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    Default Creating a sense of wonder?

    Hey there folks. While talking with a friend of mine about past games and campaigns, I noticed that the longer we played, the harder it became to create that... special feeling- a sense of wonder...

    Be it from a location, an NPC, an experience and so on... It feels that in a long gaming history, we have become more informed/ cynical/ jaded/ hard to surprise and impress... Many fantastical locations or creatures get little more than a polite listening, and inquery about relevant matters to the plot...

    Many times it feels the players are occupied with dangers, planning, socializing or such, and are in a hurry, so they rarely just stop and actually experience/ let themselves immerse/ absorb the wonders (and horrors) of a fantastical world.

    I found it quite hard. In my humble experience, it first requires the players to be in a relaxed and "appreciative/ absorbing mood", which is an uneasy tasknin itself. I found that a lot of build up can help, sometimes music (though that may be tricky, and a hit and miss), but tell the truth, creating a swnse of wonder (as GM and player) isn't something I'm good at...

    So I wonder- how do you create a sense of wonder in your games? If you can give examples, all the better.

    Thanks in advance,
    Kol.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    It's very context-dependent, and, like any "sense of [blank]," it takes a receptive audience. Fortunately, it's usually easier to get buy-in for a sense of wonder than a sense of horror.

    Wonder can mean many things. It shares at least part of its Venn diagram space with horror, but it need not go there. It involves the unfamiliar, at least to an extent. If you're having trouble invoking it, then it may be that the players are just too used to things that're showing up.

    In the real world, broad vistas and soaring architecture bring about that sense in most people because we don't see them often, and the latter has an element of near-impossibility to its seeming.

    For some (like me), a sense of wonder can be achieved by having a well-designed system whose mysteries and intricacies are revealed over time, and where the underlying rules can be deduced from observation of what happens in the setting/story.

    I think a key element in descriptive fiction, when it comes to evoking "wonder," is a strong concept of a theme. Something that permeates the scene and which can be felt/seen/deduced/inferred from everything going on.


    Rather than trying to remember times I've successfully done so for my players in my Exalted game (because I'm finding my attempts to recall and describe things they've said were cool to be coming up lame right now), maybe you could give us an idea of what sorts of things you WANT to evoke wonder with, and are unsure of how, and we can try to provide some feedback for changes, improvements, or just different ways to emphasize, hint at, and describe them?

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    So I wonder- how do you create a sense of wonder in your games? If you can give examples, all the better.
    I'll give it a shot...

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    Be it from a location, an NPC, an experience and so on... It feels that in a long gaming history, we have become more informed/ cynical/ jaded/ hard to surprise and impress...
    First, you can try to remind players about the place in the world their PCs inhabit. If they're at low level, remind them about what's new to their characters, and that a sweeping vista isn't something they can teleport past yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    Many fantastical locations or creatures get little more than a polite listening, and inquery about relevant matters to the plot...

    Many times it feels the players are occupied with dangers, planning, socializing or such, and are in a hurry, so they rarely just stop and actually experience/ let themselves immerse/ absorb the wonders (and horrors) of a fantastical world.
    The PCs might be in a rush because you gave them a mission, while the players may be in a rush because of time restraints in the real world, or they might just be eager to get to your next encounter. I'd take either form of engagement with your game as a compliment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    I found it quite hard. In my humble experience, it first requires the players to be in a relaxed and "appreciative/ absorbing mood", which is an uneasy tasknin itself. I found that a lot of build up can help, sometimes music (though that may be tricky, and a hit and miss), but tell the truth, creating a swnse of wonder (as GM and player) isn't something I'm good at...
    You might be surprised at what an individual player might think of a description... it doesn't have to take forever for it to have an impact.

    As an example, here are two different descriptions of a door:

    -You turn the corner see that your trail leads up a 30 percent incline before ending 300 feet away. Before you is a door, made of gold metal, 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide, with 10 foot hinges. It is open, and you approach.

    -You turn the corner to see a full view of the mountain you've been glimpsing through the trees for some time. Far ahead of you, an immense golden door is set into the mountainside, towering over you even at this distance. The door stands open, admitting wagons like yours that look like toys by comparison.

    Of course, then you have to come to terms with the fact that not only are they only going to want to hear that once, but that that's how it works in the real world too. Familiarity breeds contempt, and all that.


    So, my advice is (without knowing any more specifics about your situation):

    1: Remind your players about what constitutes cool for people in their PCs' position and history.

    2: Time your cool moments for when everyone has time for it.

    3: Use comparisons instead of hard numbers, at least at first.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    I think it helps to have creatures/setting elements that the players haven't seen before. The players are probably familiar with most of the monsters in the monster manual and most of the features of a published setting, so those won't draw as much interest.

    Having figuring out something about the campaign setting be a significant and overarching part of the campaign can also help.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    This is one of the fundamental problems of life, especially of an immortal life: things lose their sense of wonder.

    IMO, immortals enjoy the company of mortals, just as I the company of the young, so that they can see that life, that wonder, and remember the experience.

    For example, this one time, I had a group which spanned the range of experience:

    Spoiler: You never forget the first time...
    Show
    So, my first campaign, been playing for long enough for the party to reach low teens in level IIRC. Players commit the cardinal sin of splitting the party.

    The new player - very smart, but has never played pen & paper RPGs before - stumbles upon a room of artifacts. I carefully describe the contents. The other players go silent as I describe the black orb floating in the middle of the room. You can cut the tension with a knife when the new player becomes fascinated with this particular object, asking about its composition, what's holding it up, etc. I maintain my best poker face, asking very neutral questions about the exact details of what the character is doing, and providing the best answers to his inquiries that I can.

    Eventually, his data collection (un)successful, he declares he is taking the orb with him. You could hear a pin drop as I ask him how he is taking it with him. The new player explains that he unclasps his cloak, throws it over the floating sphere, gathers up the corners, and drags it along behind him.

    The more experienced rest of the party breath a collective sigh of relief. I explain that the cloak settles to the ground, a perfectly round hole in the middle of it.

    And that is how one player in my first ever campaign learned of the Sphere of Annihilation.


    I think it's telling that I first told this story in a thread about custom content.

    The story of the golden apple, I'm told, was to bring back the simple sense of wonder at apples. True or not, it makes sense that something must seem fantastic, outside the norm of one's experiences, to elicit wonder.

    So, how would one engineer wonder? By creating internally consistent, observable and discernable mysterious new things to explore.

    If you lack the creativity / imagination / whatever to create them yourself, simply watch/read stories which will provide adequately fleshed out content for you to use with which your players are unfamiliar.

    Note that the latter only works if your players don't just Google the answer, and instead buy in to the sense of wonder.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    The most important thing to inspire wonder is: no hard infromation. Even more so no bland 'game rule' type information. If your game has ANY type of mechanic where the players can roll to ''have their characters know stuff", drop it immediately. You want things to be mostly unknown and for things to only be discovered by direct, focused game play.

    Rules wise, you want to break...or at least bend the rules. You want things that don't ''fit'' in the game rules...exactly. You don't want to go all gonzo crazy...just a bit outside the lines.

    Of course, the hardest part is the creative part. Some can create wondrous stuff at the snap of a finger...and some can't do that. But many are just more in the middle. If you can't think of something, or just need a bit of help....look just about anywhere. Movies, books, comics, or whatever. It's a good idea to look at as much as you can. It does not have to be fantasy, it can be anything.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    To transmit wonder you need to be wondered yourself, and as you said, that will eventually get harder in life.

    At their root, humans are engaged in stories because we get information that at a very basic level can mean the difference between surviving or not, that is why ghost stories are so popular, the storyteller has all our attention, because we want to know how we should react or what should we do if confronted to a peril we haven’t heard of before. The same goes for gossip, we strive for it because we want to know what happens at a “worst case scenario”, without having to experience it by ourselves.

    That said, to give a sense of wonder you have to transmit new information or try to deliver it as if it was new. If you are using the same old scenarios and clichés, you aren’t bringing anything new to the table, thus is boring. That’s why its important to read books, watch science channels, learn from new discoveries, so that you have a source of wonder yourself that then you can transmit to your players in the form of an adventure. If you don't feel wonder yourself, your players won't feel it either.

    Maybe you already know what happens when a necromancer tries to bring to life corpses, that has been done many times before. So, throw new questions to the table that you want to be responded and that you don’t know the answer yourself. What if it was possible to create the first good undead ever? What if there was a kingdom of warrior princesses that kidnaped dragons and slaved them in towers? What if the PCs transported to a kingdom inside a snes cartridge? What if Demogorgon repented and wanted the PCs to help him show the world he now is good and teach him how to be good?

    A simple trick to trigger wonder instantly is “the closed door”. Try to treat most of your encounters as closed doors. Closed doors are easy to catch anyone attention because as humans we are curious, and a close door means that virtually anything can be at the other side, it’s an open invitation for adventure. The closed door of course can be literal or metaphorical, it can be a mysterious item, a guardian, a new realm, but the important thing is that the door makes you wonder what’s at the other side.

    Put a rusty box in a room (that’s our closed door) which is adorned with a clog on each side of it and each clog has engraved a question mark aligned in a different position. I haven’t already said if that’s a puzzle, if it’s a magic item, if it’s a trap or a disguised monster, but the wonder is already there. We all want to know what that box is and what it contains just because it looks mysterious.

    How about they are at an abandoned library, and after removing some books they discover that some of them where concealing the entrance to a tunnel. When they keep removing the books to reveal the tunnel completely, they realize that the tunnel is completely made of books, with a long stairway made of books as well and as far as they can reach, everything is made of books of every size, type, color, culture, idiom.

    See? I haven’t stated nothing extraordinary yet, but simply by adding a twist and placing something strange the players aren’t used to, I’m already triggering their imagination and sense of wonder, because I’m promising new information, and questions already start to arise. Of course, you must try to deliver, because if you abuse this technique and then what exist on the other side of the door isn’t related or is quite mundane, they will feel deceived and eventually won’t believe you.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    @ all the responders:
    Thank you for your replies. It takes me time to reply in turn, due to RL obligations and time constraints. I feel I ma have confused/ was unclear about the "sense of wonder", or perhaps we're discussing different things? Some of the responses talk ore about curiousity, surprise, and similar concept. I'm talking more about donwerment. I am unsure about how to potray the sensation/ feeling I seek to invoke, but perhaps how the Fellowship of The Ring reacted to the Argonath may be a start?

    I hope this helps get the feeling across. Now for specific responses.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    It's very context-dependent....

    ... I think a key element in descriptive fiction, when it comes to evoking "wonder," is a strong concept of a theme. Something that permeates the scene and which can be felt/seen/deduced/inferred from everything going on...

    maybe you could give us an idea of what sorts of things you WANT to evoke wonder with, and are unsure of how, and we can try to provide some feedback for changes, improvements, or just different ways to emphasize, hint at, and describe them?
    Hmmm... Indeed very context specific, but I'm more interested in techniques and approaaches to achieve the result. For example, one of my successes was in my Wrath of The Righteous campaign, without getting into major spoilers (And I changed a hell of a lot of it, to not be similar), in one of the later modules the party goes into the realm of a demon lord, and visit a huge metropolis of demons, and finally- the demon lord itself in it's palace. I sought to invoke an out-of-this-world/ we're-not-in-kansas-anymore kinf od feeling. This worked partially with the metropolis (as other posters mentioned, this may have been due to the party being too focused on the tasks and dangers), but worked splendidly in the palace, and introducing the demon lord. I think part of it was the music I used, but a lot of it was also that this was the culmination of a few sessions, and the demon lord promised safety while in it's palace (a promise they could count on), so perhaps it freed them to absorb the scene more?

    To this day the party remember the palace as one of the most special and bewildering experiences. I'm not that sure what made it work though...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bronk View Post
    ... The PCs might be in a rush because you gave them a mission, while the players may be in a rush because of time restraints in the real world, or they might just be eager to get to your next encounter. I'd take either form of engagement with your game as a compliment...
    Thanks! I didn't quite think of it like that, but I'll take any compliments where I can get them.

    So, my advice is (without knowing any more specifics about your situation):

    1: Remind your players about what constitutes cool for people in their PCs' position and history.

    2: Time your cool moments for when everyone has time for it.

    3: Use comparisons instead of hard numbers, at least at first.
    Hmmm... I allready do 1 & 3, but I think number 2 is essential. In fact, thinking back about a few other situations where the players felt wonderment, they were usually after achieving a major success, tensions were released, and there was no immediate concern/ assignment. Hmmm, I think you've touched on a key element here- part of the pacing, winding and reeleae of tension. Thanks! I'll be sure to keep it in mind!

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    ...<snip- New player examining a sphere of annihilation- snip>
    ... So, how would one engineer wonder? By creating internally consistent, observable and discernable mysterious new things to explore.
    I think this is more about curiousity and engagement, less about my (Possibly poorly explained) request for a sense of wonder. I do create a consistent world which can be explored and tested, but that is more about cursiousity and exploration. While these can often led to wonder, and help feel satisfaction from it, that satisfaction isn't the sense I seek, nor is it needed for it.

    Thank you for the reply, it helped me refine my question and dillema. And the story was excellnet!

    Quote Originally Posted by doctor doughnut View Post
    The most important thing to inspire wonder is: no hard infromation. Even more so no bland 'game rule' type information...

    Rules wise, you want to break...or at least bend the rules. You want things that don't ''fit'' in the game rules...exactly. You don't want to go all gonzo crazy...just a bit outside the lines...
    Hmmmm.. I do that at times, and it does help, but mostly with curiousity, and "keeping things fresh/ unknown/ unexpected". They keep things a mystery, which can add to the wonder, but aren't exactly required for it? (See the poster above me). Thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by CombatBunny View Post
    To transmit wonder you need to be wondered yourself, and as you said, that will eventually get harder in life.

    ...At their root, humans are engaged in stories because we get information that at a very basic level can mean the difference between surviving or not...

    ...That said, to give a sense of wonder you have to transmit new information or try to deliver it as if it was new...

    ...A simple trick to trigger wonder instantly is “the closed door”. Try to treat most of your encounters as closed doors...
    Like the above posters, this relates mostly to curiousity and exploration. If we take the closed door example- the closed door/ riddle chest and so on, invoke a desire to solve the obstacle, and find out what is hidden. But... I seek something else... Using the same example, I seek to invoke feeling marvel at the door, appreciation to the beauty/ intricity/ horror of the riddle, not of the challenge or the find itself, but of what is there.

    Is this making sense? I'll try another example- If the party for example finds an ancient long abandoned hall of a great civilization, I can put close doors, mysteries, riddles and other obstacles which promise finds if solved. But what I'm aiming at in this thread is marveling at the architecture, at the signs of the past civilization, the sense of granduer, gret accomplishments and so on (Like the Argonath vid I linked at the start of this post). I think the "corridor made of books" in your post was more the example I was looking for...

    How can you achieve/ create/ invoke for that in RPGs?

    Thanks!
    Last edited by Kol Korran; 2019-03-31 at 03:41 AM.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    The strong sense of the theme of the wondrous thing helps here, again. The long corridor of the ancient civilization should showcase some easily described elements that are not normal humdrum to the PCs. Getting a sense of wonder out of exotic materials involves referencing their presence in ancillary ways in all of your descriptions. It’s less about saying “Everything is made of gold!” And more about making sure the shine, the softness, the coldly metallic nature of the surfaces...anything that would be impacted by the sheer quantity of gold is casually and pithily mentioned in describing how they perceive the scene.

    When my players in an Exalted game were at a tournament at the base of the Imperial Mountain, I made a point of including it in every scene-setting description on their way there. How it looked so close for so long, how it dominated the landscape. When they got to the site, the apparently sheer stone wall that blocked out the sky to the north entirely was a prominent element in any scene, controllingbshadows and feeling looming even when it was technically not that steep where they were, simply because the mountain is that big.

    In a creditor made of books, then, you’d want to reference the dull sound of boots on bindings as they walk. To use colorful creatures that hide in the mismatched multicolored “bricks” that the spines of various books make. When climbing or fighting leads to agressive contact with the walls, mention the books sliding and crushing and even falling down out of the walls.

    Don’t let their mental image forget the wondrous aspects. Not by harping on them at the beginning, but by keeping them in mind and how they shape the encounters in that environment.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    How can you achieve/ create/ invoke for that in RPGs?
    Well, you need to accept that a lot of RPG players just won't go for that sort of landscape physical wonder. Sure, in real life the sun setting over the ocean or walking through some stone ruins does provie wonder....but a lot of RPG folks will just be like ''oh the sun" and 'oh, rocks".

    If you do want to have such normal wonder, you will first need to get really good at descriptions. Add lots of details. Add lots of adjetives. Learn and use all the correct words.

    You want to avoid: The hall is 40 by 20 feet and made of stone with stone columns.

    And do more: The hall is 20x40 feet, made of tightly fitted smooth stone without the use of mortar or grout of any kind, with Corinthian style columns with flowers carved in at the top.

    Though, still, maybe RPG gamers might not really feel the wonder of such descriptions.

    And that is when you really need to add the fantasy. This is what can really get a players attention. A floor made of fire. Walls made of frozen acid. Floating stairs. Animated objects.

    Though, you might need to go a bit deeper: A floor made of fire ghosts. Walls of frozen time. a gravity tube. Animated thoughts or feelings or ideas.


    Also, very important is that you might really need some game mechanics effects to get the real feel of wonder for some players.

    The fire floor will burst up a pillar of fire if you stand in place more then one round. The fire ghosts will try to possess you. The frozen acid walls will leak on anyone within five feet of them. The walls of frozen time will attempt to trap a person in time. The floating stairs animate and attack. The gravity tube slams folks down. Animated objects attack. An animate feeling is just weird...

    They don't all need to be hostile or attacks....though that is what will get a lot of wonder out of the most players. And non hostile ones will need to have a big effect. You don't want just a +1 to a morale roll. You want more: looking at a wall of frozen time lets the looker see a random even from their timeline, frozen, and gives them a one time use of a +20 morale bonus to a roll.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    Quote Originally Posted by doctor doughnut View Post
    The most important thing to inspire wonder is: no hard infromation. Even more so no bland 'game rule' type information. If your game has ANY type of mechanic where the players can roll to ''have their characters know stuff", drop it immediately. You want things to be mostly unknown and for things to only be discovered by direct, focused game play.

    Rules wise, you want to break...or at least bend the rules. You want things that don't ''fit'' in the game rules...exactly. You don't want to go all gonzo crazy...just a bit outside the lines.
    My thoughts go in a similar direction. If the players' reactions to exotic looking places and creatures is just a shrug and a meh, I think it's because they feel that it is purely cosmetic fluff that doesn't have any actual relevance to their activities. It's the same with backstory.
    Players generally approach the game as an activity of problem solving. You want something done, there is something in the way, and you need to do something to overcome the obstacles. When you want to solve a problem, the best way is to concentrate on the things that are relevant and ignore the things that don't matter.

    To make the players get engaged with the fantastic elements and pay attention to them, they need to be relevant parts of the problem they are trying to overcome. Skeletons with bull skulls and purple robes look different at first, but if they are still behaving exactly as regular skeletons and nothing would change if they were replaced with regular skeletons, then players will soon perceive them as regular skeletons.

    I've been really into setting up interesting encounter areas for some years now. A room with an unbreakable glass floor over a shark pool still is just a room. A room with uncovered shark pools in the floor is something that will factor into every players' decisions what they will do at every turn of the encounter.

    Another thing that I came across just a week or two ago is that many of the oldest and most classic creatures of D&D were not so much created as new animals that could be found in a fictional ecosystem, but appear to be designed around one interesting tactical ability: The monster that destroys metal weapons and armor. The monster that stuns groups of PCs from a distance. The monster that cast 8 different spells at single targets every round. The monster that disguises itself as furniture. I don't have to describe how they look like but you probably recognize them all. Sure, they all look weird, but there are plenty of weird looking creatures that are utterly forgetable because they are not a unique challenge to engage.

    Exotic looks don't matter much. Especially when they are verbally described while at the same time the players are trying to sort out which words will be relevant to solving the problem the thing will pose for them once the GM stops talking.
    Make the places and creatures interesting problems.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    I've been really into setting up interesting encounter areas for some years now. A room with an unbreakable glass floor over a shark pool still is just a room. A room with uncovered shark pools in the floor is something that will factor into every players' decisions what they will do at every turn of the encounter.
    Variations that can be interesting include a breakable glass floor over a shark pool, and the tactical questions that arise with risk towards breaking it. Or a room that at first appears to just have a pool, no floor, with sharks swimming below, until they try to jump in and find that there's a glass (or something similar, but with the same index of refraction as the water, so it's essentially invisible in the water) floor about 3-6 inches down below the water on top of it. And then they discover that there are holes in this invisible floor, so the water is part of the same body, just deeper than the hole-festooned floor is above the bottom. Now, then, the PCs have to watch out for holes they can't see (assuming they can't just fly over it, of course).

    Or a dungeon not cut into the stone, but built out of tunnels through the water. Glass or even non-transparent material separates the air-filled tunnels and rooms from the water outside, but the threat of broken walls is always present. And may make PCs who like to bust through walls or dig their way through dungeons think twice about it.

    I once had a dungeon where various parts of it could be rotated in 3D space by turning massive wheels. Gravity remained relative - for everything in the area when it rotates - to the orientation of the zone. Visitors from outside the zone - that is, the PCs who turned the wheels - found gravity oriented weirdly from their perspective. This led to an amusing bit where they managed to get into a grassy garden room that was on its side, and the monster in it refusing to talk to them while they hung awkwardly from rapelling lines to "stand" on the grass, saying it was too ridiculous. Also, there was a pool of water with a Spectator Beholder-kin guarding the chest at the bottom of the pool. The PCs came into that one upside-down, which didn't bother the Beholder-kin any, but which made getting into the water on the ceiling tricky.

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    Quote Originally Posted by doctor doughnut View Post
    The most important thing to inspire wonder is: no hard infromation. Even more so no bland 'game rule' type information. If your game has ANY type of mechanic where the players can roll to ''have their characters know stuff", drop it immediately. You want things to be mostly unknown and for things to only be discovered by direct, focused game play.
    Agreed. The introduction to my latest game included the following:

    "DO NOT assume that you know anything about any fantasy creatures. I will re-write many monsters and races, introduce some not in D&D, and eliminate some. The purpose is to make the world strange and mysterious. It will allow (require) PCs to learn, by trial and error, what works. Most of these changes I will not tell you in advance. Here are a couple, just to give you some idea what I mean.
    1. Dragons are not color-coded for the benefits of the PCs.
    2. Of elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, kobolds, goblins, and orcs, at least one does not exist, at least one is slightly different from the books, and at least one is wildly different.
    3. Several monsters have different alignments from the books.
    4. The name of an Undead will not tell you what will or won’t hurt it.
    5. The first time you see a member of a humanoid race, I will describe it as a “vaguely man-shaped creature.” This could be a kobold, an elf, or an Umber Hulk until you learn what they are.

    I will answer any reasonable questions about the village and its denizens. You do not know anything that cannot be learned in a backward, isolated village. (And yes, that’s why you’ve grown up semi-isolated.)"

    This works moderately well, but there is a hard limitation. You cannot build a sense of wonder when a player is trying to make something mundane. I was trying to build up a Death Lord, but one player decided to start calling him "Steve the Death Lord". There is no way to make that mysterious.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    I actually find admonitions not to assume things to be counterproductive in establishing a sense of wonder. Instead, it establishes only a sense that the DM doesn't trust the players not to metagame, or that things will be "different" for some reason.

    "The creatures are furry, with long, thick tails, and long snouts with visible fangs. They walk upright, bipedal on digigrade feet," doesn't really make me feel more wonder than "A group of ratlings appear before you."

    It's not in the lack of knowledge, but in the lack of familiarity. I know what a blue whale is and looks like, but seeing one up close would be pretty wondrous. I may not know what that green slime on the shelf of my refridgerator is, but I assure you that I'm not filled with any wonder just because I can't tell you what container opened and spilled and whether it's supposed to be that color and smell like that or not.

    I'm unfamiliar with encountering blue whales. I am unfortunately familiar with smelly messes that stem from poorly-stored food.

    The key to wonder is in the description. Not in the prose, the description. You don't have to waste a lot of words describing in purple detail the filligrees of everything. You just have to emphasize the visceral sensations with choice words.

    "The lid peels back from the wet eye the size of your head as it extends towards you, until it's almost like looking at a disembodied orb that tracks up and down your body from less than three feet away," is going to evoke a sense of wonder (And possibly horror) much better than, "The Beholder turns an eye on you and looks you over." It also doesn't require describing the iris color, the veins pulsating, the eye glimmering with arcane energy, or any other lengthy details. Just enough to get the idea across and remind the players just how overwhelming the scale is, or how visceral the revulsion, etc.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    I have been playing for over 3 decades and have tried dozens of system so I'm Jaded. I agree with Quertus that for example my children helped me achieve a sense of wonder again...for a while. That was experiencing new things through them.

    The same thing happened when I moved and started a new group with new players. They still had a sense of wonder.....and that was wonderful.
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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    I find that it's really hard to get a sense of wonder out of the well trodden myself. I was gifted with a truly marvelous Dungeons and Dragons GM in the beginning and I never forgot the way he made things seem much more terrifying and real by replacing some of the game's simplified elements with slightly more true to life moments to ground us in the experience. Now I can mostly posit by base description of a creature or artifact what I'm in for and thus a vanilla game of Dungeons and Dragons has lost it's luster. Exalted currently has me in it's grips because the game thrives on home brew. It takes a substantial amount of work to run but the setting is utterly fantastical from the get go.

    In the beginning, whatever your setting, your game is a vaccum that you slowly fill with things and people and places. Descriptions matter, particularly the seemingly regular ones because they ground your characters in their sense of place. If every description a GM gives is about something fantastic meant to inspire awe then your players don't have the basic frame to juxtapose it against. Creating wonder or horror is in part getting a player inside their own character's heads. People are expecting out-of-the-ordinary so the deck comes pre-stacked against you and so much has been written or filmed or made to inspire wonder that the audience is already dulled to your basic wonders.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    Two little helping hands to renew your sense of wonder:

    1) Listen carefully the very first minute of the track "Foundations of stone" from the LOTR: The two towers soundtrack =) I know that you might have heard that soundtrack many times before, but that first minute of that first track always gives me the chills.

    2) Read the first (and only the first) chapter of the book "Dragons of a Fallen Sun" from the "War of Souls" trilogy. That chapter is one of the most amazing intros to an adventure I have ever read and it has a very strong sense of wonder. Many times I have read again that chapter when I have felt out of inspiration.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    I actually find admonitions not to assume things to be counterproductive in establishing a sense of wonder. Instead, it establishes only a sense that the DM doesn't trust the players not to metagame, or that things will be "different" for some reason.
    I think the point here is to get away from game mecanics. Some games, like D&D are way heavy on mecanics. And they suck all the wonder out of the game. You go from a RPG....to just playing RISK or LIFE.

    Like if you KNOW for a fact the creature IS undead, that comes with a pile of offical rules that suck all the wonder out of the game and just make it mechanical encounter three.


    It's not just about players cheating and breaking the DMs trust. Again, it's more about the wonder. Sure once the players know that the 'strange skull' is in FACT the spell Watch Skull, they can cheat and metagame and go all ''we use game action four: dispel spell". But it's also that once they KNOW it's ''just a lame dumb spell", it has no wonder at all to it.

    When the players can't ''put everything in the game rule box'' is where you will start to see wonder. A LOT of players just play the game to oppose and attack the DM using the rules. But they can't do that if they have no rules to use. Like many a player, knowing officaly that creature encounter six IS officialy undead, will leap out of thier chair, slam thier fist in the table and scream as soon as the DM has the creature run as the player screams ''that undead can't run, it says so on page 12 hahahahah! Stupid DM!"

    But when the player is clueless....is it undead? A construct? An illusion? A spirit? Any of like a hundered other things? That have no idea! Wonder!

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    Even when you know the mechanics behind it, presentation can mean a LOT. This Dragon Prince fanfic introduces vancian magic as this forbidden art. Despite recognizing a fireball spell when it's cast, the way the spell's nature is described and how the preparation/loss works actually manages to create a real sense of wonder about it for me.

    The creepy skull that leers at you from the darkness may be "just a stupid spell," but the image painted of its glowing eyes being the first thing you see, and slowly resolving out of the darkness, can be a potent bit of imagery.

    Now, I don't really know the spell very well, so maybe it doesn't have glowing eyes.

    "Skulls everywhere!" gets old as a motif, if only because it's Metal Cover Decoration #3 and also adorns every demon and necromancer lair from Acheron to Pandemonium. But when any of those skulls could be that "stupid spell" spying on you, and when attention is called to them casually, it still creates the atmosphere.

    The difference between a chilling encounter with a Wight and "just another Wight fight" isn't really in not knowing what it is, but in how it's executed. Wights are skilled at stealth. Play them up like a rogue with a penchant for the dramatic, and have them taunt from the darkness. Have them attack light sources, knowing that their own darkvision will help them but not a low-light vision or human-vision dependent party. Maybe they even go for the dwarf or gnome first, using ambush and hit-and-run tactics to eliminate those who are able to see in the dark as well.

    THe wonder is in how it's used, and in how omnipresent the scene feels to the game. The easier it is to forget that they're in a mine shaft with earthen walls crumbling around them, barely held up by the rotting wooden timbers, the less wondrous the scene will feel. The more it feels like a game board where the scenery is just window dressing, and not a consistent reminder of the hazards or wonders it evokes, the more this "it's just a game" problem arises.

    Atmosphere - which wonder is an element of - is all about maintaining awareness of the scene. But it's not about constant purple prose, either. It's about subtle reminders. Carefully-chosen adjectives and descriptions, one to five words of fluff for each action, perhaps. Quick, but flavorful.

    It's a skill, and not even all professionally published authors are any good at it. There's a balance to strike between boringly long-winded description and constant subtle reminders of what the scene feels like to all your senses.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    A word of advice to any hypothetical future GMs I might game with -- do not try to make me feel things. Just present what is there in front of my character.

    I will feel, or not feel, and when I do feel it will be what I feel, not what you think I should feel. Same for my character -- don't presume to control what my character feels or tell me what my character should feel.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    Being vague - saying "a round thing" for both a skull and an apple - does not produce wonder... except, perhaps, at the GM's incompetence. Saying "he hit some stuff, then some quadrupeds went to sleep, and he grabbed a round thing" is not going to evoke a sense of wonder. Now, neither is me saying, "as you attempt to reload your crossbow, the stranger's blades carve into the dragon's hide, a score, two score, three score and more times, faster than the eye can follow, felling the dread breast. The clouds part, and a shaft of light shines down from the heavens, just on him. In response, the lion snuggles up the sacrificial lamb, and the two fall asleep. The stranger plucks an apple from a tree, and, as you watch, the light from the heavens coalesces on the apple, which turns to solid gold. Your crossbow finally loaded, the stranger turns to you, and says, 'the gods heard you needed help. They sent me.'." as the introduction to a new PC. But, you know, I think and hope it's clear that the latter is at least closer than the former.

    I think, to have a sense of wonder, you have to understand what's on, at some level. I think you need that baseline that "D&D characters don't normally get that many attacks" to feel that "wow" when the new guy does. You need to have a sense of the ordinary, and to know enough about what's going on to know that this isn't it.

    Spoiler: What keeps you from feeling Wonder?
    Show
    (a joke)

    So, which of the 7 deadly sins is your Jade made from? How did you react to this new PC?

    Jealousy - I want that many attacks!

    Envy - I don't want him having that many attacks!

    Pride - I bet I can make a character with more attacks...

    Wrath - that dragon should have been my kill!

    Lust - what would our children look like?

    Sloth - meh.

    Gluttony - cool, pass the chips.


    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    I agree with Quertus that for example my children helped me achieve a sense of wonder again...for a while. That was experiencing new things through them.

    The same thing happened when I moved and started a new group with new players. They still had a sense of wonder.....and that was wonderful.
    Nice to hear I'm not alone.

    Also, should it come up again*, "wonder" is a good reason to enjoy playing with new players, rather than just viewing them as "suboptimal" or "inefficient".

    * That wasn't clear - I was referring to (I think) a "red flag" of "the GM prefers new players" from another thread, not to anything you said.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    A word of advice to any hypothetical future GMs I might game with -- do not try to make me feel things. Just present what is there in front of my character.

    I will feel, or not feel, and when I do feel it will be what I feel, not what you think I should feel. Same for my character -- don't presume to control what my character feels or tell me what my character should feel.
    Completely fair. But do you begrudge a GM for attempting to provide the opportunity for people to feel things?

    Serious question. I ask because, for some things, I do. Or, I suppose, I do if a) it hits other red flags (like railroading); or b) I do not perceive anyone else at the table to appreciate their effort, yet they keep doing it, over and over.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2019-04-05 at 05:40 PM.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    The key to creating wonder in a tabletop setting is through immersion. If the players cannot get into their characters they experience the world only distantly at best, which makes achieving a sense of wonder almost impossible. This is analogous to how the impact of a postcard of something is never going to be the same as actually going and seeing the real thing.

    Creating immersion in tabletop is difficult and in many cases runs directly counter to the intent of the players - who are often there specifically for the escapism and don't want to engage with the game world save in a highly superficial way - and sometimes the mechanics. D&D, being built around a wargame chassis at the core, is a poor choice for wondrous immersion, because the system design and gameplay methodology push the characters to react to every environment, no matter how fantastical as a place where there's work to be done, and working in a place tends to drain the wonder out real fast (I've worked as staff in several National Parks, the glamour wears off quick when you're moving from one vegetation plot to the next). It's not for nothing that when D&D developed it's most wondrous setting, Planescape, the overall tone they took to explain it was one of jaded cynicism, because that was actually a proper match for how the average player was likely to view it.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    A word of advice to any hypothetical future GMs I might game with -- do not try to make me feel things. Just present what is there in front of my character.

    I will feel, or not feel, and when I do feel it will be what I feel, not what you think I should feel. Same for my character -- don't presume to control what my character feels or tell me what my character should feel.
    Sounds odd.

    Maybe your talking about the clumsy DMs that try to force emotions on players...and I can agree that is bad.

    I will often make something, but not tie a direct emotion to it....but, in any case will still do it sub consciously. For example evil things are often scary. So I will describe it as scary. Is that ''trying to make someone feel something"?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pippa the Pixie View Post
    Sounds odd.

    Maybe your talking about the clumsy DMs that try to force emotions on players...and I can agree that is bad.

    I will often make something, but not tie a direct emotion to it....but, in any case will still do it sub consciously. For example evil things are often scary. So I will describe it as scary. Is that ''trying to make someone feel something"?

    It is, but it's so common in English usage to describe something that way, that I let it slide if it's just part of the description. It's only when it becomes a direct and deliberate thing, when it gets hammered on, when it's unmistakably an attempt to tell me how my character feels, that it irks me.


    I don't mind someone trying to make their setting wondrous, and fill it with wondrous things, and give rich and interesting descriptions -- I want those things in the right amounts -- but that's where it should stop.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    Thanks again for the replies and discussion. It seems to have moved beyond the original questions to some degree, but that's the nature of threads, and it's a good thing. I do feel however that some of the advice & discussion are more about "how to keep things unknown/ interesting/ fresh", which while worthy in itself, is less about the sense of wonder. I'm not talking about curiousity or engagement (I think I can inspire that in my players), but the sene of wonder, of marveling at something, or being inspired/ awed by it, is different from simply wanting to explore it, engae it, and so on...

    I think part of the problem may be the GM's desire/ attempt to inspire wonder in all of his players. The various posters relate to different gaming aesthetics. Many touch on the "challenge" aesthetic (Insert mechanical/ usable elements into the scene, because the players seek to solve a problem/ overcome a challenge), while I am interested more in the Fantasy aesthetic (How it may feel to simply BE in a fantastical environment/ scene/ situation).

    Yeah, some players will be mostly about the challenge. Some will seek out fantasy, or expression, or explortion. And most players will have a different mix of various aestthetics and desires. I think (in my humble experience), that even some relly hardcore challenge players, also have some desire to feel and experience a fantastical world.

    I do not intend to "push wonder down their throats", but as a few posters commented- creating this in a tabletop game, only with your words, descriptions, and game design is difficult. I want to create situations and scenes which help/ enable/ facilitate to the players who seek wonder, to be able to do so...

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    ... Getting a sense of wonder out of exotic materials involves referencing their presence in ancillary ways in all of your descriptions. It’s less about saying “Everything is made of gold!” And more about making sure the shine, the softness, the coldly metallic nature of the surfaces...anything that would be impacted by the sheer quantity of gold is casually and pithily mentioned in describing how they perceive the scene.

    ... How it looked so close for so long, how it dominated the landscape...

    ...reference the dull sound of boots on bindings as they walk. To use colorful creatures that hide in the mismatched multicolored “bricks” that the spines of various books make....

    Don’t let their mental image forget the wondrous aspects. Not by harping on them at the beginning, but by keeping them in mind and how they shape the encounters in that environment.
    I think you've touched on 2 critical elements here- using multiple sensory elements, and doing so continuously. We too often use mainly sight, or do so mostly in the exposition of a place/ scene, and then let it go. What you describe here is giving the wonderous elements a continuous presence in the scene and in the players mind. I think that can go a long way towards creating the sene of wonder. By dolling it in small, yet persistent amounts, it also avoids the "zoning out of players through the introduction/ exposition".

    It also doesn't force emotions thoughts unto the players, just give them the constant reminder/ feel/ sense of the place/ scene they are in, not just the obstacles.

    When I think back to it, I remember that in one of my campaigns the PCs were in a demonic metropolis. I wanted to make them feel as outsiders, that though this place was a city, it was far from familiar. I peppered their time there with lots and lots of sights, sounds, happenings and more. Some they interacted with, some just gave the place an atmosphere. It worked.

    And... it took consideration on my part to design it, and put it in the game. Not the major emphasis of the game, but a sufficient enough presence to create the desired effect. So, a conscious, deliberate and planned effort. This could probably be done by improvisation as well, if you're good at it (one of my challenges as a GM).

    Quote Originally Posted by Pippa the Pixie View Post
    Well, you need to accept that a lot of RPG players just won't go for that sort of landscape physical wonder. Sure, in real life the sun setting over the ocean or walking through some stone ruins does provie wonder....but a lot of RPG folks will just be like ''oh the sun" and 'oh, rocks".
    I disagree. Yeah, for the most part the players may not feel wonder, but my question stems from occurances where they DID, and from my own experiences as a player at times, and trying to figure out how it can be done. My assumption is not that players, even experienced ones, can't feel wonder, but that the methods I'm using (Some of them stemming from popular/ often used methods in RPGs) don't work that well, and trying to figure out what CAN work.

    ...get really good at descriptions...

    ...The hall is 20x40 feet, made of tightly fitted smooth stone without the use of mortar or grout of any kind, with Corinthian style columns with flowers carved in at the top...

    ...Though, still, maybe RPG gamers might not really feel the wonder of such descriptions...
    HOW do you get good at descriptions? I think Segev (The previous poster) and my attempt at understanding him touch on the subject. Adding a lot of details usuallly get the players to "tune out", the art/ skill is to add the right amount of details, and the right details. I think Segev touched on this very well!

    And that is when you really need to add the fantasy. This is what can really get a players attention. A floor made of fire. Walls made of frozen acid. Floating stairs. Animated objects.

    Though, you might need to go a bit deeper: A floor made of fire ghosts. Walls of frozen time. a gravity tube. Animated thoughts or feelings or ideas.
    Adding the fantasy part is important, but I think the essence, isn't about WHAT you add, but HOW you add it, and describe it.

    ...that you might really need some game mechanics effects to get the real feel of wonder for some players...

    ...They don't all need to be hostile or attacks....though that is what will get a lot of wonder out of the most players...
    I disagree again... Those thing won't create wonderment- they will create engagement. It becomes a mechanical obstacle, and so they will engage it, but this has nothing to do with the sense of wonder.

    I think... I think that this approach stems from the GM's frustration that the players don't engage or "appreciate" the fantasy scene around them (And in relation- the GM's hard work), and so we try to create added mechanics to t least engage them on the challenge aesthetics. Which works, but it also shifts the focus/ avoids/ doesn't accoplish the sense of wonder. They won't go "Wow! Look at this floor made of tormented fire spirits, their agony..." and so on. They will be "Ok, so let's figure out how to get through this. We need fire resistance, or to understand the fire eruption pattern. You said spirits, right? So maybe the cleric can turn undead, or something..." Engagement? Yes. Sense of wonder? Hmmmm...

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    ...Players generally approach the game as an activity of problem solving. You want something done, there is something in the way, and you need to do something to overcome the obstacles. When you want to solve a problem, the best way is to concentrate on the things that are relevant and ignore the things that don't matter.

    To make the players get engaged with the fantastic elements and pay attention to them, they need to be relevant parts of the problem they are trying to overcome. Skeletons with bull skulls and purple robes look different at first, but if they are still behaving exactly as regular skeletons and nothing would change if they were replaced with regular skeletons, then players will soon perceive them as regular skeletons.
    Hey Yora. I partially agree, and partially disagree. As I said in my opening to this post, yeah, players do come to solve problems, but that isn't all they are there for. I think it diminishes bot h the players, and the GM, to decide that because challenge is a major game aesthetics, that all should relate just to that. I think you can provide an engaging challenge, yet add layers of fantasy and more on top of that. HOW to do that is one of the purposes of hte thread.

    And the fantastical elements cane be different and memorable, without needing to have mechanics tied to them. In one of my games, the party fought Lemures repeatedly (Usually as the summons of some higher fiend). I wanted to portray both the suffering of the Lemures, and their pathetic existence. I did this simply by constantly describing their faces, and moans, and shuffle as they fought. At first the players found it funny, then it turned a bit more serious. 2 of the players came to hate fiend MORE, due to the enslavment and torture of lemures. One of them even tried to "end them mercifully" any time he could.

    In another example, the party were trapped in an ancient abandoned fotress, inhabited by a malevolent ghost of an antipaladin, who originlly betrayed the fort, while their followers and armies were dying outside the walls from a horrific magical curse. Every so often I had the player receive a short random vision of one of their army followers, as their soul was consumed. It had 0 mechanical effect. But it did effect the party to a grear deal. Not just that- the party talked, debated and more with the ghost, who followed them through their adventure in the fortress. The discussion had 0 effect on mechanics, but it made the fort feel different- with a history, a tragedy, like a tomb, a monument, and they seriously invested in he story, so much that they went from hating the ghost, to seeking to redeem it and free it, up to suggesting an entire side quest to go to the hells and free it's soul.

    ...The monster that destroys metal weapons and armor. The monster that stuns groups of PCs from a distance. The monster that cast 8 different spells at single targets every round. The monster that disguises itself as furniture. I don't have to describe how they look like but you probably recognize them all. Sure, they all look weird, but there are plenty of weird looking creatures that are utterly forgetable because they are not a unique challenge to engage...

    ...Exotic looks don't matter much. Especially when they are verbally described while at the same time the players are trying to sort out which words will be relevant to solving the problem the thing will pose for them once the GM stops talking.
    Make the places and creatures interesting problems....
    Again I partially agree. The "monster with a unique shtick" CAN BE JUST a challenge/ combat eno****er, but it CAN BE MORE! If a monster exists solely to provide a comat challenge, and then nothing about it matters no more, than yeah, anything else is forgetable.

    But... if you add more to it, more flavor, in a way that can touch the players, make them care, give it a place in the world, then things change. It's no longer a statistic block, it's someone... (Even if it's a horrific someone/ something). But that takes work. Part of the reason that Beholders and Illithids are so liked, is not just because of them begin challengin, but because of their strange, awe/ fear inspiring stories and themes! If the illithids were just squiddly faced monsters with psionic powers, a lot less players would care. But evil masterminds from the future/ alien world, who have a war with astral dwelling beings, and serve a master brain, into which they are assimilated and so on? WOW!

    Another great example is the Eberron Medusae. In D&D? Hey, it's a snake haired woman who can turn you to stone. In Eberron? They are sculptors, diplomats (With an amazing way to describe their diplomacy), gang leaders, art collectors, builders, and connected to an old imprisoned Dalekyr... None of these is a game mechanic, but it makes them so much more interesting! Heck, take Eberron's goblinoids. Knowing which culture the goblinoid comes from makes a HUGE difference in how you engage them. And it makes them fascinating, it makes people care. Warforged would be a hell of a let less interesting were it not for their backstory.

    A long time ago I tried creating a collection for rarely used creatures. Partly BECAUSE they were one shtick monsters, or just poorly defined/ accepted. A great deal of that was giving them a place in the world, more flavor, more life, turn them from a statistic block to a someone.

    And on the whole, I think my players, most players in fact, even the ones who like their challenges first, appreciate and love it when it happens.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    Agreed. The introduction to my latest game included the following:

    "DO NOT assume that you know anything about any fantasy creatures. I will re-write many monsters and races, introduce some not in D&D, and eliminate some. The purpose is to make the world strange and mysterious. It will allow (require) PCs to learn, by trial and error, what works. Most of these changes I will not tell you in advance. Here are a couple, just to give you some idea what I mean.
    1. Dragons are not color-coded for the benefits of the PCs.
    2. Of elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, kobolds, goblins, and orcs, at least one does not exist, at least one is slightly different from the books, and at least one is wildly different.
    3. Several monsters have different alignments from the books.
    4. The name of an Undead will not tell you what will or won’t hurt it.
    5. The first time you see a member of a humanoid race, I will describe it as a “vaguely man-shaped creature.” This could be a kobold, an elf, or an Umber Hulk until you learn what they are.
    Hmmm... While I too prefer to diverge from some common knowledge in my campaigns, I do this less so they won't asume, but because some things don't make sense to me/ feel shallow, (Color oding dragons, "Always X" alignements and so on), or because the campaign world/ adventure requires somethign different (Elves don't live in woods, because in this world their history and cultural evolution is different).

    I dislike the idea of "making things different" just so the players will have to keep guessing. It doesn't add to wonder, just to suspicion, and makes it diffuclt to describe. I personally find that relying on "common knowledge" descriptions can enhance the play, as ithelps facilitate descriptions and expectations, AND BUILD ON TOP OF THAT.

    I would describe a kobold in a short term, but obviously a kobold. It helps the party get the picture. I would then build on that, since a kobold can be many things, and pose wildly different challenges, without the need for the "AHA! Gotcha! Didn't expect that, did you?" Kind of GMing. I think you can make kobolds (Or other game elements), new, engaging and interesting, without the need to go to extremes. Using the familiar with the new, sort of a thing...

    Quote Originally Posted by CombatBunny View Post
    Two little helping hands to renew your sense of wonder:

    1) Listen carefully the very first minute of the track "Foundations of stone" from the LOTR: The two towers soundtrack =) I know that you might have heard that soundtrack many times before, but that first minute of that first track always gives me the chills.

    2) Read the first (and only the first) chapter of the book "Dragons of a Fallen Sun" from the "War of Souls" trilogy. That chapter is one of the most amazing intros to an adventure I have ever read and it has a very strong sense of wonder. Many times I have read again that chapter when I have felt out of inspiration.
    Ahhh... Finding ways to replenish your own sense of wonder... I guess everyone has their own resources. While you've answered another poster, I will look into these as well. Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    A word of advice to any hypothetical future GMs I might game with -- do not try to make me feel things. Just present what is there in front of my character.

    I will feel, or not feel, and when I do feel it will be what I feel, not what you think I should feel. Same for my character -- don't presume to control what my character feels or tell me what my character should feel.
    Hey Max_Killjoy. I know others have touched on the subject, but as I mentioned in this post opening, I do not intend to decide for my players how they feel, (Or should feel). But I do try and create situations, scenes and the like which may enable it. And it's not simple. It's an art I've hard a hard time grasping, and only in a few cases. I'm trying to learn to do this better.

    The players characters are their own. I in fact delight in seeing them explore, express and bring them into the game, in their own way. I like being suprised!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    ...The key to creating wonder in a tabletop setting is through immersion..

    ...the players - who are often there specifically for the escapism and don't want to engage with the game world save in a highly superficial way...
    I disagree, for the various reasons I detailed at the start of the post and answers to previous posters. Part of escapism can be EXACTLY to experience a different world, and marvel at it's fantastics. While many players seek the challenge aesthetics, quite a few also seek the fantasy, to various degrees...

    ...D&D, being built around a wargame chassis at the core, is a poor choice for wondrous immersion, because the system design and gameplay methodology push the characters to react to every environment, no matter how fantastical as a place where there's work to be done, and working in a place tends to drain the wonder out real fast (I've worked as staff in several National Parks, the glamour wears off quick when you're moving from one vegetation plot to the next)...
    One of the previous posters tocuhed upon this. And one of the lessons I've learned from the thread (See my previosu post) is that sometime you need to ease the tension to enable experiencing wonder. Yet, after that post I've also learned of ways to induce and maintain wonder while inside dangerous situations (Mostly through Segev's posts).

    It's not for nothing that when D&D developed it's most wondrous setting, Planescape, the overall tone they took to explain it was one of jaded cynicism, because that was actually a proper match for how the average player was likely to view it.
    I wholly disagree with that! Most games who love planescape love it for the wild and wonderous stuff in it! It's spectacular in terms of flavor, descriptions, and inspiration! The jaded cynicism comes to my opinion from the general bleak feeling of the populace of Sigil- when you are aware of the vastness of the planes, the blood war and other depressing matters, you often develop a grim, bleak view. But... this is EXACTLY where the heroes come in.

    Similar to Shadowrun really- The game is mostly engaging due to the world, the flavor and wonder. But it's a very dark and depressing world, and the characters are often jaded and cynical.

    I think there is a great difference between the assumed/ expected PC's world view, and the interests of the player...

    Thanks all for the replies and discussion! I'm learning things, and it helps me refine my understanding and questions. I hope it proves useful for you as well.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    My first post on the thread was probably too harsh... bad experiences with a couple GMs who were determined that my character HAD to be afraid, or HAD to be impressed, or whatever.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: Creating a sense of wonder?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    I think you've touched on 2 critical elements here- using multiple sensory elements, and doing so continuously. We too often use mainly sight, or do so mostly in the exposition of a place/ scene, and then let it go. What you describe here is giving the wonderous elements a continuous presence in the scene and in the players mind. I think that can go a long way towards creating the sene of wonder. By dolling it in small, yet persistent amounts, it also avoids the "zoning out of players through the introduction/ exposition".
    The thing I bolded here is probably the biggest take-away I was trying to get across! Well said.

    I am very much one of those players (and, in fiction, readers) who will zone out and skip ahead when description wanders on for too long. In addition, because my only engagement with a novel or a game run at a table is the words used to describe what's happening and the scene, if those words were piled up at the beginning, even if I read them faithfully and paid attention to the boxed text, I'm liable to forget about them in the middle of problem-solving, discussing, and reading/enacting dialog and plans. Exalted 2e introduced "stunting" as a mechanic, and it's a brilliant one for both the ST and the players to use to keep themselves mindful of the scene and even help players inject their own awe into the scene. Two-die stunts give a rough equivalent of a +2 to a roll they're made for, and involve the player incorporating some scenery element - either previously described or that he makes up that the ST agrees makes sense in the scene - into his action.

    It's Exalted, so over-the-top is a rule, and it doesn't translate directly to D&D, but if you're in a palace foyer when a battle breaks out, the player who says he makes his charge attack up to the next floor by grabbing the cord holding aloft the chandellier and cutting it from its secure position on the floor so that the chandellier carries him up gets that 2-die stunt bonus to his attack at the end of the charge AND got up to the floor above without having to plot his course across the stairs. And it has the added benefit of ensuring that not only do the other players hear him describe scenery elements on his turn (chandellier falling to the ground to carry him up), but that he's keeping in mind the setting and its details.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    It also doesn't force emotions thoughts unto the players, just give them the constant reminder/ feel/ sense of the place/ scene they are in, not just the obstacles.
    Indeed. In fact, nothing, in my experience, ensures players will NOT feel what you want them to faster than telling them, "Your characters are overwhelmed with [emotion]."

    You can't just tell people how they're feeling, any more than you can just tell them how NPCs are feeling! That makes me feel angry! (And certainly doesn't get that anger across.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    When I think back to it, I remember that in one of my campaigns the PCs were in a demonic metropolis. I wanted to make them feel as outsiders, that though this place was a city, it was far from familiar. I peppered their time there with lots and lots of sights, sounds, happenings and more. Some they interacted with, some just gave the place an atmosphere. It worked.

    And... it took consideration on my part to design it, and put it in the game. Not the major emphasis of the game, but a sufficient enough presence to create the desired effect. So, a conscious, deliberate and planned effort. This could probably be done by improvisation as well, if you're good at it (one of my challenges as a GM).
    It does take work, though I've found that the most productive work for me is in clearly thinking through the setting, myself. Not necessarily writing down every detail, but just...developing a mental model of it and why it has what it has.

    Then - and this is challenging as the GM - keep it all in mind. Remember what the setting is, yourself! You can't expect your players to have even as clear a mental image as you do; keep yours sharp. And, as you've noted, just drop details. Certainly, if it works for you, have pre-written elements to drop in when they fit. Don't describe all the merchants and their wares at once, but do have 2-5 of them well-described in your notes, and let your players ask you about them. Your goal is to provide just enough detail to pique interest, and let the players then dictate what they pay attention to, especially in richly-populated scenes.

    It's an art. It takes practice. And it helps to know your players.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    My assumption is not that players, even experienced ones, can't feel wonder, but that the methods I'm using (Some of them stemming from popular/ often used methods in RPGs) don't work that well, and trying to figure out what CAN work.
    The biggest "popular in running RPGs" flaws tend to stem from telling rather than showing. So if you're familiar with "Show, don't Tell" as an admonishment, it translates pretty directly to running games. Which makes people try to front-load lots of description, because showing always takes more words than telling. Which is why I really like the idea of spreading it out. Keeping the small details in mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    HOW do you get good at descriptions? I think Segev (The previous poster) and my attempt at understanding him touch on the subject. Adding a lot of details usuallly get the players to "tune out", the art/ skill is to add the right amount of details, and the right details. I think Segev touched on this very well!
    Thanks!

    The biggest thing I can think of is using that mental model, and asking myself, each time I have something happen, if there's an element of the setting that would make the experience different from being in a plain linoleum-tiled, flourescent-lights-behind-frosted-plastic, drop-ceilinged corridor. (And I note that I'm waxing florid even now, having spent the effort to turn "Generic Corridor" into a specific one that was deliberately not-fitting of most fantasy settings...but is likely very close to what the generic image is. Okay, maybe they remember or think "stone" walls and floors, but I guearantee that most players forget how DARK things were before electric lighting. Or how unpleasant spaces can get without central heating and air conditioning and air cycling.)

    Have monsters that work with the lighting of the area, and use it instinctively or deliberately. If there's a big, thematic element (which most "wonder and awe" scenes have), try to find a way to use it in each description.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    I disagree again... Those thing won't create wonderment- they will create engagement. It becomes a mechanical obstacle, and so they will engage it, but this has nothing to do with the sense of wonder.

    I think... I think that this approach stems from the GM's frustration that the players don't engage or "appreciate" the fantasy scene around them (And in relation- the GM's hard work), and so we try to create added mechanics to t least engage them on the challenge aesthetics. Which works, but it also shifts the focus/ avoids/ doesn't accoplish the sense of wonder. They won't go "Wow! Look at this floor made of tormented fire spirits, their agony..." and so on. They will be "Ok, so let's figure out how to get through this. We need fire resistance, or to understand the fire eruption pattern. You said spirits, right? So maybe the cleric can turn undead, or something..." Engagement? Yes. Sense of wonder? Hmmmm...
    I think engagement - mechanical or otherwise - actually does help with the awareness of the "wonderful" nature of the scene. But the key is to make sure that every time they're engaging with the mechanics, it ties back to reinforcing the scene.

    The floor is made of burning spirits, crying out in anguish, and they cause fire damage if you walk unprotected across them? The cleric is going to do something with it, and you're going to use fire protection? Great!

    Remind them as they cross the room that it's hot, even though their wards protect them. Give the cleric a sense of their pain as they interact; make it a social encounter (however brief) if he wants to work with them. The steps of the PCs on them probably hurt the poor spirits, too; have them crying out and pleading for mercy, to be spared from further pain. Offer them possible ways to make their traversal hurt the spirits less, but which require deliberate choices and effort. It becomes an RP opportunity, and the players will remember the burning, living floor because of that engagement.

    It's not about adding mechanical engagement for its own sake, but rather about making sure the wondrous elements that should require or provoke reaction become part of the problem-solving to which the players are naturally attuned. It isn't essential everywhere, but it is good to remember that engagement, while not wonder-inducing in and of itself, can be a powerful way to keep those details coming up over and over again without having to be a broken record.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    And the fantastical elements cane be different and memorable, without needing to have mechanics tied to them. In one of my games, the party fought Lemures repeatedly (Usually as the summons of some higher fiend). I wanted to portray both the suffering of the Lemures, and their pathetic existence. I did this simply by constantly describing their faces, and moans, and shuffle as they fought. At first the players found it funny, then it turned a bit more serious. 2 of the players came to hate fiend MORE, due to the enslavment and torture of lemures. One of them even tried to "end them mercifully" any time he could.
    This is an excellent example. Mechanically, this didn't have effect...but RP-wise, it absolutely did. Moreover, consider that it could have been a tool in their mechanical engagement if they tried to find a way to use the Lemures' anguish - or their own attempts to alleviate it, however temporarily - as a means of resolving or lessening some of their own obstacles.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    Again I partially agree. The "monster with a unique shtick" CAN BE JUST a challenge/ combat encounter, but it CAN BE MORE! If a monster exists solely to provide a comat challenge, and then nothing about it matters no more, than yeah, anything else is forgetable.
    Turning a monster into a set piece and playing it up can be a great way to create atmosphere. Stopping to think how that monster really looks when presented behaving as described, or in ways intelligence or instinct should suggest, can turn it from "and an Ethereal Filcher appears behind you" into "you feel something brush you - possibly just a breeze - but when you turn, it's gone," followed by eventually revealing what important item(s) have been stolen.

    The moment when the players recognize the monster and can put mental statblocks to it becomes a nice relief of tension (or ramping up of it, if they're the sort to be nervous when faced with powerful foes), and gives a wonderful "Eureka" moment of mental reward for recognizing something. It's all the more powerful if they recognized it because of the increasing sense of appropriate atmosphere.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    One of the previous posters tocuhed upon this. And one of the lessons I've learned from the thread (See my previosu post) is that sometime you need to ease the tension to enable experiencing wonder. Yet, after that post I've also learned of ways to induce and maintain wonder while inside dangerous situations (Mostly through Segev's posts).
    Glad my comments are helpful!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    I think there is a great difference between the assumed/ expected PC's world view, and the interests of the player...
    I think it's partially just that the player's mental viewport is only as good as the GM's description and his own imagination's ability to match it. It's very easy to default to colorless "corridors" or "hills" or "plains" and even forget major features like that river or that the halls are stench-filled sewers inadequately lit by smokey torches and poor ventilation.

    Making the sliding on muck, the rounded nature of the walls, and giving continuous reminders of how limited visibility is through description AND through mechanics. ("You hear it, but you didn't roll high enough to see whatever it is through the darkness and smoke. You're not even sure if the corridor turns before the source of the sound; you can't see a far end, so you know the hall goes straight for at least 20 feet before it's too dark for you to make anything out.")

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    My first post on the thread was probably too harsh... bad experiences with a couple GMs who were determined that my character HAD to be afraid, or HAD to be impressed, or whatever.
    It's understandable, but definitely not where this OP was going. He was asking how to evoke a sense in the players; telling them how their characters feel is antithetical to that.

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