Win the Crowd: Play to Everyone’s Style

alt textYou saw it in Gladiator, and you see it in your game every week.  It’s important to win over the crowd, to give them what they want.  To put on the grand show they’re expecting, the way they love it most.  But how do you know to do that?  And how do you do it? 

What we’re talking about here is player personalities or motivations.  That’s where it all starts.  And this includes the DM, whether that’s you this week or someone else in your gaming group.

You’d think it’s obvious, and that we’d just automatically do this without thinking every week – but we drop the ball on this all the time, as a player or DM.  We need a reminder once in a while.  It’s a cooperative game, right? 

We Are All Individuals!

For example, you or your DM might cook up a glorious adventure and sweeping story behind it, filled with all sorts of earth-shattering secrets and perplexing mysteries that beg to be solved.  You create a host of personalities for the party to interact with in order to unearth those centuries-old family secrets that may just unravel the entire royal family and cast them down from power in an instant.

Trouble is, that story might sound cool to some players, and not so much to others. 

The gladiator won the crowd because they were expecting intense, deadly combat – in convincing and spectacular style.  That’s what they came to the Colosseum for.  They didn’t go there to watch a play or play detective.  They just wanted blood. 

Tay Appention

So, you too, should be mindful of other players and DMs’ preferred styles of play, whether we’re talking themes and settings (i.e. dark fantasy or Dark Sun), or personalities and preferences (i.e. actors, storytellers, slayers or power gamers as discussed in the DMG). 

What does that mean though – to be mindful of those things?  It means, most of the time, you play to the crowd, whether it’s one session’s worth of non-verbal cues or verbalized desires, or an entire campaign’s worth.  For example:

  • If they all just want and enjoy blood, then pitched combat is the way to go. 
  • If they love a good mystery, give them one. 
  • If they love epic play, make sure you play a one-shot, single-tier campaign, or simply advance in levels faster than usual. 
  • If your DM loves to roleplay NPCs, roleplay right back with your own snappy and clever lines.  (It’s a cooperative game, remember?)

Spice of Life

But what if there’s a wide variety of what your crowd wants?  That’s a great “problem” to have, because the answer is simple: give them exactly that, variety.  In fact, with so many personalities (both player and character!) at the game table, you’re bound to stumble into a variety of play.  And that is right up every RPG’s alley – there’s nothing quite like all the possibilities RPG’s offer.

One last piece of advice: be patient when your favorite “stuff” isn’t happening.  Realize the slayer is getting his fix, or the actor is hamming it up – that makes D&D awesome for that player, and they’d love for you to find joy in it, too.  Either way, relax and enjoy because your favorite part of the game in the style you love most is almost certainly around the corner.

Give Them Hel– er, Happiness!

They say you can’t make everyone happy.  But in an RPG like D&D – that’s exactly what we’re trying to do!  Think what you read here over a bit, and then?  Go make everyone in your playgroup happy.  Go out and do it, because I know you can, and you know it too.  It’s actually – compared to real life – pretty easy!  And be sure to let me know how it goes.

2 Responses to “Win the Crowd: Play to Everyone’s Style”

  1. Abominable Egg says:

    In my group one of the players grew up on KOTOR, planescape torment and such the like; as a result any time the party is in a settlement he approaches everyone and asks them everything he can think of; sort of like he’s going through a dialogue tree. he wants to find every sidequest, as well as knowing what the NPCs ate for breakfast.

    The others just like to chop stuff and are constantly dragging the chatty one away to the next dungeon. When they do question NPCs their preferred method is torture. Luckily Mr Chatty does happen to really enjoy combat as well; so I find there’s a nice party dynamic where everyone lets Mr Chatty ramble on for 10-15 min before they drag him off.

    • Kilsek says:

      Welcome to Leonine Roar, Abominable Egg, and thanks for your comment!

      Ahh, Planescape: Torment is simply a classic! I remember the depth of dialogue, world detail, and story choices in it as well. Ahead of its time in many ways, and yet, true to the core of D&D – and Leonine Roar – as an elegant balance of game crunch and story/RP flavor. It was astounding how close Planescape: Torment got to an actual tabletop D&D experience, including how engrossed you got in the setting and its personalities.

      I think it’s awesome that you are lucky enough to have a player and playgroup like you do! It’s great that, at end of the day, everyone still sounds like they appreciate eachother and get along – and still really really sink their teeth into combat together.

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