Style of play – Theater of the Mind

I just sent this to my players in an effort to challenge them and improve my game, tell me what you think:

I like to run my games in what I have heard called a “Theater of the mind” style. Most of the story and action takes place in our imaginations. Reading through the d&d next play test I found some evidence that they would like to support this style of play as well:

“This is one of the reasons why we state right up front that the basic flow of the game involves the player describing an action and the DM calling for a check (or attack, when relevant), because it reinforces that the character’s action comes first, and the game mechanic is merely used to help resolve the outcome”

This statement really enforces the type of game I want to promote. The story comes first, the game mechanics should be under the surface and are not as important or prominent as the story. I try and see the game as a interactive story, book or movie, not a bunch of numbers and rules.

Here are a couple of ideas I like to challenge my players with to help improve the game and story. It will probably speed up the game as well:

1) Don’t meta gaming
Meta Gaming in simple terms, is the use of out-of-game information or resources to affect one’s in-game decisions. Part of this can also be separating player and character knowledge

Example 1: If you encounter a mottled green lanky humanoid about 10 feet tall, some of you may have read the monster manuals or in other games previously encountered trolls and know they regenerate, so you scream out “quick use fire on him!” That is using player knowledge and meta gaming. The proper thing to do would be to think if your character had ever encountered something like this before, if not you can ask the DM, have I heard anything about creatures like this and the DM might ask you to make a check for knowledge your character has which he would then inform you about. After learning about Trolls and their regeneration the next time you encounter one of these creatures you can scream out “Last time the damn thing wouldn’t die till we lit it on fire, get out the torches”.

Example 2: Probably the most common example of Meta Gaming is the statement “Lets kill them so we get XP”. Which is one of the main reasons I don’t give XP for fighting stuff for no reason.

Not meta gaming does two things; It builds the in game story and excitement and does not break the fiction/story/imagination with out of game mechanics and knowledge; It also makes your characters react based on what is happening around them and not external information that may or may not be applicable. One of the great things about D&D is that lots of things can be easily changed and customized and in my game Trolls might not regenerate at all, in fact they might love fire because it heals them and then you are really going to seem like an asshole for convincing everyone to try and burn them 🙂

2) Keep communication with other characters in character
This is especially noticeable during combat. You are in the middle of a life and death battle there is no time to carefully plan out the whole parties next action. When in combat you can yell out a quick command or a few words about an observation but you can’t coordinate with everyone else about your next course of action. When everyone is sitting around the campfire planning the course of action for the next day it is totally fine and normally for everyone go talk together and in depth because that is what you would be doing in character.

This will also help speed up combat and not over complicate things and keep the game moving.

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