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In Game Solutions To OOC Problems

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Loot DistributionPlayer Death
No HealersInventory Management
 

D&D is ultimately a social improvisation game, both in combat to improvise clever solutions to goblin-related problems, or in roleplay by interacting with each other and building narratives together. This also comes with its own sets of problems, when everyone is bringing their own expectations and ideas to the table, they will inevitably conflict. This can result as a cool dramatic moment that resolves in game with an interesting narrative, or a bad dramatic situation between players that ends up tearing the game apart.

Disclaimer: you should always always communicate with your friends at the D&D table to work out disputes and set expectations BEFORE things become problems. I also think game designers can contribute in both positive and negative ways to these social dynamics. In the way a bad mechanic can make conflicts with the people you play with more likely (see: every MOBA), a good mechanic can make them less likely. With that in mind, here are some house rules and mechanics you can adopt to alleviate or nullify some social tensions while at the table.

Loot distribution, selling, and player theft

Is loot distribution a problem at your table? Maybe it takes too long, people argue over who will carry what, or the party's shadowy misanthrope frequently misleads the others about the total monetary amount.

Baby Mimic
(Picture by CecilieQ)

Consider instead the baby mimic. This is a party pet / mascot that is friendly and sticks around with the group as they adventure, hiding whenever combat starts, and sating its voracious appetite once combat has concluded. See, this is a mimic that loves to eat valuable things: coins, gems, artwork, anything that merchants would pay a high price for. The moment treasure is discovered the tiny mimic springs loose and ravenously devours the tasty treats, with only a little burp at the end. It can sense treasure naturally, and will not let the players keep it away from its prize.

This mimic does also have a useful function that makes itself clear a few hours later once the party has cleared the dungeon and are resting around the campfire. Once everyone is present and settled in, it will begin to rumble and belch, before puking up an equivalent amount of gold pieces for all the treasure it just ate, right in front of everyone. The party then distributes their share amongst themselves without having to do so between every encounter or without everyone present.

The benefit of this pet is two-fold: you don't have to spend time in the dungeon or in other time-sensitive situations figuring out all the loot and who gets what, and it presents less of a chance for the more kleptomaniac (or “chaotic/neutral”) players to steal from the party. There are variations you can put on the mimic as well depending on your needs, it could wait until they return to town and buy supplies to puke, or it could only sense treasure that someone in the party is aware of. To ensure it doesn't go on a rampage in every town it should be very shy and fearful of humanoids and only trust the party. After all, humanoids are the ones always coming into their home, opening up their mouths, then freaking out and killing them.

Player death

You Died

Players can get really attached to their characters, really really attached. Really really pay-hundreds-for-art-and-custom-minis-and-write-short-stories-about-them attached. In a game world as dynamic and dangerous as delving dungeons and defeating dragons can be, character death can be an inevitable or accidental occurrence. Sometimes that's good, sometimes that's bad. I leave that up to your discretion on a case by case, but since there are rules for permadeath here's some for not-quite-permanent death that is still unpleasant enough to make combat still exciting and scary.

On death, your character's soul is sent to the appropriate plane. Good characters could end up in Bytopia, while less-good characters could end up in the Abyss. If your character is a warlock or otherwise bound to a powerful deity, their soul is pulled into that being's plane instead. There they discover something is very wrong, perhaps the warlock's patron tortures them, or their soul is fractured, or the plane is being invaded by a rival. Either way, after a brief tour of how bad things are their soul is launched back to their body if not resurrected in a timely manner.

The experience changes and scars the character, give them a long-term or indefinite madness from page 260 of the DMG. In the case of an indefinite madness, the only cure is resolving some part of the trauma either with themselves or their deity. The important thing is to have the change enough that they're forced to play a “new” personality for a while like they would if they rolled up a new character, even if that character would have been something like “this is my old character's twin brother who is also a monk.” Just this time, he has a hard time taking things seriously, or is an alcoholic.

This allows you to temporarily go through the process of rerolling, but instead it's added on to the existing character and helps continue their arc and marks an interesting turning point in their story rather than starting over. It's really important that the experience by very unpleasant and create more problems for the character, so that it still feels like a loss. This also creates additional plots and quests for the campaign, and will eventually culminate in a win for the players when they eventually deal with it. This also allows them to earn their original character "back" by eventually curing their madness.

Lack of healers

Healers

Maybe you have a lack of healers, or perhaps there are a couple members whose class says “healer” all over it, but they just want to bash and cast spells like it's some sort of game played for fun while you sit there wounded with a lack of tender boo-boo kisses.

This is where the Soul Bond Stone comes in. It's a magical stone that bonds itself to each member of the party, and if someone holding the stone spends a minute concentrating, they're able to channel some of their life force from themselves into another person bonded to the stone. Mechanically, if you spend a minute channeling you can transfer some of your HP into another member of your party. This turns HP into more of a party resource that's shared without having to quit and go home once a member goes down.

There are some additional variations you can make depending on how precious of a resource you want HP to be. You could change the HP lost and gained be equal to “blocks,” so the stone will always take half of your current HP and transfer it to another. The transfer could be less efficient, so 10 of your HP only heals 5 of theirs so the barbarian doesn't become a health sponge for the wizard (isn't that what the barbarian is anyway?). Additionally, if you want to turn someone into the designated “healer” you could have using the stone only cost an action so it can be used in combat.

Inventory management

Inventory Management

Do you ignore the encumbrance rules or maybe quickly give the party a bag of holding so it no longer becomes an issue? While some (many) players will opt to not have any inventory management at all, D&D is often a game about resource management and making sure you don't overload yourself can be a fun resource to manage.

Instead of worrying about math and numbers, you can break the whole thing down into slots instead. I know there are some variant rules about slots already, but they're often just as complicated as the base rules. Here's a super simple one that still mostly works out:

  • You have a number of slots equal to your strength + modifier combined, so 14 strength has 16 slots (14+2) and 9 strength has 8 slots (9-1)
  • Most small items: adventuring gear, potions, light weapons, thrown weapons, and scrolls are half a slot.
  • All other weapons, light armor, big items (ladders, picks, ropes), and all misc magical and wondrous items are 1 slot.
  • Medium armor is 2 slots (1x2), and heavy armor, scale, and plate is 4 slots (2x2).
  • If an item is “stackable” (rations, torches, pitons) each stack is half a slot, and a stack is normally hold 10. Ammunition is per stack of 20.
  • Clothing, backpacks, and pouches don't cost any slots but don't add any additional slots either, they're just for organizing.
  • Coins also don't take up any slots, but if you really want to be miserly about it you can have coins be stackable items that stack in groups of 100.

This is pretty easy to memorize so there's no table or rule referencing while playing, and you can even take it a step further by creating props. Cut out some 1 inch by 1 inch squares of paper that players can write their items on. Make sure to also cut out some ½ inch by 1 inch, 2 inch by 1 inch, and 2 inch by 2 inch squares for the different slot sizes. Then on their character sheet your players can draw a grid of boxes equal to their Strength+Modifier score. They can then place their item squares into the boxes and easily keep track of their encumbrance. They can also just fill in the squares with pencil and eraser to keep track if they prefer.

There's a lot more tools, generators, and articles to make running your game and playing your character easier in the D&D section

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