5E Player roles that no longer exist, and why

Sacrosanct

Legend
I was planning out my game session this upcoming weekend, and it hit me how several of the player roles we had back in the day no longer exist.

In the 70s and 80s, you'd typically have one player act as the mapper, and another act as the leader (the caller). They'd be the ones to do most of the talking and declare party actions to DM. Then you'd also have the record keeper. The player who kept track of all party gold.

Nowadays only the record keeper exists, and only in some of the campaigns. So why is that?

Mapper: Back in the day, you were lucky to have graph paper, let alone a gaming map with inch grids. Minis were few and far between, and easily accessible, and expensive. Most groups I played in back in the early 80s as kids, we did ToTM except for marching order or really complex battles, and then we used paper minis I drew myself, or dice, or some other toy. So there was a need to have a player keep track of the dungeon exploration on a piece of paper. Very similar to those old RPG video games of the 80s. However, now it's very common for someone to have a battlemap with erasable markers and minis are all over the place, and very cheap (with the move to plastic minis about 10 years ago or so). With the battlemap, the DM takes an extra role now in drawing out the area, and there is no need for a player to be a mapper any longer.

Caller: IMO, the biggest driver of this going away is because players felt they wanted more player agency. They didn't want to have only one player speak for the whole party to the DM. And most players want to role-play their own interactions with NPCs. Now, the only time I see a group decide to have the same player do all the talking is in optimizing groups, where everything is numbers driven. The PC with the highest persuasion bonus always talks, no one else.

Record Keeper: This still exists, with a player keeping track of all the treasure, but I see it less. Especially in 5e. I'm guessing because in 5e, magic items are far rarer, as is other treasure. And it also goes back to players wanting control over their character, including wealth. So they want to split up the treasure as soon as possible.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
We typically had a pair of mappers and only ever had a caller when the player group got so large the DM couldn't be expected to keep track of the conversations.

Mappers weren't for handling tactics; they were to get into and out of the exploration zones quickly and safely. The role isn't dead, but most newer games do not push a heavy focus on exploration and heavily designed environments.

The caller wasn't a leader for us. His job was mainly to track and relay what people said they were doing as opposed to assigning jobs to them. The players where I was pretty much rejected the leader role entirely. The caller role is pretty dead because groups don't get that large any more before splitting into separate games.

We also had a treasurer (tracking costs and assigned wealth leaving the group control) and a separate person tracking collected goods.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Mapper: Back in the day, you were lucky to have graph paper, let alone a gaming map with inch grids. Minis were few and far between, and easily accessible, and expensive. Most groups I played in back in the early 80s as kids, we did ToTM except for marching order or really complex battles, and then we used paper minis I drew myself, or dice, or some other toy. So there was a need to have a player keep track of the dungeon exploration on a piece of paper. Very similar to those old RPG video games of the 80s. However, now it's very common for someone to have a battlemap with erasable markers and minis are all over the place, and very cheap (with the move to plastic minis about 10 years ago or so). With the battlemap, the DM takes an extra role now in drawing out the area, and there is no need for a player to be a mapper any longer.
Agree with pretty much all the points you made. For the mapper, I'd add on two additional reasons:

1) The gameplay for many campaigns has moved away from being primarily site-based, to more wilderness and urban/settled locations.
2) A general change in assumption to the idea that interaction and knowledge of a character's environs should be a character resource based test, not a player skill test. The character is the one keeping track of where things are, so an Intelligence or some other related skill check is the proper method of determining if the character can find his way.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The rise of plot-based games over location-based games definitely contributed to the reduced need for mappers. But nobody I ever gamed with back in the day wanted to be the mapper either. You were usually stuck with it because you were in the bathroom when the roles were assigned (sucker!).

The caller, to me, just looks like an old kluge for trying to manage the table better. There are other techniques for that which work better in my view.

There are still record keepers and the joke in my group is that if you ask who is keeping track of the gold, the answer is YOU.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
The rise of plot-based games over location-based games definitely contributed to the reduced need for mappers. But nobody I ever gamed with back in the day wanted to be the mapper either. You were usually stuck with it because you were in the bathroom when the roles were assigned (sucker!).

The caller, to me, just looks like an old kluge for trying to manage the table better. There are other techniques for that which work better in my view.

There are still record keepers and the joke in my group is that if you ask who is keeping track of the gold, the answer is YOU.
In our games, the mapper always got a 10% bonus to XP ;)
 

ad_hoc

Hero
We have a mapper in our current game. I don't think it is necessary but she loves maps so she gets enjoyment out of it.

It does help me out too and adds a cool feel to the game when the party members can ask her about which ways they went and what is left unexplored rather than the DM.

She's also the record keeper. Everything that isn't being used by a player goes into a group pile. This mostly amounts to money but can also be potions and scrolls and the like where we haven't figured out who is best to have it.

I've never played with a caller.

At our table everyone contributes to social discussions (though some characters prefer not to talk in some situations). It's not exactly optimized to only have 1 shot at persuading the NPC. The stats might not even matter if the character says the right thing and automatically succeeds. It is rare for stats alone to have a negative impact on a social situation.
 

dnd4vr

Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
In our games, the mapper always got a 10% bonus to XP ;)
Only if the party didn't get lost though, right? :D

Seriously, even back in the day I've never played in a group with a caller. Every person, even in large groups (and I've DM groups as large as 16 players at one time), the DM tracked who was doing what and every one spoke in turn. Of course, we also used declared actions then as well.

Mappers and Note Keepers existed, but usually through acquiring a captive or scouting, mapping became more the work of the DM. Note (or Treasure) Keepers were there just to keep a list of the loot to divide up later on. When I DMed, I always had a list myself and would compare with the player who was tracking it. If the player missed something, the party "lost" it (unless it was essential to the story).

Now, we still map (until a captive or scouting is done), and then our DM has a "player's" version for them to use. Note keeping is still done the same by one or two players, and the DM always knows what was found as well.

So, for my experience, really nothing in terms of the players' roles or duties has changed at all.
 
In both my groups, we have someone that keeps track of "communal" treasure that can't be easily divided up between people.

We never had a caller back in the day. By the mid-80s, when I got into gaming, I suspect that had already fallen out of style.

I've got some people that are mapping in Tomb of Annihilation, but only now that we're in the actual Tomb. I feel like the mapper role was far more important in the age when mostly all you had were dungeons and megadungeons.
 

ad_hoc

Hero
Left out, but not forgotten

The Note Taker -- They kept track of key learnings, NPC names, secrets, rumors, and the like for the group.
This is an important one.

When I DM sometimes the players ask me what their characters know about such and such. I don't know. What did you find out? I can't remember. I'm not tracking that stuff.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
one of the players in my current game decided her character would be "record keeper" and act as a banker instead of distributing the gold out. my character is a monk so he doesn't really care, but everyone else was a little upset lol.
Left out, but not forgotten

The Note Taker -- They kept track of key learnings, NPC names, secrets, rumors, and the like for the group.
I feel like the note taker probably got supplanted once character sheet designers realized spaces for that sort of thing would be a nice addition.
 

atanakar

Adventurer
Mapper: After a few sessions in 1981, decided as a DM to draw the map myself as the party moved along.

Record Keeper: Still in use in my groups for money and property. I don't require players to remember everything and every name. It is their character who must remember. We do an intelligence roll with Aid to recall details.

Caller: Never agreed with that concept to begin with so never happened at my table...
 

lichhouse

Dreamer
Never played without a caller or mapper. We don’t have a formal record keeper although come to think there are some folks that gravitate to it.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
IME, if you don’t have a mapper in a “serious” dungeon crawl, you run the risk of getting lost, etc. Likewise, not having someone track campaign notes risks forgetting vital info, which a GM will probably not remind you of.

But not every game is so serious. In our group, it varies, even between campaigns by the same GM.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
IME, if you don’t have a mapper in a “serious” dungeon crawl, you run the risk of getting lost, etc.
yeah see I think the problem here is no one really does "serious" dungeon crawls anymore. I agree they're essential, but I only know about this through video games lol.
 
Left out, but not forgotten

The Note Taker -- They kept track of key learnings, NPC names, secrets, rumors, and the like for the group.
This is definitely a need.

This is an important one.

When I DM sometimes the players ask me what their characters know about such and such. I don't know. What did you find out? I can't remember. I'm not tracking that stuff.
Same. If I know it will be important, and it makes sense for a certain character to have remembered it (usually our Tiefling con artist or one of our two dragon experts) I will create a cheat sheet to give that specific character for the next session. Otherwise, they will have to work harder to learn that info or they will not be able to pick up that side quest unless they stumble upon it by accident.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
This is an important one.

When I DM sometimes the players ask me what their characters know about such and such. I don't know. What did you find out? I can't remember. I'm not tracking that stuff.
The most graphic version of this happened when we were essentially done for the evening, maybe...2-3 adventures into a commercially released adventure path. I was playing a rather brainy magic-user/thief. Everyone is packing up their stuff...and I had an epiphany.

I made a connection between the symbols on the medallions, the drabs of info the NPCs had given us, and so on. It all came together in an instant as a nearly completed puzzle missing only a few pieces. I spoke my theory out loud, and my fellow players thought I was on to something.

Then, because of real-world stuff, we didn’t game against for nearly 2 months. When I tried to recall what I had figured out, I couldn’t, and neither could my fellow players. The DM flat-out said he wasn’t going to remind me, even though only an insignificant amount of campaign time has elapsed- perhaps 1-2 days. I should have written it down, he said.

I was annoyed, of course, but I didn’t stay mad. Not only was he a good friend, he basically did as nearly any one of us would have- possibly myself included- given what he told me later in private- I had essentially figured out the entire plot of the adventure path.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
We've never had a caller.

We've always had a mapper.

We've always had a treasurer (often me, if only so I'm not mapper).

Note-taker is kinda done by committee most of the time.

Beer-deliverer - well, we're still working on that one...
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Mapper
Almost nobody likes this role. But I still like the concept in game. This is what I do. I have software that lets me share a map and progressively reveal it as it is explored. Most VTTs offer this functionality and you can get the same effect for free with GIMP if you are willing to spend time learning how to do layers.

The players like being able to see the map as they explorer. But here's the thing. There must be a character with cartographer tools for me to show the map. If that character dies or is unconscious or doesn't join for the session, I don't reveal anything new. I'll just describe things and we play theater of the mind.

Because of this cartographer tools has become a very valuable skill. Parties will want multiple characters with this skill and may hire out a hireling cartographer because of the advantages of getting the map revealed and shown.

Note that cartographer tool use is basically treated like a passive skill. They are assumed to be focused on mapping, so they do not get to use passive perception or other passive skills. Other players have to take on the duty looking for traps and enemies, etc. If there are architectural or magical tricks I may make the cartographer make an active skill check. Though for exceptionally high illusion magic, etc., they may just fail their passive and keep going until they realize something is off. For this to work, I need to have correct and incorrect versions of the map, also it is annoying if done too often, so this is a rare trick.

Caller
That's because D&D was often played like a war game with war gamer conventions and often with large numbers of players. I refuse to run games for more than six players, and six is pushing it for me.

Initiative Tracker
I used to have a player track initiative, but now I use software for this, which is simpler.

Loot Tracker
It is up for the players to track their loot. Usually there is one player who records loot during the game and it is divvied up at the end of the session.

Note Taker
This is a task for each player. It is their responsibility to take notes. But I'm not a jerk about it. I'll let the player make an intelligence check to remember something from a prior session. I may make minor changes or give more or less detail depending on how well they roll. This still give a strong advantage to players who take notes without punishing players who hate note taking.

Co-DM
One thing I've done long ago and would like to do again is have a co-DM to run NPCs help with combat, etc. As an example of this, see the podcast Dragon Friends.

For milestone BBEG encounters, I'm thinking of bringing in a guest DM to run the BBEG as deadly as they can. Basically they would run the BBEG as if they are competing with the players. I would run minons and track effects etc. Often these settings have multiple BBEGs so it helps to have multiple DMs playing against the characters.
 

dave2008

Legend
I don't know, I've played since the 80s and we never had a mapper, caller, or record keeper. I can't think of anything we did back in the day that we don't do now.
 

Advertisement

Top