Player Dynamics for Dungeons & Dragons

Image credit Wizards of the Coast

Hello from the Forever DM!

I could say that, but as of now, I am a player AND a dungeon master, a rare breed, indeed.

If you are interested in following along, we are playing through Rime of the Frostmaiden.

Maximum value is achieved through full participation

The reason we love our projects, artwork, gardens and D&D games is directly related to the amount of work and love we put into the game/story. In order to increase the love, we must increase the work. Read more about The Cure for Boredom in D&D. Here are a few things I have learned about how to better prepare as a player for your upcoming Dungeons and Dragons games!

Select a Player Bond

D&D, at it’s core, is a collaborative storytelling game. Besides the relationships you share with the people at the table, your character can also develop a relationship with the other characters. Dynamics means the relationship moves over time, creating a more immersive experience. First, let’s define the terms.

  • Passive – this dynamic means that the relationship is accepting of the other. It asks very little and requires no major changes for the relationship to continue as usual. Two peas in a pod. Agreeable.
  • Active – this dynamic means that the relationship challenges the other. It asks a lot and requires changes along the way for the relationship to continue.
  • Harmonious – the dynamic means the relationship shares the same values with little to reconcile.
  • Discord – this dynamic means the relationship holds different values with much to reconcile.
I will use relationship dynamics from the Lord of the Rings to make examples.

Regarding relationships between character to character within Dungeons and Dragons, there are no real rules or guidelines for how each player should relate to the other players around the table.

Besides having fun, Dungeons and Dragons is a great tool for developing intra and inter personal relationships. I have developed a map that allows each player to understand the dynamics between every other player at the table. Please make sure you take the time to communicate what kind of relationship you want.

Note: This dynamic model only works if the players are already in agreement with the desired relationship. It requires the player to have a Growth Mindset, feel free to refer to this article learn more about your mindset at the table. This model is for sophisticated and established tables, but with that being expressed, if a new table decides they want more dynamics in the relationships between the player characters and are ready for a challenge, then read on and use this model!

The Four Relationships

Passive Harmony

This is one of the easiest dynamics to roleplay because the characters share common values and require little to nothing of the relationship. It is very accepting. Merry and Pippin are good examples because in the beginning, they get along, get each other’s jokes and there is no conflict between them. As I said before, these are dynamics, however and over time, they may change. A passive harmony relationship plays nice and makes up most adventuring parties.

Active Harmony

This relationship involves shared values and vision, but requires much of the characters. It is constantly working or provoking each other, and in short, providing some challenge. The simplest model is to use the mentor/student relationship. Gandalf and Frodo are good examples because though they are in harmony, they provide challenge with Frodo growing in his leadership, eventually branching off from Gandalf as his mentor. The relationship moves. A parent/child relationship can also provide this dynamic. Too often in D&D, this relationship gets overlooked because it requires one of the players to act as the understudy to the other player. I think it can provide tons of rich roleplay, as long as each player are in agreement with the relationship.

Romantic relationships can fall under this category and require both players to agree upon the reality before proceeding. While harmonious, they still require much as are so, active.

Passive Discord

This relationship occurs when two characters are in opposition regarding worldview. Although they do not share the same values (discord), they have “agreed to disagree” and allow for each other’s differences since they are in such opposition (passive). In short, they ask little, but require much reconciliation of differences. Gimli and Legolas are good examples in that they come from opposing backgrounds, but still allow for their own space. I think other appropriate examples would be the cleric praying for the rogue to change their ways, while the rogue robs the NPCs blind. The characters passively engage but are at complete odds, and the end result is entertaining to the players around the table.

Active Discord

Whew! This relationship takes the cake. Of all of the possibilities of a D&D party, this one provides the most amount of conflict at the table. Let me stress again, as with all of the relationship dynamics, ensure that both members are in agreement with the dynamics. If you fail to understand, you will take the dynamics personally. It’s one thing to say, “my character shouts, interrupting your speech and exclaims, “you never take anything seriously!” when the player knows what you are doing. It’s another to spring it upon the player. Which is why I think we don’t do this too often in D&D, is that most of it is improvisational storytelling with very little explanation.

Active discord relationships hold to different values and requires much. A good example is Boromir and Aragorn. Although apart of the same fellowship, they served very different ideals, and conflicted in methods. They did not allow for differences to go unconciliated but duked it out until the precipice of Boromir’s demise.

Artist Anke-Katrin Eiszmann. Rolozo Tolkien

Hopefully you can see that these relationships are dynamic. They move, grow and evolve over time. These dynamics provide a rich roleplaying experience. If you are wanting to level up your interactions, consider experimenting with these around the table with your players and have fun! By increasing in participation as players, we increase the amount of value we enjoy at the table!

May your story continue!

More articles to enhance your table games below!

The Theme for the Game is…Why themes deepen the meaning of your roleplaying games
A theme is a literary tool used to convey to the reader …
How to defeat deceit
Story – Defeating Envy
Team Building and Storytelling with Dungeons and Dragons – a dungeon master challenge
Dungeons and Dragons is a Team Game of Collaborative Storytelling I encountered …

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