In the Neverwinter 2 – Doomed? comments section, Dellaster posted a link to an article by a DM who uses Neverwinter Nights (original) to run campaigns. The author’s contention is that the NWN format allows for more real role-playing than live games. Having read the piece and reflected on my own experiences, I have to say there is a fair amount of truth in that.

I’ve been involved with real RPGs for a long time and across many systems, not just D&D, and I’ve run/played these games in three different venues: live, by message board, and in chat.

In playing by message, the DM posts a description of some situation, the players put up their responses (and any questions), then the DM puts up the resolution. This is the least satisfactory way to play.

While it’s easy for players to remain in character, I noticed that there was never a lot of player discussion on what to do. Of course, there were times when some talk about strategy went on, but for the most part, people reacted as individuals rather than as members of a party.

The only good thing about message games was if the party split up for any reason, there were no boring sequences where one bunch waited its turn while the DM dealt with the other. Everything could be taken care of in one message.

Live gaming, naturally, has everyone together in the same room, and that always makes for easier conversation and discussion of tactics. However, no one is in character all the time. There may be some chit-chat going on, a few jokes, people’s attention may wander. Live gaming tends to be a blend of socialization and role-play.

When we get to the chat version, it’s a little different. Players tend to be in character for much of the session. There may still be some jokes and out-of-character remarks, but on the whole, the players stay true to their alter egos.

It would seem that being at one remove from the other players, while still in touch, facilitates the actual role-playing aspect. The NWN format intensifies that, as it adds graphics to the mix, thus giving a sort of chat/visual combination.

Players can see the action happening, which is important in combat. There’s no need for maps or drawings or using figurines. It’s also real-time, providing a sense of immediacy not possible in a traditional game.

I’ve never played in a DM’d NWN online game (or NWN online at all, for that matter). I can see where something like this, with a good DM and story, would have a lot of appeal. And yes, it may well be the closest thing yet to “you are there”, because in way, you really are there.

Would I want to play in one? Perhaps once, for the experience. As it is, if I have a choice, I’d go for the in-person style. Maybe that’s just a reaction against all the RPG (such as it is) on computer that I’ve done. Maybe I’d rather not type a lot ;) Or, who knows, maybe, if I ever tried it, I might find it preferable to the real thing…but I have my doubts.

Below is the link to the article:

Neverwinter Online DM’ing