How to Win Dungeons & Dragons
Watch the video and tell me in the comments about a time someone messed up spectacularly!
Warning: This video is for players and narrators alike. This isn’t a Ptolus specific video, sorry if that disappoints anyone. But I hope you stick around!
People don’t typically ask how you can win at Dungeons and Dragons or other role playing games, but that’s the question I wanted to address.
D&D isn’t a video game. You know this already. You can do whatever you want! That’s probably why you love the game. I know that’s the reason I do.
Funny story, the main attraction to D&D for me originally (way back in 2nd edition) was the unlimited and open aspect of the game. I got sick and tired of GoldenEye where I couldn’t blow up whatever wall I wanted, and Halo making rocks I couldn’t move with the warthog.
Your RPG campaign doesn’t have those limitations, or the defined parameters of success. If you’ve got a good Narrator, then you’re adventuring around in an open world and the bosses you fight will be determined by your choices. You can go anywhere and do anything.
With that being the case, HOW DO YOU WIN?!
There are three ways to win at any RPG and they are:
1) Through Collaborative Storytelling
Even the most “lead by the nose” DM needs your input for the game to move forward. Even if you’re playing prewritten adventure modules, what your character does shapes the story. A hundred groups can play the same module and handle it a hundred different ways. That’s the beauty of this game!
You win D&D by crafting the greatest story possible with your Narrator and fellow players. This is YOUR story.
Everyone at the “table” – which might be a real table as you’re all together, a virtual table top, or some website where you play by post – is responsible for the story. You all have to work together to craft a beautiful and compelling narrative which everyone will talk about for years to come.
Okay, this might have been a clickbaity title, but I really wanted to share this with you all.
Too often we get focused on the next die roll, the next fight, the next level or cool magic item and we forget that we’re telling a story here. We’re working together to make up a story only we could tell, unique to ourselves.
Each game session, spend a little time thinking about the story you’re making. How could you make it better? What would make a great twist? What would make you smile? What would make your friends feel awesome? And occasionally, think about what would make you feel awesome.
Remember… This game isn’t entirely up to your Narrator! Talk to them. Share ideas. Make suggestions. The story you make will be epic.
Let’s circle back to what I said about make your FRIENDS feel awesome…
2) Personal Vulnerability
I want to talk to you about personal vulnerability. No this is not a therapy session and you don’t need to tell me about your deepest emotions.
What I’m talking about is allowing your character to be less than perfect all the time.
We’ve all played with that person who has to be the best, has to be untouchable and the most powerful being in the room. They are insufferable. Don’t be that person.
Instead, allow your character to suck occasionally. Allow them to falter and fail, hopefully in a way that makes your friends shine and feel amazing.
Unbeatable PCs are incredibly boring. Don’t be that person.
Be a little vulnerable. If you miss a shot, a swing, or spell by rolling the DREADED NATURAL ONE, then OWN IT!
Own your failure. Steer into the skid. Once more into the breach dear friends! Ok, that last one didn’t apply.
When the one rolls up, don’t try to mitigate it and explain away how you barely failed. Screw up spectacularly. Take it the next step beyond just missing. Fall down. Trip. Face plant. Unintentionally hug the monster. Be okay with being less than perfect.
I guarantee it will make memorable moments, and it will also allow your friends to shine in that moment.
Recently Bharash, our huge, dragon born fighter who is a scale covered tank, rolled a one after trying to do something cool. He kept over a balcony and charged forward to attack a skeleton. Yes a 12th level fighter was attacking a CR one third creature… And he rolled a one.
Rather than be prideful and annoying, he wrote a hilarious post about Bharash falling down spectacularly and we all enjoyed it. He turned that dragon born frown upside down.
3) The Rule of Cool
Normally we talk about the rule of cool in regard to allowing something for dramatic cinematic value.
But here I want to reinforce thinking beyond yourself. Our world right now is so self possessed and internally focused it’s hurting everyone. Forgive me for waxing philosophical.
Your group needs you, but you also need your group.
Think about how to use the rule of cool to setup your friends’ characters. Think how you can setup your Narrator to alley oop. Basically, be less self focused and work on your collaboration. It’s incredibly rewarding. I promise.
In the Bharash example above, he was self deprecating, turning a nat 1 into something really funny which allowed others to shine.
Do the same in your game. Be vulnerable. Allow your character to mess up and be okay with it. You might fall down. You might take a little damage. But it will weave another patch into your groups story.
No one likes a perfect hero who has never made a mistake and has no flaws. That’s the most boring character ever.
Join our Ptolus specific Discord if you’re interested in the City by the Spire. We only talk about Ptolus on there.
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