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Old 08-03-2004, 10:50 AM   #1
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Descriptions used by roleplayers for their characters run the gamut from a few brief lines to screen-spamming paragraphs. How much is too much? What are your thoughts on just how long and how elaborate a description must be before it collapses under information overload?
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Old 08-03-2004, 11:41 AM   #2
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Well here is my hype with personal descriptions, for one I've seen that most MAKE/FORCE the onlooking to feel and emotion or see something special. Example:

Before you see a tall and handsome warrior, his sheer size and strength sends fear coursing through your veins. (Yes I've seen this one)

I think a description should be that, Hair, eyes, physical attributes and possibly the clothing/amulets. And in the case of say a wizard or spell caster if he/she has a permanent spell or possibly outgoing aura include that, but nothing more. It should not exceed the standard Universit paragraph (4 sentences).....

Just my Thoughts,

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Old 08-03-2004, 03:16 PM   #3
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I tend to get comments on my descriptions ranging from "Wow, excellent description" to "Dude, cut the spam!". My descriptions are of no particular fixed length because I use some code to build them, and they change as I change what I'm wearing/carrying.

The base, though, is usually a single paragraph of physical description that rarely ever changes. Things like hair, eyes, face, build...the sort of things that go in a police report outside of what you're wearing.

Where it gets long is when I start adding on the things I'm wearing, clothes, armor, weapons, jewelery, etc. Some of these are necesities. For instance, many games follow the "If it's not desced, you don't have it" rule for armor and weapons, to avoid someone wandering into, say, a hospital with undesced battlemech armor.

I also tend to very the individual desc parts in length depending on what it is. It may only take one sentence to say you're wearing ordinary black boots. If, however, you're wearing ceremonial armor of gold and silver coated in various painted designs, you'll probably want a paragraph to do the uniqueness of the armor justice. You *could* just say "wearing ceremonial armor of gold and silver coated in various painted designs", but that doesn't really create a mental image unless you're dealing with a game whose theme has already established exactly what ceremonial armor looks like with commonly known and available pictures.

Overall, I tend not to care about the length, but rather about giving a person a good idea of just what they're looking at. For a farmer who wears the same thing as most anyone else, I really only care that he *is* wearing pants, and maybe the color and material. On the other hand, a noble character wearing the finest embroidered silks and ornate armor justifies a desc that gives some idea of the detail of the items involved, and their grandeur.

And, in my experience, 80 percent of the people you encounter never look at your desc anyway. I can say this because I use a little code on most of my games that tells me whenever I'm looked at. And it only fires about 20 percent of the time. Unless you prompt someone to look at your desc, they'll most often just go by the RP. I've taken a character out in his pajamas by accident a couple of times, and absolutely nobody knew it because nobody bothered to look at the desc.

I myself usually look at descs the first time, but I'd venture to say there's no more than 20 people across my games whose desc I look at regularly. That's because most of us don't change them very often. Some never change the desc they started their character with. So there's not a lot of incentive for folks to get used to looking multiple times.
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Old 08-03-2004, 10:37 PM   #4
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I used to make really long descriptions with as many 'loaded' words as possible -- not directly forcing emotions on the viewer (You feel dazzled by the beautiful brunette) but trying to evoke a mood in them (A page and a half of: A figure etched in dark and pale, a wisp of dizzy contrasting impressions: a girl-woman of no exceeding height with dark eyes).

Then I realised that I never read more than three sentences of anyone else's descs, so I started to imitate Brody of all people. Then I just tried to get some imagist impressions across, along with the basic height-build-haircolour sorts of information and the occasional nod to metaphor (Eight lines kind of like: She is slim and sharp as any fine steel blade, with dirty green eyes that hold swampish langour and sleek wavy hair in a similarly dirty blonde shade.)

I figure that getting people to read a short description, and thus know what you look like, is more effective than having them skim a long one for 'brown eyes... dark hair...' and not get any of your colour-text whatsoever, and possibly miss things too.

I think it often depends on the pace of the game: on a mud where things often happen instantaneously, I think short descs are very important.

I also think most people forget: usually you don't read just one desc. When you walk into a room, often there are several people gathered there, and you should really read *all* the descs... so even if you write 'only' a page, and the other three people do too, that's a significant amount.

In the end I think people should desc their char however it makes them comfortable to play them, lengthwise, but that I also loke games with a summarising command or people who summarise in the first paragraph and then do longer stuff where you can just skim it.
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Old 08-03-2004, 11:12 PM   #5
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For every character I have played, I usually spend a paragraph discussing facial features, the second describing their body, and a third on clothing.

Since describing objects in a MUSH usually falls into the hands of someone other than John Q. Roleplayer, I use that space to flex my descriptive writing muscle. When I'm confronted with a day in which Roleplay is scarce, I'll pick apart my description in an attempt to make the imagery more vivid, and I'll try to push metaphor as far as it can go.

As noted in a previous post, super-imposing emotions and reactions on to the reader almost seems to be a bright, beaming klaxon that signifies a novice roleplayer. However, I've yet to confront someone who complains because I don't cower in fear at his "Dark, brooding bishonen that chills the very marrow of your bones." ...bah, I made that quote up, but it isn't far off from some descriptions I've experienced.

There are also people who play around with colors, symbols, and borders to impress more upon the reader. I once examined a character whose @desc was tailored to appear like a datapad, and read like one, too. And then there have been @descs which have coded a fancy layout of a player's inventory, and so on and so forth.

But, that's my two cents on @descing a character.
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Old 08-04-2004, 02:27 AM   #6
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Well, I'm a bloody NOVELIST, so I'm not going to be spartan. However, I also have an attention span that would make grasshoppers feel superior, and this, combined with my unholy ability to typo in the worst possible ways (read: I will not typo normally, no "teh"ing or "btu"-ism. No, I will find a word that could be made into another word with the changing of a single letter, and typo that. Double chance if the word/sentence could be made dirty by the typo.) tends to limit my desc-ing. So generally, my descs are one-and-a-half paragraphs, the first dealing with outside appearance, visual stuff, and the half dealing with other senses - what my character smells like, any involuntary noises made, an "atmosphere" or "sixth sense" about them, that sort of thing.

The half-paragraph can be a bit dodgy, though. Presents the perfect opportunity to go ahead and do the "you feel a sense of evil emanating from her"-type stuff, but I tend to avoid that like the plague. I DO like adding those other senses, as well. They can add atmosphere to the desc that otherwise wouldn't be there. Their joints creak, they smell like metal, they're surrounded by an atmosphere of intensity, et cetera et cetera. Also, since sometimes when I'm in a rush for time or someone is RPing and typing at the speed of light (bit of a pet peeve of mine - I mull and ponder and perfect my sentences, and it's weird trying to do that while my RP-partner can type out paragraphs in a few seconds), if I skim over a description and catch those other channels of sensory input, I'm much more likely to go back and read the whole thing.

Only real drawback I've encountered is, when meeting someone or going to RP with a guy, the desc can get cumbersome. I say hi, they say hi, I look at them, they look at me, I type a line, I wait for five minutes while the other person searches for a dictionary to try and find out what the #### "interstice" means.

Generally, I tend to avoid colors in my desc, as I find it adds an air of carnival garishness to the whole thing. As said, I write fiction, and I like the words itself to bring an image to people's heads, not a giant all-caps colored sentence saying MY EYES ARE BLUE. Well, that and for the beginning part of my mudding life I used telnet, and a lot of that sort of weird black-and-white text minimalist thing has come with me, to the point that I tend to turn color off/sparse in most muds because it just seems ODD to me.
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Old 08-04-2004, 09:28 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by
Snow in August writes: "Also, since sometimes when I'm in a rush for time or someone is RPing and typing at the speed of light (bit of a pet peeve of mine - I mull and ponder and perfect my sentences, and it's weird trying to do that while my RP-partner can type out paragraphs in a few seconds), if I skim over a description and catch those other channels of sensory input, I'm much more likely to go back and read the whole thing."
I'll *try* to keep my comment short on that part, lest it devolve into a separate discussion. Most folks that typed at high speed, that I've encountered at least, seem reasonably patient with a slower typist. Unless they take half an hour to pose two lines. Myself, if I've already thought through what I wanted to say while others were posing, I have an estimated typing speed of 125+ words per minute. Which is a very handy thing, especially since I have a habit of logging on more than one character when nothing's going on, and then having someone suddenly show up to RP with three of them. Combining my typing rate with the fact that most of my scenes tend to be composed of 2-8 people all writing paragraph length poses is the only thing that lets me keep a remotely flowing scene going with 3 people at once. Usually, if people have to wait a long time for me to pose, it's because work or family has drawn me away in the middle, and I try to always warn folks beforehand that this is a possibility. I rarely have uninterrupted game time.

OK, so not so short. But anyway....

One thing you mentioned was the use of colored borders on descs. I tend to do this on the vast majority of my descs, just a single line top and bottom. I've been on games that actually added a border to all descs just in the game code, and I'm personally a big fan of simple borders. Without them, it can be *very* hard to distinguish descs from poses in a long string of stuff. I've stopped doing much like coloring the word blue with ansi blue. It can, as you said, get garrish after a bit. On the other hand, I do tend to use a standard I picked up on another game of coding weapons in mute red, and equipment in mute yellow. This makes it easy for someone skimming the desc to notice these, helping to avoid situations where PC Guard A fails to stop PC Assassin B who had an assault rifle buried in their six paragraph desc. Besides the color, I usually list weapons and equipment at the end of my desc, rather than in the middle. That way they're the last thing on the person's screen as well. I don't, by the way, count armor as equipment in this respect, simply because it logically belongs in the same spot in descing as clothing covering the same locations.
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Old 08-04-2004, 11:09 AM   #8
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I keep my descs short. In all the games I've played, clothing, equipment, and most accessories are seperate items, which can be looked at on their own. So there's no need to include them in the character description. PC descs focus on the person, not what's attached to them, in the games I've played.

Here's one:

Feathery brown hair frames the petite woman's face, falling in a tumble over her shoulders. Eyes the hue of rich, fertile soil gaze studiously over a narrow nose and full rosey lips. A short slender scar runs down the side of her chin, marring her otherwise flawless cream-toned skin. Though small in stature, she bears well-muscled yet curvaceous lines.

In the game's DIKU default width, I believe that ends up being 5 lines in total. It gives the -impression- of a simple beauty, nothing extravagant, pleasant to look at but certainly nothing worth writing home about. It allows the reader to know what she looks like - and come to their own conclusion on how they feel about it - though lends a -hint- that they'd probably feel fairly appreciative.

Another one:

Slender curves form this adult woman's physique, from broad squared shoulders to a gently rounded abdomen and slim waist, with long muscular legs descending from narrow hips. Her windswept hair, the grayish-brown of the vast desert dunes, tumbles around an angular face and down around her long, ruddy-hued neck. Wide silver orbs perch atop a short nose like twin Lirathu moons, while deeply bowed lips spread above a strong dimpled chin.

That one's a wild beauty, and the choice of words used, and placement of words within the sentence, allows for a flowing description to reflect the natural grace of the character.

I try to avoid references to any part of the body that is -usually- covered by clothes, such as scars on the torso, the size of her boobs (unless they're obviously very flat or very big), that kinda thing. To me, people who make female characters with detailed descriptions of their breasts are just as ridiculous as seeing a male character with a description of his penis. It's just unneccessary. You don't have to show people that you're a F-Me PC if you roleplay the role appropriately.

My character descriptions -rarely- run past 6 lines, and when I see descs that go over 10 on other people I just groan and roll my eyes. There's nothing more annoying than seeing a 4-line dissertation on the exact hue and quality of each strand of a character's hair, followed by the exact angle of the tilt in the guy's nose. Just tell me the hair is the inky color of a raven's feathers, and the nose tilts off slightly to the right. Overkill is annoying.
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Old 08-04-2004, 07:11 PM   #9
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I try to provide a clear, concise description, usually no more than two paragraphs. Truth is the more lines you add the less likely it's going to be read.

But to each his (or her) own. If you enjoy writing long descs, go for it. Just keep in mind that the majority of your fellow players are only going to give it a passing glance at best.
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