In my early days as a Game Master, story was everything. I wanted to tell a great story in my games.
And nearly everything put out by TSR at the time contributed to this belief–this was in the mid-to-late 1990s. The era of AD&D Second Edition.
The old dungeon crawl was out. Story was in.
For my adventures to be good, I thought, they had to be something on par with Dragonlance. Or Planescape. Or Ravenloft. (But not Forgotten Realms. To hell with the ‘Realms.)
I was also an aspiring writer, so my adventure notes read the like the rough draft of a short story. Whenever I’d describe a scene, I’d put it in boxed text. I saw it as writing practice for the day I’d become a “real writer.”
If my players could understand the scene when I read it out loud, maybe my readers would understand it when I somehow converted the adventure into an actual story (someday).
The downside to all of this: my campaign had turned into one massive railroad to make the story work. And I still kept reading boxed text to my players ad verbatim.
One night, after particularly frustrating session for all involved, my older brother took me aside and shared some advice with me: “Dude, you’ve got to change things. Your friends, and myself, are about to quit your campaign.”
My brother had introduced me to D&D and he often played in my games. So this gave me a lot to think about.
In the years to come I’d work on not being so railroady with my campaign, even if I had an epic story in mind.
Yet at the next session, I reverted to my old habits.
Right at the beginning I started reading a whole page of boxed text, like the example I showed in the last post, except I had written it!
As I read every single word, I heard giggling from my players. I poked my nose out from behind the Dungeon Master’s Screen.
They were passing notes to each other.
“Hey, guys. Come’on, pay attention,” I said.
They stopped and looked at me. Yet the moment I started reading again they resumed passing notes.
“Hey, what’s going on?”
My brother handed me a torn slip of paper, while the other players snickered.
I opened the note. It read:
I haven’t read boxed text word-for-word since.