Monday, April 25, 2011

RPG vs DND Part 1: Graphic Imagination

      So I love RPGs, both regular and MMOs.  They’re great fun, and I’ve already explained why they are amazing.  But given the opportunity to spend the afternoon playing Neverwinter Nights or playing Dungeons and Dragons, I’d choose D&D every time, even if we were playing multiplayer NVN.  Why?  This week I would like to look at the relationships between virtual and tabletop RPGS.  Conveniently, I have three points, so I’ll divide this into three posts. 

                    Part 1: Visual Graphics vs Imagination
Can you say 'special effects'?  I can.

One of the best cases in favour of virtual RPGs is that you can actually see what’s going on.  In Neverwinter Nights you can see the enemies, see how many, what weapons they have, and all of that.  Also, it saves having to listen to the Dungeon Master giving a ten minute description of just how imposing the fortress is.  You can see it.  Your eyes process faster than your ears, at least when it comes to images.  I suppose reading a description of a sound is slower than hearing it.
So is this a crypt or a marketplace?

In D&D (or whatever tabletop RPG you prefer.  We can discuss that another day.) you have to rely on your imagination and memory to keep track of what’s going on.  You can use models and grids to map out a battle, and maybe the DM will be nice and draw you a map or a sketch of a building.  Generally though, you have to visualize everything yourself, and this does lead to confusion.  As DM I often find that I have forgotten to mention something important, like the giant pit in the center of the room, or the description of the altar the necromancer is standing behind.  This causes problems that you don’t really have as often in a video game.
Nowadays, with 4th edition, there is supposed to be a lot of software you can buy to make all the rooms on your laptop for your dungeon and visual aids are a lot easier to construct.  For those of us who don’t have that luxury however, the graphics and sound effects of video games seem much easier than belaboured and detailed descriptions of the stickiness of the floor.

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