How The New Hitman Trilogy Is Peak Dungeons & Dragons
I needed a break after marathon Monster Hunting for TheGamer’s review, and my Outriders antics can’t quite start yet, so what did I do? I finally got around to living the bald life via Hitman 3 on the Epic Games Store. I played one of the previous entries, so I had some idea of what I was in for. But one thing became clear after completing (and horribly botching) several missions: Hitman’s level design is Dungeons & Dragons at its finest.
The beginning of each contract sets the stage perfectly because it never picks one stage to set. The first playthrough usually has Agent 47 enter the location from the most obvious path – faked credentials to walk in the front door, blending into a crowd to walk the streets – but later playthroughs allow the player to choose a different beginning. This is great inspiration for how Dungeon Masters can be flexible from the start of a session. Players might need to enter a castle to rescue the kidnapped prince, but they’ll have more fun if they plan the operation themselves.
Yes, this means there’s a big chance they will bypass the cool combat encounter you set up at the castle gate. Oh, well. Save that for another castle down the road. (The prince is always in another castle, right?) D&D players and Hitman players are united in one thing: they love the freedom to use stealth, go in guns blazing, or attempt some truly bizarre stunts.
It’s not just about freedom, however. The Hitman games are also great examples of handling two challenges D&D DMs often face: discovery-based storytelling and stealth.
If players take the time to scope out a mission area, Agent 47 will find opportunities to eavesdrop or uncover secret documents. These Mission Stories help color the world by presenting humorous situations or confirmation of the target’s evil deeds. They also present the player with new ways to approach the target, often by getting them one-on-one in a secret meeting. Others are just downright fun because they offer weird gameplay opportunities. My favorite so far is posing as a runway model and actually getting to walk the catwalk. I could see my players eating up the chance to roleplay that. Mission Stories are a great way to reward players for exploring and present as much story as they actually want.
Hitman’s best contribution to stealth are the crew chiefs. Certain NPCs are marked with dots over their head, indicating that they’re managers or captains of their respective job. If Agent 47 tries to disguise himself to enter a restricted area, these people will quickly spot him and know he’s not one of theirs. For D&D purposes, indicating that certain individuals are less susceptible to a high stealth roll is a great idea. It allows stealthy players to shine while still forcing them to be tactical in how they’re moving around. They also shouldn’t feel cheated if discovered, as they know it’s on them for crossing the wrong guy.
Another nice detail about stealth in Hitman is the way disguises play into relationship dynamics. I once disguised myself as a soldier to sneak into a heavily-guarded embassy. Too many captains were around to notice, and some diplomats looked at me suspiciously as well, so I took on a janitor disguise. As soon as I did, the dots went away. However, a new dot appeared above my fellow janitor. It makes sense, sadly, that not many people pay attention to the janitors. Keeping that status quo in mind can also inform D&D roleplay. If the party decides to disguise themselves as servants, who would actually notice them?
Hitman 3 isn’t perfect, mind you. Stealth is a hard type of gameplay to get right, and some walk away feeling like they did it wrong. But Hitman’s adaptable missions, thoughtful approach to disguises, and dozens of dangling story threads got my D&D gears turning.
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Sergio is the Lead News Editor for TheGamer. But usually he asks people to call him “Serg” because he wants to sound cool like the guy from System of a Down. He began as a convention reporter for FLiP Magazine and Albany Radio’s The Shaw Report to get free badges to Comic-Con. Eventually he realized he liked talking to game developers and discovering weird new indie games. Now he brings that love of weird games to TheGamer, where he tries to talk about them in clickable ways so you grow to love them too. When he’s not stressing over how to do that, he’s a DM, Cleric of Bahamut, cosplay boyfriend, and occasional actor.
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