Content of the article: "Struggling with a group of players with very diverse wants and seeking advice."
Greetings! Will provide a tl;dr at the bottom if that’s more your speed.
So, to get right into it, I’m currently DMing for a group of 4 in a homebrew adventure that branched off from the Frozen Sick adventure in Wildemount. The players are currently 5th level and the party consists of two Warlocks, a Sorcerer, and a Paladin who leans more into Dex. Off the bat I’ve been struggling to keep combat interesting due to the very fine line between “the party walks over every enemy with spells” and “the enemy got within melee range, it multi-attacks you to death in one swing” that this composition seems to have. I’ll get better at that part with time though, I’m mainly here for a different matter.
Among the four players, there is a great variety of wants from the game, and I worry with each passing week that I’m incapable of providing everyone what they want.
One of my players is very big into the roleplay aspect of things, often taking the lead when engaging with NPCs and carrying most conversations. At the same time, this is the player who wants his character to be as mechanically useful as possible. He might not take the “meta” options, but he chooses what he wants to do and becomes as versed in that one area as he can be.
Another is just kind of along for the ride, and simply exclaims to be happy playing D&D. His character often does the unexpected, and the player definitely enjoys doing things not considered the norm to achieve his goals. He keeps me on my toes throughout the session.
The other two players are polar opposites in their wants, and where most of my issue comes in.
One is someone who is very excited to have their character be a part of a great story. Of course they’re along for the combat and the dungeons, but what they really want is for their character to accomplish something and experience growth, the way characters in fantasy novels do (they’re a big fan of the Wheel of Time series, so think along that line). This player in particular is also using D&D as somewhat of an escape from their depression, which I personally know to be quite severe. The escape works most of the time, but one side effect that this brings with it is a very large aversion to character death. Whenever they go down in combat, whenever their allies are at risk of the same, or even when combat seems to be going slightly south, they start to panic and worry. I have admittedly fudged my fair share of dice to ensure that the enjoyment of the table doesn’t go south due to too much stress, but this is directly at odds with my last player.
The fourth player enjoys combat more than the other pillars, and brings a want for drama and excitement to the table. While I try to provide combats for him, there are times where he simply gets bored with what’s going on and decides to up the ante a bit. During talks with a villain where things might be able to be solved diplomatically, he’ll take the opportunity to make a surprise attack and suck the party into a very avoidable combat. He has admitted that he prefers the world where adventurers are in danger more often than not, and that when I make most NPCs or even villains willing to talk about something, it drains the fun out of it for him and he can become disinterested. I can understand that, but I fear that the more I provide these dangerous environments and antagonistic NPCs, the greater stress gets placed on the player who isn’t as interested in the risk of death twice a session.
I know a large part of D&D is feeling like something is at stake, otherwise it’s easy to become jaded and not care about risk-taking because the DM is protecting you. So my question is as follows I suppose:
How do I balance the fun being had at a table between a player using D&D as an escape from depression and very much doesn’t want to die, and a player who gets the most enjoyment out of the game when there is constant drama, combat, and risk of death?
Tl;dr – See above question.
Thanks much in advance for your time, and sorry if this got rambly.
- Afraid to kill PCs…
- Seeking help with non-combat encounter ideas for robbing a creature’s nest
- Players expecting every risk to have proportional reward?
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