By Kenyon Stronski
I’ve been playing a lot of Dungeons and Dragons again, both as a Dungeon Master and a player, and it’s got me thinking of the small differences each person tells a story.
I have a multitude of different players in my campaign, some like the combat aspect better and won’t talk much in a roleplay aspect while others want to dig every small detail out of my NPC’s (Non-Player Characters) as they can. From the beginning of this now two-year-long campaign, I stressed I wanted characters that had a thought-out backstory and weren’t just placed into the world so we could tell a story. This has led to some interesting interactions and a hope that those who I play with feel more invested into their own characters.
This has its bonuses for me, too, because I don’t have to shoulder the entire burden of telling a story with them simply in tow. The story is told equally by us all, and it’s been really refreshing as a Dungeon Master to sometimes just sit back as the players talk amongst themselves; whether they’re strategizing an objective or simply chatting while they have some downtime. I think it’s led the world to feel slightly more alive and lived-in even for me, as when you have everyone contributing to the narrative, your players and their characters meld in along with those you yourself have created.
This kind of storytelling is unique in a way that I can’t fully explain. If I were to write a book, the entirety of the plot and characters is made by me, adjusted by me and, ultimately, I decide everything. When it comes to collaborative storytelling, Dungeons and Dragons specifically, I don’t make all those decisions. If someone wants to walk into a store that I haven’t planned, I have to think up on the fly what that shop offers, who the owners or patrons are, and their place in the world. In a few short moments, a simple walk into a shop can turn into an entirely new, unplanned storyline that I could have never imagined myself, but my players could.
There are a lot of different ways you can Dungeon Master a story in Dungeons and Dragons, but I think I’ll be sticking to this formula from here on out. I’ve never had more engaged players, funny moments, and a strong atmosphere in any other experience before — and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’re a Dungeon Master or aspiring to be one, I’d advise trying to follow this formula. I know there’s fun in picking up an already pre-made story or creating one yourself, and there are some players who enjoy that style too, but, if you have a group that’s open to it, who knows, you might be playing the same for years in the future.