Sensational Atlas of Titan

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HedgeWizard
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Sensational Atlas of Titan

Post by HedgeWizard » Wed Jan 06, 2021 10:32 am

I was just looking at Dr Bargle’s blog and came across a wonderful idea: A Sensational Atlas.

http://drbargle.blogspot.com/2020/01/a- ... s.html?m=1

We often go looking for maps but this is a whole new take on the idea of an atlas. Instead of saying where places are it describes how it feels when you are there. Short evocative sentences which capture of the essence of the place.

I’m feeling inspired to start a similar project but was wondering if anyone else has already done something similar? Do you already have some great pieces which you’ve used or seen in games already?

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Re: Sensational Atlas of Titan

Post by Bifford » Wed Jan 06, 2021 1:46 pm

Warlock Returns AFF Discord channel: https://discord.gg/hpCRJkw

HedgeWizard
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Re: Sensational Atlas of Titan

Post by HedgeWizard » Thu Jan 07, 2021 1:21 pm

Nice resource and I think I’ll be giving it a try 🙂

But it’s not quite what I was imagining. I mean a series of descriptive sentences which if you hear them with your eyes closed really project you into the location. Instead of just describing where somewhere is describing how it feels, smells, sounds like.

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Re: Sensational Atlas of Titan

Post by Chompy » Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:52 pm

Generally my preference to have bullet points rather than read-aloud text, as well.

When I'm prepping I don't write out a full description for areas because so much can change by the time they get there. Maybe it's night, day, raining or there's a strong wind blowing the trees around. Maybe the guards are on high alert because the heroes caused a ruckus, or maybe they're lazing around playing dice. Maybe they entered the room from the other direction because they found a way to sneak around the back, so what was left is now to their right and vice versa. Maybe they don't have a lantern with them so everything is gloomy and dark...

It's great for the introduction, but after that I rarely get to use read-aloud text as written. So having a set of evocative descriptions to pick from when trying to describe a place on the fly would be pretty handy. Possibly up there with having a list of NPC names for when the heroes decide they need to ask the name of every single urchin lining the street. Again. :P

Does seem like it would be fairly system agnostic, since the concept is for a set of general descriptors, so it might be something a lot of different people find interesting if you do end up writing something.
I couldn't find any similar lists with some quick googling. Maybe a simple, but still useful, start might be to take each terrain type in AFF and do 10-20 evocative lines for each? Or perhaps three or four lines for each reaction type per terrain...
So for example Friendly Plains, Neutral Mountains, Unfriendly Hills or Hostile Forest and every other combination. Where in this case the 'reaction' is more about the atmosphere being welcoming or hostile.

Just an idea. Tempting to have a go myself but I have an imminent next session to prep in my spare AFF time. :D

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Re: Sensational Atlas of Titan

Post by SkinnyOrc » Fri Jan 08, 2021 12:10 am

HedgeWizard wrote:
Wed Jan 06, 2021 10:32 am
Instead of saying where places are it describes how it feels when you are there. Short evocative sentences which capture of the essence of the place.
It'd be a huge amount of work doing that for even the canon locations, but yeah ideally you'd have both that sort of thing and more factual info.

Travels In Arion is a bit like this with all the travellers recollections of each location, they give a feel for the place as well as what it looks like. It definitely makes it more enjoyable to read but I wonder if it gets in the way of using it in game. You'll be translating ToA on the fly the whole time unless you do a fair bit of prep. So there's a trade off there, but a GM isn't going to use something they aren't interested in reading either.
Chompy wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:52 pm
Generally my preference to have bullet points rather than read-aloud text, as well.
It seems to be popular to knock boxed text for locations, but my opinion is the criticisms are only valid when it's badly written. It was never supposed to tell the players what their characters felt or did, only what they can see, hear and smell. Another common mistake is to make them too long, players stop listening. It can be neutral to the PCs facing as far as possible, but a short, well written boxed text is easy to paraphrase anyway. Personally I'd rather have good boxed text that I can paraphrase as I like, than just have a load of GM text that I'm constantly extracting descriptions from.

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Re: Sensational Atlas of Titan

Post by HedgeWizard » Mon Jan 11, 2021 2:41 pm

I’m aware that this is mammoth task, and perhaps a little over ambitious 😉. But I’m happy to see that I’m not alone in seeing some potential value in it. To try and make it more manageable I’m going to try creating things for more general locations and then narrow in on some of the canon locations.

Travels in Arion is a bit of an inspiration as I really felt that it places the reader in the city. But it’s blocks of text which you’ve got to go fishing in if you are going to describe it to others. I agree that a good text is fantastic but I also acknowledge my weaknesses and that I can be a bit hit and miss on that front.

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Re: Sensational Atlas of Titan

Post by drbargle » Tue Jan 19, 2021 12:43 pm

Despite not doing much gaming (though last year I did run AFF, Barbarians of Lemuria, and Dragon Warriors) and even less blogging, I still think this is a good idea. Basically to counter my own inadequacies as a GM; I remember thinking how same-y everywhere must seem to players in my games. And with a world like Titan, with all that variety (especially packed into the 'classic' area of north-west Allansia) I'd love to have produced for myself an index card giving me appropriate sensory descriptors for Shazaar, Salamonis, Blacksand, Oyster Bay, etc., words which help distinguish Darkwood Forest from the Forest of Yore. To be able to look down and pick a few words to insert into my on-the-fly description. Of course, if your Heroes spend a lot of time in Salamonis, you'd want a card for the areas around the palace, the markets, the slums etc. I think it'd be a fool's errand to try to avoid replication of words - places are similar in some regards, and the key is to give you an easily accessible vocabulary that serves its *function* at the gaming table.

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Re: Sensational Atlas of Titan

Post by HedgeWizard » Tue Jan 19, 2021 9:47 pm

You’ve summed it up nicely. It’s the same in real life. You can walk in a village in the North of England, Belgium, South of France and then middle of Italy. They all have the same basic objects and locations: family houses, roads, cars, people walking around, fields outside the village etc. But they all feel different, sound different even perhaps smell different (plants, scents a bakery perhaps... not necessarily the people).

It’s a fun exercises in a way, really trying to picture a place and then answer the following questions. What is it that makes this place unique, why does it feel different to similar locations elsewhere and what would I remember when looking back?

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