On this week’s page, Contessa grabs a bowl of desserts before heading out to whatever urgent conversation is waiting for her on the next page. It’s a tiny little bit of detail, that still manages to say something about Contessa’s attitude (there’s no rush) and personality (I’m feeling in charge). Frankly, the only reason it’s here, is because Aviv has to think about the visual details of every page, and so she suggested this dessert thing; as the “GM” of this “game”, I didn’t come up with it myself. I should have, though, because small details are great!

I already wrote a whole article about details, including why and how to create them; however, while it is obviously the best article ever written on the subject, it can use some more examples. Specifically, some little, everyday things. Not everyone has the luxury of having a visual artist co-create their game with them, after all.

Food Someone is probably eating something, preparing something to eat, or has recently eaten something. There are eating utensils, discarded leftovers, crumbs, oh-so-delicious smells, also burps, being distracted by the hunger, chewing gum/tobacco, and rotten fruits. There’s everyday food, artfully prepared food for special occasions, snacks that you eat on your way somewhere, regularly scheduled food breaks, and washing dishes.

Animals – Wherever you go, there’s something alive there already. Stray dogs and angry street cats, the duke’s singing parrot pet, foxes running between yards at night. The horse being tied to the pole is angry and tired. The ferret family living in the barn’s attic is really useful for taking care of pests, so we stopped climbing the ladder. There are cockroaches or worms under every rock, scuttling everywhere as you push it aside, and a spider is hanging somewhere on the ceiling above you, with a dozen flies and mosquitoes and bees passing you by daily. If the room’s open to the outside – which is every room, except for those built for the rich, or after 1900 or so, or in space – there will be a beetle on something you didn’t expect to see a beetle on. If there’s light, there are moths, and a dozen other things around it; and even with it, you can probably only barely see that row of ants at the corner of the room. Everything we build is slightly worn in some way, and there are some animals who go through it regularly.

Plants – If it exists for more than two weeks, a plant has already taken root inside or around it. There’s a vine growing on our chimney, we need to take care of it before the first autumn rains or it’ll grow even bigger and damage the whole wall. The door is made of wood, hardened after a hundred years of use, yet still there’s a worm in it, we can hear it eating the wood inside, how the hell is that even possible (See the previous point, there are living things everywhere). Oh, also, there’s moss everywhere. Fungus of all types, in the cracks of everything. In warm climates, it’s dry weed instead. The winds carry pollen, the rainwater barrel has leafs in it, half of the room in the house/inn/castle is devoted to storing various types of plants in a manner that will allow it to be consumed later on (See the first point).

Discarded stuff – We don’t need it anymore, but it’s still there. The wrapper we tossed to the garbage can but carried out by a puff of wind, the broken cartwheel has been leaning on the side of the building for years now (covered with shrubs! See the previous point), the old toolbox is jutting out of the drawer I can’t ever really close anymore so we all pushed the heavy computer against it to keep it closed. Now covered with cobwebs, of course. There’s also the fork from lunch, that I forgot to take off the table, and the remote control that fell from my bag and is now just laying there on the floor, a bit to the side of the room, no one cared to pick it up.

Almost every room, every street, most dungeon rooms, and certainly the outdoors, have some sort of mundane, uninteresting thing just laying around. When used in conjunction with NPC behaviour, that small thing can help emphasize something, anything, about what’s going on, who’s doing it, and why.