I have long said “everyone has a favorite type of chocolate” as a metaphor for the idea that everyone has unique tastes in hobbies. Mike Mearls makes reference to this concept in his most recent Legends and Lore column, “Evolution and D&D”.
All Gaming Is Local
With all that in mind, I believe that there is no one, true way to play D&D. The game might change to accommodate different styles and new tastes or preferences, but at the end of the day the “right” way to play the game depends on you and your group. Do you like building characters, or would you rather just get to the action? What makes you the most excited, a tough fight or a funny roleplaying scene? We all have our preferences. We might all play D&D, but the ways in which we play or want to play are not necessarily compatible. It’s a big issues facing R&D, as edition wars clearly illustrate.
The video he references is especially good:
I agree with Gladwell that the consumers – in this case our players – will almost never be honest with us about what they really want because what their desires are obfuscated by other people’s expectations.
- When asked, nearly every gamer says something about wanting to roleplay, despite that term being more than a little nebulous. My experience is that few gamers enjoy actually roleplaying out dialogue. Not very many people are skilled at improvisation and only a small percentage of those players consider it a form of play.
- They will downplay their enjoyment of overpowering an encounter, despite clear evidence to the contrary. This is an area where I do my best to be clear with my players: I serve a specific flavor of chocolate. I try to make every encounter, even the low-budget ones, memorable and challenging. I personally have a fairly low tolerance for steamrolling an encounter, especially one that centers around a named nemesis.
- They will say that they want realism, when they want nothing of the sort. To be more precise, they would prefer that the NPCs conform to the normal, but expect that their crazy ideas will work. Another area where this comes up is the attitudes of NPCs, especially where the NPC could reasonably be expected to not think much of the characters. Players will tell you that they’re okay with being considered insignificant or stupid, but most of them actually resent the idea.
- Running from a fight is another huge issue. Again, they will tell you that they realize that this will happen from time to time, but that’s almost always a giant lie. The same goes for character death.
Now, none of this means that we as GMs should stop listening to our players, but we need to always be mindful that their real desires may not always jibe with the things they tell us. One of the things I realized a long time ago was that, when the players are having fun, I’m having a good time too. There’s a metagame there of learning to make “community chocolate,” crafting an experience that’s for everyone’s benefit. It can be hard to do when we all have such distinct feelings about what fun is, but it’s definitely worth it.