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DM Assistants: Combat Narrators & NPC Actors

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DM Assistants: Combat Narrators & NPC Actors

Unread postby icycalm » 14 Jan 2021 16:30

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Remember in the Multi-DM Role-playing chapter where I devised the groundbreaking idea of using a second DM for combat narration? That was a fantastic idea for both speeding the combat up, AND delivering an unprecedented level of combat immersion, but the problem with it was that DMs are a scarce resource: almost no groups have the luxury of having two of them, and even in an Ultimate Edition project, which presupposes multiple teams if not multiple DMs, the extra DM(s) will tend to be too busy with their own campaign(s) to have the time to sit in also in other people's.

However, it just occurred to me that this doesn't have to be a DM! In a group with 17 people, as the Battlegrounds group currently has, there are people to spare, and any number of players could potentially act as DM assistants (not Assistant DMs; that's another thing) and deliver combat narration for all the other groups, and it could even be a different player every weekend, depending on availability. The DM makes a new "Combat Narrator" PC on Fantasy Grounds, with an appropriate portrait (probably a solid color like black I think would be the most immersive, but maybe we can come up with a better idea, I don't know), and the player simply types his combat narration in the chatlog as the fights play on, taking this load off the DM's back and allowing him to focus on running the fights that much faster, while the rest of the players enjoy dedicated combat narration for every single action in every fight. For players especially who WISH they could take part in some way in more campaigns than they one they've chosen as player, combat narration could be a very attractive role in weekends when they have extra free time and some group needs combat narration. And with 17 players, the chances of having combat narration EVERY TIME are fairly high, assuming the players are fond of the idea.

Now there is a little issue here when the campaign calls for long periods of exploration and role-playing with little to no combat. What would the combat narrator do all this time? Wouldn't he get bored?

Well, first of all, the DM roughly knows when that kind of period would arise, so he could warn the combat narrator ahead of time (via private message, for obvious reasons) so he could show up roughly when he's needed. And if he's somewhat late, or if he has to leave early, it's not an issue, since combat narration is just a bonus and not needed to run the game.

HOWEVAR, the DM could take this whole business to the next level and give the extra player NPCs TO ROLE-PLAY!!! This is truly NEXT-LEVEL shit. Remember in my Role-playing Culture essay when I explained that of course the ideal would be one DM per NPC? That's of course a pipe dream, utterly impossible, BUT NOT IF WE ENLIST ADDITIONAL PLAYERS INSTEAD OF ADDITIONAL DMS AND THE GROUP HAS DOZENS OF THEM!!!

Of course, this is a mine field. Because first of all these DM assistant "NPC actors" won't know the full adventure, especially for important NPCs whose background and influence on the adventure's course is far-reaching, so they wouldn't know precisely what the adventure is trying to achieve via this NPC, and might screw it up. What happens if the NPC actor says something that hamstrings the DM, and must be retconned? Of course the more talented the player is in acting, and the better prepared the DM makes this player by feeding him as much info as is needed to help him act the NPC in precisely the way the adventure needs him to act, the fewer of these issues will arise. So on one level, this is an issue of skill and effort. It could be INCREDIBLE having all the major NPCs in the adventure acted out in real-time by unique actors, with the DM being really just the LIVE DIRECTOR of all these PURE IMPROV ACTORS: it would really elevate the campaign to a level of immersion never before attained in gaming as a whole. But of course good things aren't free, and the best of them are always the most expensive, and prone to backfiring, and there's nothing that can be done about that. It will take truly dedicated DMs and DM assistants to do this thing properly, and everyone else who attempts it will bungle it so badly they'd be better off not having used it at all. And then, on an administrative level, there are things you can do to prevent mistakes, or fix them as they arise, especially if you're also using Ultimate Edition's Advanced Role-playing Communication, but instead of using TWO channels of communication (Virtual Tabletop text chat for in-game communication and Discord voice chat for out-of-game rules communication), you use THREE, with one additional voice channel: let's call it the LIVE DIRECTION channel, in which the DM and DM assistants are on a different voice server, say in a program like Mumble or TeamSpeak, and using push-to-talk communicate in real-time to ask the DM for advice if they are unsure about anything (while muting themselves on Discord of course, with another programmed key). And btw, this would be great training for people aspiring to DM some day.

You wanted Ultimate Edition, I give you Ultimate Edition. But as you can see, it's not for everyone, to say the least. It's for almost no one, as ultimate things always are.

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icycalm
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Joined: 28 Mar 2006 00:08
Location: Tenerife, Canary Islands

Unread postby icycalm » 14 Jan 2021 18:02

CULT|icycalm
Another idea that occurred to me is giving them some enemies to play in combat
That is if they handle the combat narration very easily and want something on top of that to keep themselves busy
Might come in handy especially in large battles

CULT|danjiro
Yeah that's a good idea. It's the next logical step. It would even simulate the enemies having to communicate tactics like the players in a natural way

CULT|icycalm
Good idea, I'll post it
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Joined: 28 Mar 2006 00:08
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