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Offline MoonHunter

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Problems with Travelling in games. */
« on: August 28, 2003, 03:49:16 AM »
I am sure every gamer has experienced and dreaded a long travel sequence.  The GM plays out every day, with some random encounters appropriate for the terrain and level of civilization and a few planned encounters to break up the boredom.  While gamers won't say, "Are we there yet?", they are certainly thinking it.  So if your troupe is travelling a few hundred miles or so to get to the next important event,  the mood of the game can be totally ruined by a session or two of total boredom.

GMs, you have to realize you are telling a story not making a documentary. The documentary style of play follows the PCs around, detailing what they and the world do, even if it does not related to story. The example is this is roleplaying out the opening of 100 boxes, 99 of which do not have anything interesting or applicable to the story. The troupe plays out hours of the character's life, changing to a new character every now and again. The story stalls because every single detail of the world is played out.

Hitchcock once said that movies were "life with the boring parts cut out." GMs should take this statement to heart. While gaming, you should concentrate on the interesting parts (interactions, dramatic scenes, tactical events). Between sessions you should deal with all the boring parts (book keeping, updating, events that occur for only one player). This way, your "table time", your game session will be as exciting as any movie or TV show.

How does this apply to travelling in game? The Magic narrative phrase, "Three days later you arrive." With this large sweeping gesture, you have reduced hours or so of tedeous travel time (if not more) with pointless encounters to 12 seconds. The players deduct 3 days of supplies and you're off to an interesting part of the game.

If there is an actual encounter, that adds drama to the game, that occurs along the way, I set up the scene of the players being on the road, and we play out that "incident".  Once it is over, I listen to the players' updated plans, and narrate us through to the next event.  Time can pass with the magic narrative phrase until something important needs to be resolved.  

There are other techniques that help.  In other games, I show the map (covered in a sleeve protector). I draw a red dot where they are. I draw a dot where they are going. I draw their route and tell them nothing of interest happens. (just like in the old pulpish movies.)  

You can add bits of narration to the sweeping phrase.  A few quick tidbits telling the troupe about the cramped bunks of the ship, the great pie they ate at this roadside inn, the not so pretty bar maid, or the cool sunset they saw.  This gives the players a sense of what happened to them and you still resolve the travel quickly with the appropriate narrative tool.

In most cases, unless players are desperate to resolve some interpersonal character issue or for just a few exps to reach the next level before they get there, players will accept the narrative moment and move on to the "exciting parts".

Many players will also get into the spirit of things, and narrate the hightlight of their trip. While this multiplies the time taken travelling by a factor of twenty or so (12 seconds to five minutes) the players will feel more involved and feel they have added things to the game.

The point of the game is to "have fun".  While traveling can be fun, it is generally not the most interesting part of a character's adventures.  By using the right narrative style, you can increase the fun in your campaign, by adding dramatic moments and removing the boring parts.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2005, 12:44:40 AM by MoonHunter »
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Offline Ylorea

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Problems with Travelling in games.
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2003, 04:09:21 AM »
This is just what I have been trying to teach my DM, but he won't listen.... He feel we need the random encounter xp for the adventure in the next town.

Well Oke, he has paid some attention, as we now know we are 13 encounters away from the city.... and still traveling the desert.

But in general you are right. Finding a ship to travel to another island typicaly takes time in my campaign, but the ships ride itself is done in a matter of minutes. I do tell them about the weather they encountered, I do tell them about the lovely view they had on day five, when the dolphins where jumping just besides the bow of the ship.

But traveling five weeks should be a matter of minutes, not of hours.
This general rule can be broken by the way. If you are one of the few GM's who can turn a travel into a adventure, I would encourage you to do so. However most of the time it is just boring, then don't play it out, just state that the days are gone by.
If in doubt about your skill to turn travel into adventure, I would say: go for the quick approach.

I gues I am a lucky person, I get to play and I get to DM. That does help you to see what is important and what parts should be skipped.

Yours,

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Offline Wingnut

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Problems with Travelling in games.
« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2003, 10:31:22 AM »
I agree wholeheartedly with this. I, for one, never use random encounters during travel.

I have one or two encounters preplaned for the trip. But I do make them tell me their routine, who is standing watch when, that kind of stuff.

I do make fake die rolls letting them think everything is random though.

Now the secret is out of the bag, don't tell my players. ;)
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Offline Strolen

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Problems with Travelling in games.
« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2003, 01:22:29 PM »
Only have a couple minutes so will expand later if I find it necessary.

I slightly disagree. Traveling is another time to bring life to your world and give it life beyond the continuous action surrounding the players.

Things I will use travel for:

Add flavor to the world. Describe terrain change, housing, perhaps a farmhouse or two which may lead to the characters trying to stay a night where I can pass rumors (I love rumors) about the area and give it a more expansive life.

Describe the weather and let those with that skill forecast. During the action I always ignore weather (unless I need it for what I am doing) so it sets that up too.

I usually do at least three nights, if only to establish their sleeping order and watch order which they tend to stay with (which they would know I expect) so that doesn't have to be dealt with when I want to keep things going.

I LOVE random encounters. Just the small simple ones that don't take up much time. Sometimes some simple hack and slash to break it up without ruining my real plot, or some investigation work where I get to use some of the lesser used talents of the PCs. I will just look at their sheets and decide to use that never used skill that the one chose to add spice to their character. This way I don't have to have it as forced in the real game because they expect random encounters just to sort of be ice breakers.

Rest assured I would never play weeks of this, but depending on the length I will usually try and play a couple days. The 10-15 minutes of 'non-hazardous' travel is well worth my time for setting up the area and situation.

I also like to keep them on their toes. It is a good tension builder if they are on a time limit and make them watch the dice thrown praying for no delays, and also keeps them guessing at least a little. I wouldn't want to only stop them when I wanted an encounter, something doesn't happen EVERY TIME the DM makes some points, need to keep them as players, as well as PCs, expecting anything and nothing so they can get complacent as well and suffer.

(Gotta go, will reread and fix/expand if necessary later)

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Offline CaptainPenguin

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Problems with Travelling in games.
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2003, 05:24:21 PM »
I hate random encounters. I find them pointless and distracting, and they often take my players off of track. I do agree with the theory that travel should be for fleshing out the world, however.

For instance:
-Describing landscapes
-Describing weather
-Describing inhabitants of nations and places
-Describing current events
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Offline Strolen

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Problems with Travelling in games.
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2003, 08:05:41 PM »
Quote from: "CaptainPenguin"

-Describing landscapes
-Describing weather
-Describing inhabitants of nations and places
-Describing current events


As far as I am concered, all those ARE random encounters!!!

When you say "Random Encounter" you cannot think automatically a group of orcs, bandits, etc., although that stereotype is valid in most games, but it shouldn't be. I don't like a lot of random violence just to kill, although you know your players and know if they need it and it is a very necessary element sometimes.

Got to get out of the rut of the stereotypical "Radom Encounter" and start being more creative.

My opinion: If you hate random encounters or don't like them, I believe it just means you are using them incorrectly.

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Offline MoonHunter

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Narrative stops are perfectly acceptable
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2003, 01:11:28 AM »
As long as any "narrative stop" along the way has a real purpose for the story or campaign, then it is not a random encounter. The setting is a character as well, so narration related to it and how it spins is perfectly acceptable. So you would break it down a bit differently in this case.

Instead of You get there after five days travel...

You traveled the hilly countryside for a day or two, constantly pulling rocks out of your shoes and boots.  Spending the night at a village inn with a wonderous blueberry pie, you move on along the road.  The day is sunny and the air is nice.  It made camping under the stars that night almost fun... if it wasn't for the howling of dire wolves in the nearby mountains.  

Shall I go on?( waiting to see if a player wants to investigate the wolves...)

Continue the narration until you get to the location desired.   You would not that this narration gives you a feel for the terrain in the area, a memorable bit of chrome (an inn with good food), a feel for the weather, and a possible plot hook. If you mentally review what you want the narration to include before you do it, you will just rattle off the things in an appropriate manner.  

This still takes less time than gaming out the entire trip.  It also takes more effort on the GM's part.  I think it is worth it in many cases.  In other cases, it is not.  I run modern games a great deal. So check it: You hit SFO. After buying the obligatory piece of Sour Dough to go, you enter the plane. The peanuts are stale and the movie is bad.  You get off in Ohare.  It is really busy. You rent the car and head to the tiny town of DeCroix where you think the bad thing may be.  The players have traveled this route before, both in character and in real life.  Nothing to be gained.

It can be done, but is better replaced by.  You travel by airplane. Renting a car locally you head to DeCroix.

Or even better, A few hours later, you are travelling to DeCroix in a rental car along a road that is only laughably called a road.  

You get the idea.  Any of these ways is still faster than roleplaying out each conversation with the cab driver, the curb guy, the ticket person, the cashier, the flight attendent (multiple times), the rental counter person, and the gas station attendent...

As for random events...

Many games say that travelling x miles you will encounter an adventuring event.  Even if the game does not say that, many GMs, knowing their players want action, will punctuate travel time with mindless combat encounters, to provide action in an otherwise boring trip.   If you are just filling time and granting exp for a mindless combat... it would be much better if you narrated through.  

There are no real random encounters if the encounters further the story. If they don't then they are random and only show that you the GM do not have anything prepared for your players.
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Offline Strolen

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« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2003, 05:29:26 AM »
That may be where our paths divide. I suppose my 'random encounters' are maybe not so random but I still don't want to believe that random encounters do not further the story.

Every encounter does something to the story in some way. Even the fighting some random orcs could convey a larger problem when/if that is brought to the village. "What? We have an orc problem? I thought we just had ogres."

Other encounters can propel the characters. If only to use those specialized ignored skills.

Random events can be planned as well. I hope you aren't assuming that because you didn't roll the dice for an action that means it is not random? I guess my random encounters are more planned then some, but that is what makes them useful.  Before the game I know they are traveling...ok, what would make sense for them to come across or to happen to them that I can weave into the story. Then I make up some stuff and run with it. It is planned, but still random no?

Any event that happens to the characters will help build the story as long as the encounters don't appear random. If they know it is random then indeed it is a 'random event' and they will treat it as such.

-Roll of dice, "You are traveling." Roll of dice, Roll of dice, "It is night." Roll of dice, Roll of dice, "You hear grunting."

Quite obvious, the players know this is going to be a meaningless bloodfest. Those random encounters are useless unless you have munchkins.

If you already planned the randomness (contrary, I know, but you get my point I think) then they will not know it was just randomly chosen from a list downloaded from Strolen's Citadel before the game started. Depending on the encounter, once it is over they may start guessing what it means and somehow tie it into the current game. Give the player's imagination their reign and they can come up with the most complex story arcs then you can plan.

Anything, no matter how small, can help move or even change the current story including the most stupid of random encounters.

All in all I guess what I consider random is still calculated, for it not to be to a point doesn't make sense and I think that is where the opinions differ. Taking a chart out of a book and forcing it into a game is silly. But to see that you have 3 days of travel it is perfectly acceptable to me to just make up a couple different encounters  and throw them in to keep life intersting. I consider these random because they were not explicitly created to further the story, they were created because there is downtime with the opportunity for meaningless side track. And side track might be the better word for what I am doing.

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Offline MoonHunter

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Definitions and violent agreement
« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2003, 02:09:19 AM »
Quote from: "Strolen"
I consider these random because they were not explicitly created to further the story, they were created because there is downtime with the opportunity for meaningless side track. And side track might be the better word for what I am doing.


I think we are in violent agreement, except for using different words.  

Your random encounters are what the rest of us call plot hooks or plot seeds. These are story arcs that the players can follow up on now, or do so later. Plot hooks/seeds are perfectly good things to insert (and I use this term loosely) randomly or more accurately apparently randomly into a campaign though narration.

For the rest of us, random encounters are just that, something a GM throws at the players because a chart said so or they want some random bloodshed for some reason (usually because there hasn't been any recently).

An article at Game Green about this very subject and dovetails very nicely with what we say:
http://www.gamegrene.com/game_material/random_encounters_are_arbitrarily_annoying.shtml
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Offline Strolen

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« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2003, 01:00:23 PM »
That article parallels very well what I was thinking.

Random Encounters suck! :)

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Offline manfred

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Problems with Travelling in games.
« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2003, 08:11:40 AM »
I agree with many things, but in the end I must side with Strolen. I am too against Random Combat, but all for Random Encounters. Such an encounter may not really be a plot hook, or a plot seed. Random means for me, that I roll (OK I don't roll, but pull one... doesn't matter), and get something I did not think of. I cannot imagine everything, so a bit of inspiration from a random source may do good to the adventure. And if it doesn't look good, I just choose another. Or none.



But what if... what if the Road itself is the adventure? I mean, sometimes can the Travelling alone be the purpose, the goal, not necessarily in some spiritual sense. An example may do some good:

A rich merchant was looking for someone skilled in the ways of Nature (well, duh, the PC is a ranger). See, there is a road from A to B, and it is used for transport of goods, like you could expect. Pity that every winter the road is hard to use, for snow and monsters and animals make the journey too expensive. The idea was to find an alternative route, through the Great Marshes. While combat happened only with a few weak monsters, the player (and the PC) really won't forget it...

The mood was slowly changing: from boredom to discomfort, then to weariness... and at last heavy discomfort and fatigue, complete package with a nice disease that itches, and spreads if you scratch it. It also helped that almost every night the PC had a dream, most of them strange, some scary, some not. And in the last nights, where he fell to sleep (literally), there was one dream, that could be an enounter in fact, but he is not sure, not even today...


So a little contra-advice I may give:
_Very_ rarely, use even boredom. If the land looks basically the same desolate way, wherever you go, and if something breaks this mood, it probably tries to kill you. There are places where the life is not comfortable, however you try. Roads were built to make travelling easier (at first, that is).



Now I could need a little advice from you, fellow Travellers. ;)

As some kind of a quest, a PC wants to go to a half-mythical place (background: her father wanted to get there, and vanished). The problem is, the place is halfway across the world. I can't simply say: "And in x months you are there." Fifty Random Encounters in Plains and Mountains won't do the trick, as you surely understand. ("Meet barbarian tribe number 15. Wear blue colours, nothing new besides this.") I need a little campaign that takes place while the hero travels hundreds, maybe thousands of miles. Has anybody some idea how to handle THIS amount of travelling?
Do not correct me, I know I am wrong.

Offline MoonHunter

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Problems with Travelling in games.
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2003, 05:51:04 AM »
Quote from: "manfred"
As some kind of a quest, a PC wants to go to a half-mythical place (background: her father wanted to get there, and vanished). The problem is, the place is halfway across the world. I can't simply say: "And in x months you are there." Fifty Random Encounters in Plains and Mountains won't do the trick, as you surely understand. ("Meet barbarian tribe number 15. Wear blue colours, nothing new besides this.") I need a little campaign that takes place while the hero travels hundreds, maybe thousands of miles. Has anybody some idea how to handle THIS amount of travelling?


Actually I have.  I just kind of forgot to post the reply. My bad.

Think of the game like a TV series.  Each episode/ adventure is an interesting part of the journey. (Think Star Trek).

You open each episode/ session  in media res, in action.  You just don't play out the boring parts of making camp, getting up, and travelling.  You start the session with... "It is about noon, you are thinking of making cold camp for a mid-day break when....X happens.  X is the adventure you see." or  "You have made camp in the foothills of the Western Marches.  It is starting to get cold out on the road. Winter is slowly creeping up on you.  You will need to get through the Marches before winter sets in.  But for now, you have a warm fire, some freshly acquired mead from the last village, and dinner. Let the players play the scenes.  Eventually something will happen that night".

In short, avoid the boring parts of travel. Narrate through them.  

Work out a lot of travel related narration pieces ahead of time. Cue Cards for your future need.  That way you will have the feel for the day set up ahead of time.  

Start the session in action though narration.  Just like in Star Trek when we hear the Captain's log that explains what the heck has happened before the real adventure starts.  Once you do your narrative bit, let the players do what they want from there.    

One thing to note: Let the players back fill in the narration.  They need to establish a regular routine.  Most of this should be worked out, but some of it should be created on the fly.  

If you state your were suprised, they will ask about their scouts, for example.  So you can back up your narration and start forward again after you factor in these scouts.

So it is fairly easy. Instead of starting from camp every morning, you can skip days until you get to the interesting parts you want to have happen.
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Offline forgottengods

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« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2004, 05:09:33 PM »
i just start dm in dndd203rdedition i was an old fashioned dm for dnd 2nd edition and palladium well i have been having issues with ramdom encounter tables since most tof the times when you roll up the dice they keep getting the same encounter also well is like to throw dices then juts oh zombies again heheh well is a little boring what i do sometimes is when lets said randomly you get zombies wait until you get the correct atmosphere lets said a little houes in the wwods abandone and surrounded by zombies i also in the random tbale put some dogs ,guards ,drunks caravan so we can avoid all this monster mayhem hehehe but that just what i do but still that and the templates are giving me a hard time. :oops:
the new gods of palladium have arrive  you can run and hide but soon you willl die.

Offline MoonHunter

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HUH??
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2004, 01:31:20 AM »
HUH?  Um... Punctuation, Capitalization, etc.... would be quite nice.  

Of what I could make out, your response seems non sequitor.
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Offline CaptainPenguin

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« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2004, 08:19:01 AM »
Hey, lay off him.
He's from Mexico.
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Offline MoonHunter

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« Reply #15 on: January 24, 2004, 02:21:39 AM »
This coming from you, the biggest complainer about bad spelling, grammar, punctuation, net speak, etc?  How many times have you posted about that? How many times have you commented on items/ NPCs/ etc about it?  And you have complained about non native English speakers' posts and entries as well.  Yet now, you hypocritically.....  

*cue deep cleansing breath to release the rant*

Okay.

Spanish has punctuation. And they capitalize the beginning of sentences. Just like any Indio-European Language does.  If he had posted in Spanish (which I can read), he would have included those things. (I hope).  Even on Spanish RPG sites (which I go to occasionally... they are interesting, but I have trouble translanting the idiomatic gaming terms), they too complain about punctuation, grammar, chat speak (which is non comprehensible to them for some reason), etc.

We have about six regular contributors and another six semi-regulars that are not English speakers, yet they post well enough not to draw flack from you or others. Some of them even complain about people with sub-standard English abilities.  

If he was coming from Japan or China or Korea (and others), where they don't use western punctuation and rules then I (and most of us) would forgive most of it.  

I am not asking for perfection. I do not achieve it. I do not expect it from others.  I am asking for enough so we can properly understand what they are talking about.  

To be honest. I have no clue what he posted about.  I was hoping he would edit it so we would know.

That is why your post confuses me.  Do you only defend the grammar/ spelling of people you like and curse the rest of them?  Why the double standard?
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Offline CaptainPenguin

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« Reply #16 on: January 24, 2004, 07:29:00 PM »
My aren't we testy today, Moon?

But seriously, folks...
I do see your point. But let me tell you a story...

Long, long ago, in a Citadel that once stood on this exact same spot, there lived a certain pirate who was very picky about his language stuff. He was often about the Citadel, shouting about grammar and spelling and so on, so on.
But to this Citadel there came a vampire god from Mexico, and while his English was passable, he was horribly bad at typing it, apparently.
As was the way of things, this pirate went about shouting at the Mexican vampire god, telling him to clean up his writings.
But the mighty Schmolen, lord of this certain Citadel, and his associates, Schmia Sock, Zagar, and Danfred, came to this pirate and told him "Hey, man. He's from Mexico, lay off."
So the pirate did.
The pirate learned his lesson and shut up about the Mexican vampire god's spelling and grammar, which were still not very good. In the sake of niceness, he ignored it.

So I'm not saying that ignoring FG's (very bad) grammar is the right thing to do, but it's the agreeable thing to do, and the thing I was told to do, so I'm going to keep on doing it, and if you feel you have to unleash a fury about it, by all means go ahead.
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Offline Strolen

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Problems with Travelling in games.
« Reply #17 on: January 25, 2004, 05:28:27 AM »
Hey, I think I have heard of Schmolen.

Grammar and chatspeak: it really brings out the demons at the Citadel. Understandably so and it bothers the crap out of me too.

Now, most of the time you can tell when English is a second language. Even better when they tell you. FG does a good job most of the time but this last one, well, what the hell was that?

There is a fine line. Right of the bat I can name a few that annoy me every time I read it so I try and avoid them as much as possible. Are they uneducated, lazy, or is English their second language? What can we do about it? Does ragging on them in the thread ever help or does it just cause a flame war? Should PMs be used to point out their horrible posts with a link to it so they can go right to it and maybe fix it? From what I have seen, this thread included, tearing into somebodies post does nothing except push the thread off topic.

I think it is agreed that there is a certain level of acceptable bad grammar, misspellings, and improper sentence structure. Failure to make paragraphs to seperate main ideas and no capitals is pretty much unacceptable and annoying regardless of what your native language is, especially if it is a longer post. It makes it unreadable. If the poster doesn't realize this then they might have bigger issues then we can help them with.

If you are going to write  in english then you are accepting the fact that we are communicating in english and need to at least attempt at trying to be understood.

So what can we do about it? That is the major question.

How about instead of telling them their grammar or spelling sucks, take that energy and try and translate it for them. Maybe put words in their mouth in the hope that they will either clarify or edit their statement. Do they know they made a post that is impossible to understand? Hell, even things we write can be misinterpreted. Maybe with some positive reinforcement they will do us the favor of rereading their post before they submit.

Is that a solution? I doubt it. But I don't know what else to do about it. I just don't think publically telling somebody they don't make sense ever fixes anything, it just throws the thread off topic. I ignore it or delete it usually but that doesn't solve anything either.

Any ideas?

It is getting to the point, for me, that seeing cracks on those with horrible grammar is just as annoying as the bad grammar itself. We need to figure something out.

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Offline MoonHunter

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Re: Problems with Travelling in games. */
« Reply #18 on: December 14, 2006, 12:11:15 PM »
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Offline MoonHunter

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Re: Problems with Travelling in games. */
« Reply #19 on: June 25, 2008, 12:48:34 PM »
[MoonHunter] 10:26 am: I tend not to use external plots as most of the
plots lines used in my games are associated with each character.
[MoonHunter] 10:27 am: So I am not as fluent with the plot section as
I am with the rest of the site
[Golanthius] 10:28 am: I usually don't use them either...But
sometimes for a quick encounter on a long overland journey they
come in handy
[MoonHunter] 10:28 am: I can see that.. or just something distracting
to do
[MoonHunter] 10:30 am: when someone isn't there..
[MoonHunter] 10:30 am: or you need a filler
[Golanthius] 10:31 am: When the party has to travel for 35 days to get
somewhere, these small encounters can break-up the monotony
[MoonHunter] 10:31 am: Even in mission orriented genres, such as
cyberpunk, horror investigation,or even supers... oftentimes the
mission at hand is really just a distraction from the real plot.. giving
people something to do while people inivolved in real plots are ...well...
involved
[MoonHunter] 10:32 am: If they are travelling for 35 days, you give
them one day of general travel description.. then narrate... after 35
days, you crest the last hill before you reach your goal.
[MoonHunter] 10:32 am: It is the classic  red line on a map/ travel
montage
[Golanthius] 10:33 am: I roll for random encounters on these types of
trips
[MoonHunter] 10:34 am: See, while we have "real encounters" only if
they either serve the plot or "pass information" to the players.
[MoonHunter] 10:35 am: So I need to impress that the Sand Men in
The Wastes are dangerous, but oddly honorable.
[MoonHunter] 10:36 am: We have the group jumped to "show them the
monster", and show them that the Sand Men won't kill surrendered
warriors... and try not to hurt the non-warriors (So anyone with a
weapon is fair game, drop your weapon and don't resist... you are
safe... otherwise they ... well it gets messy)
[MoonHunter] 10:37 am: They will drive off the Sand Men... and
continue on the red line until they get there...
[MoonHunter] 10:38 am: Or one of my personal favorites was a
seemingly random encounter with a farm to get supplies (after said
raiding) and the old lady there is weeping that her children have left
home abruptly and she is all alone and can't work the farm (Just like
one of the PCs did at the begining of their adventuring career.. a few
weeks earlier)
[MoonHunter] 10:40 am: Most of the time, it is Hitchocks rule

Yes, I am stashing notes to myself here.
MoonHunter
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"The road less traveled is less traveled for a reason."
"The world needs dreamers to give it a soul."
"And it needs realists to keep it alive."
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