Friday Favourite: 8 Ways to Get Out of a Gaming Slump and Make Your Game More Exciting

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 26, 2013

On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From March 2, 2012, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: 8 Ways to Get Out of a Gaming Slump and Make Your Game More Exciting.

It’s common for people in long-term relationships to talk about how the romance is gone. They remember how it used to be: the anticipation, the excitement, the thrill. But now things are just so-so. They go through the motions and wonder where it all went. They still love their partner and want stay with them, but they know the need a change. They look for ways to spice things up in an attempt to rekindle the lost romance.

A similar phenomenon can happen to gamers who play a lot of D&D (believe me, I know). You enjoy D&D and you’re not looking to play a different game, you just want to make each session a little bit more exciting. Sure you face new challenges and new monsters each time you play but so much of the gaming experience has become repetitive and routine. How do you bring back the romance and ignite the spark of excitement you once had when you first started playing D&D? We have 8 ways to get out of a gaming slump and make your game more exciting.

These suggestions are ways for individual players in a larger gaming group to make changes that will really only affect them. After all, it’s possible that the rest of the group is having a great time and wouldn’t change a thing if they could. These ideas can spice up your D&D experience without intruding or ruining anyone else’s good time.

  1. Switch your dice
    I’ve never met a gamer that only owned one d20. If changing dice isn’t something you do often then this could be an easy way to try to change your luck. Many gamers believe that there are dice gods (myself included) and that from time to time they will punish players. The dice gods are finicky and no one knows why they will pick on the same poor players so often. So changing your dice may get you out of a funk, especially if you think that part of your displeasure stems from missing all the time or rolling poorly on damage. (See Dice.)
  2. Switch weapons
    When creating a character, most of us choose the weapon that deals the most damage or the one that offers the best proficiency bonus. If you’re getting bored with your character why not try changing weapons? I’d assume that if you’ve been playing long enough that you’re getting bored then your PC is likely pretty tough by now. So what harm is there is going from a long sword to a club, or a great axe to a scimitar. Figure out an in-game reason why you think your character would make the switch and then go with it for a few sessions. If you let the DM know what you’re planning he may even be able to help you come up with a way to work this into the story. (See Big Bad Weapons and Don’t Bring a Dagger to a Sword Fight.)
  3. Retrain your at-will powers
    You use your at-will powers more than any others. In my experience players rarely change them. So a really easy way to make a noticeable change is to retrain one or both of your at-will powers. Some classes offer both ranged and melee at-will powers. If you’ve got mostly melee powers, try taking a range at-will or vice versa. Now that you’ve got this new way to attack, make sure you put your character in situations where he can actually use them effectively. It could change the whole way that you use your PC in combat. (See Have you Retrained Today?.)
  4. Choose a multi-class feat
    If you’ve played the same character for a long time then you know what that character is all about. The next time you get a feat, why not multi-class. Once you’ve done that try taking feats that will allow you to swap powers from your existing class with the new one you’ve multi-classed into. It’s a way for you to take the character in radically new directions. And remember if you’re not happy you can always retain those feats and powers back to ones from your primary class. Think of it as a romantic getaway. You’ve tried something different and if you like it you can keep going back. If the food made you sick then stay home from now on. (See Changing Classes.)
  5. Talk to the DM about a side quest
    Most DMs have a story blueprint that they work from. The high points are mapped out but there’s still a lot of room for creativity on everyone’s part. If you’re looking to add something extra to your game why not talk to the DM about a side quest? This could be something that you keep secret from the other PCs or it could be something that you ask them to help you with. It shouldn’t take you or the party away from the main adventure, but it can generate interesting role-playing while you look for clues.
  6. Flesh out your back-story
    When creating a new character most of us give the PC some kind of back-story. However, very few of us take the time to document all the details about what the PC did before he became an adventurer. When you find yourself looking to get more out of your game, try going back to the beginning. Flesh out your back-story in detail. By adding the finer points and then sharing them with the DM he can start to inject bits and pieces into the game that will tie into your history. This could include adding NPCs from your past or taking the party to a location important to your PC for reasons that have nothing to do with the current quest (See Giving Character Backgrounds And Themes Teeth and Nationality and Character Backgrounds.)
  7. Try playing a new character
    If none of the other suggestions we’ve listed so far seem to do the trick there’s always the grand gesture of changing your character all together. You’ll likely want to talk to your DM if you want to go this route. In my home games we use a character tree system. Every player has a few characters in his tree and at the beginning of each adventure you play the PC from your tree that you feel like playing. Since out adventures usually run about 6-8 weeks this gives you a chance to really see if you like this character while not so long that you feel restricted if you’re not having a good time. Perhaps your DM would be open to creating a similar roster of characters for your group? (See Character Creation Tips.)
  8. Take a break
    If all else fails, it might be time for a break. If you gaming group meets weekly (as mine does) then perhaps you set aside one night a month for some other, non-D&D activity. We often have a board game night if we’re short players or if the current DM can’t play. The week off really seems to make a difference to the game when we return the following week. The anticipation breeds excitement and the extra time off gives the players a chance to really think about what they want to do next if they’re hip-deep in an existing adventure. (See Take a Break From D&D, Play a Board Game.)

It’s an unfortunate reality that we’ll all find ourselves in a gaming slump at some point. By sharing tips like the ones above we can help each other get out of these ruts. What other tips or suggestions can you think of that will help gamers reignite the gaming spark and make their game more exciting?

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1 Joe July 26, 2013 at 9:45 am

As an add-on to the “play another character” idea, I’ve also seen folks try brief “guest star” characters. So in our long-running group, the highly defense-minded dwarven fighter had to deal with a mine collapse that killed some family members, so that player came in briefly with a dragonborn barbarian who was all about striking & damage, and he worked with the DM to come up with an in-story reason why this barbarian was helping us out while the dwarf was rebuilding his family in downtime.

We also had a great multi session encounter told in the style of Rashemon. It was a court case, where a city council member of a large metropolis had been killed, and the party was accused of the murder. As each “witness” gave his account of what happened, we got to play based on the classes that witness thought we were… so we basically each got to play 3 different versions of our characters, who were still “us”, but with the motivations each witness thought we had (based on rumors & bards’ tales… we were level 8 or so by that point, so we had a bit of a reputation in some parts of the city). It was a total blast.

In the home game that I run, I will sometimes do memory flashback episodes, where one player will play him/herself in the past, and everyone else will play the other characters who were present in that memory. In this way I was able to give my whole party the feel of being on the battle lines against the orcs, even though only 2 PCs were actually ex-soldiers. The rest of the party played other soldiers who were there with them at the “Battle of Two Catapults,” and when the party was later tasked with delivering the body of one of those soldiers back home later in the game, the group felt more connected, because one of them had played that character.

As a DM, I’m constantly trying to check with my players to find out what they’re looking for, so that I can make the game as fun for them as possible (and, consequently, more fun for me). So if you’re a player, by all means talk to your DM about possibilities to change things up for a while. It’ll totally bring the fun back.

2 Vobekhan July 28, 2013 at 6:47 am

Great advice guys (as always)

@Joe – in your memory flashback episodes, do you give the players pregens or get them create the characters needed before hand. Do the pc’s having the flashback have to de-level or do you let them play at their current levels?

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