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Optimizing Towards Fun

by Mike on 18 April 2022

I got an email from Tatum V. who mentioned that, as their group changes a few players, they're looking to experiment by running published adventures and other RPGs instead of homebrew D&D games. They asked if I had any advice and I offered some thoughts I thought I'd share with you as well.

Focus On the Fun of Your Game

You don't owe RPGs anything except providing a good time for you and your players when you run your games. All your prep, all of your tools, all of your stories, all of your systems; all of that can focus on one thing — running a fun game.

You don't owe your tools anything. You don't owe any steps of your preparation anything. If you don't want to try other systems, you don't have to. You may learn a lot by trying out other systems but not at the cost of having a good time. I certainly wouldn't run a published adventure as-is at the cost of a good time. Bend everything towards the fun of your game.

There's great value in trying out new things when we run our games. We can learn from everywhere and everything. We can learn a lot running other systems and other adventures for other groups of players. We all learn a lot talking to one another and sharing our ideas and experiences. But should we try things out at the expense of the fun of our group?

Last year I ran a published adventure because it was popular and I wanted to help other DMs run it well. I got caught up in the hype. It was a mistake. I wasn't happy with the adventure as soon as I'd started reading it and struggled for a year to run it. We had a good time but it wasn't my best. There are other less-hyped campaign adventures I like better in reading them and I missed opportunities to run them.

How do we know what's fun? Do you like the thing you're reading? That's a good start. If you aren't digging the system or the campaign world or the adventure you have in hand, give it a pass. Just because everyone else likes something doesn't mean you have to run it. You and your friends get to decide what you want to do, independent of everyone else in the world. Talk to your friends. See what they're interested in — or really not interested in. As the GM, you have 51% of the vote, though. If you don't like it, you don't have to run it. But it's always worth making sure the rest of your friends like the thing you do.

Aiming towards the fun goes deeper than a system or campaign setting too. If you're running a campaign or adventure, you have full rights and authorities to change anything you don't dig for something that you do. Change out that dungeon for another one. Switch that map for one that grabs you. Replace NPCs with those near and dear to your heart and, especially, the heart of your players.

Nothing published is sacred. No time is more valuable than the time we have with our friends and loved ones creating fantastic stories at our table. No book, no tool, no system, nothing else deserves more attention than those times. Focus on the fun times you share with them in these fantastic worlds of ours. That's your priority.

Last Week's Lazy D&D Talk Show Topics

Each week I record an episode of the Lazy D&D Talk Show in which I talk about all things D&D. Here are last week's topics with timestamped links to the YouTube video:

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