Content of the article: "Session 0: Don’t Tell Me WHAT You Are. Tell Me *WHO* You Are."
As a DM, the most frustating thing for me is the inability to find a game where players actually play something resembling a character in a story, rather than playing a version of themselves packed into whatever race & class they choose.
When I open the Players Handbook, "Personality & Backgrounds" almost seems to be an afterthought of the the game designers, since they place it all the way back on page 121 (Chapter 4: Personality & Backgrounds) – behind Chapter 2: Races and Chapter 3: Classes. Maybe that's the problem right there.
What's that? You're playing a Drow Elf Rogue? That's WHAT you are. What I want to know is who you are – so we can play in a story, and not some mathmatical exercise involving dice with modifiers based on your height and the shape of your ears in the game.
I've run games for multiple groups, and I have yet to find one that plays characters in such a way that makes for a compelling story. My next Session 0, I intend to gently shut down any player who leads with race/class when character concepts are discussed. As politely as I can, I basically plan to say "Yeah okay fine. That's WHAT you are. But who are you?" and keep them focused on that aspect alone until I have something from each character to work with from a narrative standpoint.
Fellow DMs: Is this approach too harsh?
Players: Would this approach turn you off?
I've been DMing regularly for a couple of years now. My goal has always been to play a story, but I always end up just officiating combats for soulless avatars. I'm getting a bit frustrated.
I'd love your input.
Hey all: a couple things. This is me privately frustrated with how the different groups I run games for give almost no attention to anything other than the mathmatical elements of the games. How I'm venting here is not how I intend to address my players in the Session 0. I thought that was clear when I discussed "gently" and "politely" broaching the subject, but I guess I should have been more clear.
THIS IS NOT AN ATTACK ON YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL BECAUSE YOU LIKE THE MECHANICAL ASPECT OF THE GAMES. I'm simply frustrated that character development is uniformly ignored in the groups I play with, and I'm looking for ways to get a little more out of what I want from the game too. DMing is a lot of work, am I right? DM folk should get some fun out of this too, right? Or am I wrong there as well?
Also: Ethnicity and culture are not the same things as race in D&D. One lends characteristics. The other provides mechanical bonuses. I'd LOVE it if my players would lean into their character's ethnicity, as it would touch elements of the game I'm trying to encourage.
- Just got done with my 12th playthrough. It still cuts me to the core every time.
- Consider having a side campaign
- Exhausted DM unsure to continue a long-term campaign
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