People love to hold strong opinions, and perhaps even more so share them. We all want to validate the choices we make. If you go looking for advice about D&D, you’re sure to find it. Some of it will work, some of it won’t. There is one universal piece of advice, however, that will always work for all players and all DMs: “It Depends”. It’s the truest, best advice you’ll ever receive.
Arguments and opinions can be philosophical or practical, pro or con, but at the end of the day what works in one situation may not work in another. Different groups need different advice, as do different players. That’s why “It Depends” is so universal. Even Star Wars tells us dealing in absolutes is bad. The problem exists because recommending absolutes is much easier than giving generic, vague advice, no matter how sound.
It was on the Internet, it has to be true – also Socrates.
How does “It Depends” apply to D&D?
If you’ve got some experience under your belt, chances are you have had both good and bad sessions (or perhaps even entire games) of D&D. Why is that? What made the good sessions good, and the bad sessions bad? Some of those bad times, if not all, are going to be grounded in a simple truth: players gain enjoyment from D&D for different reasons.
What might players look for in D&D?
- Some players might yearn for mechanics of previous editions or hybrid house rules from other game systems.
- Others might prefer ultra tactical fights with optional rules like flanking, miniatures, grids, battle maps, and terrain.
- Some players might prefer more political intrigue.
- Others may want dungeon crawls with very little in the way of narrative.
- Some players want to stay totally in character.
- Others players want a very casual game, where it’s more about hanging out with friends than actually playing D&D.
- Some players only want to play powerful characters in high fantasy with epic magic.
- Others players want to play strictly by the rules (e.g., RAW).
Wanting to play differently than others is certainly not wrong; coercing others into playing a style of game they do not enjoy might be, however.
So why does this matter?
Giving heavy combat focused advice to a heavy political intrigue game probably doesn’t make much sense. It really depends, honestly, on the style of game being played as well as the preferences of players. And this brings us to the crux of the issue. How could I say with certainty that giving advice to any given player, group, or game will improve their experience if I’m unaware of what brings them joy while playing D&D?
I can’t. Even when I try to be generic, such as suggesting players might have more fun in finding the yes.
So, what’s the answer?
There’s a few things to consider when giving advice.
- Don’t speak in absolutes. Try to make suggestions, not mandates.
- If possible, have a dialogue to tailor your advice. Learn what the player or group to whom you are giving advice desires from their games.
- If all else fails, give your advice as you would normally, but make sure to mention this advice may not work for them. This is probably more true of a blog post than a one-on-one.
So, what improvements could you use in your next D&D game? It Depends. But I’m happy to share my thoughts or listen to yours, hit me up on Twitter.