The RPG Scrollbars: The Damned DM Delusion

The most dangerous ideas are the ones so compelling, nobody wants to admit they’re bad. Also the atom bomb was pretty nasty, but that’s a bit out of a weekly RPG column. Instead, let’s pick one of the chocolate teapots that people keep mistaking for the Holy Grail – the idea that RPGs can hope to offer anything close to a classic DM experience. It’s a terrible idea. It’s not going to work. Stop wasting everybody’s time.

Now, I’m not talking about dedicated tools like Roll20 or more specific ones like JParanoia here – tools whose job is primarily to connect people and handle the fiddly stuff like character sheets. I mean RPGs that want to offer both a game and a DM experience, which always fall far, far short of the dream or basic sell. Many have tried, including Vampire: The Masquerade: Redemption (AKA Vampire: The Masquerade: The Crap One), Neverwinter Nights, and more recently, Sword Coast Legends.

Between them, the various approaches have brought along just about every raw feature needed to pull it off, and time and again players have hit the same issues – the biggest one being perception of scope. What I mean by that is that, well, look at just about any procedurally generated game. As much as developers like to claim that their scale is some crazily large thing, like Elite Dangerous having a hundred bazillion star systems or No Man’s Sky rendering twelve universes without breaking a sweat, in practice their scale is limited to the point where you as the player feel like you’ve seen the edges of what it can do. At that point, the magic of the thing is immediately lost and all that remains is the hope that the core gameplay loop can hold players’ attention. Cracking skulls in Diablo 3 for instance. The quest for credits in Elite Dangerous.

If the DM has one job here, it’s to try and disguise it with hand-crafted content and a human eye for the rules and systems. The catch is that even using something as powerful as the Neverwinter Nights editor to create a complex module full of wonder and whimsy, once the game starts that player just becomes another puppet of the game engine – albeit one with the power to see and occasionally twang everyone else’s strings. They’re not in charge of the rules, because that’s the game logic, and even the simplest of engines makes it a pain to create content on the fly. Sure, you can make a module or a map in advance, but then you’re still stuck with the problem of not being able to react with the speed of thought to game limitations and player freedom. Which as ever, will usually manifest in variously murderous killing sprees.

What does it usually boil down to letting you do? Add monsters on the fly and twiddling. That’s about the extent of what a modern game can allow, with the result that what should be the mode that expands a game and makes it seems full of possibilities actually ends up just revealing the limitations all the stronger – how the traps work for instance, how progression is kept out of the GM’s hands with loot tables and equipment controlled by someone else, how it’s not possible to have a secret door unless someone has specifically coded that in advance. It’s creation within a straitjacket, further tied down by interface design and balance. You’re not working hand in hand with the source material to create something great, you’re working for it. You’re not the master of the game, you’re its unpaid middle-management.

For the concept to have any chance of living up to the promise, design itself really needs to change – for players to accept a lower fidelity world, and for games to be built primarily around the DM experience instead of the individual players. That sounds backwards, but it’s the level of trust required for it to have any chance; to design the user interface and game logic and expansion potential around player creativity instead of just serving up a standard CRPG where one player has a few extra tricks. It’s also why it never happens. That’s far too big a risk for any modern game, especially as the number of players who will have the technical skill to handle that and the willingness to fully engage with the process is far too limited to bet the farm on. Now take that and factor in that at the moment, most RPGs just don’t have much of a creative community in the first place, never mind one willing to get that hands-on. Skyrim is obviously huge, but it’s the exception to the rule. Divinity: Original Sin for instance has made no waves whatsoever with its tools, and however many players are currently logged into Neverwinter, it’s not enough for the rest of the industry to have followed its lead.

So what happens instead? Typically, either DM mode is a glorified level editor which doesn’t allow the player to actually create much except arenas, or a challenge mode, as in the upcoming Fable Legends or simple bashy-smashy games like Dungeonland. If any upcoming game had a chance of pulling it off, it was Sword Coast Legends, and… well, it doesn’t. At all. Ironically, part of the issue with it is that while a tabletop RPG can make combat with a single enemy exciting and full of drama, in games it’s always going to boil down to a hack-slash-hack-slash type loop, where victory is expected and interest predicated as much on grind as adventure. If DMing was going to work as a mechanic, it’d probably be by completely stepping away from how RPGs currently look and heading back to the genre’s strategy roots – a focus on more intimate encounters of the kind we see in other games that borrow from the style. Card Hunter for instance is arguably a better starting point for making it work, despite lacking the glitz. Turn-based, not too complicated, focused on a few key mechanics that the computer can help with but offer flexibility for the DM and with scope for adding flavour and taking control of players… it’s the only realistic way to go, if there is one.

Of course, it’s always a bad idea to use the word ‘never’, unless you’re talking about Neverwinter Nights, because otherwise people would just look at you and wonder what you were talking about. There’s usually at least one game in development hoping to crack the formula, with Divinity: Original Sin 2 the next biggie planning to try its luck. One day, one of them may create something as intimate as a table of friends and as open as human imagination. It just doesn’t seem likely any time soon, to the point of feeling like a complete waste of energy that would be better spent on finding more ways to advance what computers can actually bring to the table in terms of things like world simulation and depth and creating experiences that neither require a human DM, nor make players long for one to give our adventures life.

59 Comments

  1. _michal says:

    There is one game with the feature as close to the Dungeon Master as it can be – it’s Arma 3 with Zeus mode. No fantasy setting though.

    • blamstokel says:

      I was hoping someone would mention Arma 3 Zeus. It helps that that game is already pretty focused on combat – not sure how well Zeus can handle story / dialogue if at all – but I’ve had some really great experiences with it.

    • -Spooky- says:

      Forthcoming update will bring the “Endgame”. Kinda real on the fly DM mode. Check ArmA III latest roadmap for more intel.

    • neoncat says:

      Tabletop Simulator does pretty well… ;)

  2. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    Honourably mentioning: Sleep is Death.

  3. tumbleworld says:

    The Game in Ender’s Game is the only real analogue I’ve ever seen thought through well. Sadly, the bottom line is that computer creativity needs strong AI. The human mind is incredibly powerful at imagining and creative problem solving, and whatever system you have in place has to roll with the punches.

    Maybe one day, there will be a game so damned clever it can feel truly open in the way a tabletop RPG does. Chances are, we won’t be around to see it.

    • Blackcompany says:

      Managing the sort flexibility a DM can offer, inside a video game, will be…difficult. Dauntingly, unimaginably difficult.

      I remember the time a DM introduced us to one his big-bads. The dude shows up and breaks into a short, threatening speech. Trying to warn us off of our mission. When we of course refused to back down, he came at us.

      At this point in the game the guy was far too powerful for us to kill. The DM only intended this as an introduction, that “scene” where you are introduced to the big bad or one of his direct henchman, before getting your butt kicked and realizing you have a long way to go before you’re able to take him or her on directly.

      Except…except, by this time, my character – whose one special power was telekinesis – had tied the laces of the baddie’s shoes together with his mind. Very quietly, unobtrusively – and with a lucky roll or two – I had managed, during the big bad’s speech, to tie his shoe laces together.

      When the fight began, the bad guy fell flat on his face. At which point we knocked him unconscious and took him captive. He proceeded to escape, of course – the DM had to come up with something – but for a moment we had beaten the game.

      Not the final boss, or some end game mission. Hardly that. For a moment, we had literally beaten the game’s systems. Stepped outside the plot, the intended direction, and altered things irrevocably. The DM couldnt undo it. He couldnt take it back. He had to just roll with it and make something else up on the fly.

      Achieving this in a video game will be ten kinds of hard on a 1-5 scale and I dont envy the developers the attempt.

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        Not really seeing the argument, that’s all completely doable in NWN with a DM possessed NPC. I’d say NWN with all the patches and expansions and mods was probably about 90% of the way – the real hurdle was finding someone who’d spent long enough in the DM client to really work it. Also helped if they had a library of levels to suit any occasion on hand.

        • vahnn says:

          How are you not seeing the argument? “Tying an enemy’s shoelaces together” is not an standard thing in any RPG I’ve ever heard of. Sure, someone could program a dialog option to “attempt to tie shoelaces together with telekinesis” and write a script for it into the game… But then that’s not happening randomly and on the fly.

          The point of this article is that when playing tabletop RPGs, you literally have the freedom to do whatever you can imagine. And you can do it now. Right now. And no matter what happens, the game can continue going. The game doesn’t break.

          You simply can’t get that kind of spontaneity in a video game. How many times have you been playing a game and thought, “Man, it would have been cool if I could have done THIS or THAT,” but you couldn’t. You’re stuck doing the only thing or one of the things the developers have programmed to allow as an option. Even if they program 30 things and you could play the game 30 different times, players could still think of something entirely outside the box to do, and it can’t be done in that game. In a tabletop setting, with a human DM, however, it could be done. And it could work.

          • Troubletcat says:

            His point was that that’s 100% possible in a DM’d game of Neverwinter Nights. Neverwinter Nights allows for very nearly the exact same level of flexibility and spontaneity as a tabletop game. You would type out your attempt to tie the dude’s shoelaces together as an emote in the in-game chat, and the DM would decide how to run with it – maybe it works or doesn’t work or maybe they’d have you make a skill check, etc.. basically the same set of options available to a DM at a tabletop. There is no need for it to be pre-cooked into the game.

      • Premium User Badge

        Skabooga says:

        A lack of improvisation is why computers will be bad at jazz and DM-ing for the foreseeable future. In short, electronic old men and their inflexibility.

  4. Troubletcat says:

    Neverwinter Nights did not fall short.

    The included campaigns weren’t much good. The expansions were ok, the one in the base game was pretty rubbish.

    The online Persistent World community + community crafted single-player adventures (some of which were designed around a DM guiding it)…

    Neverwinter Nights completely nailed the entire concept. The DM tools were extremely powerful. The actual toolset was the most extraordinary combination of powerful-yet-easy-to-use I’ve ever seen. As someone who DM’d PnP for several years, playing on a good role-playing PW in NWN was a pretty sublime experience, and when playing in a DM-run event was also pretty damn close to the feeling of playing around a table.

    I am really sad that there’ll almost certainly never be a proper sequel to NWN. NWN2 had a really gimped DM client and the server backend was no longer robust enough to support modules on the same scale that was commonplace in the first game.

    Anyway, point is, it’s a damn lie to say it can’t work. But publishers aren’t interested in making a game like that anymore.

    Which is strange because NWN sold well enough to have two full-fledged expansion packs and a handful of smaller paid DLC adventures, maintained a pretty good sized active playerbase for many years, and somehow still maintains a small active online playerbase despite the fact that GameSpy going down took out the server browser… all of which makes the comment that nobody knows about it at the end of the article rather odd.

    • rabbit says:

      aaaaaand now i miss NWN

    • Jockie says:

      Yeah, I DMed, played on and helped create a PW (for the less functional but slightly prettier NWN2) and when they’re in full flow they can be sublime story creators. You have the added benefit of long-term engagement with the community which allows you to have more control over the world as a DM when working with the players to try and do something.

      You can also slow combat down and bring back dice rolls for smaller events, a good EG I can think of was when one server had this brilliant DM who used the tools to wash out all of an areas colours and tell us a story though text. He made the monsters he spawned impervious to our conventional weaponry and gave us a few clues as to their vulnerabilities and the group realised that we needed to use a sort of dream logic to defeat them, using our imaginations to form psychic weapon attacks (with hidden dice rolls to determine success). This kind of thing happens daily on good PWs, and is much closer than the DMed module to PnP.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      Very much this – I’d also say that if you’re interested in roleplaying and characters the NWN RP PWs were amazing. You might get together and play a PnP game for a few hours every week but for subtle, interesting, complex characters people could be playing them for 20 or 30 hours a week over a span of years and in the hands of an imaginative person it could be quite magical. PWs might heave been limited from huge sizes but I found they stomped all over PnP for actual RP.

    • darks says:

      Well said dude. I completely agree. I loved the NWN Tools. I’m the guy who created the Eye of the Beholder Series.

      I was so disappointed with SCL and their lame tools. I sure hope someone at Bioware takes interest in this and makes a new proper NWN.

      Shameless plug here. this is the link to my mod if anyone is interested. Update is coming for the mod in the next few days.

      link to moddb.com

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        I think DM modes in RPGs are always going to be taked-on gimmicks for most of the reasons given in this article. What really surprises me is not that there isn’t a game with a great DM function, but that there isn’t a sort of big budget roll20 – perhaps produced by a pen & paper roleplaying developer. The potential of the internet for people to form roleplaying clubs has been there since the days of MUDs and talkers but the tools to make it really work are still in their infancy

      • Mordaedil says:

        I recently talked to Trent Oster and asked him about remaking NWN like he’s remade the Baldur’s Gate games and stuff and he sent in an application and got a rejection for one reason or another. I assume it was related to Sword Coast Legends, so my hopes are that he might get the greenlight down the road. Should follow him on Twitter if you have one of those.

        Also, loved your modules, I really need to replay them again.

    • Holderist says:

      I can’t think of any other game that kept me so invested. What the campaigns didn’t manage to do, the Persistent Worlds did. Played for about 6 years, bought the game at least 3 times over the years, made friends and memories we share of our adventures.

    • xenoss says:

      Neverwinter Nights DM mode was great. I played in both persistent worlds DMed and more traditional adventure modules. What graphics couldn’t do, text filled in for it. With the right DMs it was an amazing experience.

      It is just sad that no game has since been able to pull this off.

    • gobbo14 says:

      Ahhh… NWN. The game that I played for almost 4 years straight and had by far the greatest gaming experiences of my life.

      I started by falling in love with Fraghaus Krynn, was a DM for two years on Anphillia, got obsessed with the hardcore permadeath of HAZE, and finally lost interest with Prisoners of the Mist (around the time NWN 2 came out).

      NWN DM tools weren’t flawless, but they were a whole lot better than this article gives them credit for. I don’t think Richard ever extensively had the opportunity to use the DM tools in NWN, because it absolutely was possible to create an invisible door without it being pre-scripted. In fact, the tools allowed you to create any object in the game and place it, rotate it, delete it, lock it, unlock it. You could create special effects, cast spells, create loot, warp players, buff players, buff monsters, POSSESS monsters/NPCS and talk through them.

      The tools were so versatile that you could literally reshape and area that had been pre-built, without any pre-planning. A spur of the moment quest could see a building burn down, or a peaceful green pasture turned in to a blood soaked warzone.

      I don’t know what more you need to be an effective DM. Damn I miss that game.

      • Premium User Badge

        Harlander says:

        Ahh man, I remember Haze.

        Good times. Good, occasionally harrowing, times.

    • Michael Anson says:

      The thing is, NWN is close to, but not quite, the actual GM experience. The problem is and always will be the limitations of the toolset. For example, in a desktop session with other players, if one of your players heads to a location you did not expect or haven’t fleshed out yet, you can improvise, creating a location out of whole cloth and running with it. In NWN, you can’t do that. You’re limited to the pre-created module and its boundaries. In a tabletop game, you can leap from a balcony, swing from a chandelier, and land at the open double-doors of the palace, evading the guards chasing after you, all with a few dice rolls and some imagination. In NWN, you can’t do that within the toolset.

      NWN presented an excellent set of tools to tell stories with far fewer limits than any other CRPG, but it is still limited to the realm of CRPGs. A tabletop game has no real limits except the imagination of the players, while a CRPG’s limits are the boundaries of effort of the creators and community. And effortless imagination will win out every time.

      • Troubletcat says:

        That’s true. It’s definitely true that NWN wasn’t AS flexible as playing at a tabletop in terms of what’s possible. But it was quite close, and some of the other benefits offered by NWN (playing with people from all around the world, a persistent world that was affected by other players when you weren’t around, that kind of stuff) added a lot.

        But you’re not wrong. There are a few things that are not possible at all in NWN (can’t create a whole new area on the fly, as you said, although playing in large PW’s effectively mitigated this since there was a whole world of locations), and something like the described palace-entrance would be possible, but somewhat awkward to manage and break the flow a bit more than in a tabletop setting.

        My point was mostly that, at the start of the article where it says “the idea that RPGs can hope to offer anything close to a classic DM experience. It’s a terrible idea. It’s not going to work. Stop wasting everybody’s time.” …NWN is a counter-example. It’s pretty damn close to a classic DM experience. It worked wonderfully.

  5. Premium User Badge

    AugustSnow says:

    I completely agree with Troubletcat – the NWN persistent world community was awesome, with a real tabletop open possibility feel. The interesting thing that happened there was that combat indeed did not feel tabletop-y, as the DM couldn’t spice things up and players couldn’t come up with unorthodox ideas fast enough to beat the game engine speed, but that just emphasized roleplaying outside of combat which was extremely fun. Combat became rare and something to be avoided or entered with great care as the problematic phenomenon of tabletop players counting on the DM to save their characters was avoided.
    As for making combat tabletop-y, I have my eyes on the Torment crisis engine. Torment probably won’t ship with an editor, but DM tools in that engine or a similar one, with a “DM turn” every round, could be very interesting.

  6. LogicalDash says:

    We really need Scribblenauts to try its hand at a game master mode. Summoning a Flying, Lazy, Gryphon by typing the words in is just about the right amount of effort to put in for altering the game on the fly.

  7. FunnyB says:

    So, we didn’t get that column on jetlag and/or sleep that you talked about, Richard? :P

  8. Edgewise says:

    Incidentally, I’ve just started a “tabletop” campaign using roll20 to connect people spread over the North American continent. It leads me to wonder if it wouldn’t be possible to come up with something that lies somewhere between an open-ended toolset like roll20 and a more structured experience like SCL. It seems like it should be possible, although I’m not sure if there’s a market for it.

  9. Geebs says:

    I’ve always wanted to ask: is Neverwinter called “Neverwinter” because of pointed sarcasm or gigantic optimism? It always looks kind of snowy, to me.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      It’s something like it’s less cold than the surrounding areas, but “Lessfatalwinter” was a bit much of a mouthful.

    • Jinarra says:

      (Random lore trivia mode engage!) It’s because it’s near a hot spring fed river that runs through a wintery area of the world. The river magically keeps the climate relatively warm, in comparison to the winter wasteland surrounding it. Not sure if this is still the case, mind you, but you can see why a major trade route would spring around such a location: Good weather, water source, et cetera.

  10. Foosnark says:

    however many players are currently logged into Neverwinter, it’s not enough for the rest of the industry to have followed its lead.

    I’ve enjoyed very few of Neverwinter’s player-made adventures. So many of them don’t stick with the setting and tone of the rest of the game, or the writing or level design are just meh. I find a mediocre DM running a tabletop game is still a better time than a mediocre writer creating a CRPG experience.

  11. Lobotomist says:

    I will have to disagree.

    I have been playing Pen and Paper for over 25 years , and I can list Neverwinter Nights sessions among most fun.

    I think if I would have to list one reason for it , its the fact that DM is also a player. And that he does not hold all the (control) strings necessarily.

    There is nothing more satisfying than fooling the DM. And in Neverwinter this can get really intricate.

    In fact there was little what Neverwinter tool can not do. Its only shortcoming was need for scripting at some occasions.

    I really wonder why no company does not simply do Neverwinter Nights type of game again. Especially after the Sword Coast Legends debacle. Where they promised NWN , got huge following , and than revealed to be total sham.

    Which only goes to prove the interest is really there.

    • Mordaedil says:

      I asked Trent Oster to remake it, but he apparently got rejected when he sent a request for it :(

      Here’s hoping they might change it to a “yes”

  12. Troubletcat says:

    I think when discussing these here things it’s important to keep in mind that the MMO Neverwinter and the BioWare game Neverwinter Nights have absolutely nothing to do with each other in terms of… well, anything aside from the setting, and even that’s heavily bastardised by the MMO.

  13. Cian says:

    Glad to see Card Hunter getting a mention, it strikes me as offering the best opportunity for the kind of on the fly improvisation that DMing requires. Not just because it’s aesthetic always transports me back to watching my brother’s play Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying on their home made cardboard dungeons but also because the whole meta level of your enemies literally being other player characters or the DM just allows for so much lee way and flexibility. Throwing down more cardboard tiles and a bit of dialogue and you could respond to your players mad cap schemes/dastardly attempts to dodge your artful rail-roading.
    For me the thrill of tabletop isn’t the Director-like scaling of challenge but the immensely cunning, more often idiotic, planning players can create together when allowed freedom of play.

    I never played the Vampire Masquerade: The First Ones multiplayer, can anyone enlighten me to what it was trying? I have happy memories of the singleplayer as an 11 year old, mainly because it involved a Brujah with a mohawk and a mini-gun but can’t really remember about what it played like.

  14. Archonsod says:

    The big problem with a DM led experience is that it’s pretty easy (not to mention vastly cheaper) to utilise Hangouts, Skype or the like and actually play the tabletop game. It’s kinda difficult to see what precisely could be added to that by software beyond simple book keeping. Trying to do it with a game would seem to me to be trying to reinvent the wheel.

    • rmsgrey says:

      What can software add? Graphics, up to and including on-the-fly animation of events as they play out. Book-keeping (okay you mentioned that). More detailed simulation – rather than faithfully recreating a PnP ruleset, you can have a full physics engine running. Sound-effects.

      At a minimum, you get the equivalent of a direct-to-DVD movie of your game playing out in front of you, and a lot of the paperwork taken off your hands. Of course, the richer the AV experience, the more limiting the game rules get since you can’t really go beyond what the game can render, so there’s a trade-off there…

  15. Gothnak says:

    The best RPG moments i have had in any PC RPG were both in an online NWN server with live DM’s. I didn’t know them, and they sat around making content and every now and then would mess about with replayable missions players happened to be on at the time. I think that is the best option. Stick a few DM’s into WoW while people are doing a standard quest and see the excitement go through the roof where a ‘normal’ mission has suddenly gone haywire.

    Having a fully detailed mission for a group of 4 players? Nah, not going to happen.

  16. Myrdinn says:

    No mention of Divinity OS2’s dungeon master mode? If somebody can pull it off, it’ll be Larian!

  17. Freud says:

    I think it’s the wrong question to ask. Of course no computer game is going to be able to simulate the on the feet thinking and imagination of tabletop players and GMs.

    But would it be possible to have some sort of GMing elements that could introduce randomness/chaos/fun into normal RPGs? Of course there would.

  18. xyzzy frobozz says:

    Great article!

    To me this is where MMOs have been both the biggest promise, and the buggest disappointment.

    Most have offered what is a traditional RPG structure with multiplayer. To me that this has been pretty disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, the success of various MMOs attests to the fact that there is an appetite for that sort of gameplay (so please, lets not get into a debate on the merits of the “traditional” MMO), it’s just that it has fallen short of what I had hoped for in a true “open world”.

    In my opinion, the game that has come closest so far is Eve Online. It gives players the world, fills it with resources, and then lets the players go about building that world.There are no arbitrary roles or alignments and players are more defined by their actions, holdings and achievements than an arbitrary character sheet.

    My god, an MMO version of AD&D Birthright. I’d spill blood for that!

    • xyzzy frobozz says:

      To clarify a little….

      The perfect RPG is an MMO where the DM is the game itself, manifested in the form of the game world. There would also be large scale curated events to keep things intetesting, but essentially everything in the world would be player owned and built from available and finite resources.

      The micro scale adventure would pretty much DM itself from there.

  19. MadTinkerer says:

    Just like Wii Sports is the closest a videogame will ever come to emulating real sports and also being good, successfully emulating the tabletop GM experience in some way and also being a good game will result in something not quite exactly like the tabletop GM experience.

    I haven’t tried Tabletop Simulator for RPGs yet, and Fantasy Grounds is too expensive for my current budget, so one or both of those may be exactly what I mean. But as for games designed to be video games as well as tabletop RPGs (somehow), there’s always been problems because they’re normally completely different kinds of games. The early RPGs got around it by not trying to include a human GM at runtime at all.

    The slightly less early RPGs did include GMs but those were MUDs which became MMOs and thus even less like the tabletop experience, even though to this day MMOs have GMs in them. So the pinnacle of all of this effort to put GMs in videogames is World of Warcraft. Oh well.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      I was an admin and programmer in a MUD for a little while and one of the things I never liked about Warcraft was the relative lack of focus on communication in-game. The pace being that bit faster, and the emphasis that bit more on combat and grind was to blame I suppose, but I don’t think think MMOs ever got close to giving you the same feeling that the Gods (admins/GMS/whatever) were in the same world as you, watching and ocassionally meddling with the fates of mortals.

    • SingularityParadigm says:

      “Just like Wii Sports is the closest a videogame will ever come to emulating real sports and also being good,”

      Virtual Reality is going to prove your statement false in 2016.

  20. Lord Byte says:

    In an elitist and less than tactful way: Everyone who thinks that NWN was a good way to simulate a PNP RPG, probably thinks so because they’ve had or are bad DMs. It’s as simple as that, you tend to railroad your players and limit the amount of interaction allowed. You’ll say “No.” Instead of “Yes, but…”

    Not everyone can probably be a good DM, and sure it can be enjoyable to just follow the GM and do some combat, but that’s comparing a flip-book, which it might be interesting and enjoyable, to a big-screen movie. It’s just not the same, not even close. If you get lucky and find such a DM, and play a REAL Roleplaying game (not the Roll-play you’re used to), you’ll know what i mean…

    • Nucas says:

      “yes, but” is no. it’s “no, but” and “yes, and”. if you’re going to invoke the rules of improv, get them right.

    • gwathdring says:

      As a player and runner of a variety of systems–some light, some heavy, some borderline LARP some very traditional some just plain weird …

      You’re vastly underestimating your elitism, lack of tact and–crucially–grasp of either GMing or of the variety and depth of the NWN scene.

      • gwathdring says:

        *That should read:

        “You’re vastly underestimating your elitism and lack of tact. Crucially, you are vastly overestimating both your grasp of GMing and your grasp of the depth and variety of the NWN multiplayer scene.”

    • Reapy says:

      I haven’t played NWN much or roleplayed much, but I think what you are trying to say is basically the pen and paper person can invoke your imagination to create the scenario, where as you feel like a NWN DM can’t invoke your imagination because he is limited to what the toolset or the computer can do.

      You forget one crucial tool though, which is written text, the same as spoken words. A NWN DM has no limitation in invoking your imagination through typing, to have the ignore the game screen a moment and describe some actions, or even to describe some actions taking place, the same way you would liven up dice roll outcomes, a hit or miss in NWN can also become anything they want to type and supplement along side the on screen action.

      So I see what you are trying to say, but there is no reason there exists any limitation in NWN so long as text or voice chat can be used alongside of it, which it can.