Tobold's Blog
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Read-out text in D&D adventures

If you are following my journal of the Zeitgeist campaign I am DM'ing in D&D 4th edition, you will be aware that the players are currently chasing an eladrin named Asrabey, while on a mission to arrest the duchess, sister to the king of Risur, and to find Nathan Jierre, cousin to the foreign minister of Danor. As Asrabey was last seen heading right for the central keep where the duchess and Nathan are said to be, it isn't much of a spoiler to reveal that the players will come upon a scene involving those three characters talking to each other. And for me that is a problem: There are nearly 40 lines of dialogue (trialogue?) in the adventure that I'm supposed to read out loud.

Of course a session of a pen & paper role-playing game is made to tell a story. But that story should be interactive, not read from a book. Read-out text reminds me a bit of the quest text in World of Warcraft, the one that nobody reads and clicks through quickly. It takes the storytelling out of the hands of the DM and the players, and only lets the writer of the adventure talk for a while. By having been written in advance the read-out text doesn't take unexpected situations caused by player actions into account. The dialogue happens regardless what the players did up to that point.

As an additional and very specific problem for my campaign the Zeitgeist adventure I am using is in English, but half of my group only speaks French. So if I really wanted to use that read-out text, I would have to translate it before. I did that with some key lines of text in previous sessions, but not with half a page full of dialogue. The only possible advantage of read-out text is that it is potentially better written than what a DM can improvise, but my French translation would probably lose that advantage, because my French isn't good enough for literary writing.

So I think I'll paraphrase the dialogue instead of reading it out in whatever language. But in addition to that I might prepare a few bullet points as a summary of the key points that the players are supposed to learn from listening to the dialogue. What do you think?


Whenever I DM'd back in college, I always invested considerable time in world-building, dialog, plot-lines, and so on. Inevitably, my players ended every play session with a bar fight. I still spent the time out of game writing things out, but as you said, D&D is supposed to be interactive, cooperative storytelling. I would really only bother with the lines if your players express an interest in wanting to listen.

For my old crew, I know they would just use the opportunity to throw some AoE spells while they were bunched up.
I always thought it was a shame that Siri and other voice software doesn't quite have the intonation to pull off a short bit of dialogue. Otherwise you could be Nathan while male Siri does Asrabey and female Siri does the Duchess.
I've always gone the route of "you hear them having a conversation, it seems to be about X topic" if there's anything specific they're supposed to get from it I'll include it in a "you get this impression" or "such-and-so is making this point". Then see if they even *want* more detail then that.
You could also go all out, find a bunch of college kids, buy them a case of beer and make them translate and record your dialogue.

Being able to create wormholes, Asrabey could create a protection bubble for the conversation. Play it safe and just get the notes from outside, or penetrate the bubble being able to listen to all of but your group can't do anything until the whole conversation has played out (of your stereo thingy).
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool