D&D 4E in Google Wave – Marching On Together!
On our Google Wave game our intrepid adventurers have descended into the depths of an old ruin in an attempt to find a missing elven scout. As they started to explore the rooms and chambers in the depths it became apparent that lots of rooms with lots of options of what to do led to a little confusion and a slowdown in the game.
Not all of the players are able to post continuously – we all have day jobs and some of us don’t have access to the Internet during the day. With time zones to contend with also (one of the players now lives in the US) we needed to work together to come up with ways to keep the game moving but with none of the interest, surprise, or choices being compromised too much.
Hopefully, we’re on the road to solving some of these issues, and the tips below may help you within your Wave games, or even within the realtime online environment or even the tabletop.
Three areas of slowdown were immediately apparent:
- as the players moved through the catacombs, looking for secret doors or searching for traps and similar questions that would easily be incorporated into tabletop play, could make the game quite stilted and stagger the narrative
- time was ‘lost’ discussing who starts in which square at the start of an encounter
- a lot of time was spent dicussing what to do at the end of an encounter
Our first answer to these issues was to appoint a ‘leader’ to the group. This was both from a player and a character point of view. The leader’s role was to make calls on the next steps (whether from his own experience, or from OOC voting) for the party, based on his character’s viewpoint and the information he had as a player.
These decisions could range from which door out of two to go through next, right through to moral choices on whether to slit the throat of a sleeping goblin that they have found.
Our choice for the leader in our game was Khâlin, our Dwarven Warlord (or Marshal as it is now known). Khâlin’s background primed him to be a military-style leader, trained in the Dwarven Border Watch of our campaign as a youth, and thrust into the world of adventuring with a lust to reclaim lost Dwarven kingdoms. The combination of the class and background makes him the natural leader for the party.
Khâlin’s player uses votes and thoughts from the rest of the players as well as his own tactical brains (he’s a damn fine chess player) to inform me as DM on what they’re going to do next. Having one player come up with the definitive answer on what the party is going to do (after any arguments have taken place!) really helps me know when to move the story on, both narratively and mechanically if required.
Our second answer to the issues was to have a marching order laid out. This marching order starts to help us in two distinct ways.
Firstly, it goes a long way to solve the issue of where everyone starts at the beginning of a combat encounter. As DM I can place the players on the encounter battlemap based on their marching order (sometimes with minor modifications I discuss with Khâlin’s player).
So far, everyone has seemed happy with this – the only exception being a goblin ambush in the woods where the party had gotten stretched out and left the wizard, Kireth, left all alone exposed in the middle of a clearing and at the mercy of goblin snipers. Ouch!
I supplied Khâlin’s player with four sample maps:
- 1 square-wide corridor
- 2 squares-wide corridor
- 3 squares-wide road in open countryside
- completely open countryside
He then placed the other characters in their marching order on the maps which I now use.
The second way in which the marching order helps (and we’re just getting to the point where this will be tested thoroughly) is that the marching order allows us to solve the issue of secret door and trap ‘paralysis’.
On each of the marching order maps I plotted out the passive perception scores surrounding each of the characters.
For every square distant from a character I’ve lowered their passive perception score by 2. This is for traps and secret doors only, and the standard rules for noticing creatures using stealth, etc., still apply.
If a trap or secret door is spotted by a character (they are close enough to it so that their modified passive perception score is equal or greater to the perception DC of the trap/door) then I will change the narrative so that the character spots ‘something’ and then the party can decide on an action (including active checks).
I feel that this gives the exploration of the catacombs a little more of a cinematic feel. The narrative describes that something is amiss or odd, but it’s the players themselves that then have to find out what it is.
With the marching order at the moment the party have the rogue, Zero, out in front. Zero does nothing without being stealthy, so at the start of each movement or section of narrative we have Zero perform a Stealth check. The others follow a discreet distance behind! Zero’s passive perception score is a very healthy 20, and so he can spot most things, stop, and then report back to the party.
We’ll see how this progresses over the next few scenes, and report back!
Our third answer to the issues, mainly the time spent discussing what to do at the end of an encounter, is starting to get solved by a fairly simple process.
We’ve identified three types of end to an encounter:
- short rest
- investigation rest
- extended rest
Using an agreed process for these types of rest we think we may be able to solve this issue without detracting from storyline, narrative, player choice, or fun!
I will describe these processes in a subsequent post.
Here are the maps I sent out to Khâlin’s player for him to fill in the marching order.