Divinity: Original Sin 2 or traditional tabletop roleplaying - which is better for Game Masters? | PCGamesN

Divinity: Original Sin 2 or traditional tabletop roleplaying - which is better for Game Masters?

Divinity: Original Sin 2 Game Master

It is good to be king or queen but it sure as hell ain’t easy. If you have ever been the Game Master of a tabletop roleplaying game like Dungeons & Dragons you will know that it offers unmatched creative freedom and the ability to forge unforgettable stories and moments you will talk about for years. You will also know that the role comes with about a thousand irritating problems to deal with over the course of a single game. GMing is rewarding but it is no walk in the park.

But what if we change the format a bit? Books are so last century, man - pulped trees have been outclassed, made obsolete by the digital age. In comes Divinity: Original Sin 2’s Game Master mode - a flexible toolset for running roleplaying games from within Larian Studio’s hit RPG. Join us as we run through some of the more nagging Game Master woes, and rate which has the best tools for tackling them - the D:OS2 Game Master mode, or the old-fashioned pen-and-paper setup.

How is the rest of the game? Find out in our Divinity: Original Sin 2 review.

Creating an atmosphere

Pen-and-paper

Your party is headed for a dank, monster-filled dungeon, the hideout of the despicable Lich our heroes have been pursuing. Time to set the mood. You dim the lights, put on a YouTube playlist of spooky ambient music, and lay out that cool skull goblet you got at that convention. Perfect.

But, alas, trying to create a good atmosphere for a pen-and-paper game is like trying to create an atmosphere in the Longleat monkey enclosure. No-one can read their character sheets in the dim light, your music playlist suddenly starts playing ‘Anaconda’ during the climatic fight with the evil Lich, and someone accidentally knocks your cool skull goblet off the table and smashes it while aggressively celebrating a natural 20. To cap it off, phones bleep, players argue, and housemates stare in befuddled amusement.

Rating: 3/10

Divinity 2’s GM mode

Divinity 2’s toolset for creating a mood is exhaustive, complete with long lists of options for lighting, weather effects, background music, ambient noise, and on-demand sound effects. Want to create a good mood for a demonic cathedral full of deranged cultists? Easy! Lighting: Necro Cavern. Music: Exploration Theme 11 Mystic B. Ambience: Cathedral 01. Bob’s your demonic uncle!

It is also a lot easier to draw players into the ambience when they are sat at their computers wearing noise-cancelling headphones, not being distracted by the presence of their fleshy, non-medieval fantasy friends and household. Unless you are committed enough to install a complex lighting system and ambient sound system this level of customisation is pretty hard to replicate in real life.

Rating: 9/10

Winner: Divinity 2

Improvising

Pen-and-paper

This is a GMing challenge as old as D&D itself. Picture this: It took weeks, but you did it. The perfect dungeon. It is fiendishly difficult, so cleverly planned that your players will marvel at your ingenuity. Riddles, puzzles, monsters, and mysteries - it has got everything! You sit down to play, lay the plot hook, wait for the party to bite… and they completely miss it.

Instead, they are more interested in the marital complaints of the local blacksmith, a detail you threw in to add a bit of a flavour. Oh well - as long as you are imaginative and quick-witted, this situation is not too hard to deal with.

Hell, you could even link it in to your original plan - maybe the blacksmith’s wife’s strange change in attitude is related to the evil wizard from your beautiful dungeon creation? Now your players feel clever for uncovering a sinister plot from such an innocuous detail.

Rating: 8/10

Divinity 2’s GM mode

Divinity 2’s Game Master tools are robust, but they are not exactly quick to use. There are plenty of pre-built areas you can quickly load in, but adding in the important details - NPCs, monsters, items, and story hooks? That takes time. Even if you can put together something good on the fly it is still going to break the flow of the game. Times like this call for railroading. What does the blacksmith think is causing his marital problems? He thinks you guys should go to the dungeon. Weird, huh?

GM Rating: 5/10

Winner: Pen-and-paper

Problem Players

No plan survives contact with the enemy. And do not get things twisted as a GM, your players /are/ the enemy. You must crush them with your devastating storytelling acumen. Let’s take a look at some of the more common Annoying Players, and which roleplaying medium has the best weapons for this fight.

The Rules Lawyer

Susan, I know the rules say that you can now roll 123 D6s for damage, but could you not? The more complex a game’s system is the harder it is to tackle this problem. Thankfully Divinity 2 has its own system, and it is pretty hard to game the system when the system is a computer, not a rulebook.

Pick: Divinity 2

The Wizened Elder

Yeah, Roger, we remember AD&D 2nd edition. No, I didn’t play it, I was three years old. I know you’d rather play pen-and-paper, but hey, this videogame is cool, right? Oh, you don’t have a computer that can run it, I see.

Pick: Pen-and-paper

The Barbarian

Stop eating the Elf refugee, Callum, he’s trying to give you a plot hook. This type of problem player is out for blood. Everyone’s blood. Good or evil, vital character or background dweller - it does not matter. The solution for either digital or analogue roleplaying? Kill them back.

Pick: Draw

The Imp

I don’t think the Lich has heard of Love Live: Sunshine, Karl. Not a lot of anime in Rivellion. Setting an atmosphere for this player is impossible, they are the typical trouble-making comedian. You can build up a dramatic moment for weeks on end, and when it finally comes, The Imp will have a wisecrack ready to go. At least in Divinity 2 you can pre-write the dialogue options.

Pick: Divinity 2

Divinity 2 - 3 vs. pen-and-paper - 2

Winner: Divinity 2

Food and Drink Mishaps

Pen-and-paper

Stop getting Mountain Dew and pizza grease on my books. No, the stain will not come out. Yes, it does matter. It cost £30, Pete. Yeah, I know that’s expensive, it’s a nice book. Whatever, it’s fine. No, it’s fine. Yes, I’m sure. It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.

GM rating: That was an original AD&D book Pete/10

Divinity 2’s GM mode

Oh, you got cheese on your keyboard, Pete? It’s a gaming keyboard with LEDs and it cost £50? Gee, that sucks. My heart bleeds and all that. No, no I’m not laughing, I have something stuck in my throat.

GM rating: HAHAHA SCREW YOU PETE/10

Winner: Me, and not Pete.

Overall winner: Divinity: Original Sin 2

The moral of the story is this: consider printing out PDFs of your rarer rulebooks, laminating them, and fitting them in a handy binder. Also, try Divinity: Original Sin 2’s GM mode, it is pretty great.

GOTW
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