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Advanced Role-playing Communication

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Advanced Role-playing Communication

Unread postby icycalm » 31 Aug 2020 09:27

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In a role-playing game, there are two types of communication taking place: the actual role-playing, and the out-of-game rule discussions. In a tabletop environment these are necessarily blended, but in a digital environment we can now separate them for increased immersion, and this is what we'll do.

The ideal setup would be the following. We are all on a Discord channel but with voice set to push-to-talk. This way, for the majority of the session, the channel will be dead-silent without even any sound from clacking keyboards and so on. You'll be able to eat and drink even, if you want, while playing, without bothering anyone.

Meanwhile, all the role-playing will be happening via text chat. I think Fantasy Grounds provides an interface for that. I will be copy-pasting text descriptions from the books into the chat, and these will blend perfectly with my own descriptions and all the NPC dialogue, and you won't be able to differentiate them the way you would have in a tabletop session, where it would be quite clear when I was speaking of my own accord or reading out a lengthy passage. My delivery of the latter would necessarily seem more artificial than the text appearing suddenly in front of you in the chat, and you reading it to yourself with your inner voice the same way you read a novel, or anything else that comes up in the chat—including your companions' words. The net result will be to make you feel as if you're playing a videogame, but one in which the AI is insanely advanced and all your companions and NPCs behave like normal people, with no repeated lines or simplistic dialogue trees involved. And when at any point you need to ask a rule question, or anything at all that's outside the role-playing, you push the Discord button and speak with your voice to the entire group. When anyone is speaking, the game should be considered paused, and no one should type anything until the discussion is over. All this has the added advantage of removing our "voice-acting" so to speak from the game, even the DM's. It's far less immersive when you hear a single voice playing a thousand roles than reading text on the screen coming from a thousand characters, and even for the players, their accents might not match up with those of their characters, and text communication solves that problem.

Now the above is the ideal implementation of what I am talking about. I have no idea how practical it will be, so we will try it and see. And even if it works alright, we'll still need to get used to it. People will need to learn to type not too little or too much, not to post all at the same time, and so on, which is much more delicate business in text than in voice chat. But I believe we should be able to pull it off, and when we get used to it it should take the game to a whole other level, and really approach that sense that I am aiming for of playing an insanely advanced videogame.

All the above is said for the Fantasy Grounds portion of the game, but I believe I saw somewhere that TaleSpire too is adding text chat, if it doesn't have it already. It is a more complex program though, so we'll see how it works out. I am hopeful in both cases, and I believe with enough patience we should be able to overcome all problems and master this system to attain incredible results.


P.S. Joking will also use the Discord voice chat, unless you're joking in character. This may end up being the most challenging aspect of all, as there's a lot of joking around a D&D table, and I am not sure how well it will translate to Discord as jokes often involve gestures and so on. So I expect this dimension to diminish, in exchange for increased immersion. And we will each judge if the tradeoff is worth it after some time playing the game this way. It's not like we'll have an alternative though, as we won't be able to play in person anyway, so we may as well make the most of the situation and derive maximum benefit from the increased immersion.
Last edited by icycalm on 13 Dec 2020 07:24, edited 1 time in total.
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icycalm
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Unread postby icycalm » 31 Aug 2020 09:34

It goes without saying we won't be using webcams. I cringe when I see that shit on Twitch. Like I wanna see a bunch of fat middle-aged dudes in their underwear while playing my high fantasy adventure! Not saying you guys are fat and middle-aged, but the guys on Twitch mostly are! You can tell how shitty DMs and players they must be when they are too dense to feel there's something wrong with what they are doing. The webcams are even advertised as FEATURES of VTTs, as opposed to the bugs that they are! It is a great ADVANTAGE of digital role-playing that we can now play without seeing each other! It's not a disadvantage that was solved by the advent of broadband internet and webcams!
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Unread postby icycalm » 21 Dec 2020 17:06

After two sessions of Fantasy Grounds with advanced role-playing communication, as described in this thread, I am beginning to see all the benefits and challenges of this approach. It promotes role-playing to an insane degree, and I have never seen before such complex and believable role-playing as I am seeing in our games. But the downside is that it motivates people to act out every little scene and chat in full, even the mundane ones that should not be acted out at all, like quickly grabbing a longsword from a swordsmith. This stupid little interaction can be drawn out to half a frigging hour if the player and the DM are feeling chatty, and though this might ON OCCASION prove fruitful, because the players were feeling inspired and something cool came out of the chat, the VAST MAJORITY OF THE TIME it will simply bog the game down and reduce the fun of the ENTIRE session. So the DM needs to develop a brand-new skill here, and become able to decide on the fly the EXTENT to which each scene should be acted out in full. For mundane purchases, for example, it is clear that text chat should not be used at all. The player should type in the chat "I am going to the weapons store to buy some weapons", and then he and the DM should resolve the purchase via voice. But if the players find a bizarre magical item shop in the middle of a haunted forest, the scene should probably be played out in full, especially if the shopkeep is a full-blown wizard NPC with full stats, who is central to the plot of the adventure.

So, practice makes perfect, and the more we play, the more the DMs and the players will figure out which precise method of communication should be used for every type of interaction.

I am going to copy-paste here the relevant part from a Discord chat where I explain some of the issues we faced in our first two sessions related to this matter.

I wrote:dan's group ended up spending the whole session role-playing, and mine in combat
Neither group got a chance to see a proper D&D session
The worst part is that, even though each group saw only a single aspect of D&D, even that they didn't get to see properly
Because we split up in Taldor (which btw was the right thing to do, and that's what D&D parties do in similar circumstances), we got bogged down for half the session in encounters we should have sped up
That's partly dan's mistake
We talked about that, and he knows this
But the reason he made the mistake is because he was using text chat for the first time
Text chat makes it so that you are compelled to act out every single sentence being said, it promotes role-playing to an insane degree
So when you go to buy a sword, you end up talking with the shopkeep for 15 minutes
And of course it takes longer via text than by voice
So it's a double-edged sword: the DM needs to develop a brand-new skill to handle text chat: he must know WHICH conversations to play out fully, and which to speed up or even skip
Neither dan nor I have this skill because we haven't text-chatted before in D&D
That's partly why the game bogged down so much, otherwise we would have gotten in the senate, and we would have had much more meaningful conversations, and seen the social combat etc.
And in my group, we got bogged down into a single fight for 3 hours that in normal D&D would have taken 15 minutes lol
Bottom line, neither group saw anywhere near what real D&D is like


Practice makes perfect; we knew there would be challenges, and now we are seeing their full scale, and it's daunting. But we ARE having a lot of fun when things work properly, so we're pressing on. Every session is a big improvement over the last one, and a few weeks from now our sessions will be impeccable, I have no doubt. And the dual text-voice communication will be a central part of that.
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