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While going through a little bit of an existential phone crisis, I thought about how much our lives have changed with an always-on connection to everybody else on the planet. In a world with dragons and magic spells it certainly seems possible that adventurers can stay in touch with their friends and family back home in Winterhaven. The ritual Sending [DDI] seems like the most logical in-game analog to a cell phone. It’s heroic tier (6th level) which is not too bad, but at 50gp for 25 words, it’s a pretty expensive tweet (that’s over 3 months’ lodging). The 20th level True Sending let’s you send 50 words to anyone, anywhere in existence for only 4,000 gold, making Sending seem like a pretty good deal. Unfortunately, there’s a pretty steep time and cost involved sending a message this way, and it requires a Ritual Caster. Sending Stones get a little bit closer to something like a phone. I guess they work like a 1-time Nextel phone, for only 9 grand.
We start really talking with the Psion’s short-range Send Thoughts and Wizard’s Ambassador Imp, which just sounds like a hell of lot of fun (pun not intended). In my games, I keep trying to find a use for Send Thoughts, but its range requirements make it hardly more useful than speaking.
I think even with these item and power restrictions, it’s interesting to think about who a character keeps in contact with and how. My character is a bit of a persona non grata, so he probably uses his minutes for bejwelled. But other characters might send letters home between adventures. To letter sending to be possible, homebase Inn would have to have somebody who coordinates with merchants passing through to carry letters and hope that they somehow make its way to the destination. You certainly couldn’t send anything confidential or time-sensitive that way. Maybe the King has implemented a postal service, or perhaps the priests of Pelor provide a postal service. If a letter could take months or a year to reach its destination, what would he or she say in it? What would your character do if he intercepted a letter or was asked to deliver one to a remote location?
In a world with a higher level of magic, temples or wizard schools could have magic spheres that let people communicate between them for a nominal fee like a fantasy Western Union. If it was easy to stay in touch, who would your hero send messages to and how often? There’s nothing more fearful than a Dragonborn mother who doesn’t think you call often enough! (Now I’m imaging a dragonborn with thick glasses and an apron sitting in the living room waiting all day for you to call).
In the world with easy communication, what happens when that communication is suddenly cut off? Are you nervous that your friends might be worried about you? Having the magical communication network suddenly go haywire also sounds like an exciting plot hook.
Did I miss any of the other communication options available in 4e?