Chemistry for D&D

2008 April 1
by Stupid Ranger

A few weeks back, I posted about the characteristics of a good group, and as our friend from RolePlayGateway remarked, chemistry is a big part of a group dynamics. Today, I want to focus on chemistry for storytellers.

Chemistry & Group Composition

In a story-heavy situation, chemistry is really essential, and good chemistry can often be traced back to group composition. You have to have a position relationship with the other players in order to work together on developing the story; arch-enemies don’t play well together, and the story will suffer. The leadership has to be just right: not too many leaders pull the story every-which-way, but not too few to keep it moving. The group has to be emotionally connected to the story as a group; if the whole group isn’t invested in the story, part will be pulling toward resolution and part will be dragging behind.

Good Chemistry Is Hard to Find

As I’m sitting here thinking about all this, I am finding it very difficult to describe good storytelling chemistry. It just happens, like magic for a sorcerer. Players contribute to the story and move the plot forward with little prodding from the DM. Everyone enjoys a piece of the action even when action is not involved; you may not have drawn your weapon, but you still saved the world. Those who have experienced good storytelling chemistry know it, but it can be an experience that eludes description.

It’s Chemistry, Not Botany…

Chemistry won’t grow on trees. In my experience, if your group doesn’t have the chemistry for a story-heavy campaign, chances are likely that it won’t develop. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known each other or how great of friends you are, some groups just don’t manage to tell stories together.

I’ve seen better success in smaller groups, and I think it’s because with smaller numbers, players get more of a chance to interact with the story. But that doesn’t mean all small groups can be storytellers or that all large groups have no hope. Every group is different, every group’s dynamic is different, and it can be very difficult to foresee storytelling potential.

Your Chemistry & Your DM

The DM is the story-weaver, and it will be up the DM to coordinate the story and your group’s abilities. Don’t be afraid to talk to your DM if your level of storytelling is not where you want it to be; s/he may need to reconsider story-driven elements or negotiate between the storytellers and non-storytellers in the group to keep everyone at a happy balance so that everyone has a good time.

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