Running a game of Dungeons & Dragons, or any tabletop role-playing game, involves telling your players what they see. Players rely on you to give a sense of tone and ambience, but also to point out anything interesting or relevant to their quest. But they also need you to leave them room to ask and explore. A good game master learns how to describe a scene in enough, but not too much, detail.
One way to learn that skill, says redditor non_player on r/RPG, is to turn audio descriptions on when watching movies and TV shows.
Audio description is a feature for people with impaired vision. A narrator describes what’s happening onscreen, carefully avoiding any overlap with the dialogue. With the audio description turned on, you can listen to a whole movie, not even looking at the screen, and know what’s going on. And it’s very close to how a game master describes a scene. (It’s a lot more specific than a radio drama or screenplay, neither of which have such detailed, in-the-moment narration.)
Audio description is available with many (but not all) movies on DVD, download or streaming. To turn on audio description in most services, start watching a title, and go to the audio and subtitle settings (where you would change the language). Netflix has instructions for all your devices. On an Apple device, you can enable audio description by default in Settings > General > Accessibility.
“I’ve turned it on by default, and now everything I watch uses it when available,” says non_player, and it’s made them a better game master:
It has really expanded my ability to describe scenes and events in-game, and I highly encourage anyone who wants to step up their GMing game to give it a shot. The way the narrators describe things is pretty interesting, and has even expanded my regular vocabulary.
non_player first heard the tip on a behind-the-scenes episode of Dice for Brains, an “actual play” podcast where the hosts play a Star Wars RPG (and sometimes a Harry Potter RPG) on microphone, then add sound effects to heighten the storytelling. Listening to actual play podcasts is another great way to learn GM skills.