“Technology is amazing.” It’s something I say to myself on a daily basis because everyday we connect with people from across the globe through social media, email, or video chat in an instant, without a thought to the gravity of what we’ve just done. Tabletop RPG’s have been beneficiaries of this as well. Home games can be played across time zones through incredible services like Roll 20 or Astral Tabletop, and we all get the ‘Matthew Mercer’ experience watching Critical Role. While these things wonderfully connect us to the Dungeons and Dragons community, there’s still something special and unique about sitting down in the same room with your best friends and adventuring together. However, I have a story to tell about a little piece of technology, available to nearly everyone, that has revolutionized our home game. The Group Chat.
Impromptu dialogue is challenging. It’s a simple and obvious thing to say, but we are not actresses and very few of us have theatre or improv experience. Most players I have played with seem to gravitate to 3rd person dialogue and, while there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, I see them jump in and out of the 1st and 3rd person all the time. This tells me that they would like to keep in character all the time, but they struggle to do so. One night as we wrapped up our session, the party faced a crucial political conversation next week and Lauren, The Artist of Ink and Lyre, had a tremendous idea, “Can we Role-Play this through Group Chat?”
Gamechanger. This simple idea has spawned *daily* interaction between my players and the world they are adventuring through. In chat, they are thoughtful, they are kind to one another, and they are solving my campaign mysteries faster than I’d like them to. We took her suggestion to attempt one social encounter through chat and expanded upon it. Now they start conversations with one another, share background details, play out plot scenarios, and take care of downtime activities such as buying potions, commissioning magic items, or copying spell scrolls. They LOVE it and some of the best dialogue we have is sent through that chat because they are given the luxury of time.
The results of these interactions have been staggering. First, there has been a dramatic improvement at the table with dialogue. They understand their characters better each and every day, so the content of their conversations improves with every week. Second, no one gets left out. Even the most shy players, in person, have ample opportunity to articulate their point through chat. Plus, the party is better for their input, which may have gotten lost among more dominant personalities. Finally, our story is moving at a rapid pace. I’ll give you a quick example.
The party faced the infiltration of a haunted manor which contained a planar rift to the Nine Hells that needed to be sealed. Between the previous session and the start of this one, the party acquired potions, went to an archive, and found an old blueprint of the manor. They scouted the outside to get an idea of the perimeter defenses and took an evening at the tavern to discuss and fully implement their plan of attack. What would have been an entire session of preparation or botched perception checks turned into an efficient exchange of information between DM and player. This made the dungeon crawl that much more rewarding.
I cannot express enough how wonderful this has been for our game. Watching these characters grow and develop in chat makes my job as a DM easier. I get a better sense for how my players want their character to feel. I also get a front row seat to all their future plans, days ahead of the session, and that narrows down the scope of my preparation. If you have a home game or a virtual ‘home’ game, consider taking whatever silly name they call themselves, slapping that as the title of a group chat, and give them a short description of the campsite, tavern, or town the party is resting in. You’ll be wonderfully surprised with how your players respond and your game will be better for it.