Dungeons and Dragons Essentials Part 2
I want to continue talking about Dungeons and Dragons and what you need to bring to the table when you play a game. I talked about a lot of the physical things, who needs what books, everyone needing dice and paper and pencil. All of those things are good, but I think there is a more important thing that people need to bring to the table but less of a physical thing.
The first thing that everyone needs to bring to the table is fun. Dungeons and Dragons is meant to be a fun experience. Even if the game is serious and the stakes are high, it shouldn’t feel like work playing it. You should leave still having a memorable experience, and a memorable experience should be something that you want to tell others about and should be fun. Now, I want to say, fun doesn’t mean it needs to be goofy, silly, light-hearted, while all of those can be fun, so can a serious or darker game. But everyone at the table needs to help everyone else have fun while having fun themselves. As The RPG Academy says: “If you’re having fun you’re doing it right.”
Now, flexibility isn’t something that people might think about. And everything, really, ties into having fun. What I mean with flexibility is that as the Dungeon Master when the players find and almost kill the big bad guy or banish them somehow to another plane before you’re ready, you can adapt and change. When the Dungeon Master adds something to a player character’s backstory or a debt or obligation, the player can adapt to that.
Now, a Dungeon Master shouldn’t make a character do something that is out of character, and players shouldn’t be intentionally trying to punch holes into the story the Dungeon Master is helping the players weave. Those things, however, happen from time to time. Even when players and the Dungeon Master keep an eye out so it doesn’t happen, it will happen. So be flexible so when it does happen you are ready to adjust and adapt and keep having fun.
Preparation matters most to the Dungeon Master, and most to some Dungeon Master. I bullet point out a few keys for a session, and that is my preparation. For other Dungeon Masters preparation means that they spend hours planning out set piece encounters and building those set pieces, NPCs, and whatever else it might be. This also includes the campaign preparation of where the Dungeon Master wants to direct the whole of the game.
For the players, preparation means they know their characters. Also, when characters need to be leveled up, that is done by the start of the next session, if they don’t do it in the session. Knowing ones character entails the skills and bonuses that you have to stats, having an understanding or your spells or where to find what they do, knowing what new spells you have, how many spell slots you have, what various attacks do, and what your default is going to be on an attack.
Preparation isn’t fun always. I like figuring out the highlights for my next session, personally, but it seems like work at times as well. The reason we prepare goes back to having fun. Down time is not that much fun, a meandering story with little focus or changing focus is not as much fun. I put fun at the top for that reason, because having fun in the most important and everything else leads into it.
The RPG Academy really has it right here. Playing a game should always be about having fun. Getting rules perfectly right is less important than having fun. And attitude at the table should always be leading into having fun. As the Dungeon Master, you help people stay engaged by preparing and following the queues of the players. As players, you grab onto storylines and see where they go and give clear signs and directions to the Dungeon Master. You also don’t hog the spotlight from other players at the table.
What is the most important attitude at the Dungeons and Dragons gaming table for you?