Even More Words Every Game Master Should Know


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D&D is in part a game about stories, which use words I suppose, if you want to be facetious.


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brock wrote:

No, I'm intentionally misusing the term ;)

DnD isn't a word game in the traditional sense, but it is a game very much about words in that these are the only tools that the GM has available to describe the scene. I described DnD as a word game for that reason, and because we are discussing words.

+1

RPGs in general, not just D&D, depend on painting a picture with words. If a player requests elaboration on something because they don't know the word the DM used, it's just another excuse to describe it further. This is a positive, not a negative.


Many stories often use words to evoke a feeling and anchor a tale in its place. Thus if you are describing a caravanserai as an 'Arabian Inn' the suspention of belief shatters (for some) and the storytelling magic gets a little harder to conjure.

I have a large vocabulary because of the many obscure words my favorite authors use to describe their worlds. I rarely had to look them up, as it is easy to decipher them in context. Nowadays, even when I have to look something up it's as easy as putting it in a search engine. I gave away my dictionaries long ago.

Painting a picture with words can be hard, but rewarding. You might need a thousand to equal a photo, but it can be done, and the best do it well.

As a caveat, you must know your audience. The first rule of newspaper journalism is to write for an eighth-grade comprehension level. That's not to insult the more erudite readers, it's to make the information more accessable to those who would scratch their head over the word 'erudite'. If your group isn't facile with obscure vocabulary, by all means, go with the lowest common denominator. But some folks enjoy the use of words like these to evoke a mood and feeling.

The Exchange

I'm back from checking that facile means what I thought it did :)

Patrick Curtin wrote:

Many stories often use words to evoke a feeling and anchor a tale in its place. Thus if you are describing a caravanserai as an 'Arabian Inn' the suspention of belief shatters (for some) and the storytelling magic gets a little harder to conjure.

This, is exactly what I was trying to say.


Patrick Curtin wrote:


As a caveat, you must know your audience. The first rule of newspaper journalism is to write for an eighth-grade comprehension level. That's not to insult the more erudite readers, it's to make the information more accessable to those who would scratch their head over the word 'erudite'. If your group isn't facile with obscure vocabulary, by all means, go with the lowest common denominator. But some folks enjoy the use of words like these to evoke a mood and feeling.

The condescension is becoming thick enough to cut with a knife.


Cartigan wrote:
Patrick Curtin wrote:


As a caveat, you must know your audience. The first rule of newspaper journalism is to write for an eighth-grade comprehension level. That's not to insult the more erudite readers, it's to make the information more accessable to those who would scratch their head over the word 'erudite'. If your group isn't facile with obscure vocabulary, by all means, go with the lowest common denominator. But some folks enjoy the use of words like these to evoke a mood and feeling.
The condescension is becoming thick enough to cut with a knife.

*shrugs*

I wasn't trying to be condescending, but YMMV.

It is actually harder to rein in the urge to write purple prose sometimes. Editors battle worditis all the time. Throwing big words in for the sake of big words isn't good writing, it actually garbles the message.

That being said, it has been noted that English is the language of poets because we have so many vocabulary words that we can paint a vivid picture with subtle differences betweeen them (ie: 'sky' or 'heavens'- same meaning roughly, but different connotations)


And no doubt an English speaker noted that English is the language of poets.


Cartigan wrote:
And no doubt an English speaker noted that English is the language of poets.

Well, it has a lot more shades of vocabulary than many other tongues. That's not to be 'Englo-centric' that's just a fact. In the example I tendered in my previous post, can you say 'sky' in Spanish? or 'Heavens' in Swedish? It's the multi-cultural fusion goop that is English that gives it its many vocabulary words. And we keep stealing them all the time. You will never see a commission like the French have to outlaw 'foreign' loan words from the lexicon.

A famous paraphrase from James D. Nicoll states: "English doesn't borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over, and goes through their pockets for loose grammar."

Scarab Sages

Some words have snuck into a lot of campaigns because, having been used once (often by a player spearing in-character), the terms became useful. Deosil falls into this category. So does plinth.

And yes, sometimes characters run deosil around a plinth. So be it.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
I've had someone flip-out at me because I used the word "antimacassar" in a sentence rather than say "doily that goes at the top of a chair."

One of my favorite words, because the etymology is so opaque. "Annie Chapman, the second canonical victim of Jack the Ripper, was said to have made antimacassars for a living shortly before she was murdered." - wikipedia

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Cartigan wrote:
D&D is in part a game about stories, which use words I suppose, if you want to be facetious.

Is facetious the only English word that uses all five vowels in order?

Contributor

Chris Mortika wrote:
Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
I've had someone flip-out at me because I used the word "antimacassar" in a sentence rather than say "doily that goes at the top of a chair."
One of my favorite words, because the etymology is so opaque. "Annie Chapman, the second canonical victim of Jack the Ripper, was said to have made antimacassars for a living shortly before she was murdered." - wikipedia

The etymology isn't actually opaque. It's completely clear if you're up on your Victorian habits: Oil of Macassar was a popular hair oil, a sort of Victorian precursor of Brylcreem, which in its turn has also fallen out of fashion. Anyway, an antimacassar is a doily used to specifically guard against Oil of Macassar.


Patrick Curtin wrote:
In the example I tendered in my previous post, can you say 'sky' in Spanish? or 'Heavens' in Swedish?

Your counterpoint only works if you pull both from the same language, otherwise it is rather disingenuous.

Contributor

Cartigan wrote:
Great, we've spent 2 minutes unnecessarily describing a type of building because you thought using a non-English word would be educational.

My 1920s Webster's Unabridged says it is so an English word. It even has an illustration of "Interior of Caravansary at Aleppo" there for those who wonder at the difference between it and a more European style inn.

It also mentions that "caravanserai" and "caravansera" are alternate spellings.

Similarly, I'd rather play in a game where there are the Knights of Charlemagne rather than the Knights of Chuck the Great.


Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber
Chris Mortika wrote:
Cartigan wrote:
D&D is in part a game about stories, which use words I suppose, if you want to be facetious.
Is facetious the only English word that uses all five vowels in order?

Nope. Abstemious, meaning indulging moderately in food and drink, also has all five in order.

There are others -- arsenious, acheilous, anemious, annelidous, and caesious -- but they're more obsucre.


Cartigan wrote:
Patrick Curtin wrote:
In the example I tendered in my previous post, can you say 'sky' in Spanish? or 'Heavens' in Swedish?
Your counterpoint only works if you pull both from the same language, otherwise it is rather disingenuous.

OK. How about this: Would you agree that English, having a bastardized ancestry of Gaelic/Germanic/Anglo-Saxon/Danish/Norman French/Latin with a healthy sprinkling of borrowed words from just about every language on earth (gung-ho/pizza/billabong/adobe/sauna ... ad infinitum) has the most diverse vocabulary of any modern tongue?

Honestly, I don't know why we are arguing about this. You seem to think, or at least the tone of your posting seems to indicate that somehow you are insulted by my assertation that English has many different vocabulary words. Why does this irritate you? And for that matter, why should it matter to you whether people want to use obscure words in their games? No one here seems to have advocated you HAVE to describe things in obscure verbage, or did I miss something? I even inserted a caveat in my original post about writing to your audience, which you then took offense at. At this point, I am beginning to think you are arguing just for the sake of argument.


Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
List

Thanks, Kevin. I enjoyed it.


Patrick Curtin wrote:
"English doesn't borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over, and goes through their pockets for loose grammar."

This quote never gets old to me. I feel like word-smiths Chesterton and Mencken would both have approved of it. BTW, if I haven't recommended Barfield's History in English Words to you already, that was a fun read, and a steal at B&N.

Contributor

Gorbacz wrote:

This page is what happens when you take Mr. Pett and Mr. MacLean and tell them "You have a page. Just for you. Only rules are: no obscenity, no nipples and no poodles or ponies."

Could be worse tho, Paizo could have assigned that page to Todd Stewart - we would end up with 30 pages of words every GM should know ... :)

Only 30? *laugh*

... I knew all of those words... *blush*

I do think however that nobody else has ever had their players stop them mid-description during a game and ask, "WTF is a stromatolite?!". I use biology jargon and names in-game, and all of my players are programmers. *chuckle*

Having said that, IIRC I didn't make it through the preface of Mieville's "Iron Council" before needing to actually look a word up. Knew the meaning from context, but my Lord he plays with obscure words. :)

Dark Archive

All this talk has me itching to visit freerice.com to troll for more synonyms to pull on players.

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