April 30th, 2009

coffee frog

Sense of Wonder

I remember an old game ad where a party looks down on a river in a canyon, with a castle in the distance. In the reflection on the river's surface the whole thing looks like a skull.

I always loved that picture, and tried to set something similar up in games again and again for decades. With mixed results.

A year ago I was playing a lot of World of Warcraft MMO. There were a lot of scenes that I found very visually striking: Ruins; A city in a glowing magical sphere; a dwarven dam with giant faces; terrible thunder lizards in the foggy jungle; and realms suspended in strange dimensions.

I guess I'm just a very visual person. I'm not alone in that, I guess.

For me, as GM, one of my biggest challenges has been trying to create that sense of wonder. Sometimes I've succeed, sometimes ... not so much.

Of course there are other ways to create a sense of wonder, to increase the immersive nature of the experience, to make the players frisson with pleasure or revulsion. But to my mind this is one of the greatest challenges that faces the GM in any tabletop/pen & paper experience.

GMs: What's your secret? What do you consider an indespensible technique? What's your greatest success? Your greatest failure?

Players: What's the favourite technique you've experienced? Least favourite? What have you done to increase the other players' immersion/sense of wonder?