D&D 5E Caution in Too Much Fun

Great sessions are great because they stand out from the rest; and they're also unpredictable in when and how they will occur. Much like a baseball game - when the first pitch is thrown there's no way of knowing whether it'll end up a 1-0 pitchers' duel or a 12-9 slugfest or a 10-0 blowout or a dull 3-2 game rife with fielding errors.

Some ball games end up great and memorable, others dull and boring, and the vast majority of them are in the middle somewhere. The same is true of D&D sessions.

Attempting to force any given session - never mind all of them - to be "great" is IMO a fool's errand.
We play. The fun happens exactly when it intends to happen. Or what Gandalf said.

I don’t think we have a fun throttle. Play is an organic thing for us. We play stuff happens. Dice are rolled. New situations emerge.

The whole of it is fun for me
 

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I've usually heard this idea expressed as "the tyranny of fun" although "the paradox of fun" is either another word for it or closely related.

Tyranny of fun is trying to make every moment "fun" - exciting, energetic, epic. But when you do this, you tend to quash out other forms of entertainment and make the fun less fun because it's all forced. One aspect is best described as "when everything is 'fun', nothing is." This is especially true if you're focused on high-energy or epic as fun. Imagine a game dm'd by Pinkie Pie - it would have a lot of good elements, but the whole experience would be more tiring than enjoyable.

The most common manifestation of this is overusing the Rule of Cool - what's cool in the moment becomes dull if repeated, and if you let every wacky idea fly pretty soon there's no reason to care about the narrative because nothing is solid. Don't sacrifice the whole game for small moments.

The Paradox of Fun is: challenge isn't fun in the moment, but lack of challenge means you don't have real impact. Jonathan Strife Hayes did a video about it in MMOs recently - the more quality of life boosts, the less memorable the game, because there's no accomplishment.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It might be worth examining what is not fun in D&D, what is fun, and how much not-fun stuff you're willing to sit through to get to the fun stuff in a given 4-hour session.
 

Oofta

Legend
One risk of "too much fun" is DM burnout. The idea that the DM always has to be "on", always has to be entertaining and tell amazing stories. The problem is that we all have ups and downs, some sessions will be better than others. Feeling like you've failed if every session does not hit the highest of standards, or trying to recreate that amazing session you had every time is an enormous pressure.

Throw in the fact that sometimes you have to cry (okay, not literally) in order to really enjoy the moments of laughter. Without the lows, the highs become the new standard. Not that I'm saying you should go out of your way to run a bad session, just that if you try to hit a home run every time you're likely strike out more often than not.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
That 4 hour shopping session might give the DM enough time to get that plothook entwined with your characters. That long boring combat might let a player who isn't quite familiar with their character start to understand their battle strategy without being overwhelmed. The time your character is mind-controlled or involved in a sudden unfortunate event might be needed to keep a cool narrative pacing. Your player searching every corner might have them actually find that secret door you worked on that was hidden.

In exactly none of these cases is doing the unfun thing the only way to get the stated job done. The GM can insert a different NPC encounter later to set a plot hook. The GM can present more, smaller fights spaced out over time to get players used to their mechanics. There's a nigh infinite number of ways to control pacing. And there are search mechanics that are 17 times better than requiring pixel bitching.

Indeed, not only are what you present not the only way to get the various jobs done, the ways you suggest sound like clumsy, brute force and ignorance methods of approaching issues.

You might be better off noting that GMs are humans, and sometimes they just don't think of anything better than brute force and ignorance methods. We have all had moments when we just didn't think of a better way, and can have a bit of sympathy. But, that should be the basis of a discussion of how to have fewer of these moments, not a discussion on how you should just sit there and let them happen.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
I've done 6 hours as a DM. Whole session of checks vs shopkeepers, nobles, bankers, and smiths.
And the thing is, those can be fun if you're into the roleplaying of those sorts of things.

If you aren't, it's okay to skip them. My group, we like mundane RP, we like combat, we don't like logistics, so logistics doesn't happen but we do sometimes have sessions that are just hanging around in town building relationships with PCs and NPCs, or hunting for sport, or investigating things that aren't the plot. It's how we have fun and if it wasn't fun for us... we'd just not.

There's this weird mentality in certain gaming spaces that the actual fun needs to be 'earned', that you need to 'take your medicine' as a way to justify certain activities that some or even a majority of players don't enjoy whether that's to preserve some tradition or create some badge of honor they can lay claim to.

For me, it comes down to this: I have limited free time. Don't waste it not being enjoyable or I will leave and play Minecraft or something where I get to have fun with someone pumping the brakes on it or making me do busy work. I was sick of that by grade 3 and I'm still sick of it at my actual job, so don't do that to my free time.
 

For me this is a matter of pacing. And it’s likely due to my players and the style of game we play. The sequence of play can be broken down as such:
1. Travel to dungeon
2. Explore dungeon, fight monsters and take their things
3. Return to town to rest and recover (downtime activities and character moments)

Each one of these stages has a different tempo, which some will find more or less fun. But fun is always happening, or at least that’s what I’m trying to make happen. It’s my role as the DM to ensure fun is being had, and if I’m sensing a lack of fun, I do something about it out of respect for my players time.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It might be worth examining what is not fun in D&D, what is fun, and how much not-fun stuff you're willing to sit through to get to the fun stuff in a given 4-hour session.
I seem to recall it's already been determined in this forum (somewhere!) that there really is no consistent definition of fun; that what's fun for some is agony for others, and so on.

This would, I think, serve to make the discussion you propose rather...unwieldy, to say the least. :)
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I seem to recall it's already been determined in this forum (somewhere!) that there really is no consistent definition of fun; that what's fun for some is agony for others, and so on.

This would, I think, serve to make the discussion you propose rather...unwieldy, to say the least. :)
Someone would just have to establish what they personally find fun and unfun then say how much of the unfun stuff they'd put up with to get to the fun. That seems fairly straightforward to me.
 

Someone would just have to establish what they personally find fun and unfun then say how much of the unfun stuff they'd put up with to get to the fun. That seems fairly straightforward to me.
I don't know the ratios but when I'm not looking forward to playing then it's definitely not enough fun.
 



So heartening to see so many people hate session long shopping sessions as much as I do.
Don’t do them. Unless it makes sense.

There is no right answer but I can tell you if our DM had us do this it would be a near riot.

We want to roll the bones! Last session we did more roleplay and exploration and he knows our tastes. He made it very likely that a fight would be joined and ended on a crowd pleasing note!

I like the rp and exploration as a set up for some intense conflict.

Oh who am I l kidding? We like to fight almost any time we can
 

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