Flavour is the ‘taste’ of a setting or location, it’s what results when you successfully convey the theme or mood of a setting or location, even a person, with a short and effective description.
Believe it or not, this is one of the few things that Twitter is actually good for, learning the skill of brevity. Florid descriptions are all well and good, if you’re HP Lovecraft, but in a game you need to quickly establish things and get to the actions and interactions.
With a touch of flavour you can completely alter what might otherwise be an ordinary, run of the mill encounter.
Let us take the prototypical: “You enter a 10 x 10 room, an orc is guarding a chest.”
The door opens into a cozy little room. Dancing firelight from fresh torches makes shadows dance upon the stone-lined walls. Full centre in the room is a large wooden chest of polished wood, bound in brass and polished to a gold-and-chestnut shine. The tiles on look fresh swept.
The door creaks in its frame, wormy wood crumbling along with orange dust from the hinges. Within, the room is a black pit. Your lanterns shine, but reveal little, the walls are stained black with generations of soot. All you can make out is a chest, squatting in the darkness.
The ice around the portal gives way. Inside is a frosty chamber, barely lit by dying torches. In the centre sits a large chest, as frigid as the rest of the room. Incongruously puffs of steam emerge from behind the chest in a regular rhythm, slowly dissipating in the air.
As you approach, the door smashes open, hanging off a single hinge and shedding splinters as it smashes into the wall. A green-skinned brute comes roaring out the chamber, a rust-pitted and filthy axe in his hand. Behind him your practiced eye spots there is a chest in the room.