So the best game I've ever been in is online -- it's an Exalted game that I've been in for about a year now. There are a lot of reasons why it's the best game I've ever been in, like that we are all geniuses who love each other, but there are also some really important elements to its awesomeness that come directly from the fact that we play our game over IRC rather than in person. I was thinking about this and wondering if there was some way to adapt some of these positive qualities to tabletop play, so as to derive the same benefits without losing the benefits of being there.
So here are the benefits that are immediately obvious to me that online play has over tabletop play:
* The OOC Channel
The single most important advance in roleplaying games since the invention of fortune. Most online games have two channels -- one for events and actions in the narrative context, and one for discussion in the social context. This separation allows all kinds of formerly difficult interactions to take place. It eliminates all potential confusion involving declared actions and narration. By explicitly creating a space for discussion of play events as they occur, it enables direct and immediate analysis and explanation of character behavior, which itself fosters a higher level of interplayer communication and thus better gaming. By setting aside a corresponding space for play, which is empty except for play, it allows ritual engagement on a high level, while simultaneously providing a way for detached or detaching players to interact socially without breaking the ritual.
No more losing the moment. No more forgetting what was discussed last session. No more wasted time on foreshadowing, intentional secrets, and character development that will all be forgotten by the time it starts to matter. Everything that hits the narrative is recorded, word-for-word, for all eternity. Having everything written down in black and white allows you to refresh yourself on events immediately and easily; having a long-term transcript allows you to observe the progress of a character through his development from a relatively third-person perspective. And finally, when you have that great moment that makes it worth playing, you really can share it with others.
Uh. Um. Er. Hold on. No wait.
Never hear these words again. Everything that hits the narrative space is fully formed when it gets there; the inevitable process of refining and reneging is invisible to the other players at the table, because they can't see what you say until you hit the return key. Change your mind about something midway? It never happened, and nobody knows you did it. Keeping the ritual space clear means keeping standards up means making play more awesome.
As you can see, these benefits mainly revolve around refining and preserving the ongoing narrative -- and they all rely on basic features of the medium. Are there any ways we can adapt the principles at work here to the medium of face-to-face play?