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Texting in Character

Today’s guest articles comes from Craig Dedrick and covers a way to make texting in game… hold on let me just reply to this… not an annoyance at your… wait, hahha. Man that was funny… table. – Phonebound John

I think that we can all agree that when players start to check their phones at the table, it is a signal that there is a problem. For one reason or another, the player is not engaged in the game. Who is at fault in this situation? Is the GM to blame for not creating a compelling scenario? Or is the player at fault for not giving their full attention to the game? Is it even a problem when players pull out their phones when the spotlight is on someone else? Recently, I encountered texting at the table for a different reason.

At a recent convention event, I had arranged to run a session of Dread: Pandemonium for a group of players, all of whom were significantly younger than me, and several of whom are relatively new to the RPG hobby. Things proceeded admirably and predictably for the first while, and then the texting started: but not the sort of texting that I had been expecting.

My players began texting in character.

The Dread scenario involved a group of demon hunters investigating some suspicious deaths in a small town. I had listed “phone” on everyone’s character sheet, and really thought very little about it. However, once all of the players realized that they all had phones, they decided to make use of them, starting with a social media search of the victims. When the players began their proper investigation, they eventually split up, but decided to keep in touch via text. Rather than using notes or talking across the table they opened a group chat on Facebook, changed their nicknames to their character names, and texted in character. This happened, on and off, for the rest of the session.

Not only was this unexpected: it was fantastic!


Keeping Everyone Engaged

When the group was split up, it gave players who were not in on the action a chance to participate. It allowed them to instantly funnel information and warnings to each other without breaking character. Furthermore, it completely sidestepped the issue of players going on their phones to check their out-of-game messages and what have you when not in the spotlight because they were interacting with each other in the group chat.

Enhancing Character Traits

One of the players, who was playing an older, less tech-savvy character, decided to text like one of her parents and only used emoji because spelling out the words was too slow, which caused amusement and frustration for everyone else.


Maintaining Immersion

One of the risks of having all of the players present at the table once the group has split up is that the players will have knowledge of what is happening elsewhere that their characters would not have, which impacts the feeling of immersion when that knowledge is used. Not only can the players share the knowledge in a realistic way through text (instead of saying “I text all of that to everyone”), but the players can enforce their own level of immersion with each other. Here you can even see one of the players correcting another for using out-of-character knowledge, thus preserving the immersion:

Final Thoughts

Once it started, the group chat continued throughout the game. Although I am confident that the game would have been a hit regardless, the texting made it all the better, and ended up being one of the highlights for all involved. The players even used it to break the bad news of a fatal injury to one of the PC’s:

And to celebrate victory:

I have had characters maintain Twitter accounts for the other PC’s to follow during games, and a few other things, but this was, by far, the most integrated bit of texting I have had in a game, and I think that I will try it again, though perhaps with a bit more planning and intent.

What do you think? Have you done something similar in your games? Would this be a good way to help keep players engaged when they are not present in a scene?



2 Comments (Open | Close)

2 Comments To "Texting in Character"

#1 Comment By Alyssa Fraser On April 10, 2017 @ 9:39 am

Commenting as a player in the described game – it was a ton of fun! I think with a little bit of planning, this device could have been even better, although there is certainly something to be said for the spontaneity of the whole thing.

For those with access to a display screen (I know my regular gaming location has a tv hooked up to a computer mounted to the wall, which we often use to view pertinent images, maps, etc.), I think it would work really well to display the group chat in a window where everybody can see – that way the GM is also in on the conversation (without having to worry about checking their phone).

One of my favourite moments was when two of our party were talking to a cop, while the other three hid in the bushes nearby. The three who were not directly in the scene were able to silently talk about what was going on, which worked really well, mechanically speaking. They were able to participate in the scene, without being forced to interupt the conversation going on between the GM and the other two players. One of the hidden PCs even sent a suggestion to me (my character was talking to the cop), which I glanced at and followed. It all played out really well, and was a lot of fun for everybody involved!

Another great game, Craig! And a nice follow-up article – I would definitely urge other GMs using a modern setting to give this method a try!

#2 Pingback By Using technology. Texting during gameplay. – The Rolemaster Blog On April 11, 2017 @ 4:48 am

[…] post over at Gnomestew got me thinking more about this issue. It’s pretty hard now not to have […]

#3 Comment By Angela Murray On April 13, 2017 @ 10:06 pm

This is AMAZING. I love this so much.

I actually had an in-game texting experience in a Dread game once on a much smaller scale. One of the players was playing a teen character who was very close to his recently deceased grandfather. As the GM, I had the grandfather send a text to the character via sending directly to the player’s phone, providing a hint. Throughout the game, we exchanged texts between the dead grandfather and his grandson. It was actually a pretty emotionally powerful part of the game.

I’m really glad to see how it got used in your game to such an amazing effect.

#4 Pingback By Gnomecast #13 – Texting in Character | Gnome Stew On April 27, 2017 @ 11:57 am

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