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 participationTweet
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Today, we have so many apps and tools available at our fingertips. How far away is your smart phone from you right now? Maybe on the table, a docking station, or upstairs on your bed, or possibly in your hand at this very moment.
Have you ever seen someone tie a string around their finger? This old trick reminds the person that they wanted to remember something in particular and the out of place string wrapped around their finger reminds them of that memory.
Since we don’t normally keep strings on our finger, it can serve as a reminder to get something done. And we need reminders, otherwise, the day drifts into hours passed and minutes spent until the cycle completes and we witness the sun sinking behind the western wall with the same pressing feeling that we didn’t get anything done.
May I suggest setting aside all of the screens for a moment and do this one simple thing: make a list. Grab a mundane piece of paper, a blank one that allow you to freely express your handwriting. Retrieve a pen or pencil, depending on whether or not you like to scratch a hard line through your editions or buff them away with an eraser. Place the instrument on the paper.
Write anything that arrives at the top of your mind. Lay everything out on the hospitable parchment which holds all of the space for you. Without consideration, pour out your hearts desires, whether it arrives as a grocery list, unpaid bills, goals for schooling this next year, dream vacations or something you have been meaning to say to your mate. Deliver it up to the paper.
Watch in wonder, as your breathing changes. There it lies before you in honesty. Your thoughts, now in broad daylight, appear before your overarching witness. Whereas before, the jumble of activity in your brain looked more like a soup, this collection of words map out the recipe for how you think, how you dream and how you feel. Appreciate this feedback.
Finally, it all of it’s glory and imperfection. Post it. Not for anyone else to see, but give it just enough light to oblige your attention on a daily basis. You will thank that list many times over as it holds your thoughts for you. For now, my friend, your mind begins to create. Without clutter, and without encumbrance, it sets itself alight with the wings of the spirit and begins to fashion a life for you with the list in view.
I believe that everyone of us is a storyteller. You don’t have to speak of elves and dwarves or aliens from a far realm to convey a human experience using your words to another fellow human. Every time you make an attempt to persuade someone, you are crafting a story. Every time you rationalize an event, you are telling yourself a story. In other words, you already tell stories, and if you want, you can become better with practice.
I found this article while browsing for better ways to tell stories and discovered this method! I wondered how my Dungeons and Dragons campaign would hold up to the heat of this crucible for storytelling. Let’s see.
Immediately I drafted a list using this five pillars and overplayed my current game. We have been playing this since March 2020 and what started as a couple friends rolling dice while rescuing a lost miner has turned into a fantastic story, if I may say so.
I believe that is partly thanks to my amazing players, or as I call them sojourners, for together we sojourn through life telling stories. These stories make us. By playing Dungeons and Dragons, life begins to imitate art and we learn to utilize many sorts of problem solving practices in real life that we played in game.
But D&D being good for you is a different story. Today, I wanted to celebrate a success in my campaign and show you the overlay of the 5 Cs and how my story lays gently into this model of storytelling. While I think you should read the article above, here are the 5Cs.
Circumstance, or the setting
Curiosity, or why bother listening?
Conversation, or how would I share this with others?
Characters, or how do I relate as a listener?
Conflict, or what happens in the end?
And here, as promised, is my story.
Because Zariel, ruler of hell, struggles to maintain order in the war torn land, the hordes of the demonic abyss rise in numbers and threaten to overrun our beloved plane of Bonzárel. If she loses, the hordes will rise in numbers, but if she wins, she sets up a military cult recruiting mortal souls into her blood war and martial service. The characters are Felthran, who is honest, stubborn, loyal and dutiful. Garindan, who is haunted, darkened, redeemed, and rehabilitated. Bramble, who is vengeful, humble, proficient and pragmatic. Hey, who is lovable, simple, pure and abandoned. So then remains the difficult decision of setting up the ruler of hell, where an eternal war occurs between evil demons who want to overrun the universe and evil devils who want to enslave and overrule the universe. While the sojourners begin by visiting this neighborhood of conflict to ensure the battle stays far from their home, they discover they are they have been appointed to set up the rulership of hell sanctioned by the gods.
So, there you have it. I’m pleased to find I didn’t require much tweaking with the storyline in order to neatly fit into the 5 Cs of Storytelling. Whether you are sharing your morning coffee with a friend, selling a service to a customer or interviewing for a job, we are all telling stories. Because they appeal to the very core of our ancient humanity, we should learn to tell them well. May your story continue!
Recently, I have been pondering the role of story in the game Dungeons and Dragons. When I first began to play, I realized quickly that this kind of game facilitates story telling at its finest. Images filled my thoughts of villagers gathered around an evening campfire as the elder recounts the tales of their existence, myths and legends retold, along with variations added as, generation after generation, the tribe grew.
Eventually, books held the stories and myths were lost. The books kept the story told the same way every time with little to no variation save for edition updates. I rest that there remains something powerful about stories originating from our mouth and memory.
And then we began to passively watch television, streaming shows and movies. This form of entertainment required less imagination, for along with the verbal descriptions from books, now the visual descriptions were laid out for us right there on the screen. Little if any work was asked of the listener.
Still, from oral tales around a glowing campfire to lounging on the bed staring into another glowing device, we have always been wanting to hear a good story.
With Dungeons and Dragons, and other roleplaying frameworks, we are now able to flex our myth telling muscles into crafting stories around the table. Interesting that the word myth originated from the same word used to make “mouth”. These myths we share do more than entertain, they allow us to become the creators of our own entertainment. Beyond scratching out hit points and rolling dice, storytelling games lead the way in entertainment.
This is a call to summon your imagination to the forefront and begin by prompting your adventures with friends and family around the table. Playing Dungeons and Dragons is an exercise as old as time, long before books and long after television, we will continue to tell stories.
And so, our story continues.
Do you have a family game night? I have heard of families getting together on a Sunday afternoon after a meal and playing cards, board games or video games. It’s hard to find something that everyone enjoys. Sometimes families simply put money towards dinner and a movie. All those are popular and fun, but think about this.
When you watch a movie or play a board game, you are being entertained. This is a form of passive entertainment. You take in the fun and that’s all well and good!
But what if you shared the creation of that entertainment with your friends and family?
Dungeons and Dragons is a collaborative role playing game. Three ways to collaborate means we engage, entertain and entrust.
When we sit around the dining room table, the coffee table or outside on the patio, we face one another and engage. Armed with a pencil, paper and imagination, you are part of the storytelling process in the game. The Dungeon Master, who operates as the storyteller, referee and other characters in the game, sets the fictional stage where each of the players around the table build upon the ideas infusing their own created characters as heroes of the tale. Each game lasts from 2-4 hours with breaks and with about 3-6 players, the most interesting and exciting adventures can unfold!
Telling stories requires your imagination, along with collectively sharing that imagination with others. This means you entertain! You may not consider yourself a comedian, but each of us have some form of creative energy whether humor, descriptions of brave deeds, revealing hidden backstories or simply sharing in the laughter. As opposed to simply watching a movie, you make the movie. Using tried and true techniques of improve such as the “yes, and” method, you actively listen to what’s going on, engage your part of the story and entertain your fellow travelers. This level of creativity rewards your brain with the feeling of success.
Most people have a fear of public speaking. Role playing games can be daunting at first because so many questions arise in our minds.
- Do I have to talk with an accent?
- What if l say the wrong thing?
- How will I know if it’s my turn to speak?
The truth is role playing comes more natural than you think. No one around the table is trying to impress or outdo anyone, and there’s no pressure to give a stellar performance. Much like anything, practice makes your art better. The Dungeon Master should be like a guide helping your stretch your acting skills and build creativity. Remember, if you’re having fun, you’re doing it right. There’s no real “right” way to be creative. Think of it as a pool party. If you just show up, you may be nervous about getting in, but once you see others enjoying themselves, you’ll be tempted, even if to dip in your feet, to join the party.
This leads to a surprising level of trust between you, the Dungeon Master and your fellow players. We build bonds over time by telling stories around the campfire. For as long as our civilization has existed, we have told stories in one way or another. Some stories were factual, some were exaggerated for effect, some written and some transformed into memorable songs. Either way, at it’s heart, Dungeons and Dragons is primarily a way to tell stories. You become a better story teller. You become a story maker. This builds trust between those you care about the most, because you begin to ask yourself, “what stories am I telling now?” And believe it or not, this greater level of awareness happens all while you are having fun!
So, consider this your new recreation! Dungeons and Dragons can become a great family pastime and what a wonderful way to express yourself creatively. With no instrument to learn, or serious rules to memorize, you can just jump in and explore the world of role playing games.
Photos used with permission by Wizards of the Coast
The restaurant had been in full swing for almost half a year. The family friendly environment and cuisine sophistication had ushered in a variety of parties. Families of six, two high chairs and plenty of spills kept the staff busy. Couples, whether on their first night out or seasoned lovers stopped by for a relaxing and romantic evening. The menu even suggested that just about anyone from the broke college student scarfing down the chicken fried steak lunch special to the classy businessman dining on the 12 ounce Rib-eye, kept company by only his evening alcohol and paperwork. The manager, knowing lunches might slow down during the week implemented a senior’s special lunch menu. Catering to the elderly proved to be profitable as a well-known clientele visited on a regular basis. Now a couple of blue haired ladies walked in through the door, greeted by the young hostess. She couldn’t have been more than 18, but she displayed confidence in her job and had the couple seated down in their preferred booth by the window.
Once seated, the aged gentleman got up from his seat and hobbled over to the bathroom. He smiled as he past the hostess and waved hello. As he rounded the corner, a waiter, buzzing with haste, nearly crashed into the light-framed great-grandfather of seven.
“Oh, excuse me,” blushed the man. “I’m in your way.” He really wasn’t in the spiky haired kid’s way, but moving one foot in front of the other in such a precarious way caused him to linger in one spot for a substantial amount of time. The kid grunted and rocketed past him.
“Dammit, move your slow ass!” mumbled the kid way out of earshot of the gentlemen, now tugging at the restroom door. The kid knew how to complain about his customers and still make decent tips. He just talked about them behind their backs and smiled at the tables. Various ages all walked through the door, but the elderly couple, now in their 80’s, were the only ones who asked if the restaurant could turn the air conditioner down.
“You want it colder?” barked the kid. Well, it was more like a yap, however still resembled the tone you use when you’re in a hurry and not in the mood to deal with this kind of treatment.
“Old people!” He began to mock the strained voice of the lady, “ Could you turn down the air please!’ I’ll turn down the air; I’ll turn off her oxygen. Damn, I hate old people!” Snarling, he prepared the ice water with “extra lemons please” and grabbed a handful of lemons, placing them in a bowl, he stormed off back to the table—smiling, he knew how to make tips. No sooner that he tossed down the drinks, the gentleman arrived back at the table, asking if he could order a hot soup for the two of them. It took the old man about a minute and a half to get the words out. It was long enough for the kid to nod his head over dramatically as if to say…
“I get it, you want one of our two choices of soup.” he began to walk away.
…and could you bring us some napkins, please, said the man behind wrinkling eyes and a smile revealing his missing teeth. As the kid stormed off, the couple began to stare across from each other. It had been 67 years since they met, right here in this restaurant. Before it was Big Louie’s, it was The Mexican Garden and she worked weekends as a waitress. He came out with his buddies after a day at the fair and they all sat in her section. He memorized her shift, but convinced himself that he wasn’t stalking her, he just wanted to meet her in an “evasive way. You know, girls are weirded-out by guys who confront them on the spot. You gotta be smooth and act like it was fate that brought you together.” His words were interrupted by howls of laughter. “Fate, sure!” his buddies roared, “You like her man, fate or no, you can’t keep your eyes away from her.” He smiled, showing all white teeth intact and present and leaned against the table, taking it all in. This table wobbled from time to time, the restaurant wasn’t one of the classiest, mostly just served good food to the community; they were famous for their fajita plates, sizzling and tempting everyone with the smell from the grill. These characters, however, were cheap. They ordered an appetizer and kept the waitress busy bringing out complimentary chips and salsa. She arrived with a hot bowl of chips and two bowls of thick, chunky salsa. All the guys made a big deal about her coming around to their table, but one just smiled with his arms folded, leaning on the table, seated himself opposite of her, all good. She encouraged him by continuously approaching the table opposite him and laughing at all the jokes until she looked at him and then she just smiled, looked down at the table, and looked up at him to see if his gaze was still fixed on her. Yep, he’s a keeper” she mused.
“Keep .the change, young fellow, you look like you’re working hard.” His hand shook as he handed the brisk young waiter a crisp dollar bill. After an hour and a half of staring at each other, the elderly couple sauntered over to the door, past the register and waved goodbye to the young hostess. She waved back and smiled thinking the lady reminded her of her gone but not forgotten aunt and how she used to make lemonade for the kids after school. Jeremy bolted to the register and woke Sherry up from her day-dreaming.
“Did they leave me anything else up here?” Before she could answer ‘no’, he went on with his tirade, “they sat there for two hours, wasting my time with their damn cups of “fresh coffee please”, mocking the shrill voice of the lady, “all day long, I have to put up with old people.”
Sherry smiled nervously; seeing Jeremy whine about his customers was funny because he imitated them well. She’ll admit that old people were sometimes a little slow, but she wasn’t upset by them nearly as much as Jeremy was now. Now that she thought about it, Jeremy was always this upset.
“Why do you hate old peop—um, the elderly?” she asked, correcting herself.
His answer was brash and preceded with no thought, “Cause they’re slow. They take their time and they need to be in a nursing home.”
She laughed indignantly, “You don’t deserve them!”
“Yeah, well, I don’t have to, they leave me a dollar, what the hell am I supposed to do with this, pay my bills?”
“Well,” she said slowly, “you can give it to me, then.”
“Hell, no,” he said, and walked away.
The couple had been outside for a while. The elderly gentleman looked around the parking lot, fumbling his keys in his hands. “I know I parked it here somewhere,” he mumbled quietly. She called from the curb, “Donald, do you think we parked out back?” She hollered loud enough, but his hearing had been gone for a while. She knew he didn’t have to listen anymore; she remained content to listen to him and have him stare and blink at her across the dinner table, but she called out anyway, mostly because she was afraid of the silence. She knew nothing was going on in his head, however, his memory had really gone downhill the last few years. It wasn’t the first time she waited by the curb, cold, tired of standing, looking on as her proud man stood baffled in the parking lot, pretending to fumble with his keys. Donald began to sweat. He had been forgetting more often and it bugged him not to know why, but he would just forget. No occasion, no correlation, just a plain old fashioned memory lapse-he hoped. He had heard plenty about Alzheimer’s, affecting mostly folks over 80, 4.5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Warnings flooded his mind as he recalled the T.V. shows he watched in horror as the white-haired men slowly lost their minds and couldn’t even remember their own names, to the dismay of the heartbroken family. He remember hearing the warnings from magazines and talk shows about how to prevent memory loss, although no one is completely immune to losing memory, it just happens. He wiped his bald head with his handkerchief and began to mutter out loud, mixing curses and prayers together, frozen on the parking lot where no one could help him, he’s lost his memory, and his wife is standing on the curb.
“The curb!” He drove around back where the wheelchair ramp allowed for avoiding the curb step. Her walk was getting weaker, but they had managed to spend time on the town, especially here at this restaurant, because they had a nice wheelchair ramp which they could both walk up with ease. He turned around with a boyish grin and hollered, “Margie, I parked the car next to the wheelchair ramp, if that doesn’t beat all, I thought I was losing it there for a second.”
“Oh dear, I’m so silly, I should have thought of that,” she echoed in apology.
“No, it’s my fault” he replied, “for a second there, I forgot that I parked over there, yes, there it is right there,” he breathed those last words out a little slower as his heart rate dropped back down to normal. He didn’t know how he remembered, or how he forgot for that matter, but he made a promise to himself that for Margie’s sake, he would help himself to remember from now on, even if it meant tying strings around his finger looking like a crackpot professor, he wouldn’t forget again.
As they drove home, she remembered how it was when they were dating. He continually stopped by her parent’s house. He always wanted to take care of her and reminded her of her father, and the way he cared for the family. They had five children together, although one of them died in a miscarriage. They heard plenty of ideas of why the child didn’t make it, but were never given a definite reason. One thing was for sure: she received every bit of emotional support that he could give. He cared for her during that hard time. He was always a sensitive man. His mother was ill most of her life, he grew up learning to care of folks. Maybe that’s why she married him. She looked over at his skinny frame, once built tough and hard: he worked a lot. His eyes were fixed on the road, “just like him”, she thought, “always focused, always keeping his eyes on the road.” She loved his curly black hair. He was mostly bald now except for the the hair around this temples. She had lost her hair too, but it grew back. On her sixty-second birthday, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The treatment had been rough on her body, but she had the support of her children. Most of the help, however, came from her husband. He seemed to thrive in crisis. He told her, “Baby, it’s okay to be emotional all you want, I’ll take care of you.” And he had, and remained her friend. She patted her soft, wool hair as they pulled in the driveway. She had a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. It seems all of their outings nowadays related to their declining health. They both walked up the dusty driveway and onto the front porch where their cat, stretched it’s lithe body along the welcome mat, looking up as if to say, “What took you so long?”
People fund their livelihood by perpetuating ideas in the garden of their minds. These ideas feed us. We need them. We need to believe. But the idea that feeds me may not be your nourishment. I taste another idea from your garden and consider it’s taste. After a day or two, I consider its effect on my body, my mind and my soul. I sell your ideas that grew from a garden in your mind connected to another’s garden. Another tastes. Another is nourished. Over time, we perceive whether or not the idea not only feed us, but also regenerates the minds from which it grew.
We move. We live. We have our being.
Ideas are like seeds. You hold them in your hands to plant in your mind. Be aware of what grows. Not all that holds sweet heals and not all things bitter poison. Sample all the flavors of nature, both bitter to heal, sweet to laugh, sour to cleanse and salty to incite. Balance ideas and grow many samples, allow them to nourish each other from within and your practice outside will produce wholeness.
About 6 years ago, I began searching for the dictionary definition of “introvert”, which led me to find the definition of “extrovert” and 4 hours later, I had wondered how I made it this far in life without the map of Meyer’s Briggs to navigate in life.
I made a hard attempt to understand people, especially those I may influence on a daily basis, like my wife, kids, birth family and so on out from there. There are tons of resources and perspectives out there on personality, but the one I gratefully hitched my wagon to was http://www.personalityhacker.com
I consumed their podcasts, (and quite a few of their products!) all day long, and enjoyed what would have otherwise been windshield time on the road. I learned not only about introversion and extraversion, but brace yourself, there are many types of the two. And even deeper I dug, to find that certain parts called cognitive functions stacked in different orders were responsible for the emergence of different personalities.
Also, I made some friends, which is an interesting phenomenon to feel a connection with someone in your earbud that you have never really met. But although that brings along warm and fuzzy feelings, what I really wanted to share today is my conversation with my children.
“Who can tell me what “competence” is?” They scrunched their eyebrows as if trying to recall one of those really big words they learned in school. “Competence is doing something really well.” Their eyes brightened and locked onto the definition dad handed them.
“ISTJ children find it very important that their parents believe them to be competent. And they don’t often “act” like kids running amuck, but rather position themselves to be the first when an adult says something like, “I need a helper.”
I believe I may have one of these little creatures in my care, which is characterized by the enlightening statement from them, “Dad, when people cry I don’t feel anything!”
I hope I do well to help them navigate the complex world of feelings and emotions that I, for example, have not had much difficulty understanding. But now, I am charting territory and creating language to help these practical folks describe their feelings.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention by newfound internet friend and resource Susan http://www.psychologyjunkie.com who helps people, especially little ones and their parents, understand the world of personality.
Check them out! Enjoy who they are and what they bring to the world. Seeking first to understand, and begin by listening.