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Friday, May 17, 2013

A Palette of Rooms

The post on room categories wasn't really meant as a lead-in for the one on rolling for rooms, but as groundwork for standard "room palettes" to aid in writing room descriptions. One school of thought is that "Room XX: Kitchen", followed by anything out of the ordinary, like "silver cooking cauldron" or "45 silver pieces hidden in flour bag", is sufficient. But some ask: How do you know what's "out of the ordinary" enough to merit inclusion?

The room categories are a good place to start. A kitchen is a Task/Job location, so we know we need the tools normally associated with kitchen tasks; we can probably skip listing cooking utensils, or maybe add "fully equipped" to the description as a reminder. The category descriptions I provided mention typical concerns, which should probably be expanded; for Task/Job, the secondary concerns are
  • protection for valuable raw materials, which for a kitchen would mean safe storage for spices and other ingredients;
  • protection from by-products of the process, in this case odorous waste products and smoke from the fire;
  • special environmental conditions, which probably doesn't apply to a kitchen unless you want to describe a working kitchen as hot and steamy.
So, you might want to include a phrase or two adressing each of these concerns: "Small spice cabinet under table along west wall." In some cases, you would note the absence of any measures taken to address a concern: "Hearth has no chimney, so room fills with smoke when fire is lit."

We sometimes see a few modifiers to room types, like "Giant's Kitchen", which tells us it's a standard kitchen, but giant-sized. Or "Crude Kitchen", to tell us that the utensiles and furniture are very primitive and mishapen. Or "Busy Kitchen", to emphasize it's currently very active. But we could create a palette of often-used modifiers, specifying what effect they would have on descriptions. Here's a start: modifiers based on level of use.
Standard example of listed room type, but there's always at least one person in the room, sometimes more. If the room is a Task/Job location, there's at least one task currently in process.
Still standard, but the room hasn't been used in a while. Layer of dust covers everything; there may also be cobwebs. Anything in the room can still be used, but must be cleaned first or risk a minor bad effect.
Unused for a while. Some or many items are obviously broken (increase number based on age.) There's only a chance that apparently intact items are actually usable, or will remain usable for long; faulty items will have significant bad effects.
Unused, but also not intact. The original owners or someone else has taken most portable items. There's only a chance that some small tools or supplies have been overlooked. This usually implies Disused unless there's another modifier, like Abandoned, Misused, or Repurposed.
Unused for a very long time, or seriously damaged by flood or fire. Treat as Abandoned, but with only a slight chance of finding an (apparently) usable item. Even the debris carries a risk if re-used as raw materials; makeshift litters and torches made from ruined furniture can break when used. There may also be mold or other hazards to deal with.
Currently being used, so there's no dust on most items, but the current inhabitants aren't using the room for its original purpose and may not even understand the original purpose. This is especially common for wildlife moving into a room in a human habitation. The new purpose can be based on a random roll for a new room category: Kitchen Misused as Lair, for example. This can be combined with Abandoned, Ransacked, or Ruined.
Deliberately being used for another purpose, but there are signs of the old purpose left over. Essentially, it's a room that's been Ransacked, and new items have been brought in. A Kitchen Repurposed as Prison might have other access routes sealed (chimney blocked, all but one door spiked shut) and the main access could have modifications so that it can be barred from the outside.

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