Welcome friends, come join in as we look at how best to communicate as DMs and set the right expectations of what your campaign will consist of. And players, come learn the importance of knowing what you want in a campaign.
It’s time to play D&D! You want to join a group, any group will do you just want to play! But what if the game you joined isn’t what you wanted? What if you wanted a Lord of the Rings style grand adventure and you instead ended up in a dark and gritty campaign? And DMs what if you are playing your campaign and half-way in several people start seeming unhappy and begin complaining about everything? What the hell happened on either front? Let’s try to figure it out.
How many of you players and DMs alike have found yourself in a similar situation to the above problem? What causes such a severe misunderstanding in which one or two parties find themselves wanting to play but not enjoying the game they’re in? Honestly, I have been in and run several games now and I think I have a guess; communication and setting expectations.
Sometimes, especially when first starting out, you just want to join a game, any game. And as a DM sometimes you just want to run a game, for anyone. We are all humans and we crave community and shared storytelling, there is nothing wrong with that but there can be a problem with wanting something so bad that you will take anything. But I have heard stories of players that wanted to play so bad for their first time that they just joined a random game, had a horrible time, and then stopped playing the game or waited a long time before playing again. Hell I almost stopped playing D&D due to a horrible experience. And I as a DM almost ended an entire campaign due to an unhappy party member that wouldn’t stop complaining about every single thing I did. They did not enjoy the way I ran the game because we both wanted different things from the game. So how can we solve this? What do we do?
As a DM you have to find a way to communicate to your party what it is you plan to run and how you run it. If you are very rules oriented; you don’t allow homebrew or UA (Unearthed Arcana) classes and you’re running a game based in Faerun but you are using a horror theme for your game, then you need to communicate that to the players right away. Whether you will be focused a lot on combat or close to none at all, communicate it. If you love RP (role playing) most of all and expect people to be in character at all points then you absolutely must express that. There is no wrong way to play the game you want, you just have to make sure you have the players that also want those things. All you have to do is explain these things and, I promise you, you can avoid wasting so much time later on. Session zero helps to show how you run a game and how the players play them.
I plan to run a game based in Faerun, I am running the module ‘Princes of the Apocalypse’. I like using plenty of combat and RP but due to the module and my lack of understanding of it there isn’t a whole lot of exploration, so if someone wants to play a Ranger talk with me, so we can see what we can work out. This setting will focus a lot on elements so Genasi make for good characters to run for this. The subject matter will focus on cults and fighting them off, as you remain in the region of the Dessarin Valley. So although you will travel around this area, you won’t be traveling across vast lands or anything like that. I sometimes forget rulings or rules on things, and if I need help remembering a particular rule I will not hesitate to ask the group for help but if I allow something to happen for a character/player please do not call out how the rules don’t allow it, I like to reward creative thinking. If you have an issue with something just talk to me after the game and we can work it out, I am open-minded.
As a Player you might want to join any game, you just want to be part of a group, nothing wrong with that. But let’s say you prefer tactical combat, very little RP, and you just want to play with friends and not take things too seriously. Now, let’s say you join a game that is 90% RP, has very little combat, the DM lets anyone use bonus action shield attacks even though you need to take a feat for that ability and everyone wishes you would act in character more. The game is becoming a drag and eventually you end up leaving, or worse you stay and get more and more unhappy. This can be avoided by communicating with your DM in the beginning, find out what kind of game you’re signing up for and see if it is your cup of tea. If you don’t like what you see then simply don’t join, just look for another group. You can play D&D with people across the world online now, you don’t have to pick the first group that you see. You deserve to be in a game that you enjoy and your DMs deserve to have their games enjoyed. You all deserve it.
So to recap. Players make sure that you communicate with a DM before a game ever begins, find out what kind of game they run, their style, and the genre of the campaign; get all the information you need and then decide if it’s the game for you. DMs make sure to be as clear and concise as possible about the game you intend to run so that your players can decide right from the beginning if they want to be a part of it.
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