Salutations, nerds! I want to talk about the division of labor at the table during a Dungeons & Dragons game! Now, I know you may be saying, “The Dungeon Master is doing most of the work, the players are just playing their characters, right?” But that’s not always the case. As the DM, giving players chores at the table is sometimes the prudent choice. A lot of the upkeep can be done by the players to keep the DM’s brain power free to keep the game rolling. So today I’m going to go down a list of chores you can give to your players to keep D&D running more smoothly.
Division of labor in your D&D game
Have a player in charge of writing down dangling quest hooks. You’d be amazed how much this helps for a DM who runs off the cuff. A player keeping a quest log has a list of the things you’ve offered the characters to do and when you offered them. When you run into dead air they can whip that list out and bring up some potential things to do.
This gives the players a little bit of agency in terms of what hooks they want to bookmark and the ones they don’t consider to be important enough and lets you, the DM, stay in the moment. It’s a win-win.
PS, this is also great for things like the names of NPCs.
Have a player in charge of writing down initiative and letting the table know whose turn it is. You’re going to want to give this to a player you trust, but it’s pretty easy to tell when someone is cheating something like this and it’s just a matter of writing down what people have rolled and saying whose turn it is when the time comes.
A lot of DMs like to keep track of that on their own, but it’s much easier to focus on the combat itself when a player has the list and can tell you whose up next.
By the same token it’s also something a player can do and pay attention to when it’s not their turn. Give this job to a player you trust and who has a tendency to wander during combat and you’ll find combat will run more smoothly and tightly.
I know, I know. People always want to complain about having a rules lawyer at the table. Personally, I love it. It’s great to have someone at the table who, during other people’s turns, is always willing to get the book out and double check a specific wording for future reference.
Use this player! Give them a specific job to do. When these odd moments come up, look to the player who is always going “hem hem, actually” and have them crack the book open while the rest of you move on if applicable.
This can actually make play go much more smoothly, especially if it’s agreed upon in advance. As long as the player is willing to bend to Rule 0 (DM’s call is the law of the land at the end of the day) when it comes into play, this can be a lovely addition to play.
Tracking down the players
Give one player the contact book. If you’ve got a social player who loves to message people outside of game play, give them the task of asking who’s going to be there and who isn’t and making sure everyone knows when your next session is going to be.
Not having to worry about this sort of thing gives the DM more time to actually plan the session.
If you’re going to run with this, make sure the person calling everyone remembers to call the DM! Especially if they are hosting, because there’s nothing quite worse than having people just show up unexpectedly at your place of residence!
So how about you? Do you give your players chores when you’re DMing for them? Do you have any stories about a system like this? What happened? How do you feel about it? Please, let me know in the comments below, and as always, stay nerdy!
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Speculative fiction writer and part-time Dungeon Master Megan R. Miller lives in southern Ohio where she keeps mostly nocturnal hours and enjoys life’s quiet moments. She has a deep love for occult things, antiques, herbalism, big floppy hats and the wonders of the small world (such as insects and arachnids), and she is happy to be owned by the beloved ghost of a black cat. Her fiction, such as The Chronicles of Drasule and the Nimbus Mysteries, can be found on Amazon.