Mike’s Tavern: What is fun?

Mike’s Tavern: What is fun?

Mike’s Tavern: What is fun?

0 comments 📅22 July 2016, 11:45

The purpose of a Role-Playing Game

In a previous campaign of mine, one character in the group was a half vampire who had notion that his heritage made him somewhat invincible. He wasn’t invincible but the player decided to role-play him that way anyway. This led the PC to do some outlandish things like drinking blood in front of a village square for pure amusement. In most cases, this led to harmless but interesting interactions that were fun for him to play out.

In the final adventures of the campaign the party of adventurers were traveling through a series of caves in search for the leader of an undead, dark elf army. The goal was to find the leader/villain and neutralize her before she brought her army to the surface. However, this particular villain had researched a spell that allowed her to instantly resurrect anybody and compel them to follow her cause.

So if any of the party members died, the healer of the group would need to use one of his few resurrection spells to bring them back quickly before they become a permanent enemy. This was scary for them because this became one of the few times they felt to be in legitimate danger. Our half vampire character, however, was undeterred from his usual antics. Despite the characters reasoning that he should be cautious, the half vampire would still blindingly endanger the group.

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After he deliberately ignored a sign of an oncoming sneak attack (which lead to a lengthy battle), one of the other players decided that she was going to role-play her rogue to the fullest extent to punish this character. She used some special item abilities to put him asleep, bind him, and shackle him in a dungeon that they were currently raiding (by the way, she has done much worse in the past and was mild this time around in my honest opinion). At this point an argument had broken out among the players. The half vampire player was mad at the rogue player for retaliating and I sensed a little resentment toward me for allowing those actions (as a DM, I just facilitate the rules for what the players do while making them responsible for the consequences). The group’s ire stemmed from the fact that their cover was now blown (and would put the rest of the enemies in an alerted condition for the rest of the campaign), while the half vampire’s response was a simple sentence: “Well shame on me for wanting to have fun.”

The whole point on playing D&D, or any other role-playing game for that matter, is to have fun. The responsibility of a DM, and also partly the responsibility of the players at the table, is to facilitate that fun for everyone involved. The problem is that “fun” can be one of the most subjective things we as humans can experience. Everyone will have a different opinion of what part of the game will fun for them, but this is very difficult to determine for new players.

It comes down to a responsibility shared by all. The players must be somewhat cognizant that their actions can very well affect the other party members and the DM needs to be prepared with challenges that will appeal to the players’ tastes. Not every situation will end with everyone being happy about how an encounter turned out, but a little cooperation will go a long way with the game being enjoyable for everyone. This week, I want to focus on the responsibility of the players and what you can do so that the game stays fun for everyone.

The Players’ Responsibility

I’ll sum up the players’ responsibility with a phrase: Have fun while letting others have fun. If you are a new or perspective player to role-playing games, you might not know what aspect of the game you will enjoy the most. Find out what you like to do during a normal session, whether it is fighting or role-playing or something else, be sure to embrace it. It will keep you coming back for more and will keep your teammates happy. However, be aware that others may not enjoy what you enjoy as much and be accommodating. I’ll illustrate this with an example.

Let’s pretend that you are an evil warlock hell bent on world domination, but everyone else in the party are paladins, clerics, and good aligned characters. You come up with a reason why your character needs to be in this group and why the self-righteous blokes will tolerate you. Cool. The task set before you is to find a smuggler that is wanted by some powerful wizard. You are traveling along and come across a cave that has a shrine to one of the gods of the other characters and they want to stop and check it out. Ugh, whatever man. Well it turns out that there are bandits that are defiling it, so the group wants to purify the shrine. It also turns out that the bandits carry some of the stolen tools and equipment from the smuggler you are looking for.

At this point, your character has a decision to make. Do you help the group do something that your character normally wouldn’t do, or do you stay true to your character and refuse to help their righteous quest?

Do you have an answer?

d_d_4-0_party_artSorry, but this was a trick question that I hope proves a point. You really should be asking “How does helping the group further my character’s goals?” Maybe he’s trying to get the group to trust him so he can call in a future favor, maybe he wants to get revenge on these particular bandits for something, or maybe he simply wants the battle experience to get more powerful. Your character, no matter the circumstances, bends to your will. This doesn’t mean that your character needs to enjoy it or share a common world view with the group. It’s like the Suicide Squad, your character can do good things even if he/she doesn’t need or want to. This is not simply limited to alignment either (though that is the most common issue for groups it seems). Maybe you are a druid that is forced to save an industrialized city even though s/he prefers that the city be destroyed and replaced by a forest. Either way, your character ultimately answers to you no matter the situation.

The cave/shrine scenario I mentioned occurred in another campaign I was in. The evil or true neutral PC decided that there was no benefit to aiding the group, so he just stood there. He didn’t participate in the battles or puzzles and got bored for an hour and a half while his team struggled to overcome the challenges because of his absence. The group was angry at him, and he got bored and had no fun simply because he didn’t want to create a clever motivation for his character. His response was “Well, it just isn’t true to my character!” He stormed off right after.

Being too rigid in how your character acts and thinks sets you and your group up for a bad time. If you want to be allowed to create ANY character without restriction, then you owe it to your DM and your group to be as flexible as you can since they are also accommodating you. This will reduce any potential tension while maximizing the fun for everyone. It also helps to talk to your group out of character too. In the evil character and cave/shrine scenario, there is nothing wrong with just saying “Ok, time out. I’m trying to come up with a reason to go in and help, but I can’t think of anything.” The group and DM, wanting you to participate, will be more than happy to help think of a character solution.

Combat Pacing

Many players love the combat aspect of a role-playing game. Just do a quick google search on class optimization and you will find pages and pages of different theories for the best build or the most fun build for any class. Honestly, it’s quite fun to build your character in such a way that surprises the DM. My group is currently doing this very well; they’ve built their characters to be powerhouses. I can’t give them a big enough challenge. They take on enemies that are meant for level 15 groups at level 9 or 10 because they came up with crazy damage combos. No, they aren’t cheating and no I’m not being lenient. Side note: A lot of the power difference is due to the fact that I use a lot of D&D 3.5 stats for Pathfinder games and Pathfinder characters are generally much more powerful than D&D characters.

The downside of combat is that it takes a lot of time to properly execute. As a DM, you start to notice which players jump on their phones or begin to doodle on their character sheets out of boredom because they are waiting for their turn. This becomes frustrating if a PC takes an enormous amount of time to read up their abilities or spells during their turn instead of prepping ahead of time. This is prominent if a player uses a guide to build their character instead of taking things into their own hands. People will select abilities or feats because the guide told them to, so they take a lot of time to figure out how that really powerful combo works on their turn.

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So as a player, you have a few responsibilities when it comes to combat. Let me list out a few things you can do that will keep the dice rolling so that everyone has fun.

1) Read as much as you can about your class, race, and character so that you will be familiar with general tactics in combat situations.

2) If you use a guide for specific builds, read all of the abilities.

3) If you are a spell caster, know your spells. If there is a lot to memorize, at least read up on them in between turns.

4) Decide what you are going to do for your next combat turn before you are up

5) Roll the attack dice, not the damage dice, before your turn if your DM allows it (he probably will)

6) Create a summary sheet of all combat stats and abilities so that you do not have to constant scan your character sheet for info. This summary sheet can be a simple piece of printer paper that lists everything that affects combat.

7) Add up your most used bonuses ahead of time. It sucks when everyone waits on you because your brain forgot how to math. That summary sheet I mentioned? Stick your bonuses on that too.

Following these tips will help combat flow quickly. It also keeps you busy when it is not your turn. That’s it for now. We are ultimately trying to have fun, but there are things we can all do to keep the game interesting for the other players at the table. Next week, I will expound a little on the responsibilities of a DM other than simply running the game. Hopefully you found this article helpful. Did I forget to mention something that you find useful for keeping the game fun? Am I crazy? Too many stories? Have a favorite joke? Leave a comment below!

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Mike Sanora
Mike Sanora

Mike Sanora is just a nerd from Los Angeles CA who grew up on video games, Dungeons and Dragons, books, movies, music, and anime. Once he even wrote a comic book script based on his travels around South America, but he couldn't draw so that ended pretty quick. He is currently wrapping up a pretty big D&D campaign and will soon be moving on to something else. Oh, and he's into nerd fitness so that he can make an awesome cosplay in the future.

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