What to do after a bad D&D session.

bad D&D session

I think that many of us have had a bad D&D session, or are going to have a bad one in the future. If you are a player, the chance of this is less likely since everything isn’t riding on your shoulders. As a player, you either need to be a massive prick, new, or just do something so strange, bad, and unexpected that others pause. That is the only time that you will feel that you had a bad D&D session.

Some players are more self-conscious, like dungeon masters turned player for a game or two. 90% of the time, these people are just beating themselves up. I know, I have done it.

The people who mostly feel like they had a bad D&D session are the dungeon masters.

What you need to do after a bad session is reflect, learn, and realize that you are your worst enemy. Most don’t realize your mistakes.

First time DM

Oh boy wilikers! This is your first time being a dungeon master and you have the bestest of best plans for your group! Everyone is going to love you and ya no. Your first time will most likely have some horrible failure, and that is okay.

Your party may look bored, annoyed, and you feel that it is all your fault. Perhaps you could have done better? The truth is that you really could not, and if you want to solve some of those problems here is an article for new DMs.

If it is combat or roleplay, I also have you covered. Either way, you have in your own eyes screwed up. Before looking at how to fix it and what to do next, lets find out how badly you screwed up on the

THE SCREWUP SCALE!!!!

Minor

These are small minor issues that people do and need to be put into perspective. If your issues only affected you, then these are minor screwups. Here are some examples.

I was sick so I was not at my best.

I didn’t play very well today.

I didn’t know what to do after x and I panicked.

I was not prepared for that.

My plans didn’t turn out great.

My voices were not great.

These are some common issues that need to be put into perspective. If you have any of these issues, you noticed them far more than the others at the table I guarantee it. What do you do if you panick? What do you do if you didn’t play well, were prepared, or had terrible voices? We will go over them later.

Medium

These are issues that affected other players, but were a minor nuisance to them. Let’s go over a few common medium level screwups.

The players didn’t know what to do.

The players got stuck.

The players did something and now the campaign is ruined!

The players were bored.

I killed or almost killed players today, now they are mad.

These screwups are the ones that keep us up at night more often than the minor ones. I will go into how to deal with these screwups, but all of them involve you failing other people with other people being mad or (mostly) annoyed at you. We will cover how to solve these later in the article, so don’t think that these are terrible deeds on your part.

Bad

Oh man, these are where you completely screwed up. If you are in here, you have ruined the game for everyone and the game is most likely going to be canceled. If it is not canceled, it should be. Let me give some examples.

You don’t listen to your players feedback.

No one is having fun.

You have discriminated in some way, and won’t stop.

The game makes others visibly uncomfortable.

These are the big bad ones. If you don’t listen to your players, there is no help. Players, leave that group. If no one is having fun, this is bad D&D. No D&D, is better than bad D&D. Descrimination can take many forms. You can have a ‘favorite’ or be blatantly sexist/racist. Either way, that needs to stop or you should be booted from that group and most other groups. Lastly, if your game makes others visibly uncomfortable, you don’t care about your players, or did not tell them what game they were in for session 0 and change things mid game, then you really need to fix these issues asap by talking to your players and possibly changing yourself for the better.

As you can see, really bad screwups are on a massive scale. If you have not done one of these, or done anything like these, your game is fine and can be fixed. Just use the steps below!

The truth

Okay, now that you know where you stand, here is the cold hard truth. Your screwup is completely, and utterly……. Fixable. That is right! Every bad D&D session can be fixed and is not nearly as bad as you think. As long as you didn’t do a BAD screwup, you are completely fine.

We fail a lot in life, and these are just lessons that can help us become better dungeon masters and players. How do you fix these screwups though? Well lets look into what we can do next time.

Next time, next opportunity

What did you screw up in? That is alright, take a moment to think. When you screwed up, did you do that exact same screw up next time? How often have you repeated that exact mistake? Chances are that you either didn’t make the mistake again or have a serious learning problem. It is okay, I have a serious learning problem as well.

If you make the same mistake again, you didn’t learn from last time. You need to spend time and reflect upon what you did so that you won’t make it again. If you feel bad about the screwup, take the time to think about why it happened, and think of what to do next time. You shouldn’t screw up like that again.

The great news is that even if we failed, most failures are not nearly as drastic as you think. We blow our own failures out of proportion while others might not even notice, so stop beating yourself up. Take some time to reflect, learn, and do better next time. Another session, another opportunity.

What to do next time

Here we are, how to prepare and not have the same issue happen again. I have a four-step process that will help you be prepared for this screwup in the future, and make you less likely to screwup. Here it is.

  1. What did you do wrong?
  2. What caused it to go wrong?
  3. How can I not have this happen in the future?
  4. What can I do when I have this in the future?

Answer all of these questions, and you will have gone through all four steps.

As you can see, this is a pretty simple process. You reflect on what you did to have the screw up. Next find out what caused it to happen, and then figure out how to prevent it in the future.

Lastly, you have a backup plan. Even if you do everything possible to prevent the screwup from happening, you need a backup plan for when you cannot prevent the cause of your plight from resurfacing. If you have a backup plan, even when the screwup is about to happen you can save yourself.

But what if a new screwup comes along? What if you are about to have another bad D&D session, and this is something that is completely new and caught you by supprise?

Let the players talk

If the players have done something to make your mind scream Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!! Then sit back, compose yourself, and let the players talk. Players love to talk, and you can use these valuable seconds or even minutes to process what just happened.

Let them talk, let them be bewildered by their own actions and question each other, but don’t get involved unless you need to. You have a more important job, figuring out how to salvage this.

While players are talking go through everything in the enviornment. Figure out how to make what just happened not completely destroy your game. If your players threw a holy sword into a volcano to destroy it but the sword necissary to your plans, let it happen and find a way to give the players another option.

By all means, let the consequences of their actions take place, but if you cannot figure out what to do next, just give the players something to talk about while you need a moment. If you need more than a moment and the issue is immediate, it is time to take a break.

Taking a break

It does not matter if you have only played for 30 minutes or 3 hours, say that we need to take a break if you seriously need some time. Be honest and tell them that you just need a little bit to process what to do next. Your players might laugh, but they will completely understand from the look on your flustered face.

Take this time to look over your notes, form a plan, do what you need to do with the information at hand while your players talk. If you told your players that you need time, they will use that information to talk and give you more time.

But what if you don’t need time? What if your players have made the game go into a place where you have no idea how to go forward? Talk to your players.

Talk to your players

I had this happen a year or two ago. Half the party went off a boat onto a necromancer’s island, while the other half stayed far away from the island. The half that went in could not kill the necromancer, he was supposed to be the boss of this mini arc. What did the players do?

The ones on the boat actually sailed away, leaving the two players stuck on the necromancer’s island, in his tower. The players in the tower just started sleeping in rooms, eating some food, and they continually stated that they wanted to talk.

What do you even do in that situation? Well, I talked to the players. The two who were crashing at his place ended up showing some… interesting things to the necromancer, and he decided that he could use these two crazy people.

I asked the players if they would accept his offer and become villains. They were ecstatic at the idea, even if it meant giving up their characters.

The consequences? Those two villains would work with the necromancer who was fairly high level at this point to take over a nation. The party had to fight this, and they had to fight old friends.

If you still feel bad

We don’t always come up with these brilliant solutions that leave everyone happy after a bad D&D session. If you do still feel bad talk to your players. Ask what they thought of the session at first so that you don’t bias them by asking how bad the session is. Most of the time, players will feel like the session went well especially if they had fun and could laugh.

If you still want to improve and don’t know how to improve, ask your players. If one of your players is a dungeon master, ask how they would have handled that bad situation. If non of your players are dungeon masters, ask what they thought of that situation.

A players insight might be able to you an idea to avoid a bad D&D session in the future.

Conclusion

Everyone has a bad D&D session. If you screw up, remember that your screw up probably isn’t that bad and don’t beat yourself up over it. Follow the four steps above, and you shouldn’t make the same mistake again.

We can’t always be prepared for everything, so when something terrible happens just let your players talk or ask for a break. Players are there to have a good time, and not make your life hard. They will help out and more likely than not be ecstatic with whatever you come up with.

Everyone has a bad D&D session, so don’t let it get to you. Just learn and do better next time.

I hope that no one had a bad screwup in a bad D&D session.

This has been Wizo and keep rolling!

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