I learned a lesson recently that I want to put down here in case it helps anyone else. It's a little long winded but as a DM I'm naturally a storyteller.
When I started dnd it was on a dry erase map with rocks and coins. We, as many groups do, slowly grew in experience and equipment.
I got a 3d printer to print our minis. I made hand made props. Burnt paper, hand written notes, and other props any prop department would be happy to have at their disposal.
I got coin bags and hundreds of pennies, and we handled transactions physically (which I loved).
I wanted to build our experience into something so immersive, it would be like walking into another realm when you entered the room.
Eventually, like many other DMs, I suffered some burnout. I loved the game but dreaded it at the same time. I couldn't figure out why. A big issue was my players enthusiasm. They said they enjoyed it. And when I asked if they wanted to stop they would always say no way. But I didn't see the joy. I didn't see them excited for the next session. I was at an impasse as a DM who spent hours every week prepping, for players who I felt weren't really there to have fun. I painted minis that wouldn't get a second look. The information on the hand drawn notes was read then the note forgotten. "Didn't they see the hour I spent on it! Dyed, burnt, roughed up!!!!1!"
Maybe they were there to just see my rugged handsomness? Unlikely. So I needed to figure out what the issue was. All of this combined with a problem player made me almost quit, but my players insisted they didn't want to stop.
This all changed by accident one day. I was using arkenforge as my map handler/second screen. It was laggy and slow and a general pain to move the player screen etc. So I wanted to find a new system for displaying my maps (even if I built them in arkenforge). I looked up the main dog roll 20, then in my searches I Heard of this program called Foundry VTT. After less than 5 minutes I was in love, but still planning on running a typical physical mini on a map campaign.
As I worked on porting my campaign over I saw the immense amount of things players can do when using the system themselves as players. If used that way it would allow so many of my dnd dreams to come true, but I didn't want to admit it to myself. I had spent so long making this physical world we played in. Eventually my group decided to try it out even if we liked using minis in the past. We even agreed to still use our physical dice (Because who doesn't like shouting at your dice and blaming them for everything?). We agreed to keep using physical coins for gold (who doesn't like throwing a handful of coin on the table when paying for something? My local gas station attendant doesn't count, trust me)
To shorten the story down a bit. The first session where we played with this new system was the happiest I have seen my players in a long time. They immediately gravitated to the in-app dice rolls (which are awesome with a mod), and the in-app gold, which makes things crazy convenient as a DM running merchant shops and looting.
When the session was over, they were giddy with excitement. The next day one of my players was talking about how they're excited for the next session. This player (my wife) never talked like that before. That's when I had the big epiphany.
My players wanted a completely different game than I did. I wanted to give them a tavern. A whole physical world to play in. Props and smells and lanterns and coin.
They wanted to play a boardgame with their friends.
The new system allows us much more freedom and storytelling in game but They were ok with losing the dice, coin, and more. While initially it made me a little sad, I realized that our two different wants was what was causing the issues at the table. I finally have players telling me how they're excited for the next session. And that is worth my nerdy ass not getting every little detail I can.
I'm not saying switch to Foundry. Or even to playing on screens. But if your game is missing something, maybe take a moment a step back, and see if you want something completely different than what your players do. I hope my story has inspired my fellow DMs a little at least! Thanks for reading.
TLDR: I wanted a prop filled immersive experience, my players wanted to play a boardgame with their friends. Figuring this out has made my players so much happier.
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More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "Your players might want a different game than you- You might need to change how you play D&D" specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
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