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Lessons from Baldur's Gate 3

So, what's making all the rounds these days? That would be the computer game Baldur's Gate, which is built on the D&D 5e engine. As many of you will likely have played it, you'll have seen that it uses the skill systems and of course, the combat system is recognizable to you as well.

But are there any lessons that you can take away from it? I believe there are.

First, I should say that I've only had one or two hours with the game so far, so there are bound to be other things that I pick up as I play through it, but this one was one that struck me.

The Narrator

The Narrator, in case you're in doubt, is the Game Master of the system. Or rather, it's a part of what the Game Master does — the GM here is also the surroundings and NPCs as you might expect. But it is this internal voice that I want to talk to you about.

I'm going to avoid spoiler country here, don't worry, so I'm going to come up with an example for you instead.

I especially like it on the Insight and Perception checks. Imagine that your character is talking to an NPC. They're talking to the NPC about a trade that's going down in the seedy parts of town, but the NPC is claiming to not know about it:

PC "We know that something is going on in the lower ward of the city. Some kind of deal with smuggling. And we know you're a part of it. Talk."

NPC "I have no idea what you're talking about. I'm just here to get a drink. This is my usual watering hole."

*** GM Makes a secret Insight check. The players make it ***

GM "You get the sense that he's mostly lying. Looking at his hands, it's clear that he's not the one who drags the boxes. Perhaps he's a lookout or something similar, but he's not directly involved in moving the boxes."

In this case, the PCs gained an Insight into what's going on, but it's beyond "lies or truth", it's more in-depth than that. Now if they failed the Insight check, all they'd get would be "Unfortunately, his poker face is too hard for you to read. It's impossible to tell if he's telling the truth or not." Of course, if the NPCs had succeeded on a Deception check, they'd be told "He's being honest, it doesn't appear as if he is involved."

The second thing that I've seen The Narrator used for is flashbacks (just like we do), instead of cutscenes, which would be far more common in computer games these days. But the third thing is the "intuition" of your character, and that might be the most useful one. It's the things that warn us if something is smart (Heh, Common the sense, as opposed to Common, the language), and whether we perceive something about an object or person. It's our internal voice to a degree, the one that succeeds or fails on the mental skill checks.

Basically, one of the lessons that Baldur's Gate 3 is one of "yes, and" or "no, but". And it's one we'd do well to consider as The Narrator becomes a voice of the GM's and gives us yet another tool in our toolbox.

Come back next week. Will there be more Baldur's Gate 3? Maybe, depends on how much I get to play it. :)

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