TFC style guideA TFC Style Guide has also been developed to aid you in the area writing process. Following this style guide will save time and reduce the number of revisions typically requested during the process.
Don't use archaic or esoteric words. You are attempting to create a visual response in the reader. If they have to look up a word in your description, you've lost their visual impression. If you absolutely have to include an esoteric item, describe it very visually in the look description, include the esoteric word as a keyword and give it a less-esoteric short descrip and long descrip.
Although descriptions are not conversation, they are personal. Imagine that you are telling a blind person what their eyes should be telling them. "You see a small red bird" is preferable to "The bird is small and red" for a look description. However, they are also impersonal in the sense that it must make equal sense for every person who does a "look bird". This means that "You see a delicious-looking small red bird that reminds you of your Great-Aunt Mogra's cooking" is bad. Give them eyes, but let them tell themselves the story.
Descriptions should be a single paragraph. If you have multiple paragraphs in a room, you need to trim it down and put the extra detail in extra descriptions.
Check with the area coordinator ahead of time on who will do the connecting room descriptions to neighboring zones (meaning, should you use up all the room vnums and make them "make sense" with the neighboring zones, or should you leave them empty for the coordinator to deal with?)
Mob short descriptions should be just that, short, since they are what you will see everytime the mob attacks you or enters or leaves a room. You don't want to see "A giant furry black colored warg with brown eyes parries your attack!", "A giant furry black colored warg with brown eyes ***ANNIHILATES*** you!," etc. Just "A warg parries your attack!" is probably enough, so you would make the short description "a warg".
All mobs should have an action flag of "stay area" unless you specificaly get permission to create a wandering mob.
Only extremely important mobs should have personalized names. (Usually one or two mobs per area at most.) This is for two reasons: because most mobs are killed on a regular basis and it is odd that they would reincarnate with the exact same name, and because it limits potential player names. So instead of having a mob named "Alakanier, the king of the dwarves" with name keywords of Alakanier king dwarf, call the mob "A dwarven king" with name keywords of king dwarf.
Mob look descriptions should mainly be just that: a description of what they look like physically. Some description of their "current action" is okay, but for the most part it really should be a description of their appearance. You don't really _know_ their current action, after they've popped. Remember that if you start fighting the mob and then look at it, you see the same description.
Remember that you will see the same mob look description every time you look at the mob, so don't put things in the look description that would not make sense if you saw them more than once.
Make sure the mob look description is appropriate to the type/race of mob itself. A goblin is not likely to be neat, clean, or kind, so don't describe it as being any of those.
Make your mobs appropriate to the level range for the area. Mobs will pop +3 or -3 levels from the level you set it at. Make sure there are enough of each level mob in your assigned range.
Don't make a tiny mouse the highest level mob in your zone, or a fierce tiger the lowest level mob.
Make sure there are "enough" mobs total in your zone. A ratio of one or two mobs to the number of rooms in the zone is probably decent. However areas designed primarily with experiencing in mind should have more mobs than this.
Use aggressive mobs sparingly, especially where there is more than one in a room. If you make a group of aggressive mobs at the entrance to a zone that is for levels 10-15, make sure they are level 10, not 15.
Room titles should not have "flags" (e.g. (Magical))
Room titles should be capitalized as if they were a book title. (For example, "A small clearing beneath a sturdy tree" should be "A Small Clearing Beneath a Sturdy Tree".)
Room descriptions should be a description of place, not of action. Concentrate on what you can see in the room, or smell, or hear, or feel, if you will be constantly seeing/smelling/hearing/feeling it.
Room descriptions don't have to be overly long, but you should get a sense of really being in the room. It may help to picture the room in your mind, and then write about it as if you were making a record of its important contents and features. Then you can go back and make it read more like a description and less like a list :)
Remember that rooms will be viewed at all times of the day and night, and in all seasons, so don't describe things that would be wildly inappropriate at certain times.
You can't assume a player will enter a room in any particular way, much less that they read the description in any of the previous rooms, or that they were even in the zone to begin with before. People can portal, teleport, or bad recall into rooms, so you shouldn't assume they know important things about the room that they might not.
Don't "talk to the reader". This means that room descriptions should not say things like "Isn't it hot in here?" or "What did you expect, something to be in here? Go back outside!"
Don't assume things about the reader, or assign actions to the reader. This means that room descriptions should not say things like "You are frightened by the darkness of the room." or "Your curiousity is insatiable -- just WHAT is in that chest over there?!" or "You find yourself drawn to the corner of the room, and you open the chest to see what is inside." Remember that a god may be reading this description. Saying "You recoil in mortal terror!" is probably not applicable.
Remember that you will see the same thing every single time you enter the room or look at it, so don't put descriptions in it that would be terribly inappropriate if you saw them more than once. E.g. You see a tiger slip away into the trees. Reads okay the first time you look room. Next time, it's just odd.
Make sure all of the visible exits from a room are mentioned somehow in the room description. (For example, "The path continues to the east and to the west." or "There is an opening in the rock wall to the north.")
Remember that less is more. If you describe the way as being blocked by thick berry-bushes that look picked over, you don't have to spend a room, but you get a sense of more space, and you fill in a bit of background.
Write extra descriptions, direction descriptions, and doorway descriptions for rooms last, as you are likely to have edited the room more than once during the writing process, and if you write the extra descriptions early on, they are likely to no longer apply, or you may forget to change them.
Don't put keywords like "d" or "down" on exits. These are automatically valid to the mud, you don't need to specify them.
If a room doesn't rate a different description from the last room, it doesn't deserve to be a separate room. Also, it's very confusing to walk out of a room, think you're in a new one, and see the same description. Don't cut and paste entire room descriptions. However, see next tip.
Use "modified cut-and-paste" for rooms that are meant to be context-similar. By this I mean cut and paste, and then change one or two sentences. This gives the rooms an immediate feeling of similarity as you move through them, without being identical. The title should be close to the same, and the opening sentence or two. An overly simple example: "You are traveling a small trail in the deep forest. this sentence changes. The trail continues to the north and east." First one stays the same... second changes between things like "The air here is thick with the scent of pines.", "The trees rustle in the wind", blah, blah. Third stays the same in form, but changes with the exact circumstances (To the south and west, to the south, etc.)
Objects should not have "flags" (e.g. (Magical))
Objects should relate to the rooms and to the mobs themselves, and should be logical, in-period, and ideally useful. (For example, don't make "an intricately embroided waistcoat" to be worn on an ogre, make "a stinky loincloth" for him to wear instead.)
Object affects should be logical. If, for example, a certain race cannot be a mage, don't put mage-only items in a zone based on that race. Or if you have "a beautiful necklace", don't make it -2 charisma.
Object affects are almost always magical. If you put an affect on it, put a magical flag on it as well.
Object affects should not be overbalanced. (No +5 dam items)
Try to have a variety of object types in the zone.
"Really good" objects should be appropriately hard to get, not just laying on the ground or for sale on a shopkeeper. Again, these still need to be reasonable.
Long descriptions of objects are what you see when the item is on the ground. If the object can be picked up, it should look good after you have picked it up and dropped it on the ground in any other room. This means that it should not say "is growing here", "is leaning against the gate", "is hanging from a hook on the west wall", etc. For 90% of items, it should be something like "A loaf of bread is here." For perhaps 50% of your items, you should have a look descrip with the same keywords, so that "look item" gives at least a somewhat interesting description. (e.g. "The heavy loaf of wheat bread looks very filling.") For boring items such as generic weaponry and armor, you don't need to bother.
If your area is a hometown, make sure that food, weapons, armor and water are available (probably on a shopkeep). Also remind the area coordinator to add resets for recall potions.
Thanks to Tamar for original tip-formatting and to Nayr for formatting it for the web.
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