Dungeons & Dragons encourages cooperative adventures, but some parties struggle to work together. Here are some ways to fix dysfunction at the party.
The ideal Dungeons and Dragons The game sees the entire group working together to achieve the bigger end, but unfortunately not every match starts off on the right foot. Whether the morality of one character affects everyone else in the wrong way or each player simply has different playstyles, a non-cohesive party can cause even the best-planned game to fail before it leaves the tavern.
Because the Dungeon Master is running the game for everyone else’s enjoyment, fostering group cohesion often falls on his shoulders. While that may not seem fair, given all the time and effort they have put into creating a fun and exciting adventure for their players, orchestrating every aspect of the game is an integral part of donning the DM’s mantle.
Communicate as a group
Before starting a game, it is important to take time to talk to all the players. Consider holding a zero session where everyone sits down before the campaign begins to discuss the environment, goals, rules, and boundaries. This gives the DM an idea of the party’s wishes, both as characters and players, and sets everyone’s comfort level beforehand.
Not all players come to the table for the same reason and it is rare to have a party where everyone wants the same things. Taking the time to give everyone a chance to express their wants and needs creates an open dialogue even before the game starts. There is no guarantee that everyone will always respect each other, but having an open dialogue from the beginning will make it easier to resolve any issues that arise.
Find the balance for everyone
Some players get excited about the narrative aspects of the game, such as role-playing games and exploring the threads of the plot. Others are there strictly for the action and will feel more connected to the game as they enter the dungeons and during the heat of combat. Differences in playstyles can tear a party apart if players aren’t willing to commit, and finding out early on can mean the difference between a successful game and a disaster.
Creating a good balance between role play and combat in each session demonstrates how all aspects of the game are necessary. Exploring dungeons is great, there should be a reason to comb those dungeons. Players may be looking for something specific that ties into the overall plot. The same concept applies to role-playing games. Some players enjoy enacting their fantasies, but directing them toward an overall goal in the story that results in combat gives both types of players something they need to satisfy their personal preferences.
Even with common goals to focus on, players will still want to advance their personal goals. That’s fine, as long as they don’t derail the campaign and interfere with other characters’ moments in the spotlight. Finding opportunities to promote teamwork is a sure way to get everyone working together for the greater good.
Using skill challenges that are based on class-specific skill combinations is a great way to show players the value of the group as a whole. Providing puzzles that can only be solved by working together reinforces the need for unity, as well as demonstrating their mutual value. When the group faces another challenge later on, they will be more likely to reexamine what everyone brings to the table.
Give everyone a chance to shine
Similar to providing balance, it is equally important to give each player moments to shine. There will always be scenarios where players will not feel like a valuable asset to the rest of the group. Rogues won’t feel useful in a dungeon without traps to disarm or locks to open, just like a tank will feel out of place during a political negotiation where diplomacy is more important than brute force.
Keep everyone in the party in mind when designing encounters, whether they are role-play opportunities or dungeon digs. Make sure there are rogue traps and locks and arcane obstacles for magic users to work on or dispel. For example, you can involve an authoritarian bodyguard in a political negotiation so that the warriors have someone to intimidate while the Bard talks all the time.
Take a break time
There are numerous warning signs that players are fighting each other, and getting to the bottom of that fight is as much the responsibility of the DM as it is of the players. If people come to the DM in private to complain about the game, characters, or other players, take some time. Put the game aside and take some time to get to the root of the problem. Maybe there are character morality clashes, or someone feels slighted by another player who steals all the glory.
Sometimes players don’t even realize that their actions are disturbing other people at the table. Other times, they may not care at all if they are disturbing others. Stepping back to talk to everyone means taking a hard look at the situation and deciding whether to warn someone or remove them for the sake of the game as a whole. This is a position that nobody wants to be in, but in the end, D&D It’s everyone’s game, and if a single person makes everyone else uncomfortable or angry, taking action shows everyone else how much the DM values playing with them.
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