Day 6 - Forest
Interesting word for the day. I'll offer this bit of rambling on the prompt subject for the day.
I'm an urban person. I was born in a city. I grew up and have lived my life in cities. Sure, I've been camping in the woods in the past, but that's not the same thing as running a fantasy rpg in a mysterious or massive forest. When I think of gaming sessions where players are spending time in a forest for whatever reason, I think of a ranger or woodsman-like character having crafted a shelter from brush and fallen limbs, with the player characters huddled around a carefully tended campfire so as to wward off wild animals (and perhaps more sinister spirits of the forest). In typical fashion, they eat, they drink, and then set up watches for the night - since they have to be wary and mindful of the creatures and animals and spirits that roam the forest by night.
I tend to give my forests in roleplaying games a flavour as often as I can. Much of the time, this starts being based on the name of the forest. Names like Mirkwood, the Forbidden Forest, Ghostwood, the Shimmering Forest, and the like evoke different feels and atmosphere and themes, for example. However, the real key to remember about forests in rpgs is that they are habitats, ecosystems that have a life of their own and that they also have depths to them (especially in rpgs, where many forests have not been fully explored), depths that the player characters have to come to grips with.
And there's the life of the forest. It's fine to say that there's a giant boar dwelling in a part of the forest that wreaks havoc on travelers and those who dwell too close to its territory. It's great to have a water spirit that dwells in a section of the small river that meanders its way through the forest. But why is it there? How did it come to be there? And what superstitions or folklore have sprung up from the boar's or the water spirit's presence? These are the elements that make the forest unique or special. And it's important for GMs to take these aspects of the forest into consideration.
However, the real trick to forests in rpgs, especially when it comes to descriptions of said forests, is for lack of a better term "the underforest." Beyond what you see, forests have layers, nooks, crannies; the land ebbs and flows in forests. Contrary to popular belif, they are not the flat terrain that is beloved to cameramen and actors in movies, tv shows, etc.. There is dead ground; areas hidden from the forest walker because of the undulations of the land, as well as breaks created by brush growth and the like. Getting this across to the players and their characters requires description, and not just the use of the visual sense. Smells, the sound of the forest around you, these are what brings this to life. It's all about the theatre of the mind again, and bringing the forest to life again for the players and their characters.
And there you have this sixth post for this #RPGaDay for August, 2020. Comments, thoughts, questions, etc. are all welcome, of course. :)