Games within Games | Tool Time with Gaming Sets in 5E D&D
Games are the thing around here — Nerdarchy revolves around gaming as a hobby. How to play games better, how to make games funner and new games that come out are just a few of the many nerdy things we cover here along with deep dives into fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. How a society relaxes and the kinds of games its people play reveals a lot about the society’s core values, structures and even how the people think on a perspective level. Today, we’re talking about games and we’re really going meta with the concept. Get ready to have some fun as we start this wheels-within-wheels style conversation of gaming sets in 5E D&D but from a tools perspective! Before we dive into this, it’s important to state that tool proficiencies are a staple in 5E D&D and their relationship to skills can seem concealed at best, as we’ve discussed in previous posts. That being said, every Dungeon Master treats tool proficiencies a bit differently so if you’ve got questions, ask your DM how they treat tools and tool proficiencies. All DMs are encouraged by the Dungeon Master’s Guide to adjust rules to suit their tables, so be flexible with your DM.
Games within gaming sets in 5E D&D
The first thing that will likely seem odd to many is the notion there exists games within the core game of 5E D&D. Things like dice, dragonchess (basically reskinned chess) and playing cards are all examples of potential proficiencies that fit under the umbrella of gaming set. Rather than relate the different gaming sets to different skills as we usually would in this article series, today we’re going to discuss how you can break up the monotony of adventure. I know it doesn’t sound right, but go with me on it.
Minigames are a blast!
From carnival games to cards, any number of mechanics can be employed or concocted to demonstrate the playing of a minigame in your game sessions. Many video games incorporate minigames as a means to break up the monotony of the gameplay and prevent things from getting stale.
Whether Gwent in The Witcher series, one-on-one duels in Suikoden or the slot machines in the original Pokemon games, minigames offer totally different play styles from the core elements of the games in which they’re found. I’ll never forget how much fun I had in Megaman Battle Network 3 when I was raising viruses I’d captured along my explorations, not to mention the Navi Customizer game (which vaguely resembled Tetris).
While I love roleplaying, combat and exploration even 5E D&D can get stale from time to time but because it’s what my friends and I have agreed to do every week we seldom depart from this on game nights. Occasionally we’ll play a different board or card game but it never quite holds the same investment for us. Maybe that’s part of the point, but I really like the idea of including minigames in the core narrative of a D&D campaign.
How to play minigames in your campaign
Here’s where it gets tricky. How do you introduce new mechanics into 5E D&D seamlessly? An easy solution is to turn the games into complex skill tests, and I mean, this can definitely be fun with a flair of evocative description but it doesn’t usually feel quite as unique as I’d hope.
One idea I’ve done on occasion is to take another game my gaming group already loves and incorporate it into the narrative of the story. In our case I had my players go to a fancy ball where an art game was played. It was a guessing game for people to be able to guess the different nobility’s favorite painting in the gallery. How would such a thing possibly manifest in a game? That’s when I pulled out Dixit.
Dixit is a fun, interactive game involving guesswork and clues to figure out people’s cards. By imposing a rule that pop culture references were disallowed it kept the game in character without breaking suspension of disbelief and it also made for a much more entertaining experience as the game moved faster due to the limitation. Suddenly everyone could only reference things from the D&D homebrew setting and campaign and that narrowed down what people could say tremendously. That made the game transpire far smoother.
The idea behind the competition itself was that if I won then a random NPC won the game, in game. However, each of the players were playing for their characters. The winner would receive in game loot as a prize and this enticed the players along their escapade as we broke up our routine with a little abstract card game. This is merely one example, and depending on your table games like chess, Connect 4, Zombie Dice or other quickie games (as I call them) might help you twist things up a bit.
When it comes to proficiency with the gaming set, maybe give those with proficiency an advantage, or a free win — something to represent their innate skill in the game compared to others.
I know this article broke the mold of the series but hopefully this goes to show you can be inspired by things outside of D&D. While the Dungeon Masters Guild, third party creators and more can offer supplements for your game ad infinitum, you can really draw inspiration from any source. The key is to make your games your own.
When it comes to my own platform (particularly my YouTube channel), I have a saying, “Whether it’s on the page or at the table, tell your story, your way,” and I think this is what really sparked this conversation. When you take something you love and incorporate elements from another thing you like the result can be truly spectacular. The only limit is your own imagination.
What do you think?
Have you supplemented a campaign with another tabletop game? Do you know of any tabletop games that would make for great minigames in a campaign? [NERDITOR’S NOTE: Taking Chances includes 8 games of skill and chance along with a bunch of other fun components to drop right into your 5E D&D game. Sign up for Nerdarchy the Newsletter and get a special code worth more than enough to pick up Taking Chances free. Check it out here.] Sound off in the comments! Make sure to return here for more daily content! Later, nerds!