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 …
Tag: Dungeon Master
I think that this is a very rare thing. I don’t know that a ton of people ever really complete their D&D games. There are multiple reasons for it potentially not being completed. But, is that something that’s okay, or as the DM should you be looking to complete it?
First, what do I mean by complete a campaign. I think that there are a few different things, but I want to clarify a few things that it isn’t. First, it doesn’t mean that you get to level 20, in fact, very few campaigns ever get to level 20, and the campaign books that Wizards of the Coast puts out for Dungeons and Dragons, most of those stop around level 10. The reason being, anything else would be too much leveling quickly, and they don’t want to start at a mid level campaign, because it’s harder for new players to jump in there. It also doesn’t mean t hat the campaign ends for one of several reasons. When I say completed I’m talking about the story the DM has set forth being done.
Why might your campaign end, there are two main reasons. The group falling apart or the DM burning out. There can be a lot of reasons for the first one, the group falling apart. It can be because someone moves away, or someone gets too busy, or really anything that might divide the group. It’s unfortunate that it happens, but it does happen, and there isn’t much you can do about it. The other one of DM burnout can come for a couple of reasons. If the DM is driving the story and the players are passengers on the DM’s story, it makes it a lot of work for the DM. Or the DM can have split up there story so much that it has become too much work for them to keep all of the threads together, or it might just be that the DM has been a DM for a very long time.
But, that’s not how we want our campaign to end. Whether you’re building up to that final epic encounter against the evil deity at level 20, or the BBEG who is a Wizard you can fight at level 10, you want to finish the story. It’s more satisfying for the DM and for the players. And, if you can do that, you likely will create more people who want to continue playing or maybe try running their own game.
So what can you do as the DM? I’ll come back later for players.
- Keep the story varied. And by that, if you are going to have McGuffins around that the players have to collect, keep the collection process different and changing. Make the settings feel unique and make what the players need to do feel very different so that they feel like they’re not just hacking and slashing their way through the same adventure.
- Keep the players involved in the story telling. If you want the players to feel like their not just along for the ride, have them help you come up with details. This can be tricky if you aren’t great at improv, but if you aren’t, send out Google Surveys to your players between sessions, have them give you character names or descriptions of places that you can work into your next session as you continue planning it. This means that it isn’t just going to be your creative juices in it, so the players are more apt to stay involved with the story and you, as the DM, are less likely to burn out.
- Take Breaks. It’s a surprising one, but I think it’s good. If you are playing every two week for four hours, take a break every six months and just cancel a game or however often you need it. This, again, helps with burnout so that you don’t feel like you’re always pushing to your next session of the game.
- Don’t feel like you have to push to level 20. It’s fine for a game, and normal for a story to be complete before level 20. You might have thought you wanted the big bad to be fought at level 20, but to help with your burnout or the odds of someone dropping out, keep your story tight. That way you won’t burn out and players won’t get bored, and if you can tell a good and tight story to level 20, more power to you, but it isn’t needed.
So that was for DM’s, but it’s also on the players, there are things you can do to help complete your game:
- Miss as little as possible. It seems fairly obvious, but if you aren’t there or if enough players aren’t there, the story probably won’t progress as fast so that you don’t miss anything important. Now, at a larger table, it might still progress, but get caught up on your own time, don’t slow down the game when you get there just so you can be caught up. And when you do miss, let the DM know as far ahead of time as possible.
- Be engaged. This is several things rolled into one. Being engaged means don’t be on your phone at the table, unless you’re looking up a spell or ability. That contributes to DM burnout. Be ready to help the DM when they ask for it in terms of creating the world and more of the setting. I often ask for character names or descriptions, be ready to come up with some on the fly, and if you can’t, that’s fine, just don’t be surprised when the DM asks. Also know your character sheet. It’s a pretty simple engagement, take the notes you need so that you know what you are going to need to do. And finally, be engaged with the planning of missions and the story. It’s so many things, but if you have a side conversation or if you are just even passive in the story, it causes more DM burnout and can end a campaign before it’s time.
- Share the spotlight. You might be always engaged, you might never miss a session, and those things are huge for keeping the DM going in the game, but if you hog the spotlight as a player, it might cause other players to do the first two items on the players list. As the RPG Academy says, “If you’re having fun, you’re doing it right.” And that means fun for you and fun for everyone at the table. So share the spotlight, if you see someone who isn’t engaged, get them more engaged in the game. The DM might not have noticed, but you have the same power to take control of the story and get the player engaged as the DM does in a lot of cases.
- Be open and honest with the DM. If you aren’t enjoying the game, or if there aren’t parts of the game that you enjoy. Let the DM know, but better yet, let the DM know what you are enjoying. Framing the positives of what is really keeping you engaged allows the DM to do more things that they know the players will like, versus having to guess at what might work only if you say what you don’t like. And this can be tricky, especially after a rough session, but take a minute the day after to text or e-mail your DM and let them know what you’ve liked or what you haven’t and you’ll find that the game likely improves and it means that the DM has something more focused to prepare.
There are going to be more tips, I’m sure, for completing a campaign. But this is a good spot to start if you’re a DM or if you’re a player. Realize, still, that there are going to be a lot of campaigns that just end, and that isn’t a bad thing. But if you can bring your game to completion, you’re going to have a ton of fun with it and create some memories in the process.
What are some things you’ve used for running a game to the completion of it’s story? Are there things as a player you’ve found that have helped you?
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I debated what direction I wanted to go. Did I want to go across the top and do all of the good ones, or down the side and do all the lawful ones, or be chaotic and just randomly pick the next one to do. Eventually I decided that I’d take the lawful route and go through all the lawful options and then go to the neutral options and then the chaotic options. I think with lawful to chaotic versus good to evil, you have more interesting things to talk about.
Lawful Neutral is pretty straight forward. You don’t have that particular bent towards good or evil. Instead, you are going to take things more at face value and make a judgement on it based off of more the cultural norm. You also don’t feel the need to jump out there on some righteous quest. You’re really getting your desire to adventure more from the lawful side of things, which I’ll get to. Being neutral doesn’t mean that you’re going not have opinions on things. Thinking more about it as a drive or focus, you aren’t going to be driven to do something good, because you are a character who has focused their life on being good, or the opposite for evil.
But I think the lawful aspect is really what is going to drive this character to adventure. They are going to be very tied to following the laws of the land. While a lawful good person might make a judgement on laws of the land that they don’t consider to be just, a lawful neutral might realize that it isn’t just, but it’s the law of the land so they are going to uphold it. For that reason, when something bad comes to the land, like a large raid of bandits, and evil wizard who wants to take over and is breaking the rules of the land, this character is going to get up in arms about that.
Now, this doesn’t mean that if the laws of the land are all unjust and in favor of a tyrant that they going to go along with them. The laws of the land do generally need to be just. The lawful neutral character is going to consider what is for the greater good in this situation. They are going to try and depose a tyrant to set-up a just ruler and someone who will put in rules that they can follow, and they might even see themselves as that person. I think that’s something that might trip up a lawful neutral player. If a law is unjust and only helps the few, they probably won’t uphold it or see it as a fair law. Though, if there’s only a law like that, they’ll see the whole system as the greater good, it’s when that starts to be the focus of the system that the lawful neutral character will attempt to depose or to change the system.
So, what classes work well for a lawful neutral character? A fighter, especially with soldier background would make a lot of sense in that role. They are trained to follow orders and follow the rules in place and they know the consequences if order isn’t followed. A wizard would make a lot of sense as well with their magic coming from study. I do think that almost any of the classes can be lawful neutral, something like warlock or rogue lean away from that, but I think that all of them do make sense. The warlock would see the rules of their patron as being part of the rules of the land that doen’t have to be good or evil in those rules being given for the power. For the rogue, I think of the government sanctioned assassin who is dealing with NPC’s who are too hard to get to in a completely normal legal method, so the rogue has been sanctioned to be a part of the legal system when someone is too well protected to get to otherwise. I always like to find ways to play against type that way. I said for lawful good that Paladin and Cleric were in their sweet spot there, but they can be lawful neutral as well, I think following a deity of justice that helps uphold the laws of the land would make a lot of sense.
As a DM, I think that you can use a lawful neutral characters alignment to ask them questions about how much they will follow the rules of the land. If something seems like it is fair and just and legal, are they going to do this? It isn’t an alignment though that I see getting a ton of play. Mainly because it doesn’t allow you to be a murder hobo because you’d have to deal with yourself as a character who oversteps your bounds. However, this is something that you can make into a role playing point as well if you want, as a DM.
Have you played a lawful neutral character? What traits did you lean into? Have you played against type with your class?
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Back with another book review, looking at the second book in the series by Luke Chmilenko, Ascend Online. Now, you can see that this is kind of the second book because it isn’t #2, but is instead #1.5. The reason for this is that this …