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  • Writer's pictureDanny McKeever

Tips for DM's: Crafting Compelling D&D Content for Each Player's Archetype


Tips for DM's: Crafting Compelling D&D Content for Each Player's Archetype
Midjourney /imagine D&D character archetypes -- Leonardo da Vinci

As a DM, catering to each player archetype is crucial to creating a successful D&D campaign.

I focus on the D&D Player Archetypes by Ashley Warren as I feel they give you the most well rounded types.


There have been several different categorization systems for D&D players developed over the years. Here are some of the most well-known ones:

  • Gamemastering (1981) by Brian Jamison: Jamison identified three broad categories of player styles - Actor, Explorer, and Solver.

  • Dungeons & Dragons Player Types (1988) by Richard Bartle: Bartle's categorization system identified four types of players - Achievers, Explorers, Socializers, and Killers.

  • Player Types in Role-Playing Games (1999) by Nicholas Yee: Yee's study of MMORPGs identified three primary player motivations - Achievement, Socialization, and Immersion.

  • GNS Theory (2004) by Ron Edwards: Edwards' theory categorizes play styles into three categories - Gamism, Narrativism, and Simulationism.

  • D&D Player Archetypes (2010) by Ashley Warren: Warren identified five archetypes of D&D players - Storytellers, Power Gamers, Casual Players, Completionists, and Specializers.

However, trying to fit all five archetypes into every game session can be challenging. To create a balanced and engaging game experience, it's important to have some content for each archetype in each game session. Here are some tips on how to do this:

  1. Create a flexible game world: A flexible game world allows for a variety of gameplay styles and archetypes. For example, if your game world has a rich and detailed history, Storyteller players can delve into the lore while Power Gamers can seek out powerful artifacts. Casual Players may enjoy exploring the world without feeling overwhelmed, while Completionist players can discover hidden side quests and Specializer players can find unique opportunities to hone their skills.

  2. Vary the gameplay: To cater to each archetype in each game session, it's important to vary the gameplay. For example, one session might focus on combat encounters for Power Gamers, while another might focus on exploration and storytelling for Storyteller players. Mini-games and side quests can provide opportunities for Completionist players, while Casual Players may enjoy roleplaying and social encounters with NPCs.

  3. Use personalized content: Personalized content is key to engaging each archetype. Use AI language models like ChatGPT to generate personalized backstory and plot twists for Storyteller players, or to create customized combat encounters for Power Gamers. Casual Players may enjoy personalized NPC dialogue or mini-games, while Completionist players can be offered personalized objectives and achievements.

  4. Incorporate player feedback: Incorporating player feedback is crucial to keeping each archetype engaged. After each game session, ask for feedback and take it into consideration when planning the next session. If one archetype feels left out or unfulfilled, adjust the gameplay accordingly.

In addition to creating a balanced and engaging game experience, it's important to keep track of which archetype has been taken care of and who is up next. This ensures that each player feels included and engaged in the game. One way to do this is to create a simple tracking system, such as a spreadsheet or a list, that shows which archetype has had content in the most recent game sessions. Below I will walk through how I keep track of where my players our in the game.


This helps you plan future sessions with a focus on the archetypes that may need more attention. It's also important to communicate with your players and ask for their feedback on which archetypes they feel may need more attention or content. By keeping track of each archetype and planning accordingly, DMs can ensure that each player feels included and engaged in the game.


Archetypes:

This is the player's preferred style of gameplay. It includes, Storytellers, Power Gamers, Casual Players, Completionists, and Specializers.

  • To engage Storyteller players, DMs can provide detailed and richly imagined game worlds, complete with interesting NPCs and intricate plotlines.

  • To engage Power Gamers, DMs can offer challenging combat encounters and provide opportunities for character optimization and customization.

  • To engage Casual Players, DMs can provide a welcoming and inclusive environment that emphasizes the social aspect of the game.

  • To engage Completionists players, DMs can provide a rich and expansive game world with plenty of side quests and hidden treasures to discover.

  • To engage Specializer players, DMs can provide opportunities for character specialization and skill development.

Skills:

Skill is the type of play that the player character likes to do. These can be roleplay, stealth, arcana, physical, healing, knowledge.

  • Roleplay is bringing the character to life through acting, voices or mindset

  • Stealth is sneaking, spying, breaking in, detection related activities

  • Arcana is the focus on magic and magic knowledge

  • Physical is fighting, acrobatics, and survival challenges

  • Knowledge is history, puzzles, and storyline

  • Healing is support, recovery, and helping

Reward:

Reward is the type of reward that makes a player happy. The rewards will very based on the play style and character class and will be in the following types:

  • Story is all about providing the player with a deep story line to follow and side quests. Completionists really like this type of reward.

  • Items are about improving ones character, through additional abilities, or capabilities. This is often a good time for DM's to layer in an interesting twist or capability into the game. A +1 long sword may be fine for a power gamer, but a one shot potion of invisibility or shadow step will add more flavor to the game when placed in the right characters hands.

  • Ability is often aligned with a power gamer who's main goal is to maximize their character. This can come through a variety of means, from items, to learning something new.

  • Social is often best for the casual gamer who wants to get together with friends. They are often rewarded when the group needs to work together to overcome something.

  • Special is rewards to those players who like to tweak their PC's in special and unique ways. I had players who tried to recreate abilities around super heros, or replicate the way of the force. You will want to keep this in mind when it comes to rewards so DMs can provide opportunities for character specialization and skill development


Creating a table gives the GM a clean view of the player characters that allows the DM to quickly see who the current session has catered to and who still needs to be addressed. This is a take on John Fourr’s Treasure table and his 5 Room Dungeons. If you have not taken his GM course, I highly recommend it.

Here is an example of a table that I use for my games to keep track of each player to try make sure that I am addressing the needs of each player in each session.


Player Name

Class

Archetype

​Combat Role

​Skill

Reward

Eldrin Windwhisper

Wizard

Storyteller

Control

Arcana

Story

Thora Ironshield

Warrior

Power Gamer

Tank

Physical

Items

Faelar Nightshadow

Rogue

Casual

Damage

Stealth

​Social

Aelith Lightbringer

Cleric

Completionist

Support

​Healing

Ability

​Lysara Spellweaver

Wizard

Specializer

​Ranged

​Knowledge

​Special


By having a table like this in-front of you while you run your session enables the DM to keep their PC's top of mind and helps to keep track of who got their turn to do something cool.


Catering to each player archetype is key to creating a successful D&D campaign. By creating a flexible game world, varying the gameplay, using personalized content, and incorporating player feedback, DMs can create a game experience that engages and satisfies each archetype. Remember, having some content for each archetype in each game session is crucial to keeping everyone engaged and invested in the game.


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