Not sure how, when, or why, but a light bulb clicked on in my head one of the last times while reading through the adventure H1: Keep on the Shadowfell. I’d sort of stumbled onto this understanding of the key divisions of setting that Dungeons and Dragons uses: terrain, features, hazards, and obstacles.

Before the light bulb, these things were meaningless categories that served only to complicate things. Now I kind of get it.

Terrain is what you see, the stuff you walk on and that occasionally gets in the way; the stuff you interact with that doesn’t hurt you.
Obstacles are a lot like terrain, but they represent a challenge and usually require some dice rolls to get around; they might hurt you.
Features are the cool little doodads that hang out and make you say “oh! ah! pretty!” and occasionally must be searched for loot.
Hazards are much like features, except they will pretty much hurt you if you mess with them. And that’s pretty much it.

Now, the DM that runs our campaign on Saturday isn’t a bad guy by any stretch of the imagination. Don’t think for a moment that because I criticize his style, it means that I don’t like the game he runs, or I think I’m wasting my time.

Not at all. I criticize because I’m detail-oriented, I have a brain, an imagination, lots of roleplaying experience, and keen senses of observation. Now, the criticism: I never know what the hell is going on.

He doesn’t describe the setting well, he doesn’t describe what’s going on well, and if we aren’t very, very specific about what our characters are doing in a given situation (difficult when you don’t know what’s going on), he’ll ding you for it, either by hitting you for damage or making you lose a turn.

It’s like the poker version of D&D, where the DM’s got all of the cards, including your hand, and he only lets you see them one at a time, and only if you ask nicely.

Anyway, that was it. Revelation complete.