“How”—A Tip for Dungeon Masters

May 18, 2021

Often your players will want to do something that at the moment seems like it would be beyond the abilities of their character. However, before you just say no, try this instead. Ask them how. If they can make a good enough case, let them try it.

This accomplishes several things that you want if you’re going to maintain a healthy group and a vibrant game. First, it gives the players more options. Knowing that they can try lots of different things makes the players feel more in control of their character and an actual contributor to the story.

Second, it allows everyone to flex their role playing abilities. They aren’t just using a skill as written and rolling a die, they are explaining how their skills apply to this instance. They are trying to convince you as the DM that, yes, this is something that can at least be attempted.

Third, it them more aware of what is going on in the game. If they know that their options are not as limited, they will pay a lot more attention. They will take note of where their character is, what the environment is like, the positions of everyone on the battlefield because all of that may become relevant to what they want to do.

Fourth, it makes you a better DM. With the players exploring more options, you will be kept on your toes. You will have to adapt more to changing situations, and it will help you when you are building encounters because you will be more aware of things the players may try to exploit to their advantage.

Now, all of that said. Sometimes the answer will still be no. Sometimes the answer will be no before the player even explains the how because it is such an outlandish idea that it is in no way feasible. You don’t have spend time on every far out notion, but you should at least take a moment to consider what the players want to try.

So, the next time a player wants to try a different approach to a spell or skill, just ask them how.

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Glenn B.

Glenn B. is the Mayfair store manager and the King of Awesome. Outside of the Board Game Barrister, Glenn is an amateur film maker and game designer. He has three short films under his belt and one game as well. He's currently working on a new card game, Apocalypse How. Glenn has been to Ireland 8 times and speaks a little Irish Gaelic. His favorite games are Malifaux, Eldritch Horror, Scoville, and Colt Express.

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