Be A Better DM: Understanding The 4 Types Of DnD Players
Let me start this piece by saying that this article can apply to way more than just Dungeons and Dragons players. While I am most experienced with DnD players, these lessons would be as true in Faerun as they would be in Star Wars or Cyberpunk. One of the keys to being an effective Dungeon Master is to understand what kinds of players you have and, more importantly, what inspires them.
I’ll start off with the Storyteller because it’s the one nearest and dearest to my heart. Why? Because that’s the kind of player I am. The storyteller is driven by their ability to affect what is going on in the campaign and helping to craft their character’s narrative as part of the world.
Many storytellers aren’t likely to be impressed with finding a +2 Warhammer, but they will be impressed with finding a ‘legendary warhammer that imbues the spirit of a hero in the player.’ Those two items may be one and the same, but understanding what kind of player you have is the difference between getting them excited, or them forgetting they found it.
No matter what kind of roleplaying game you’re in, the storyteller is going to be there. Fortunately, they’re easy to spot. If one of your players reaches out to you a week before the campaign is set to start asking to talk about their character’s motivation, congratulations, you found the storyteller.
Likes: Lore about items, character arcs, and satisfying conclusion to their character’s story.
Dislikes: Getting just gold as a reward, not having elements of the story that deal directly with the individual characters.
The Good Listener
Many people who think of role-playing games think this is what being a player is. Sitting around the table while the DM tells you a story, and occasionally rolling dice. And for The Good Listener, that is exactly the appeal! Not everyone wants the pressure of creating a story or an arc for their character.
The Good Listener enjoys participating in the story that the DM and the rest of the group are creating. They’ll frequently end up playing the “group mom”. They make sure that everyone is safe, having a good time, and just enjoy watching the band of adventurers around them blossom into the heroes they were meant to be.
Most campaigns have a group mom, and they usually end up being the party’s sounding board or the conscience of the group. I love having The Good Listener in the group because you can always be assured there’s an audience for your character’s growth. Selfish? Absolutely.
Likes: Character growth in the party, seeing the party succeed.
Dislikes: Party deaths, having to make decisions for the party.
The Stat Monkey
You will never see a better or more organized character sheet than that of The Stat Monkey. The Stat Monkey is driven by one thing: big, pretty numbers. Session zero is a big day for the Stat Monkey, as it’s their session to work on mix-maxing their characters.
In many ways the reverse of the Storyteller, the Stat Monkey is going to be far more excited about the fact that the magic warhammer gives them the +2 to damage and attack rolls. They’re most at home in combat, where pure numbers can shine through. Players around the table are likely to be stunned by the amount of damage they can churn out.
Stat Monkeys can often be diametrically opposed with Storytellers. The Storyteller can frequently find themselves feeling useless in combat as their lore-driven stats pale in comparison. As a DM, make sure to keep the game balanced around the players in your party.
Likes: Shiny loot drops, critical hits, character creation.
Dislikes: Long sessions with no rolls, lore puzzles.
The Agent of Chaos
I sometimes wonder what Wizards of the Coast think about some of the things that happen in D&D games. I mean, to be clear, they think “who cares, we’re making a fortune off this.”. The Agent of Chaos will make any campaign an interesting, if not frustrating, experience.
The Agent of Chaos lives not for the lore, nor for the stats. They exist only for how they can shake things up. To be clear, this is not to say they only want to derail the campaign. You can shake things up and change the game without completely ruining the campaign.
The Agent of Chaos is likely to cast a spell, launch an attack, or just say something completely out of the blue. If you have the Agent of Chaos in your party, be prepared to be thrown a curveball every now and then. They may, when told they’re facing a Werewolf Alpha, say “Major illusion: I create a bigger, scarier werewolf to try and frighten it.”. Yes, that happened in one of my campaigns.
Likes: Turning the campaign on its ear, making the party laugh, making the DM cry.
Dislikes: Being told ‘no’, consequences.
And it’s important to remember…
That every person is some combination of these four types of players. No one is purely just one of them. Understanding what types of players each of the members of your group is will make for a more enjoyable session for everyone involved. If the majority of your group are storytellers, try and talk to your players outside of the session to see what they want to do with their characters.
If they all happen to be stat monkeys, you’d best be planning out some epic encounters with some, even more, epic loot. And if you have a player who is both a stat monkey and a storyteller, well… be prepared to spend a lot of time with them. Overall, just learn what motivates your players and you’ll be on your way to being a better DM.
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Image courtesy of Wizards of the Coast