Tobold's Blog
Sunday, July 01, 2012
Playing D&D with myself

It is impossible to "roleplay" with yourself, as the interactive storytelling requires at least two people. However Dungeons & Dragons, especially 4th edition, is both a roleplaying game and a tactical combat game. And it is totally possible to play the tactical combat part against yourself. As a DM that has two purposes: Plain fun of exploring tactical options (although it isn't quite as much fun as playing with others), and preparation of your next adventure. You want every fight to be interesting, so testing that it isn't trivial or impossible under normal circumstances is a good idea. There might still be surprises if the players come up with exceptionally brilliant (or exceptionally stupid) ideas, but a combat try-out assures that the base line is okay.

One idea I had after watching people play on virtual tables was to use a virtual table software to run these fights against myself. There is MapTools, available for free, and the commercial software Fantasy Grounds 2 has a free demo to try. So I spent some hours trying out these two. The result was that I discarded the idea of using virtual tables for myself. Both programs appear to be very versatile and powerful, but they aren't very intuitive. MapTools requires you to find and load some D&D 4E campaign framework to be usable, and then both programs require a lot of time to learn how to handle them and to set up a fight before you can actually play. I already have a piece of complex software installed on my computer for D&D, Campaign Cartographer 3 with Dungeon Designer 3, and if I find the time to really plunge into anything that complex, I'd prefer that one over the virtual table programs. As I've already created the tokens and monster cards for my campaign on cardboard, it actually is faster to play these fights through with the cardboard tokens than with the virtual table software. Plus I get practice on how to run these fights faster without forgetting anything, using the same materials as in the actual session with my players.

4th edition D&D has some guidelines of how much xp worth of monsters make an easy, standard, or hard combat encounter. One reason I like to play through these fights once is that I am often using pre-made adventures, and those are balanced for a group of 5 players. My group has 6 players, so if I play every encounter as written, they tend to all be on the easy side. Thus if I have the time to prepare well, I add a monster or two to make the encounter more challenging. That is not only more fun, but also fixes the problem that as written the encounters don't give enough xp for 6 players to level up when the adventure assumes they would level up. But more importantly going through the combat encounters once on my own allows me to familiarize myself with the various powers the monsters have. Nothing worse than forgetting a monster power in the heat of the battle and making an interesting monster appear rather dull.

What I would really like to see is a turn-based computer roleplaying game with tactical combat against a good AI using the 4th edition rules. Unfortunately WotC appears to license only horrible action RPGs like this. Which aren't really any edition of the rules at all, but pretty much generic fantasy crap. Have you ever heard of a computer game actually based on 4th edition rules?

Not sure which computer gaming company has the rights to D&D these days. I do wonder if it'd be more sensible for WotC to basically give the rules away to encourage people to build games like that so that players would get familiar with the rules that way.
Just to point out it's not "impossible" to roleplay with oneself. It just requires a bit more suspension of disbelief.

Solo roleplaying is a niche that experienced a small renaissance recently. What helps is a sort of GM emulator that can randomly throw in surprises so that it doesn't get stale.

I'd point out Mythic RPG or its GM Emulator for a paradigm shift. People have found it's somewhat handy for simulating players as well (then you can play the GM doing horribly interesting things on pretend players.)
Reminds me of a Christmas break in college when I worked washing dishes at a resort at the Grand Canyon. Very cold, dark when I wasn't working, living in a one room dorm room, no TV. Not quite "The Shining", but close.

I used the random dungeon generator in the AD&D DM Guide and leveled a party of 5 to 10th level. It became quite an obsession and a very mind bending experience. While I worked I would make up all the roleplaying scenarios.

I recommend playing with others.
The closest thing to a 4th edition CRPG I'm aware of is Cryptic's upcoming Neverwinter. Of course, it's going to be converted to real-time, and thus not really the same experience. I would also like to see a proper 4th-ed turn-based combat engine created, you'd think there'd be a sufficient niche market for that sort of thing for some indie developer to make it.

When I first learned D&D (1st edition), I ran the entire first module by myself "playing" a full party. I did that in order to learn the rules properly without having to worry about anyone else having fun. I've done the same thing with other games since, including board games and card games.
If I recall correctly, you subscribe to DnD Insider?

If so, you can sign up for free to use the Virtual Table, currently in beta testing.

It's the same idea as maptool etc but bespoke for 4e and a lot slicker user interface, plus some integration with the online Character Builder and Compendium.
Can you just change this Blog to Tobold's Dungeons and Dragons Blog?
Can you just change this Blog to Tobold's Dungeons and Dragons Blog?

Why would I? Dungeons and Dragons is not the ONLY thing I write about. I already changed the name from Tobold's MMORPG Blog to just Tobold's Blog.

Pro tip: If I write about something you aren't interested in, don't read it!
I'm saddened that much of what you are writing about now is of such limited interest.
I think you misunderstand the meaning of "limited interest". What I wrote was ALWAYS of limited interest. Out of 6 billion people, only about 20 million are even remotely interested in MMORPGs. MMORPGs are a niche within a niche, even many gamers find MMO players weird.

Actually I'm not sure whether there are more pen & paper roleplayer or more MMORPG players. Wizards of the Coast claims to have 5 million customers for D&D alone, and that is just the current lot. The game has been going on for over 30 years.
Has anyone mentioned "Heroes of Neverwinter" the... facebook game? It has at least a partial 4e implementation. It does suffer from all the usual facebook game pitfalls though.
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