Monday, March 26, 2012

Player Character Telepathy

I'm backing a kickstarter that looks awesome for a random dungeon generator poster thingy and I decided to read a little bit about the guy who made it. Apparently he's a 4e player who's had the opportunity to play original D&D with Mike Mornard a few times and posted about it. It's a great series, but one thing from his post here stood out to me:

Lesson two was this: when Mike Mornard is DMing, assume that you're speaking in character. We entered the dungeon with a lot of hirelings: we had hired a dozen bandits last session, and this session we hired half a dozen heavy footmen. At three people per rank, our expedition filled about twenty feet of 10-foot-wide corridor.

Our party was so unwieldy that the wizard joked about letting the dangers of the dungeon doing our downsizing for us. The hirelings heard him, and they were not happy. A few bad reaction rolls later, and my bandit followers abandoned us in the dungeon.

We should have foreseen this, because Mike's NPCs tended to join into our out-of-character strategy conversations. When we lost a heavy footman, and we were discussing whether it was worth it to get him resurrected, the other heavy footmen weighed in strongly on the "pro" column.

This isn't the way I'm used to playing. Our 4e characters must have instantaneous telepathy, because we routinely spend minutes deliberating about each six-second combat round. And we often reach an out-of-character group consensus before we talk in-character to any NPCs.

I've played in a couple of games where DMs told enforced the "everything's in-character" rule, and can see the advantages and disadvantages! When it's too frequent, and the player is taking back more actions and words than they're actually saying in-game, then it can be a nuisance. At the same time, I wouldn't want to shut down all the humor of the game by forcing players to never talk out of character during a session! I think I might work towards some sort of in-between here, where if you CAN do or say it in-character, then you do. If a player says "This reminds me of that movie we all saw last week." that's clearly not in-character dialogue, but if they say "Should we keep talking to these guys or just kill them?" that's in-character. What do you guys think? I figure we all agree that the instantaneous telepathy that goes on for several minutes during a 6 second(or 10 second or 1 minute) combat round isn't a good thing, because it slows down the action!

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