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#gotchas

Bad Ideas

A post on reddit (no, I’m not going to link to it) managed to cram three different truly bad campaign ideas into one player, and I figured this would be a good subject to write on.

Here’s a non-comprehensive list of really bad ideas that you should absolutely avoid in your campaign.

Evil Parties / PCs

Everyone eventually thinks they want to run a badass evil PC, or maybe all the players decide they want to run an all-evil party. This is a recipe for disaster for all but the best groups. Why? Because the whole foundation of D&D is predicated on the party trusting one another and working together. The party has to stay together, or there’s no game. The game is about the party. And if people are betraying each other left and right, the players themselves will realize there’s no logical reason for the party to stay together, and the game will just end with the dissolution of the party.

It can work if the players take a long view of their characters’ relationships and the benefits they’ll get from sticking with the party… but too often immature players will go for the short-sighted, stab-everyone-in-the-back (whether figuratively or literally) and make off with the loot.

The best way to avoid this is to just have a standing rule about no evil PCs. I’ve found that it’s often good to extend that rule to Chaotic Neutral PCs, since that also often indicates the character will be selfish with no regard for the rest of the party.

The Betrayer

For some reason, it’s very common for one person in the party to want to betray everyone else. Often this goes with the evil PC, as above, but it doesn’t have to. Again, this comes down the core principle of D&D in that your party has to work together and trust each other, or the game falls apart. The problem with betraying the party is that you’re betraying the players, too. The players invest all this time and effort in the party, they’ve worked hard to build trust between the characters, and then that is just torn away. It can cause real-life arguments and fighting. It’s just not worth it. If someone comes to you wanting to have a PC that will betray the party, just say no. If you really want to try it out, discuss it with the rest of the players first. Yes, this spoils the surprise, but if it keeps everyone friends at the end of the night, that’s worth it.

Telling PCs How to Feel

A DM should never ever tell a player how their character feels. You can try to evoke emotion through your descriptions of the world, but you should never say “you feel scared”. Because the player is going to immediately say, or a least think “The hell I do!” Players need to feel like they have control over their characters. And there’s nothing more intimate about a character than what they think and feel. Unless there is some magical compulsion affecting their emotions, you should only describe what the characters experience with their senses, and let the player decide how their character reacts. And even magical compulsion should be avoided in all but the rarest of occasions, because players hate it. Most players would prefer their character be knocked out than forced to run away in fear.

This applies to normal social interactions, as well (though it’s less severe if you get it wrong). Instead of saying “you believe what she’s saying”, instead say “she sounds like she’s telling the truth”. The difference is that one instructs the character how to feel, and the other gives the player information from the character’s senses.

PC vs. PC Social Skills

The above also applies to PC vs. PC interaction. Social skill mechanics should never be used between PCs. One PC should never be allowed to roll a persuasion check to convince the other PC to do something. This is the same as telling the player how their character feels, except that it’s even worse, because it’s not the DM, it’s another player doing it. If one PC wants to convince another PC of something, they have to roleplay it out, or at least talk to the other player and try to convince them the old fashioned way. Same goes for lying or hiding things from another player. You can’t just have a PC roll and say it works. The tricked player will hate it, because the player knows what’s going on, and you’re taking away their ability to decide how their character would react.

Love, Lust, and Romance

Often times, players want their character to fall in love, either with an NPC or with another PC. This is generally a bad idea, because the game is not really built to support it, and it takes many people out of the comfort zone. If all the players are heavy roleplayers, then it can work, but you need to discuss it ahead of time. Most players do not come to the table with the maturity to describe how they woo a partner. This goes triple for PC to PC interaction. If any player wants to roleplay a romantic or sexual relationship with another PC, you must get the other player’s consent before allowing it in the game. Otherwise it can make players extremely uncomfortable.

Usually, it’s best just to avoid these situations. There’s plenty to do in D&D without talking about sex or romance.