues about what else is there in the tunnels with them.

A creature known as a wheep, owing more than a little of its description to Clive Barker’s Cenobites, is in the tunnels, and its constant bubbling crying is echoing at all times. I’ve considered  playing a very low volume loop of someone crying in the background of the game – so low that it’s pretty subliminal – but the players are good enough at terrifying themselves without my adding that to the mix.

The characters can also hear drums, and fluting music, from the depths, and they know that wheeps are usually guardians of more powerful creatures. There’s an awful lot of conjecture going on about what is in the warrens with them.

There’s even a theory that these ghouls are not actually evil, and are merely defending their homes and shrines from this murdering invasive force that is slaughtering all before it. Now, would I actually pull a reverse like that on my players?

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