Grab players’ attention with flashbacks, foreshadowing and dreams, Part II



 

Dreams can serve an important function in a D&D game.

 

This is the second in a two-part series about how a dungeon master (DM) can make Dungeons & Dragons adventures more memorable by using the literary devices of flashbacks, foreshadowing and dreams to alter the flow of game time. The first post in the series can be found here.

Yesterday’s post pointed out that events in most Dungeons & Dragons adventures follow a linear timetable, and discussed methods for altering that timetable to increase the dramatic impact of such adventures. This series addresses using the literary devices of flashbacks (discussed yesterday), foreshadowing and dreams while designing adventures, effectively turning back game time, stopping game  time for dream sequences, or hinting at future events.

Foreshadowing

Our discussion continues with the literary device of foreshadowing, which is “the act of providing vague advance indications, or representing beforehand” (definition courtesy of thefreedictionary.com). A good example appears in the 1942 film The Adventures of Robin Hood, in a scene where the villains, Prince John and Sir Guy of Gisbourne, are toasting to the success of a plan to tax the commoners, with the intent of using the funds to buy the support of nobles for John’s bid for the throne. During the toast, a carafe of wine is knocked over, spilling it’s blood-red contents onto the floor, just as blood would be spilled later in the film.

Fiction and script writers have the luxury of maintaining complete control over their characters, so ensuring that events they foreshadow come to pass is an easy matter for them. Unfortunately for dungeon masters (DMs), the characters in an ongoing D&D adventure act independently of anything the DM has planned; how can a DM ensure that foreshadowed events happen when heroes are running amok in the adventure setting? Continue reading

Grab players’ attention with flashbacks, foreshadowing and dreams, Part I


 

 

By altering the flow of time for narrative purposes, a DM can make a good adventure into a great one.

This is the first in a two-part series about how a dungeon master (DM) can make Dungeons & Dragons adventures more memorable by using the literary devices of flashbacks, foreshadowing and dreams to alter the flow of game time.

Most D&D adventures are conducted in the present tense – the players are involved in story events occurring at the present moment in game time, which proceeds to the next moment in a linear fashion, just as time does in the real world. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with this, since the passage of time is something everyone understands and (hopefully) accepts as reality. But the banal nature of linear story progression provides a ripe opportunity for a DM to manipulate how time flows through a D&D adventure, turning a commonplace adventure into a memorable one by occasionally telling parts of the story in non-linear fashion.

Like any dungeon mastering technique, it is important not to overuse the suggestions presented in the following paragraphs; doing so will make the plot of a D&D adventure much more difficult to follow, rather like a poorly-made Avant-Garde film. The goal of using this technique is to tell more interesting stories, not to confuse players. Continue reading