CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

See the Forest for the Trees

An owlbear jumps out and attacks you! A wolf pack jumps out and attacks you! A gang of kobolds jumps out and attacks you! Many times adventuring through the wilderness can just seem like a string of encounters with no sense of meaning or depth. In most faux- medieval settings the spaces between town and cities are fraught with danger and inspiring in their beauty. As GMs or writers it is our job to really make these places come to life for our players or readers. One of my favorite places to both find adventure and travel though to get to an adventure site is the forest.

Description is one of the first ways of doing this. When you tell your group they are walking through the forest, sure, an image comes to their mind of trees. The thing is that there’s more than just one type of tree and visuals are not the only things that make a forest a “forest”. Forests here in the northeast are vastly different than forests in the northwest. The jungles in the southern hemisphere are vastly different than the boreal forests of Canada.

Once you’ve picked the type of trees you’ll be using you’ll need to describe lighting. Tree type will determine the amount of light, and trees with smaller root system will grow closer together. How you describe this can set the mood of an encounter. During the day is the forest bright or does it seem like overcast with the sun just barely poking through the few empty spaces between the branches? Forests of deciduous trees that drop their leaves in the fall may allow more light, but now you have to describe the eerie look of the barren branches swaying in the wind.

Now that you have light and trees, we need add sounds and smells. Little touches like babbling brooks or rushing rivers can add to the atmosphere of the forest. Describing the how the wind plays through the branches can also give you players a better feel. A light rustling of the leaves gives a different feel than a harsh whistling. For smells, depending on the season, you can have fresh or dead fruit or berries. Wet moss can be an awfully pungent aroma as well. If you’re trying to give off that eerie feel, the decaying stench of rotting meat from a half eat animal carcass can do just that.

All in all there are many ways to add to the description of your forest, or any other outdoors setting. Making these places feel like more than just a place to pass through will not only heighten the general experience for your players while doing so, but also make the comforts of cities seem more luxurious. The next installment of this series will focus on actual encounters in the forest and how to enhance them.

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