By Jason Campbell
“As caller, Morgan relay’s the party’s actions to the DM after the characters decide what they want to do”Dungeons & Dragons (Basic Rulebook), page B59
In the 1981 Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rulebook (aka Moldvay basic, or the red book) in the example of Sample Dungeon Expedition it describes one player character as the “caller”. The party caller was an idea described in many older editions of Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The idea was that while each player controlled their character and decided their actions, only one player conveyed those actions to the Dungeon Master. This was a way to keep the game play flowing and avoid long extended arguments at decision points in the game.
Role Playing games were less than 10 years old and the Basic Rulebook was written in order to show players new to role playing how to run this sort of game. The assumption was that these players had never played or seen a role playing game (this is of course pre-internet, pre-podcast). Their closest experience would be in board games like Monopoly or Sorry!. In these games there was no referee and turn order was part of the game, so the way communication happens was not something that needed to be discussed. The D&D rulebooks assumed that how the game session would be played needed to be explained as much as the rules of game mechanics. This is why having a party caller was suggested as an essential part of running a role playing game session.
Modern role playing games are written from a different perspective. Many players reading a new rule book have played other role playing games, or perhaps have seen or heard streamed games. In many rule books the idea of explaining how a session should be run is left up to the referee and players. So the idea of a party caller is lost, but is there still a use for it?
If you work where virtual online meetings are a requirement you’ve certainly witnessed people in these meetings talking over each other, asking others to repeat themselves and the like. These issues are often present in online role playing sessions too. Of course in the early days of role playing games these games were played in person around a table. Now that we have online technology (and post COVID lockdowns) games played over online audio and video are common. As these games struggle with players talking over each other and the referee struggling to sort out what each character is doing, while avoiding long arguments and keeping the game flowing – perhaps a party caller is an idea whose time has come back?
It’s a little strong handed so using a party caller is something that a gaming group might only consider if they’ve experienced problems with players talking over each other, the game bogging down and actions being confused. If you have experienced these issues perhaps the group could try this method. Of course how it’s implemented may be different for each group. Is the party caller always the same person? Do you rotate the position each session, or even each hour during a session? And could this be an idea for streamed games, or only for individual private games? Let us know what you think in the comments below.