Page 479 - Storytelling Tools

12th Aug 2014, 6:00 AM in Sweet and Elite
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Storytelling Tools
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Author Notes:

Newbiespud 12th Aug 2014, 6:00 AM edit delete
If you haven't already guessed, I'm a big fan of passing notes between the DM and players (with the obvious caveat that it shouldn't cause backstabbing levels of paranoia (unless that's the intended effect)). A little bit of secret information goes a long way to creating interesting character interactions, if your players are down for that.

It's possibly even easier over the internet, where you can send private messages at any time and no one has to maintain a poker face.

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Gden 12th Aug 2014, 6:09 AM edit delete reply
How about a story of a character ruining a giant exposé? Or a partial one causing a ruckus in the party?
Digo 12th Aug 2014, 6:20 AM edit delete reply
A friend of mine told me a story a few years back of a party exploring a castle. During a 10-minute smoke break for the GM, one of the players got up for a drink and on passing the GM's screen he caught a glimpse of the notes, at which point he explained 'Hey guys, it's a vampire!'

The other players nearly killed him for ruining the suspense.
looplolpop 12th Aug 2014, 6:13 AM edit delete reply
Seems like it was not that interesting to RD. That face looks like "Really?".
Digo 12th Aug 2014, 6:24 AM edit delete reply
One GM I played under really liked passing notes as well. His answer to the poker-face problem was to give All the players a note. Some might match, others might not. Now everyone has info and doesn't know who else knows.

This leads into RPing out in-character what everyone has discovered and overall worked out fairly well.

Though one time he did screw with us. He handed everyone a note, but they all said the same thing: "Your character notices nothing, but act paranoid." Hilarity ensued and lead to the party destroying the contents of a closet (and injuring ourselves in the process).
The Old One 12th Aug 2014, 10:29 AM edit delete reply
Thanks to this generation's technomologistics, you don't even need paper to pass notes along. As long as you have all or most of the rest of your group on your thingamajigger, you can text them.
You know what gaming groups are conditioned to respond to? Somebody writing a note. You know what is completely trivial and ignorable? Sending or receiving a text.
Works great in my groups, where I will text info that I want a player to have without anyone being the wiser, or tell a GM I'm doing without the rest of the party noticing
Disloyal Subject 12th Aug 2014, 11:29 PM We All Have Tells; dunno if the others read 'em edit delete reply
Disloyal Subject
Of course, that only works if sending/receiving texts IS normal among the group. Plenty have a 'no phones' rule at the table - we've had story times about that, I believe - and others are made up of paranoid OCD folk like me who do their best to catalogue minutiae of behavior like body language when reading texts. IRC games work well with private messages, though.
Digo 13th Aug 2014, 4:11 AM edit delete reply
In my group, text messages easily lead to YouTube, Wikipedia, and Snopes. My group has no attention span when they got their smart phones out.
FanOfMostEverything 13th Aug 2014, 5:52 AM edit delete reply
This is why I ask that my players print out their character sheets. Otherwise, they don't even need an excuse.

Naturally, there have been a few hard drive crashes, which only served to underscore my point.
Derpmind 12th Aug 2014, 6:56 AM edit delete reply
Interestingly, Darth and Droids's second-most-recent page also had author commentary about note-passing. I hereby accuse Newbiespud of not-coincidence-ing.
Digo 12th Aug 2014, 7:40 AM edit delete reply
Perhaps Elusive instructed the comic guild to do this in order to distract us from their latest nefarious plan?
kiapet 12th Aug 2014, 7:10 AM edit delete reply
My DM doesn't actually pass notes; she just gives the information once and then makes one of us re-explain it in-character. Telephone effect combined with all of our short memories means that we usually manage to mess it up anyway.
Mykin 12th Aug 2014, 7:50 AM edit delete reply
I've played a character solely through note passing before. My friends were running a solo campaign over msn and I managed to talk the DM into letting me make a character for the game. The catch being that he'd post everything I did instead of me just to see how long we could convince my other friend that my character was just another npc. My secret intent was just to annoy my other friend's character, since she was a talkative wizard that HAD to stick her nose into EVERYONE's business. So I made a dark, mysterious assassin who was masked and threw in as many hooks as I could to get her interested.

After 8 months I gave up and let her know about it all since her character ended up ignoring my character for reasons that never made any sense to me. Either way, while I had fun playing this way, I wouldn't recommend anyone do this. Especially if you have a slow DM like my friend tends to be.

Btw, I love Rainbow Dash's reaction to all of this. Oh, and the snacks are in the fridge to the left. But you knew that already.
Specter 12th Aug 2014, 8:45 AM edit delete reply
Secret note passing and (in some of the cases I've seen) counter espionage, not something I really do. In fact, I haven't really done or been in any game with this kind of player paranoia (and to this day, I still want to know what everyone thought they saw or heard or something in the entering of the backstab territory). But non the less...


Like I said, no real history of note passing, but I do enjoy mystery puzzle quests and mind boggling clue games.

just a quick note, this is a 2-parter that will last a little more then an hour.
XandZero2 12th Aug 2014, 9:30 AM edit delete reply
I write things out very slowly, so I always wondered how people could make notes work without holding up a game an annoying amount of time.

No, when I DM, what I normally do is take players aside and whisper to them. Either that, or I take them into a completely different room - or ask the rest of the party to go away for a second.

Although this musical chairs approach to GMing does get players moving around a bit more than usual, it seems to work well for me. I haven't yet had anyone complain. On the contrary, players usually get excited when it's their turn to get the special treatment - and it leads to interesting party interactions too.
Zuche 12th Aug 2014, 4:18 PM edit delete reply
Pre-made notes can often help with that. Naturally, you're likely to get written questions in response. Sometimes, those are best answered during a break, but some can be answered with another pre-written message.

For the follow-up message, it's a good idea to photocopy, "That's a very good question," enough to have between a dozen and forty of them on hand.
Disloyal Subject 12th Aug 2014, 11:35 PM Shhh... edit delete reply
Disloyal Subject
That's what an old DM of mine did. Of course, most of us players were teenagers who'd spent the day on manual labor, so being sent into the room with the pizza was no problem whatsoever.
And yeah, prewritten notes are your friends. I type pretty fast, but that's little help at the table, since I favor concrete low-tech for in-person games - and when online, I tend to be juggling too many things for my typing speed to be much help.
SaiyanYugi 12th Aug 2014, 4:27 PM edit delete reply
We use Facebook for our not passing, but the DM has a habit of not muting his laptop so we hear the notification noise. There's much scheming to be had.
Hariman 12th Aug 2014, 11:22 PM edit delete reply
The RPGA/D&D 3.5 had a really idiotic, player alienating dose of secrecy.

Players were hired by a paladin to deliver a device that could summon that paladin to a ritual site in secret. However, it was revealed by the Archmage Rary to certain players who spoke with characters in an entirely different mod/adventure that the ritual would release a fragment of an ancient god of chaos.

So players who allied with Rary could betray the party, swap out the device for Rary's version in secret, and summon Rary to seal the fragment of the ancient god. And grant Rary massive power in the process.

It's another example of WotC's mishandling of the changeover from 3.5 to 4th edition. Either option ended with the territory involved becoming a dark place to live with heroes as a point of light, AND it caused players to betray each other, and alienate their fellow players in the process.

It really was a load of trash, brought on by a misguided "There can be only one edition" mentality. (Market for multiple different types of players instead of focusing on the new version!)
Codeman 12th Aug 2014, 11:30 PM edit delete reply
I've had a couple DMs pass notes, but almost always it was about treasure, something similar too treasure, or something completely trivial. Which just made us all paranoid and mad at each other because now, no one wanted to share treasure. So it immediately became a run too any source of treasure because no one wanted to share anymore...

It wasn't any fun really because I pretty much realized that if one of us gets all the treasure, then the rest of us will become under equipped and we will all most likely wind up dead.

That and I just hated that one of these DMs was enjoying us getting mad at each other and watching all the in fighting.

Curse his smug little grin.
Raxon 13th Aug 2014, 12:46 AM edit delete reply
I like to pass notes to people saying things like, "You feel something wet on the back of your neck. Roll a d20."

The notes mean nothing, and serve no purpose other than to ramp up the feelings of nervousness in this dungeon. It adds atmosphere and tension.
Digo 13th Aug 2014, 4:13 AM edit delete reply
Yup, I do that too and encourage other GMs to try it. :D

Weirdest one I had was the GM's note asked me to pretend I needed to use the restroom and excuse myself from the game a sec, but to ask the GM to 'run my character'. I did so. Came back and found out there was a doppelganger following us. Uh oh.
ADemonicPresence 13th Aug 2014, 4:19 AM edit delete reply
my group recently replaced our note-passing system with skype.
Curb 13th Aug 2014, 5:52 AM edit delete reply
The few ocations that I've been handed notes by a GM were never good, usually because it involved me having to run off on some short side run that had to do with the main quest, but he couldn't be bothered to run the main group through. I got used as the note errand boy alot.

Update on Tales of Equestria. I have chosen to set it 20 years after the start of the show, removing the Mane Six is Playable characters but putting them in the position of Quest Givers and Patrons. Characters like the CMC and their friends are now old enough to be playable and it also allows the players to create ponies to fit their play style without having to worry about the Elements of Harmony or Rainbow Power. However, I do have the standing rule of NO ALICORNS, they are supposed to be rare! Given the tech level, it makes for a more interesting world with both SDC and MDC level monsters, or Squishy and Damn Hard to Kill. I am going to stop using SDC and MDC in the game, going to LD for Low Damage and HD for High Damage for both weapons and monsters and enemies, so certain publishers won't get all pissy about it.
WordSarien 13th Aug 2014, 10:08 PM edit delete reply
Recently, my Pathfinder campaign was going through a dungeon which was really messing with our heads--dopplegangers of party members would appear and disappear (sometimes after turning on us), different party members would see the same event happen different ways, player characters would suddenly have an evil alignment, etc. Of course, the DM used notes to tell us what was going on.

One time, he handed another note to another party member, and he told us that he didn't see anything. I thought he was lying and did a Sense Motive check. The DM told me that my character thought that there was something he wasn't saying. So, I started demanding that this other player tell us what he really saw, and he kept insisting, "Nothing!!" I should note, this group normally gets along very well, and I'm playing a Paladin.

Finally, the DM has to leave the room because he was laughing so hard. Eventually, I realized that the note he gave the other player was, in fact, blank.
Digo 14th Aug 2014, 5:58 AM edit delete reply
There's an awkward moment. :)
WordSarien 14th Aug 2014, 10:55 AM edit delete reply
It was, but the other player and I got over it. Now it's just funny. :P