Charles Akins has surfaced in the blogosphere at Dyvers once again. I hope he stays around. Recently he posted How Should We Be Describing Area is Roleplaying Games.

Which brings up the old topic: Boxed Text.

In the beginning boxed text was used in tournament modules so that all players from one tournament to the next couldn’t cry fowl if the game master failed to describe something important.

Later, designers justified the continued use of boxed text in published for beginner game masters. Fair enough.

boxed-text-02
From the TSR adventure “The Patriots of Ulek” (and it continues on the next page!)

Yet by the early AD&D Second Edition era, you would occasionally stumble upon massive blocks of boxed text in published modules.

The instructions would say: “Read or paraphrase the following paragraphs to your players.”

But then you, game master, would find yourself telling a scene in a story in which the players had very little involvement.

The kicker is that some of these ramblings would be right at the beginning of the module.

They were supposed to set the mood for what was to come. But they ended up boring or confusing the players.

The game master would finish and then the players would ask questions about what he’d just read. They weren’t paying attention. And rightfully so.

What’s worse?

In my early days as a game master I thought this was how adventures should be written. So I’d have boxed in my own adventures! 

Published adventures have gotten better over the years. Most encounters now have, at most, a paragraph or two of text.

Yet now I don’t read that text word-for-word to my players. Nor do I (thankfully) put boxed text in my adventures anymore.

Something happened to me early on which kicked the boxed text habit.

It was my “American Idol moment” as a game master, back before American Idol existed, when it dawned on me I wasn’t that great of a GM and needed to change.

I know I’ve shared parts of this story over at Dyvers sometime ago, but now its time to reveal the whole story in the next installment of “Ye Olde Topic: Boxed Text [Part 1].”

This Friday.