Monday, December 4, 2023

A Fuzzy Fairyland

When I was re-reading In Search of the Unknown over the weekend in preparation for my earlier post today, I came across this passage, describing the Garden Room:

The floor is covered with a carpet of tufted molds that extends to all the walls and even onto parts of the ceiling, obscuring the rock surface. The molds appear in a rainbow assortment of colors, and they are mixed in their appearance, with splotches, clumps, swirls, and patches presenting a nightmarish combination of clashing colors. This is indeed a fuzzy fairyland of the most forbidding sort, although beautiful in its own mysterious way ...

A common characteristic of fans of old school gaming is their preference for concise, even spartan, prose in the descriptions of adventure locales. While I broadly share this preference – my feelings about lengthy, overwrought descriptions are well known – I nevertheless do think there ought to be room for evocative, inspiring writing in RPG scenarios. Consider Gary Gygax's description of Erelhei-Cinlu in Vault of the Drow (which is interesting, because it also makes use of the word "fairyland"), which I think is a good example of what I'm talking about.

Are there any passages from an RPG adventure that you find evocative and inspiring? 


  1. You got mine -- the description of the Vault of the Drow in D3.

    Also maybe the blurb about the plane if molten skies on the back of the 1e DMG.

  2. The two you mention, for sure. Also D2's description of the entrance to the low cavity in the shrine of the Kuo-Toa (on the bottom of page 7).

    The phrase, "The Mithril Gates of Akbeth" (in Bill Webb and Clark Peterson's second Rappan Athuk module) gives me shivers of wondrous delight.

  3. This, from D3's description of what PCs can hear in the tunnels leading to the Vault: "While the main passage will have only the faint rustlings, twitterings, and scrabblings common to the underworld and caused by bats, rats, insects, and other vermin, vague noises of another sort will be heard if they listen in secondary passages-- distant footfalls and a clatter of disturbed rocks. Careful listening in a tertiary passage will reveal something far more disturbing, moaning and gibbering terminated by a scram of agony-- from what source none can tell-- fading into absolute quiet from somewhere far ahead."