Give the Players What They Want

Recently I DMed a couple of sessions, one for a group of kids and another for adults, where I did something I’d never rally done before. It’s a little thing but I thought I’d share as I think this is generally good advice for any group.

The advice is simply: ask the players what they want. Or more accurately, ask them what their character wants.

Just Ask

Ask the players what items and equipment their character wants. This could be a short wishlist of armor, weapons, gear and magic items or some personal objective or goals they wish to achieve. Some players may be upfront with what they want (like my daughter who made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that she would quit the game if she’d not get a baby stegosaurus). But other players may not be so forthcoming.

I play with a lot of kids and newer players that may not haven taken the time to think about what their character wants. A new player may not realize that they are not stuck with the equipment they gained during character creation. By asking the question, you gain insight into the character and can better craft the campaign for them. But it also gives the player a chance to stop and think about what they want.

You can either ask your players either in character or out of character. I’ll give an example of how I did it one way in a game I run for kids, and another way I did it for a group of adults.

Ask Out of Character

I run a game for my daughter, a couple of her friends, my wife, and the other kid’s mom. Due to the other kids moving and other out of game life things, we had taken a bit of a break, and have only played a handful of sessions since resuming. I was planing on giving a certain player an opportunity to obtain a magic item, as the other kids had previously received some when he had not. Before the break, he had been playing his paladin more or less like a barbarian – running in and hitting things with his great axe. This kid also plays a cleric in a school club group. Since returning he had been playing the paladin more like a cleric focusing on his spells.

I was trying to figure out what item I could give him that would feel like a reward and would also be useful to him. So at the start of a recent session I asked him if his character would rather at some point obtain better/magical armor, a weapon, or a magic item to improve his spell casting. He responded that he would like armor that improves his speed and mobility. This is awesome feedback as that was not something I had even thought of for him.

I then went on to ask each character what their character’s wish list was. This lead to a great conversation about their individual character goals. Things they each would like to accomplish and magic items or powers they would like to have. I explained that I will try to find ways to give each character a chance to shine in the story and obtain cool items, but they may not come all at once. In once session one character may get something and then a session or two later another would. They will all get a chance and should help each other obtain their goals.

Ask In Character

In another game, I DM for a group of adults. The party was recently helping a town prepare for an imminent attack by cultists. The captain of the guard led them to the armory where he said they could each select an item or two to arm themselves as they prepare to defend the town.

I then asked the players what armor and weapons their character was looking for. If the request was reasonable, sure enough it was there. They are still pretty low level, so this was nothing major but it gave them a chance to upgrade from leather armor to studded leather, grab a weapon they wanted but didn’t start with. And hidden in the corners were a few low level magic items.

One character had been struggling in previous sessions to be stealthy with the rest of the party. He is a paladin in a party with two druids and two rogues. He had switched from chain mail to leather armor in an attempt to be stealthy. But this meant a pretty drastic decrease in armor class. The party had pretty quickly run into trouble and the reduced AC really hurt.

So in the armory I presented them with a choice: there was a full set or plate armor, which would be a pretty good boost in AC, but there was also a set of Mithreal Chain Mail, which would be the same AC as what they had but without the disadvantage on stealth. They chose the Mithreal which gives me pretty good insight into what the character values and how they wish to play their character. I’ll try to reward this by working the Mithreal armor into how I describe successful stealth checks in future session

These examples illustrate two different ways to ask the players what the characters want. In both cases I learned things about how the players envision their characters and this will help me in crafting encounters that will be entertaining for the players and provide the characters with opportunities to express their vision and achieve their goals.

Published by Brandon Hansen

Hi, I’m Brandon. I enjoy playing D&D and being a dad. Not necessarily in that order. Prestidaditation is a place where I talk about the intersection of these two passions.

3 thoughts on “Give the Players What They Want

  1. Hey this was a really cool lil blog post. And I really like how it looks. All polished and everything.

    Good ways to ask what players want for their characters as I often find that they do things that I hadn’t even considdered


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