Dear readers, as you can see, I’m starting a new series called “How to Play.” I hope you enjoy it!
Last week as well as last night I had the privilege of running a game for my daughter and several of her friends, all of whom are ladies whose ages range in age from 18 to mid-20s.
They are a blast.
My daughter is getting ready to leave for college and wanted a “last hurrah” with her friends who either played Dungeons & Dragons or wanted to learn. I was requested to dungeon master and find something to run. I decided to go with an oldie but goodie: The Keep on the Borderlands by Gary Gygax himself. Even better? I’m converting the original adventure, which I am using as we play, on the fly using dndbeyond.com (not to put too fine a point on it, but this kind of “on the fly” conversion wouldn’t be possible without such a tool to use!).
Now, just checking through the module as written, there aren’t written too many role-playing encounters. In fact, this is back in the day where most areas had to be described by the DM and there weren’t any “gray box text”to use. It was kind of a challenge for me as a DM who is gotten used to the gray box text since it’s far back as 2nd Edition AD&D.
My dad tells me that the ability to make the descriptions vivid without being boring or sounding canned are the hallmarks of a good dungeon master. My players tell me I’m pretty good. Okay, they actually tell me I’m pretty fantastic. I don’t like to brag about this. Frankly because I think I’m an average dungeon master at best. At the very least, all of my players told me they have a lot of fun at my games.
Self aggrandizement aside, it kind of made me realize something after last night’s game: my groups’ play style determined how that game went, as did any group for those kinds of adventures back in the day. I mean, there was a keep, there were the caves, and then there were the other things like the crazy hermit, the lizardman mound, stuff like that. So overall, there wasn’t much in the way of missions or quests…per se.
A lot of it had to be self-driven. Sure, there were rumors that a merchant had been taken Ransom in the caves and that anyone who rescued him would receive a reward.
Sure, the Caves of Chaos were rumored to be filled with all sorts of monsters and treasure. But you gotta understand: back then, this was all the motivation a player character needed!
So were this group of ladies, I told them that the castellan, after they had done a different job in taking down a group of bandits that had been plaguing the roads, had asked them to clear out the evil caves of the monstrous presences there. Easy enough.
After our game session last night I realized that I had several players of different gaming styles in my group. All perfectly valid in their own right.
The character Edmund, of my characters last night, was the character created for role-playing. He does a lot of the talking, does a lot of the emoting, and generally is the life of the party. Can you guess what class he is?
Yeah, Bard. Go figure.
The role player wants to know motivations, and names, and backgrounds. The person who likes role play games wants to know The who and the why of people in games.
The same bard, for example, had a background where he had some, let’s say, Daddy issues. As a result, he tended to latch on to anybody who gave him approval. Unfortunately for him, the first person who he latched on to for approval was an evil cleric that the newest party member, a paladin, discovered was actually an evil cleric of Therizdun. It was an interesting fight to watch him fight them.
The discovery, the feelings of betrayal, the actual fight itself, and the delivery of the body back to the keep. All this was done through copious amounts of epic role play.
Keep an eye on these players as they can sometimes quickly take over the game, so make sure the other players get a say in the encounters!
You keep these characters happy by involving their backstories into the game and giving them colorful and vibrant non-player characters to interact with.
Hack ‘n Slash
These players absolutely love combat. These players enjoy finding groups of monsters and unleashing their horde of magical and martial abilities upon them.
These players can be martial characters or spellcasters.
Spellcaster example? One word…well, spell:
In the same group, I have a druid who has found a wonderfully useful event to cast the spell entangle. In fact, they came up with a tactic where the druid would cast entangle while the bard would cast shatter.
Do you even know what that does to a group of kobolds?! I mean, they have 5 hp! If they roll average damage, it will be more than twice a kobold’s hp, meaning, even if they make a successful save, they still die. Not cool, man.
Be careful, these sorts of players, when bored, can easily turn into total murder hobos.
Keep these players Happy by giving them chances to use their big cool spells, as well as hordes of small tiny creatures for those wonderful AOE (area of effect) spells. Additionally, give them awesome and fantastical locations in which to have these combat encounters!
Let’s face it, no campaign is one thing or another. Most Dungeons & Dragons games are a good blend of kicking indoors and talking to the townsfolk.
Talking to the keep castellan and offering your services as a world-class chef as well as using your wild shape ability to turn itself into a cat to see if the rest of the keep is on the up and up and not some weird evil trap are both awesome role-play encounters.
Going into the Caves of Chaos and waltzing into the owlbear and just slaughtering it is also a fun game, as is going into the kobold caverns of said caves and using the spell shatter to destroy 16 kobolds rushing you.
Lastly, finding out that the jovial cleric of Lathander that has been accompanying you is really an evil cleric of Therizdun, and subsequently having to fight and kill him and his three acolytes is always a lark!
Whatever game style you and your players happen to engage in, just remember, that this is a cooperative game. We make sure that everybody gets a chance to shine and that everybody is having fun.
After all, if we aren’t having fun…why play?
Until next time, Dear Readers…