I’ve mentioned before that I like to prepare very little. That’s why I think character backgrounds are overestimated. Writing many pages of character background at home is the same thing as pouring over the rules at home. The beauty of D&D is that both storytellers and powergamers get to play minigame at home, all by themselves.
Sure, as a dungeon master I get to play a similar minigame – worldbuilding!
But I’ve come to the conclusion that the really important thing is playing at the table. That’s where the game happens. All important things should happen at the table. If people write session reports and post lots of information on a Campaign Wiki, that’s cool. In a way, other players reading these texts are also engaging in a sort of minigame that they’re playing by themselves.
The important thing to realize is that all these minigames should be optional in order to appeal to casual gamers. Casual gamers are also engaging in minigames between sessions – they are reading books, practicing martial arts, dancing, and many other things.
The important things happen at the table.
Participating at the table is the only mandatory thing in my games. I have powergamers, storytellers, casual gamers, kick ass gamers – and they’re all playing at the table. It took me a while to recognize the between session activities as perfectly valid minigames. That’s why I try not to punish powergamers for their Rules Mastery, and that’s why I read the background stories players submit – and that’s why, as a player, I don’t expect all the players to read my background stories, and that’s why I don’t expect the dungeon master to incorporate a lot of my backstory into the game. I recognize that these are all just minigames people play between sessions.