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Ask Players to Describe New Character Abilities

by Mike on 7 August 2023

Each time characters level up, ask players to describe their characters' new abilities.

One way to make our games great is to regularly talk to our players. I've written before about the value of talking to your players, running a session zero, using pause for a minute, and setting up campfire tales.

Another way to keep our players engaged in the game is to ask them what new abilities their characters picked up when they leveled up.

Like many of the best lazy dungeon master tricks, this idea offers many benefits.

Learn About and Showcase New Character Abilities

Players get excited by their new abilities and want to see them work. When they describe them to you, now you know what they're looking forward to and can build encounters to showcase those new abilities. Write down these skills and spells so you can consider them during your first step, "review the characters", from Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master. How can you give them a chance to use those cool new things they got?

Other Players Learn About those New Abilities

Players often focus on their own characters but they'll listen as other players describe their new abilities. They may come up with fun ways to work together. They might better spread their abilities around if it looks like they're aiming for the same feature or spell. Letting the whole group discuss their new abilities brings them closer together.

You can Audit Character Abilities

This one's a bit of a negative but hearing players talk about their options makes sure everyone understands them. If you're playing with a limited set of sources (a great way to focus a campaign), this review gives you a chance to ensure players choose abilities from the sources selected for the campaign. If you're using new character options from 5e publishers outside of Wizards of the Coast, both you and your players may be unfamiliar with these abilities and you can learn about them together.

You Hear from your Players

Anytime we ask questions like this, we get feedback from our players about the things they're enjoying and maybe the things they're not enjoying. Any chance we have to hear from our players often gives us information we can use to make our game better. This discussion about new abilities is just one opportunity for more dialogue.

Keeping Communication Open

Communication with our players is critical to making our games fun session after session. Each time your characters level up, ask them to describe their new abilities. They'll enjoy talking about them. Other players will enjoy hearing about them. And you'll get brand new ideas on how to make your game even more fun.

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This week I posted a couple of YouTube videos on Experiences Running a Shadowdark RPG 0-Level Gauntlet and Scarlet Citadel Session 31 – Lazy GM Prep.

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Each week I record an episode of the Lazy RPG Talk Show (also available as a podcast) in which I talk about all things in tabletop RPGs. Here are last week's topics with time stamped links to the YouTube video:

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