Skip to main content

Guide for Writing Descriptions

  by Elera


This Guide was originally written for newbie creators, but it is equally applicable for Architects, so hopefully this can be useful for some of you.


This is something I'd wanted to write for a while, but the presence of lots of guild newbies has finally inspired me to stop procrastinating about it! To sum up, it's a guide for helping creators come up with and write down good descriptions.

This Guide is not intended to help with the mechanics of coding rooms or NPCs, and is only minimally involved with the mechanics of writing. It is mostly intended to aid creators with the artistic aspect of writing descriptions.


The description itself is most easily written if you can first visualise it. What stands out about this NPC? What's important in this room that you need to draw attention to? These things should definitely be described in the long description. Try closing your eyes and seeing the room or NPC before you write it. When you can see it, writing becomes much easier. If you run out of ideas, then find details to focus on.

Descriptions are static. They can hint to past activity but should avoid describing specific activity occuring in the room or done by the NPC. The exception to this is activity that's so continuous as to be static. For example, your room description shouldn't mention the occasional squirrel darting across the road, but it's okay to mention the constant flow of people travelling upon it. Basically you're describing how it looks when frozen in time, rather than what it does or what happens. For movement, etc, chats can be used by both NPCs and rooms. Keep in mind that objects cloning in the room or NPC are not static and should not be mentioned in the descriptions. For example, a shopkeeper may be cloned into a store, but it's a bad idea to say that in the long since a player might kill them, leading to a discrepancy between the description (shopkeeper) and the reality (no shopkeeper). For NPCs, people frequently run out of ideas and make the mistake of describing their clothes in any manner. Even if you're just saying they're wearing clothes, this can become untrue if a thief happens along and strips the NPC.

NPCs can be tough. They're small, there's a zillion of them, and they're fairly abstract. As mentioned above, visualising is helpful, however that can be the challenge in itself. First think about their function. A smith is likely to be well-muscled from all the exertion a smith goes through, maybe with some burns if he's a clumsy one. A veteran will likely have scars, and short hair for ease of care while on the march and less vulnerability in combat. Some of the more obvious things to consider are hair colour, eye colour, place of origin (dark skin or pale, accents, attitude), body shape (slender, fat, muscled, tall, short), class (noble/common/merchant class - affects how they view other people, how they stand, etc.).

Rooms can get boring and repetitive. To avoid this, especially in areas where everything looks mostly the same, find minor details to focus on, a different one for each room. It's more fun for you to write it, and a lot more interesting for the players. This is a great opportunity for the creator to go off on tangents in the minor details and add some humour.

Hallways are another nasty issues. My biggest bit of advice is to avoid them as much as possible if it's at all realistic to do so. Hallways (realistically) are generally a waste of space. As such, they're only likely to be used in situations where the NPCs building it would have the money to spare on it. Hovels will not have hallways, nor should cramped guild locations in the city. Leave them for the wealthy - you hate writing them, players fall asleep reading them, and they're just more useless rooms to walk through before getting to where you're going. When hallways are necessary or realistic, try to give them another function in addition to being a hallway. For example, you can use it to put a noticeboard, or add an interesting collection of memorabilia to the walls.

Word Choice and Placement

Another significant aspect of rooms is the atmosphere. Is this a safe, happy place? Try to use words with safe, happy associations. Make it a 'cozy room' instead of a 'small' one. Is it a grand place that you want to impress and intimidate people? Let the immense chandelier loom overhead, instead of having a big chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

Also keep the words from becoming repetitive. Obviously some common words get used over and over in a single description, however the more prominent words should be used more sparingly. When you read 'dank' for the 2nd time in three sentences, it usually pulls you back to the first occurrence, which interrupts the flow of the description and your focus on it. is well known as a dictionary and serves well if you keep a browser window open. Similarly, might help in finding another word with the same meaning in case you need to repeatedly use them.

Verbs are important. Active verbs grab the attention and interest of the reader, even when used to describe static objects. 'A shelf is on the north wall' or 'A shelf has been hung on the north wall.' is rather dull and doesn't stimulate the imagination. 'A shelf dangles on the north wall' gives the same information, but it makes the shelf -do- something (dangles) instead of just existing (is) or passively having something done to it (has been hung).

Words that modify other words should be placed as close to them as possible for clarity and easy reading. Adjectives should be next to their nouns, and adverbs next to their verbs. For example, 'The river meanders eastward through the village slowly' is awkward and can even become unclear in some situations. However 'The river slowly meanders eastward through the village' flows better and doesn't allow for the same possibility of confusion.

Back to the Architects Webpage.