A Simple Exercise in Roleplaying

25 May, 2010

Video Games are Good

I play Dungeons and Dragons with a bunch of video game nerds. For example, when I compare 4th Edition to World of Warcraft or some other video game, in order to illustrate a point, my point will come across more easily (which is a much different reaction from the grognards on the internet and at my local gaming store). Things like damage per round, threat levels, and class roles all have a place in a 4th Edition game. And, as a DM running tactical encounters, I appreciate the level of competent sophistication my players take in order to clear their objectives efficiently.

Other video games, particularly the God of War and Assassin’s Creed series, are amazing sources of creativity. Video games, like God of War, include many puzzles, solvable by close examination of the available elements of a room or area, and logical manipulation. Further, many interesting things can be found, from puzzle hints to clues about the story, in Assassin’s Creed. Besides forcing my players to think, these games also influence their style creativity. Merely brushing the surface, you have a ghost-white Greek guy who tears harpies apart to cross chasms, and an assassin wearing white who jumps into haystacks from tall buildings to get away from the guards.

What’s Left Wanting?

If one side of the scale has meta-game efficiency and logical manipulation of available elements, two things I’ve found missing are first, the ability to think outside the box, and the desire to ask questions. Both of these things are potentially harmful to DnD characters.
I have two exercises, taken out of context from what I would think is a standard role-playing game scenario. I thought the first of these, originally, to offer people a taste of role-playing games. However, I have challenged a number of my players, while not in game. Some failed. Hilarious.

The Box Exercise

The simpler and easier exercise, I have found it most hilarious to present this to someone prone to over-analyzing situations.

Presentation: You are an adventurer in medieval times. You find a small cave. Entering the cave, you see a treasure chest about the size of a shoebox. The box is lined in gold and has a small keyhole. What do you do, adventurer?

DM Notes: The box is unlocked. In the box are two gold pieces.

Most of my players assumed the box or cave was trapped. For some reason, many also assume the box is locked. One of my players promptly walked out of the cave, without opening the box, which was still a valid choice.

One person’s first statement was, “I open the box.” That was the fastest solving of that exercise, ever.

One person failed the exercise. If I remember correctly, he opted to hit the box with his head. I ruled that he fell unconscious, after the poor prediction that the treasure box was breakable by the force of his forehead.

The Hall Exercise

A bit more difficult, this exercise was actually taken from one of my games.

Presentation: A stone hallway, about 5 feet wide, 20 across. Mosaics on the wall are of dozens 4 to 6 foot tall upright cobras, their mouths open, ready to strike. Cross the hallway from the starting point to the end.

DM Notes: Random stone plates on the floor will trigger poison dart traps that shoot from the snakes’ mouths. Examination of the snakes on the wall reveals the trap. The trap cannot be outrun by a normal human.

More people are killed by this trap than people who remember it is okay to crawl. I had particular fun presenting this situation at a party, using a hallway. I ruled that they could use anything on their person to get to the end. Dead people had to lie in the hallway with pretend poison darts stuck in their necks. There was a bit of looting from the fallen that is both prevalent and great fun in DnD.


If you read this, try it out, making sure to hit both non-gamers and not. Results will vary. And if your group is anything like mine, the results will be sure to be interesting.



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