Example Input - Vista Overlooks


i fucking hate writing ...
Staff member
Ok, this is what I think I'm thinking of for the examples. The negative examples are real, but obscured. One each.

Have I really never reviewed an adventure with a good vista overlook? I can't seem to find any and settled for Castle Septor. Fuck me my searching sucks.

Vista 1B
Picture if you will an abbey building, the kind that is full of monks. There are a few outbuildings scattered around it and it’s surrounded by a small wall with a gate in it. There are some barley and hops fields also surrounded by the walls. The monks brew beer. You stay at an inn just outside the gates and, in the middle of the knight, are woken up by the screams of dying monks and the smell of smoke and burning flesh!

Adventure is upon us! We rush outside to see what’s going on! What do we see?! The DM doesn’t know. The adventure doesn’t tell us. It tells us that the gate has been left thrown open and flames burn in several places, flickering through the church windows, consuming a building to the west and some half-burnt fields of barley … with vague movement in it. Beyond this … we don’t know, and neither does the DM. The DM must dig through each individual section to figure out what state it is in in order to relate it to the party. Because that’s what the DM is going to need to do, right? The party is going to ask “What’s going on?” and the DM needs to respond. In this adventure the DM will state “Hang on gang, give me a few minutes” and consult each individual major entry to figure out what is going on there and tell it to the party.

The party is outside the inn, looking over the monastery compound. This is a great example of the need for the Vista Overlook summary. That barley field fire? It’s almost out. Hang on,m hang on, I’m still digging through the adventure. Ok, it looks like black smoke is pouring out of the main building. That building to the west? … Uh … I don’t see it it mentioned at all. One sec … Ah! Ok! You can see flames through the churches stained glass windows, smoke pours out from multiple places in the complex, and it’s so thick you can’t see the top of the tower from the ground. Yeah, I guess it has a tower. Oh! And the church bell is ringing continually.

I could continue this example. Picture in your mind visiting a brewery in a warehouse. You walk in through a door. What do you see? The main brewhouse is wide open space, wooden trays, a mill, shallow troughs, an office, some brewing vats and so on. But you only know this, from the adventure, by looking at each individual numbered encounter key on the map, absorbing it, and relating it to the party.

In both of these examples there should have been an overview of what was going on. “What do I see?” is perhaps the most common RPG statement, and yet in both of these cases the DM, in this adventure, is left digging through each individual location, looking it up, absorbing the information, and relating it to the party.

Ideally the designer should have included a small section at the start of each of these sections that outlined what the party saw. In both cases the party sees something unfolding in front of them. They have an expansive view of what’s going on. A small paragraph, before each section, relating this would keep the DM from having to dig through the adventure, looking at each individual location to figure out what is going on and then relating it back to the party in a broken format.

Vista 1G
Caste Septor, by Gamer’s Group Publications features … a castle! Surprising, I know. We should all be familiar with the typical castle compound. Outer walls, a tower on each corner, a gate through the walls, and an inner courtyard with a smaller keep/buildings.

When the party reaches the castle the description tells us about it. It tells us it has walls, that it’s mostly intact except for the damaged gatehouses. It tells us that the buildings inside are two-story and wooden and in many cases the upper ceilings have collapsed, that the portcullis’s are bokeh and laying on the ground. It gives us an overview of what we might see if we were standing outside the castle surveying it … just as the party is.

Inside, as we gain entry to the courtyard and survey the grounds, we are told about the remains of scattered campfires, the fountain at the center of the courtyard, and openings to the obvious stables and another to a flight of stairs. It tells us what we SEE when we look out over this open area.


8, 8, I forget what is for
I definitely recall one review with a vista in it that you were pleased about. Pretty sure...okay 75% sure.

Either that or one you complained should have had a vista section. I will dig.


8, 8, I forget what is for
The "Start" section of B2 does this in a limited way.

You now move up a narrow, rocky track. A sheer wall of natural stone is on your left, the path falling away to a steep cliff on the right. There is a small widening ahead, where the main gate to the KEEP is. The blue-clad men-at-arms* who guard the entrance shout at you to give your names and state your business. All along the wall you see curious faces peering down at you - eager to welcome new champions of Law, but ready with crossbow and pole arm* to give another sort of welcome to enemies.
EDIT: To be honest, I usually rely on the map for this, though. Its one of the reasons I hate read-aloud: the PCs never approach from the angle the writer expects them to.


My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
Yeah, how are you supposed to do this without wall-of-text? You're going to nail the players with information overload if you don't break the information off into chunks.


i fucking hate writing ...
Staff member
Yeah, how are you supposed to do this without wall-of-text? You're going to nail the players with information overload if you don't break the information off into chunks.
Let's not bathwater this baby.

Generally a map can suffice and generally you don't need this.

But, if you come up to a small rise and see a manor home down below, you shouldn't have to consult the keys to discover the north tower is on fire and the west wing has ape-men outside assaulting it ... neither of which would generally be shown on a map. Or, a tower missing its second floor or the roof caved in, begging for an adventuring party to grapple up. As always, it's the unusual, not shown on the map, that's important. This is related to the monsters in the next room coming to visit you if you make too much room next door, or seeing light, or hearing sounds, in the next room. The party has senses. It WOULD be cumbersome to note this sort of stuff everywhere, and so, like always, we concentrate on the special and unusual.