Early v. Modern Gaming: Conversation Logistics #ADnD #DnD #RPG

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Yeah, when I read the title of this post out loud, I hear it. Sounds weird.

I’ve talked quite a bit about immersion in the game world, and how the lack thereof has resulted in my loss of interest in RPGs. 1e AD&D has obviously rekindled that, but that’s not today’s point. While working on my 1e database, I came across a spell from 1e Unearthed Arcana called Withdraw. Here’s a summary.

So, the spell places the cleric in a temporal bubble such that time moves at 1/10th the speed experienced by the other characters. During that time, the cleric can cast only Augury, cure spells, and information-gathering spells, and those spells must be cast only on the caster. The caster can’t even move. You see, in 1e, sometimes decisions must be made in real time. That is, the player, not the character, must think on his or her feet. If the player takes too long, the NPCs will act instead. This spell slows down time for the player, giving the player time to ponder how the character should act. That can be quite useful at times, especially at high levels. However, the key point here is this: Because the other characters are not in the temporal bubble, their controlling players can’t help. Everyone needs to shut up and let the caster’s player think it through for themselves.

This led me to something related that’s been lost on the modern gamers with whom I’ve played. Because players don’t immerse themselves in the game world, you often have characters engaging in conversation, diplomacy, puzzle solving, etc. as if they’re sitting around the same table (as the players actually are). Then, the moment combat breaks out, the archers and spellcasters (a.k.a., the cowards of the party) claim that they were standing hundreds of feet away when initiative was rolled.

run away - GIF on Imgur

How is that possible? During that parley, were you shouting from 200-300 feet away? Why weren’t the other characters ignoring yours? Why aren’t the other players on my side?!?! As you can probably sense, this is very frustrating for me. Players want their cake and to eat it too, being able to address matters requiring close proximity, but then miraculously shifting their location (without an available teleport power) to where they want to be for combat. Players should have to pick one and accept the consequences of that, and they shouldn’t be arguing with me for enforcing those consequences. I stepped away from the game because I didn’t like that my frustration sometimes got the better of me in such situations. Games should be fun, not frustrating. Except puzzles and riddles. Those should be frustrating, but that kind of frustrating is fun. Watching players essentially cheat by breaking character and ignoring simple logistics is not fun frustration.

As always, play as you want, but I think you’re removing something fun about the game if you break the fourth wall like this, and just because there’s nothing in, for example, 5e as far as I know that pushes you in that direction, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t play other editions that way.

This is why, in large part, I’m looking forward to going backwards.

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Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)


4 thoughts on “Early v. Modern Gaming: Conversation Logistics #ADnD #DnD #RPG

  1. This is one of the reasons that I think it’s important to use maps and counters. I may want my character to speak to another character in game, but if they are on opposite sides of a room full of angry kobolds, it’s not going to be possible. The same thing with sharing items, casting touch spells, and so on. It’s possible to keep track of everyone’s location in Theater Of The Mind style play, but being able to glance at a map and say, “No, you’re too far away” saves a lot of arguments.


    • My personal preference is the use of zones, which address your concern without bogging us down in too much detail. But there are some combats where tracking every square is useful and worth the detail.


  2. I hear you! One of my weekly groups keeps defaulting to ‘oh we were using psychic link’ EVERY time I pull them up on this… hell some of the PCs are over a hundred miles away on some other task or you only just met this NPC now you have psychic link with him? XD It cracks me up! Luckily it’s a sweet group and we can all laugh about it but, yeah, that sort of thing is a bit annoying – as Misha says it happens more with theatre of the mind than with minis tho 🙂


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