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A Natural 20 On A Diplomacy Check [12 November 2015] How To Make Friends And Influence People By Passing Notes

Dungeons and Dragons (TM) shares with Real Life (TM) a fundamental mechanic: communicating, as one human person to another, for the purpose of changing the target's attitude, or to make a request of the target. And a key way we do that is by passing notes. Here's a critical success rolled by my daughter in just such an attempt:

Totes adorbs, admittedly, but more to the point, an effective way to communicate and make a request. PS: I said, "Sure."

Okay, so Cayzle has a cute kid ... so what? How is that relevant to D&D? "I can't remember the last time my character wrote a note!" you say?

Well, the reason this is important in gaming is not because your character writes notes -- because likely he or she does not. On the other hand, YOU write notes! You write them all the time! You write them to your fellow players, and you especially write notes to your DM! When you are sitting around a gaming table, tossing a note over the GM Screen is a time-worn tradition! And in online play, sending a PM or email at a key moment can be the difference between a win and a fail. So ha! Those Real Life (TM) skills DO have relevance for even the RPG recluse!

So disdain not the humble note -- nor its modern form, text and email. In fact, check out this video, "Dwarven Tavern Dungeon Mastery - Passing Notes", on using your cell phones to pass notes around the gaming table.

And there is more to ponder in these "10 Tips On Passing Notes During Games". I like this one best: "When your notes only contain bad news, then players are going to soon learn to fear them. Mix-up the content of your notes to include good news and bad, fluff, and/or useful information." That's key to using notes diplomatically. Unless you want to inspire terror, make some notes fun and rewarding. And watch out for the metamessage you send -- you do not want the other players to think you are up to something!

Passed notes can be a way for the game master to manipulate the players, for example, with a policy of welcoming notes that creates opportunities for secret messages (and their consequences). Here's an example in an essay, "Passing Notes at the Gaming Table," that I found at

"As the DM I encourage the PCs to do whatís best for them, even if itís not always in the partyís best interest. I see it as a way for the players to better develop their characters. ... In order for each player to have a chance to do their thing I made a rule that I would collect secret notes from all players at regular intervals. This gave the players who wanted to do something sneaky the chance to act when the impulse struck them. Because I asked for notes from everyone it didnít single out any one PC. ... Most of the notes ended up being about character development and not plans to kill one another. They were notes about behaviour and things their PCs look out for. Some were about NPCs they wanted to meet secretly or items they wanted to buy. There were even some occasions where two PCs would try to take the same secret action."

But the aspect of note-passing that these folks are missing is advantage that my 10-year-old daughter hit on intuitively! A savvy player can use of notes to make Diplomacy checks to influence the Dungeon Master! Play one level above everyone else -- you are role playing your gamer character, and he is making a Diplomacy check to get a favor out of the DM character. If you do it right, the DM's player can even recognize what you are doing, but the roll still succeeds! I knew my daughter was trying to manipulate me with her note, but the note was so darn cute that it worked anyway!

So the next time you secretly email your DM, or pass him a hand-written note, put a little thought into how you can use this chance to get a bit of an edge. Why not? After all, it's only a game!

Home | This page last modified: 12 Nov 2015