Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games need everybody on board and working together to make a campaign work. Of course, everyone at a D&D table wants to have a good time and tell a good story, but that doesn’t mean things will always go to plan.
Campaigns can run into problems and even fall apart. Sometimes this is the fault of one specific person, but it can often be a more general issue. Mismatched expectations, miscommunication, or things falling apart in the execution can make things unfun for players and the DM. It doesn’t have to be the end of the campaign, however. Some things can right a struggling campaign.
10/10 Talk To A Player Who Is Causing Problems
Not all dysfunctional D&D campaigns are that way because of a group issue. Sometimes there is just one person whose behavior is detrimental to the game. It may not be intentional. Some players go in just looking to have fun like everyone else, but end up overstepping the mark.
One player hogging the spotlight, micromanaging other players during gameplay, or unintentionally going into territory others aren’t comfortable with, can bring the mood down for everyone. However, communicating with that player and explaining the situation can have great results. Most players are more than willing to change if they realize others aren’t having fun.
9/10 Take A Brief Hiatus
Sometimes the issue is just overdoing things. D&D is a mentally strenuous exercise. Players have to inhabit another role, DMs have to take charge of the rules and the game world, and everyone has to work together to tell a compelling story. Sometimes the problem isn’t behavior or attitude, but stress and burnout.
A short break can do wonders if a D&D campaign is starting to flounder. It gives the DM time to reorient themselves, take things at a gentler pace, and give players some breathing room. After a couple of weeks of playing another adventure, system, or game, the group might return to peak performance.
8/10 Dispose Of An Underwhelming Villain
It isn’t always real-world concerns that drag a campaign down. Sometimes an idea seems great in the DM’s head but underwhelms in practice. This is particularly notable with overarching antagonists. A D&D campaign’s major villain should be impressive, a genuine threat, and fun to oppose. It’s easy to fall short by accident.
Perhaps the villain underperforms in combat and doesn’t intimidate the players. Their motives for villainy may be unimpressive or even laughable in the context of the game. Whatever the reason, it can give a floundering campaign a change of pace to get rid of a disappointing villain and put something better in its place.
7/10 Change The Focus Of A Group’s Activities
There are several aspects to D&D. Adventures can involve exploration, combat, dungeoneering, intrigue, social interaction, and many more. Naturally, different players have their preferences, and groups tend to gravitate towards a few aspects of gameplay.
If a D&D campaign isn’t working, it can be that it needs to focus on something else. Perhaps the group prefers social interaction and struggles in a combat-heavy campaign. A campaign might have focused on intrigue for too long, and a few dungeon-crawling adventures would provide a welcome change of pace.
6/10 Remove A Problem Player
Some specific problems can go too far for a group. If a player consistently causes problems, refuses to listen when people try and talk to them, or acts out of outright malice, it can be beyond the pale. If one player deliberately spoils the experience for others, they might need to leave the table.
It’s never an enjoyable experience to ask somebody to leave, particularly if they’re a friend outside the game. However, if they bring the game down and refuse to change, it might be the only way to save the campaign. Most players should avoid doing this on their own. Instead, they should talk to the table and make sure everyone is having similar problems first.
5/10 Use Some Adventures From A Book Or Online
A DM isn’t on their own when it comes to D&D content. There are countless premade adventures and campaigns for tables to play through. The most iconic of these are D&D Fifth Edition‘s many premade campaign modules, but there are also anthologies and individual adventures.
Premade adventures aren’t always perfect. However, many of them guarantee a baseline of quality. They can help DMs in areas of adventure design they struggle with, and give a good example for later. They also ease up on a DM’s planning time, letting them devote their time to other parts of the game.
4/10 Let Players Guide The Next Plot Developments
Dungeons & Dragons is a collaborative experience. The entire table works together to tell a story. However, the DM has a larger storytelling responsibility than most other players. They create the rest of the world and control the vast majority of its inhabitants. The DM decides the threats, the outcome of events, and other things that shape the story.
Some DMs overstep the mark to the point of railroading their players through a short story. If a group wants more control, this can cause problems. Letting the players and their characters take a more active role in guiding the story can fix this. Even if a DM isn’t railroading, letting players shape events more can free them up to work on other problems.
3/10 Simply Talk To The Table
Dungeons & Dragons is a game about communication. When it hits a problem, sometimes communication is all players need to fix it. Not all issues are due to specific players or the DM. Sometimes it’s just an overall issue with the group that isn’t anybody’s fault.
If the party and DM have different expectations from the game, or if some players aren’t happy with the direction things have gone, these problems can be resolved by talking. Sometimes a conversation can get the table back on track.
2/10 Introduce A New Plot Complication
Sometimes a D&D campaign can stall simply because the current storyline isn’t as interesting as envisioned or because the players can’t find a way to progress through their current predicament. If things hit a standstill or fail to capture players’ attention, it can lead to players being disinterested and lower the mood.
Just throwing in a new plot twist can be all necessary to liven things up. This is actually a semi-serious writing suggestion, known as Chandler’s Law, to throw a gunman into a stagnating plot. A new character or development, or even something as simple as an explosion somewhere, can get things moving again.
1/10 Go Over The Rules Again
D&D is a game about imagination or freedom, but it still uses rules to keep things fair and guide players through the game. These rules can get complicated, and keeping them all in mind can be difficult. However, frequent rule mistakes – from a player or a DM – can slow the game down and frustrate other players.
If everyone keeps themselves familiar with the rules they need to play, it can make the game faster and more enjoyable for anyone. A rules refresher can also fix other issues. For example, if one player or ability seems unfairly overpowered to the point of dominating the game, this can often be due to a rule mistake that can be caught in a re-read.
NEXT: 10 D&D Rules Nobody Realizes They Are Breaking