In late summer, North East of the town of Red Larch in the Dessarin Valley, an ill fate was forged for one member of our intrepid and brave adventuring company. The fires of fate can be glad and giving, or they can be cruel and searing…
Hey Game Masters
The use of voice overs in tabletop gaming, especially professional created voice overs, is still a nascent concept. In fact, when I bring up the idea of injecting pre-generated voiceover work in gaming, I usually get a puzzled look. Typically, I’d get a “But I’m not running a module.” or “How can I use a something like this without telling someone what I want them to say?” type of response. I’d just smile and nod. “Oh, let me count the ways.”
Whether it’s giving life to a major Non-Player Character, providing some much needed context to the most common and under-rated NPC’s in every gaming world, or breathing life to fantasy languages, there’s a whole world of immersive gaming out there to explore!
In all but the most aesthetic games, the party will need the products and services of all manner of NPCs to run a successful campaign. Tavern Owners to supply the frothy brews, weaponsmiths and armorsmiths to sell, fix, and enhance implements of war, potion makers and alchemists to provide life-saving bottled magic, and a slew of other vendors that act as the needed lubricant for every setting.
Too often, interactions with these NPCs amount to little more than an exercise in accounting, letting the party trade their hard fought gold for what they need and that’s a lost opportunity to further cultivate an immersive gaming experience. Don’t get me wrong, GMs have enough on their plate. Providing an interesting introduction, backdrop, and character all while pushing forward a campaign is extremely taxing, especially when you don’t know what NPC the party will ask to see next. Enter the power of the voiceover!
Voice overs, particularly those created by professionals, provides a three-part benefit:
(1) Pre-Packaged NPCs
First, it takes a ton of work off of the GM, allowing the script to do the heavy lifting, including the characterization, background, and ambiance of the NPC interaction. Players often thrive on testing the limits of a GM, particularly when it comes maintaining the believability of a world through interaction with its inhabitants. Through these voiceover scripts, the GM now has a powerful ally.
For ultimate usability, you can find voice overs out there that are plug and play, providing everything you need to promote a living, breathing fantasy world with little to no prep needed. For example, knowing that my players had returned to civilization after a long adventure, I had set aside a playlist of potential voiceovers that I could queue up on a moment’s notice, each with a commonly asked NPC type. With the characters wanting to visit the most popular tavern in town, I saw an opportunity to liven things up with the following voiceover by artist Edwyn Tiong:
(2) Potential Adventure Hooks, Story Arcs, and Tangents
A good long read, like with Edwyn’s voice over, typically includes nuanced facets which I refer to as ‘free’ material to work with. In this case, the voiceover offered my players all sorts of interesting games of chance to participate in, even a colorful game called “Goblin Toss” which peaked everyone’s interest. I didn’t even have to remember some interesting sounding fantasy booze to offer, it was all there!
In terms of story, I could not have asked for a better setup. Running this script allowed me to run a gambling hall slash tavern that provided a deeply immersive setting to advance the story along, namely, the introduction of an NPC contact with vital information regarding the overall plot. By adding a bit of a shady spin to this NPC, I was able to seamlessly move the overarching story by portraying the NPC as a frequent dice player, providing the needed organic introduction as one of my players opted to play a bit at the craps table.
Now, don’t be pigeonholed into using everything a read mentions. Treat the little threads offered up on these reads as bonuses, something that you can explore in detail only if you want to. When my players asked to play Goblin Toss, I didn’t have to create a whole scene on the fly, I could have just asked for some strength checks and be done with it.
Use what’s offered on these reads as potential things to explore, nothing more, otherwise, you might find yourself too nervous to play a piece since you’re unsure just how much your players will wish to explore each and every thread offered.
(3) The Immersive Element
Lastly, there’s the immersive nature of such voiceovers. I like to think myself as ‘decent’ in providing different accents to voice the dozens of major NPC’s populating my campaign setting. However, compared to pro voice talent, I barely pass for the voice equivalent of a drunk karaoke singer. Even for causal players, hearing the same voice, speech pattern, and mannerisms for everyone that populates a world can get a boring.
Having an NPC given life by someone who knows how to animate a character through voice acting is a magical experience. In Edwyn’s voice over, the atmosphere of the gambling hall was made that much more tangible by hearing the high energy, slightly sleazy proprietor run through the list of options of games and drink. From then on, I had the silhouette of a new NPC contact for my players at that town, running the same guy in the future with the same upbeat, lively energy that’s willing to offer up some unique R&R opportunities along with contacts with the underworld, for a nominal fee of course…
That’s it for now. Next time, we’ll provide some tips and tricks to make your voice over experiences at the gaming table more useful. Do you use recorded voice overs in your games? Do you have a source of voice overs not covered in this post that you’d like to share? What tools do you use to incorporate pre-recorded script in a game as dynamic as fantasy role-playing games
This week on Delve, Alex and Nathan take on a listener request about travel! How it works for getting from there to here, what parts of movement are important mechanically, and when you can easily get away with not actually using the mechanics you just made.
It’s gonna be a long strange trip!
Brace yourselves fans, readers, and editors. It’s time for another patented Angry meandering intro that doesn’t go where you think. But if you absolutely HAVE TO know the topic of a thing before you read it, and the goddamned title doesn’t give it away, I’m writing about collaboration and how I work WITH my players at the start of the campaign. Okay? Deploy long, meandering intro.
Their guise as the Masked Musicians intact, the Dead Crew found it surprisingly easy to sneak their weapons through the gate inside the hidden compartments of their instrument cases, and into the dressing room that had been set aside for them. Now they had to find Reeve or Silas quickly, before they would be expected to perform, or their quarry tried something desperate…
With an explorer you never know what you’re going to find. Whether you’re driving through a mountain pass trying to catch an imperial squad that stole your crystal skull, or finding the next rancor that your benefactor has paid you to take down. We talk about the many facets of the explorer and also delve a little into ways to illicit skill rolls that aren’t asked for by the GM.
Sometimes we need to find inspiration for our games, especially for those roleplaying game sessions we want to give some extra reality and description to. The problem is, we often find ourselves lost in terms of how we can give that extra bit of spice to our games. Well, I think the best thing you can do is to open your eyes and try to study the world around you in slightly different perspective than how you usually go about your day. Heck, it is not too hard to try and take ideas you see in the news, and to try and rearrange them, or fit them into your game to try make things especially relevant. I am telling you to do this because it is something a lot of people do when they are creating fiction, writing novels, and filming.
Kobolds are everywhere. Every nook, every cranny, every little out of the way hole or cave seems to be filled with them when you are of a certain level. They go away eventually, but…
But what, actually, are they? And what happens if, just as you are feeling safe and confident that you’ve got rid of the damned things at last, they put in an appearance? And this time, they’ve learned a thing or two?
Want to play Dungeons & Dragons with your kids? Well, there might be more options than you think!
As described in last week’s article, Wizards Of The Coast have released a new D&D For Kids adventure Monster Slayers: The Champions Of The Elements which is available for free download on their website. Hopefully this is the first step towards an official D&D For Kids system which would encompass all elements of roleplaying games and add in rules and settings to encourage exploration, creative solutions, puzzle solving and talking in character.
Last month, I wrote at length of virtual tabletop app Fantasy Grounds and its acquisition of the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition license. After that discussion, the folks at Fantasy Grounds (www.fantasygrounds.com) were kind enough to send me a copy of the 5E content for review. I downloaded the game on Steam, loaded the Player’s Handbook module (“Complete Core Class Pack”), the Monster Manual module (“Complete Core Monster Pack”), and the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure module, grabbed a few friends, and ran a trial adventure.
This is the third and final entry in a series of hands-on reviews of Fantasy Grounds’ D&D 5E licensed content. As part of this series, I have previously covered Fantasy Grounds as a virtual tabletop overall, as well as the Player’s Handbook licensed content. Today, I’m discussing the licensed content for Dungeon Masters, namely the D&D Complete Core Monster Pack and Lost Mine of Phandelver adventures. Please note that there are spoilers for the first act of Lost Mine of Phandelver contained within.