One of the more overlooked aspects of gaming is the environment in which you play your games. DnD is unique in that it can be played almost anywhere and with very few materials: all you typically need is some paper, some dice, and some friends. But where you decide to play can have an unexpected impact on your games. The DM is often saddled with the responsibility of hosting the game. The person with the biggest gaming table could also be the one hosting demands are placed on. Regardless, your group has all come to a consensus on where the game is played. Hosting DnD is a responsibility that can be a lot of fun, but a bad or unprepared host can make the game less enjoyable.
How to: Hosting DnD
In a similar vein to how the DM prepares for each gaming session, the gaming host should also put time and effort into having guests over. Luckily, finding out what kind of soda everyone likes is a lot easier than balancing a level 14 encounter. Here are some helpful suggestions for when you find yourself housing several adventurers.
The most important aspect of hosting the game is making sure everyone feels comfortable. That may mean different things for different people. It could be physical; it’s very important that there is enough room for all of your players and everyone fits comfortably. Maybe it’s an emotional comfort instead; make sure the people that you might live with aren’t having shouting matches about whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher or who ate the last of the ice cream. If you want to quickly have a negative effect on everyone’s mood, cram them all into a small space in uncomfortable positions or emotions for hours.
As mentioned, there should be enough space for all the people playing to feel comfortable. A basement, although cliché for people in our hobby, if often an ideal location to game. There is little worry about constant outside interruptions and the space can feel like it’s your own, even if the rest of the house doesn’t. For those in college or who work at offices, using a conference room can be a great alternative to hosting at someone’s home. If you happen to live in an area with a gaming store, talk to the owners to see if they can set up an area for your group to play. You might be able to interest other community members and spread the joy of gaming.
One of the largest grievances that we have when people host events is the host not being realistic about how much and/or what kinds of food people want to eat at get-togethers. Many a time we’ve been guests for a long gaming session and the only thing available is one bag of chips for five or more people. While that may be well and good for short sessions, it will inevitably lead to hunger preoccupation and resentment for longer gaming sessions. A full belly will keep away much of the irritability that leads to group in-fighting. Also, you can consider large meals to be a good reason to take a break in the game.
We all know how forgetful our players can be. It’s inevitable that at some point one of your players will forget to bring something essential to the gaming session. It might be dice, something to write with, their notes, and even (though incredibly hard to believe) their character sheet. It’s important to recognize that everyone makes mistakes and can be pretty spacey at times. But fortune favors the prepared. The person hosting should have extras of the essentials that people need to play, even back up character sheets. Hopefully they will also have the ability to download or print a copy for the player. As DM and host, we keep backup copies of all our player’s character sheets, have the ability to print them a new one, and even keep the originals between play sessions for my more forgetful or accident-prone players. Having your players upload digital copies of their character sheets after each update to Google Drive or Dropbox ensures they’ll always have their sheets handy.
How to: Being a Good Guest
So you’ve come over to the host’s house with your character sheet and dice. Congratulations on doing the bare minimum. At least bring something to write with, you lazy oaf. But if you, like your character, enjoys going above and beyond the call of duty, here are some tips to make sure you’re a gracious guest.
The DM and host, regardless if they are the same person, will have plenty of things to worry about. It is important that you come prepared to the session with whatever you may need. Added stressors will take time away from playing the game and reduce the optimal amount of fun. Having a positive, ready to game mindset is also an important part of being a guest and playing games. Consider it part of getting ready before you go out, as hour long gaming sessions can be mentally exhausting. Being physically prepared is just as important. Make sure you’re rested and physically well before your gaming session. Going out on a bender the night before is probably not the best idea. Speaking of drinking, make sure you don’t overdo it during the game. Keep it together; no one likes a sloppy drunk.
Being a good guest can mean different things to different people. But something everyone always appreciates are the little extras. Being punctual is a huge thing. If you come late, you make everyone wait on you. It takes time out of other people’s lives, not just your own, and is kind of a jerk move. People have more of a habit of thinking this is ok because they can just text the group to tell them they’ll be late. Let us assure you: it’s not ok unless it’s an actual emergency. There is a stark difference between being late because your car won’t start versus being late because you decided to play another round of an online game. You know you need to be somewhere at a specific time—make sure you are. If you want to help out the host, bringing extra snacks is always something that is well received. Try to coordinate what you bring so that you don’t end up with 37 bags of chips (unless your group really likes chips).
Much like hosting, scheduling gaming sessions often falls on the shoulders of the DM. Luckily, there’s no rule that says it always has to be that way. Technology has made it easier than ever to get everyone’s input and availability. The simplest way is by group text or chat. It may be unreasonable to expect everyone to know what their schedule is going to be at the very end of your current play session. Life circumstances might also make it difficult to pin down a day and time to get everyone together. It’s typically helpful to select a day and time and try to stick to that consistently. Be understanding that life happens and you’ll inevitably have last minute cancellations. If you do end up with some cancellations, there’s no reason you can’t get the rest of your group together for a different activity. After all, you’ve all blocked out that day and time already– might as well make the most of it.
The hosting aspect of DnD is an important part of the game that’s often overlooked. Having the proper environment is essential for running a smooth game. For hosts, DMs, and players, preparation is key. Make sure your environment is in the most ideal setting and condition. Coordinating play times and arriving on time will allow everyone to game optimally.