Dungeons and Dragons can be a lot of fun, but it can also be challenging to lead your party effectively. If you’re new to Dungeons and Dragons, or you’re aspiring to be the heroic leader, there are five mistakes you need to avoid.
By the time you finish this article, you will have a solid understanding of the five most common mistakes players make when trying to be the heroic leader:
- Hogging the spotlight
- Giving orders
- Taking credit for your party
- Blaming others
- Trying to do everything yourself
Avoid these mistakes and take our advice, and you will be the heroic leader anyone would be proud to follow into Avernus.
Mistake 1 Hogging the Spotlight
If you were playing with a group of five people, how annoyed would you be if one person at the table dominated every conversation and interaction with NPCs?
One of the most common mistakes inexperienced leaders make in Dungeons & Dragons is trying to participate in every interaction (even when their companions are already handling it).
This can come from a good place because players want to help their party succeed and move the story forward. Unfortunately, it can become dominating and annoying.
The best leaders know the strengths of their companions and rely on them to do what they do best.
- Are you a dwarf with an elf companion walking into a elven city for the first time? Who is more likely to be greeted and have their questions answered?
- Are you a warlock trying to get information from a barkeep? Who’s better suited for the task, you or your charming bard companion who loves talking?
When a situation arises where someone needs to talk to an NPC or do something else that is roleplaying related, give your companions an opportunity to step up to the plate before you do.
Mistake 2 Giving Orders
People have a bad habit of assuming that because they’re leaders (or think they’re leaders), they can issue orders to their companions and expect them to be followed.
The truth is Dungeons & Dragons isn’t a military game.
Your party members are not your subordinates—they are your adventuring companions—so you cannot order them around like soldiers on the battlefield.
If you want to be the heroic leader in Dungeons & Dragons, you need to lead by example.
When your party members see you are willing to get your hands dirty and take risks as a leader, they will be more inclined to follow you and watch your back.
Let’s say you’re playing a barbarian and your friendly neighborhood wizard is about to be killed next turn by the backstabbing goblin that snuck up behind him.
What shows more leadership and courage on your part?
- Yelling at one of your other companions to go save the wizard
- Triggering an attack of opportunity from the orcs you’re fighting in order to rush over and smash the goblin so the wizard can get to safety
Which one will garner respect from your companions? Which one will lead the wizard to trust you more and try to protect you in future battles?
Mistake 3 Taking Credit for What Your Party Does
It’s only natural to desire praise when you accomplish a difficult task, but it’s important to remember that a leader gives credit where credit is due.
When your companions do something great, take the time to tell them how proud you are of them and thank them for their help.
Not only does this make them feel appreciated, but it also strengthens the bonds of friendship within your party.
For example, you and your party just vanquished an ancient red dragon, saving the nation’s capital from being burned to the ground. You report back to the king to let him know it was a success.
What will cause your companions to look up to you and respect you?
- Telling the king you delivered the final blow and saved the kingdom
- Giving the king and his royal court specific examples of how each of your companions contributed to the fight and praising/thanking each of them for risking their lives to protect the kingdom
Are you seeing a pattern here?
Great leadership is NOT about you. It’s about supporting, encouraging, and valuing the people around you.
Mistake 4 Blaming Others for Mistakes and Failures
Nobody likes making mistakes, but as a leader you need to be able to accept responsibility when things go wrong.
One of the worst things you can do is blame your companions for your own failings. This will only lead to resentment and division within the party.
If something goes wrong, take ownership of the mistake and learn from it so that it doesn’t happen again.
It doesn’t matter whose fault the failure is—if you want to be the heroic leader, act like it.
It speaks volumes about your integrity and ability to lead when you assume responsibility for anything that goes wrong.
As a great leader, you always give credit to your companions for the success of the party and you always take responsibility for the failures.
Mistake 5 Trying to Do Everything Yourself
This takes hogging the spotlight to the next level.
It’s one thing to assume you can handle every roleplaying scenario better than your companions since they (usually) don’t involve skill checks.
But it’s just plain silly to think your character with obvious weaknesses illustrated by ability scores and skill proficiencies should attempt every single skill check when you have multiple companions who will be better suited than you in different situations.
As a leader, it’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses.
Don’t try to do everything yourself—rely on the strengths of your companions and put your trust in them to succeed at what they do best. This will make you an effective leader and help prevent costly mistakes.
Walking down a narrow hallway of a dungeon? Should your paladin with a shit investigation score be checking for traps? Or should the rogue with expertise in investigation be checking for traps?
In a Nutshell—How to Be the Heroic Leader
Dungeons & Dragons is a game about cooperation and teamwork.
Being a leader in this game is not about being in charge. It’s about supporting your companions and giving them the opportunities they need to succeed so everyone can enjoy the game together.
So remember, do NOT:
- hog the spotlight—give it away to let your companions shine.
- give orders—lead by example so your companions learn to trust you and count on you when shit hits the fan.
- take credit for your party’s victories—give that credit away to your companions who helped.
- blame others for failures and mistakes—take responsibility as the heroic leader and move forward.
- try to do everything yourself—rely on the people you are adventuring with.
Prove to your companions that you value them if you want them to count on you as a leader. Treat them like a bunch of sidekick NPC’s and you’ll be lucky if they want to play with you again.
What do you think? What common mistakes have you seen players make when trying to lead their party? Do you have any advice I missed? I’d love it if you let us know in the comments!
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