According to a study carried out by a team at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, the noise emitted by thirteen species of bats studied was louder than the average car or house alarm. Thankfully, their cries also lie beyond the range of human hearing — though you might ponder how animals with acute hearing handle the cacophony.

It appears likely that bats make this amount of noise because high frequencies fade more quickly, which limits the useful range of echolocation while hunting.

Not So Quiet

On the one side, this is a fascinating bit of science and worthy of taking for a spin. If you think about movies like A Quiet Place, we have the notion of invaders who pursue sound because they have evolved along a certain path that favours hearing over sight. But, what if the predators move as soundlessly as a bat AND communicate in a way we can’t hear? That’s really scary.

Cinema favours the prospect that humanity might find a way, but that’s just playing up to the desire for survival. The no-win scenario makes for a pretty grim prospect, which doesn’t necessarily sell as much popcorn. But, for role-playing purposes, that isn’t such a big deal, especially for a one-shot. And if you care to try a campaign, then the essential instinct for survival will find a way in the end.

Oh So Quiet

The other angle for the table relates to players. It’s important that you keep in mind that, just like bats, players have their own individual way of communicating. As a Game Moderator, you have a role in keeping an eye on how each player interacts and know when signals change.

It isn’t the sole responsibility of the GM, especially at a table of regulars. When you play with a group, each player should be honest when they approach a session and admit if they’re feeling ill, tired, or down. In some cases, it might just mean they’re happy to take a backseat, but participation could be good for their spirits.

At a convention or other external event, the GM holds a little more responsibility, but a measure remains with the players to bring their A-game to the table and be forthright and honest about how they play. While you can’t squeeze a Session Zero into a convention slot to discuss the ins and outs of what to expect and how to interact, it’s important to have some solid housekeeping in mind.

When you GM, establish guidelines for communication, interaction, involvement, and an open table policy with safety measures in place. The last one is important. Be clear that everyone should have the option to speak up at any time and call a pause to play. When you have a half dozen strangers around the table, assume that it’s like everyone is a different sort of bat with communication frequencies that no one else can pick up on unless it’s made clear that they have something to say. In that moment, a common ground must be available and accessible to share concerns and considerations or draw a line.

Grey-headed flying fox photographed by S. Rohrlach

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