Dear Game Masters,
Please stop reading boxed text ad verbatim.
Exceptions: complete newbies who are inexperienced and GMs at a tournament who may be required to read boxed text lest their players cry fowl.
I understand, you bought that published adventure and reading boxed text may seem like the thing to do when you’re running your game. You might think you’re conveying all the important encounter information to the players in paragraph or two.
Well, guess what? You’re not.
While your nose is in the text, you’ve broken eye contact with your players. The longer the boxed text, the greater the chance for player distraction. Furthermore, your players have come to play a game, not to be read a story.
Let me tell you how I broke the boxed text habit.
One day, long ago, as I read aloud lengthy bit of boxed text for my players, I noticed something odd. My players, one of whom was my brother who introduced me to D&D, were passing notes to each other and giggling. I told them to pay attention. But they exchanged more messages as soon as I started reading again. Finally, I got really annoyed and demanded to know what was going on.
My brother passed me a note that read: You suck!
I’ve never read boxed text word-for-word again.
I study the module so I know the important parts by memory. I highlight or underline what’s important in the text. I paraphrase. I speak with emotion or complete deadpan as the circumstances dictate.