Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sometimes, it's good to be deaf

   I was going to make this as a reply to Grognardia's Armor Class post, but I figured that it requires a bit more explanation than a good reply can allow.

  As I've mentioned on another blog, I'm hard of hearing(sorta, really it seems to be that I hear on a completely different frequency range than other people, but the medical professions seem to think I'm going deaf). Normally, this causes a lot of issues. When dealing with people, I have to lipread(which makes bearded individuals, mumblers, and people who keep their hands near their faces when talking rather annoying). Webcasts/Podcasts, Movies, and most musicians are unintelligible.
 This, combined with a general dislike of people and a possibly overzealous sense of "personal space" means I do most of my gaming via messenger these days. This actually has a completely awesome benefit during 2nd edition combat as I've recently been finding out.
 For those not "fluent" in the system, players have to state what they'd like to do during the round before initiative is rolled(otherwise they can't modify their individual initiative rolls properly). Normally, sitting around a table, this means that most players are able to effectively create a strategy on the spot. This has often created arguments between the DM and players as the two forces battle over whether or not an intelligent foe can understand what is being discussed by the players(ie, whether the battle plans are in character or out of character).
  Playing over Instant Messengers has allowed me to cut this out entirely. When combat starts, I open multiple chat boxes, one for each player. Within this box the player and DM are able to discuss and roll dice, keeping the results a secret. If the players wish to communicate, they may do so in the "party" window, which is assumed to be "in character" and thus, if the opponents can understand the language(s) being spoken, they may act appropriately.
  Surprising as it sounds, this has actually sped up combat when the players know the rules and aren't asking what die they roll for everything, and the DM is on top of his game, being able to come up with quick, consistent rulings on modifiers(This is where organized DM and Player screens and notes really come in handy to be honest). Once each player has given me all the information on their actions, and I've done the appropriate actions for the opponents, I give the round description for everyone involved. Rinse and repeat.
   I've actually been giving thought to doing all rounds like this, not just combat rounds. This would require players to give a bit more thought on how they interact with their companions in certain environments, as the line between communicating out of character and breaking the stealthy silence the party has been going for becomes a bit more pressing. Do you risk telling the fighter that the thief is stealing the ruby out of his pack, or do you wait until you're out of harm's way?
  Of course, all this DOES require that you actually either trust your players not to send IMs to each other behind your back, or have some means of coercing their compliance, but then, no method is entirely perfect.

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