Tuesday, December 28, 2010

About Tone

Thus far, I’ve taken a very conversational tone in these blog entries, which is a far different tone than I’ve taken in writing games. For one thing, I use the first person pronoun WAY too much in these blog entries. However, there’s something a bit friendlier and more welcoming about this tone, too.

A recent forum thread on rpg.net discussed how the author’s tone helps/hurts your understanding of the game (at least it did before going waaaay off topic- that’s forum threads for you). I can see how it can do both; too clinical, and you bore the reader, too conversational, and you’re likely to make the game about your personality rather than the system. You want the rules to be as easy-to-understand as possible, but this is a game system and not a textbook, after all… Some rpg writers (myself included) have used first-person text by a character in the world of the game to bring the reader in, and create this sort of connection with the reader in a more superficial (and sometimes overdone) way.

I want to keep playing with tone to find a conversational yet thorough and precise way to address the reader. Clarity has to be the number one priority; being conversational and engaging the reader is a close second. For example, I need to use uniform language in discussing rules or how those rules are used in context. I can’t say that an ability ‘stacks’ with another ability (since that’s a specific way to apply bonuses) and then substitute the word ‘synergize’ or ‘augment’ later in the paragraph- synergize and augment are not game terms for applying bonuses to abilities, and therefore are better prose but weaker game writing.

The trick is going to be in adding flavor to the text while also keeping the rule parts clean and direct. I think that’s the difference; keep the rules as succinct and clear as possible, but feel free to get a little more conversational in the ‘how to play the game’ sections (or ‘in play’, as I’ve used in other games).

This I like.

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