Friday, July 15, 2011

Our Games - Guest Starring Each Other

It occurred to me the other day that since we now have the technical ability to (more or less) teleport into each others homes via Skype, Google+, iChat, etc. we also have a greater ability to host or play in pick-up games. I’ve seen proposals for this on Google+ and probably on forums elsewhere in the past. What I haven’t seen suggested is the possibility that someone join a regular game as the only video chat participant, just to play the part of an NPC.

As a DM, playing the part of every NPC encountered in the game can be challenging, and once your players have heard your full repertoire of accents, your voices can begin to sound alike. Imagine their surprise when you turn your laptop around to reveal a video chat session with a member of the blogging community, standing in briefly as a NPC. Picture ___ (fill in a blogger’s name you follow) playing the part of a high pitched goblin, or of a noble or clergyman sending you on some quest. Here’s an idea: since your guest star is basically just a talking head on the table, maybe they’d be great as a re-animated head that your players find in a treasure chest?

There would be the usual concerns and considerations to make. Obviously, engaging with someone who’s a relative stranger always carries its inherent dangers. As a video guest, it might be best to get assurances in writing and ahead of time that no recordings will be made. Personally, I’d be horrified to find my rendition of a lich up on YouTube. Recordings might be a pretty hard thing to guarantee against. Still, with the right trusted folks, it could be a lot of fun. I know there’s at least a few of you I’d consider approaching if I knew you were open to it.

There would be two approaches with such guest stars which could obviously overlap. One would be to describe to the guest star the history of the current game to some extent and to direct them how to respond to the players in various ways. The other approach would be free-form - just let the guest star do whatever they want with the role you give them. “Play it your way Sam.”

In time, there might be guest star specialists - those who really only want to play such roles, or become well-known for being very good (or bad) at it. There might even be specialists among those specialists: those that only play the role of monsters, those that only play a certain demi-human race… Then there might be those that only play the role of a specific monster or character - one that escapes death and can appear in game after game. Maybe we’d see blog posts like: “Wanted: Person to play a 15-30 minute role of the wizard in Raggi’s “Tower of the Star Gazer.” Eventually there might emerge well-known prima donnas, demanding they play their part their way, or that their prospective DMs tolerate their obvious and complete lack of sobriety.

And the masks - think of the masks! I sure as hell would want to wear one. Or at least a wig.


paulg said...

Yes. I've had an out-of-state player join half a dozen locals at the table as a special guest for a couple of Cthulhu games. Most of us knew the guy on the laptop from real life, but inviting an internet acquaintance for a cameo seems like a good risk.

A surprise voice chat could work in some circumstances too.

Digital Orc said...

While I don't agree with everything here, I think you've started talking about decision-making gamers will have to address in the near future. The OSR community, in particular, will wrestle with these concepts. I present no answers at this point, but appreciate your blog and look forward to more forward-thinking posts. Keep it up.

Christopher said...

Ah, now this is a use of technology in gaming that I can get behind!

DMWieg said...

I had a player move right after i started a campaign, and he continued to participate via Skype. I thought it was pretty successful, overall.

I like this idea. I'd totally do it.

ze bulette said...

@Paul: "..inviting an internet acquaintance for a cameo seems like a good risk." - Exactly. I like the idea of just a voice chat too, it might even be better for certain things.

Telecanter said...

I had a sort of similar idea with phone a friend npcs, as a way to involve absent players.

Here are some more ideas: Have these guest stars play oracular voices that are flaky, so if the technology fails it works in-game; the voice is absent at the pool for some reason.

Or have them play something self-contained, like a Striped Mage who will identify items, teach spells, but not a sage who would need to know your whole campaign world history.

Or a voice that would naturally be out of touch with current goings on, the lich, the hermit, the witch.

David said...

Even if they can't be there live, there would be some value in having a few "guest voices" show up via MP3 for pre-recorded things link magic mouths or giant, floating, gun-spewing, stone heads or what not.

And someone has to come up with a magic fright wig for their campaign if you are going to show up on Skype wearing yours.

ze bulette said...

@Telecanter & David: Great ideas! I dig the pre-recorded canned responses even, I can see it coming in handy and being funny for a tavern keeper giving information/rumors or for some other in town figure like a shopkeeper that the players regularly visit.

And yes, I really should make a magic wig item one of these days.

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