Content of the article: "Why you should meet your players halfway on WEIRD character concepts!"
TL;DR Meeting players halfway when they come to the table with an idea that YOU think is a little strange, is often the best strategy. Do it!
Story Time: I'm not a veteran grognard, but I've been running games for a while. Last Fall I started running a 5E campaign I called the "Haunted Hexcrawl". A hexcrawl campaign in a haunted gothic land, a points of light setting where as many places are ruined as lived-in by people. I don't run hyper serious games but I expected it to have darker tones…vampires, werewolves, an undead curse over the land ala Dark Souls. Heavily inspired by the short stories of the writer Clark Ashton Smith.
Three players at the table were new, and one (who has played plenty of 5E before) told me about his character. He told me he wanted to play a clown. A half-elf bard, sure, but a sad circus clown. I will admit I was heavily skeptical of this (especially from someone I had just started playing with). However I followed my DM maxims over my initial judgement and said: "meet me halfway in terms of what I want the tone of the campaign to be, and sure".
I have the OPPOSITE of regrets about that decision. Ralph the Sad Clown has quickly found a place in my heart, and after I gave that initial caveat I never actually had a talk with that player about his clown distracting or disrupting the flow of the game. It's great, it just works. The Pagliacci-turned-Bard is adventuring because he feels obligated to follow around the Barbarian, and the player plays him as a reluctant hero. He just wants to open a pie shop, for Gods' sake, not go out and play the accordion in the middle of combat. Yet he must, and he does a damn good job inspiring his party members.
He just wants to live a simple life; and recently in our game, the character has seen some growth. The players have to deal with a Great Old One villain, and they went and found a magical book to help them fight the Cthulu monsters threatening the world. They gave the book with the power to destroy or to unleash Tsathoggua to the clown, and attunement to the book permanently turned his eyes black. That change prompted him to get a glassblower NPC to make him rose-tinted glasses, and after witnessing a mass combat (i.e. the horrors of war) the player described throwing away his red and white paints in the underbrush.
Now another player has retired his barbarian character (the one the bard feels compelled to follow around) and so the bard is coming into his own. Our campaign has a lot of crazy bombastic stuff going on; The Hand and the Eye of Vecna, pacts with a Ghoul King, dragons friendly and foe, priests trying to unleash the Old One Tsathoggua, and the sad clown has still come out ahead as a PC of real note.
As a DM, meet your players halfway when they try to introduce a concept you think is weird, or maybe not the right fit. Having to have a difficult conversation (if this player had run his bard as a disruptive jokester, perhaps) is way less or a deterrent than missing out on good role playing. Seriously. As a player, don't be afraid to ask a DM if your weird concept can work in their world, or in their adventure path, to have a fun time at the (Virtual) table.
- I’m a very light on rules DM trying to DM for a DM that’s very stuck into the rules. What do I do?
- Need help figuring out how to deal with a player who constantly does the same thing over and over again.
- Consider having a side campaign
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