Watchmaking versus Time Telling

There is a lot to be said for show don’t tell, and that works fine for novels, but for RPGs there are times you are gonna want to tell. The GM is a busy guy, and it’s fine to have some nice, succinct descriptors for him to use, but it’s no time to box clever with words and bury what he needs to know in shadowplay and prose. It’s his job to get on with running his game, and the best an RPG writer can do at times is to give him the paints and let him get on with making the pictures himself.

If you’re familiar with the structural breakdown of our Old School Fantasy adventures, you should have an idea of what I’m talking about with what we do presentationally in those scenarios that strike a middle ground. The adventures are broken down into scenes, each scene is broken down to its essential parts, and the GM can clearly and succinctly pull the information he needs when running the game. Whether it’s a quick overview, notes for him, or goals for the scene, it’s all laid out there for him.

That’s what I’ve been doing with Echo of Dead Leaves and it’s coming together nicely, but there is a lot of information to get across. Luckily, I’ve been told I have a knack for brevity, so I’m trying to transmit a lot of information, discretely and succinctly, which leads us to the title of today’s post: watchmaking versus time telling.

There are times when you want to know what time it is. Right? You ask somebody, and they tell it to you, and you can get on with your day (or whatever bits of your day are left are learning what time it is). However, there are people out there who are not time tellers. They are watchmakers. They want to take you through the entire history of time, up to and including the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar and maybe even tell you why the Mayan Calendar is wrong (or right) and that you’re okay to schedule your next haircut the day after the end of the world, because you might need it.

When it comes to books, I suppose it’s okay to be a watchmaker, but I really wouldn’t recommend it. In RPGs, I definitely do not recommend going the Watchmaker route. That’s not my personal style, at least. I don’t skimp on the work. I don’t skimp on the words. Sometimes it’s a lot harder to make less more. The next time you want to tell someone how to make a watch, check yourself, and see if you can just tell ’em what time it is instead.

As for time, it’s time for this one to be filed under RWR. I’ve gotta make some time up and write some more of those “other words” today, so I’m going to practice what I preach.

Until next time, I bid you adieu!

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