Communication’s Golden Path

There are a few seemingly simple habits that are easy to forget, and make any Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition game smoother and more fun.

Role playing comes easily during skill challenges and between encounters, but it’s very common for combat to devolve into an exchange of numbers, with little or no narration.  It makes for a richer experience when players and dungeon masters keep narrating and role-playing during combat.  Instead of simply calling out “23 versus AC, 32 fire damage” include the fluff: “I summon a wave of fire energy through my sword, that’s 23 versus AC and the waves of flame surround him for 32 points of fire damage.”  The flavor text included with player character powers provide a nice aid for describing those abilities, and can simply be read if you have trouble of articulating the story.

On the other end of the spectrum, it is best when players and DMs are transparent and mechanically precise when describing what is happening.  Many key words have mechanical connotations that aren’t always intuitive.  For example, when a character ‘runs’ it allows two extra spaces of movement and grants combat advantage.  Should that same character simply move their full normal speed or take a double move, there are no such negative consequences.  While it seems accurate to describe a double move as a ‘running,’ this can create confusion.  ‘Shifts’ and ‘moves’ are similarly hazardous when described imprecisely.

It’s also best when players and DMs include the details of what is happening when it comes to who has attacked whom, what the ‘to hit’ total was and what defense it attacked, even when it seems obvious or inconsequential.  D&D is a complicated game and many powers have unusual triggers.  It’s certainly not reasonable for any one person to keep track of every detail; instead, good, clear communication allows the entire group to use its collective mind to manage it all.

As in all things, the key is to find and walk the golden path.  Include the crunchy details, so everyone can track the mechanics, but wrap the crunch within the context of the story in order to make the experience one worth tracking.



Filed under 4e D&D, Advice, Advice/Tools, continuous improvement, Fluff, Fluff/Inspiration, Information management

2 responses to “Communication’s Golden Path

  1. Shameless plug: I made the Damager for exactly this reason. I suck at remembering to describe stuff in combat, so it acts as a helpful reminder for me.

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