It is no secret that there are many different playing styles when it comes to D&D and RPGs. When you’re playing in a duet, however, the style preferences of the player and the DM become even more important, which opens up the fun and possibilities for both people involved.
Player types and duets
If you’re interested in an overview of the different player types, Matt Colville has a really helpful video breaking them all down and walking through what each type is looking for at the table.
As you might guess, a lot of the time, this conversation revolves around making the player happy or adjusting to their style or expectations. But I want to add that, in duets, the DM’s preferences come into play more as well.
We advocate that the player takes turns DMing occasionally for a variety of reasons, but whether you switch DM and player roles at your table or not, the table should be engaging for both people involved. One way to go about this is to identify your own and your partner’s play preferences and adapt your games accordingly.
I think this would be a helpful exercise for both the DM and the player to take part in, and I would also recommend that you talk about it after. What are you looking for during a given session? Or, which combination of different player types are you?
What to do with the responses
Ideally, these conversations help both the DM and the player with knowing where and how you want to collaborate together, whether that is with worldbuilding, character development, thinking through antagonists or other civilizations, etc.
Remember, there’s no one right or wrong play style. The right one, in this case, is going to be one that brings together what you both enjoy and find meaningful.
Meeting in the middle
Once you establish what’s fun for both of you in a given session as well as where or how you’d each like to contribute to the larger story aspects of your game, you get a clearer idea of ways to collaborate together!
If you’re a bit stuck on what your favorite parts of game play are, you can start with identifying the aspects you don’t like as much. For instance, I hate puzzles. Given a long puzzle obstacle course or thing to solve, I will send my characters through the gauntlet and hope they have enough hp to make it to the other side.
Maybe you really like puzzles but you don’t like for your character to be put in a situation where violence is the only option. In that case, your DM (or you) would do their best to make sure there were social options or creative ways out of combat situations to take that preference into account.
That doesn’t mean that you never see combat, especially if your partner likes it. Instead, your player temperament creates ways for opening up game play.
This is especially the case if you can ground your own preferences in the characterization of your PC or DMPC. Maybe it’s part of their backstory—they witnessed casual, senseless violence that forever changed how they approached similar situations. Or maybe they were the one responsible and somehow were forced to face up to the consequences of those actions, making them determined to make different decisions in the future.
The point of recognizing the player styles at the table is to create more options instead of fewer. It does, in some ways, narrow in what will be planned for a given session, but that limitation serves to focus the possibilities.
To be more concrete, I’ve worked through an example of how this negotiation works in our game.
Our mutually beneficial compromise
This topic first came up in our duet a couple months ago when I was DMing for a few weeks. After the second weekend, Jonathan asked me if his PC was going to fight anything or get any magical items.
My immediate mental answer was “uhh…maybe?” But to be honest, it really hadn’t occurred to me!
As a player, I love RP. I would be totally happy if that’s all we did.
But he prefers for there to be combats, at least one per session, and he would like for there to be interesting loot as well.
As a DM, I like to play with mental and emotional states and occasionally to bend the nature of the characters’ reality.
However, it’s really important that I take his preferences into account too when I’m DMing and when I’m playing. As a DM, that means incorporating interesting combats. My own take on that is to bring in characters’ personalities to the combats and let them problem solve and fight in challenging and creative ways.
So, in my role as DM, combining my own preferences with his creates a more complicated and engaging game for both of us, and the same can be true in your game as well!
When we switch and I’m in my usual role as a player, I still want to be mindful of how much he enjoys combats, so I’ve worked that into my understanding of and interactions with my PC.
I’ve started thinking about how she approaches combat and the ways that those methods are tied to her character and the overarching narrative because character development and storytelling are the most important parts of our game to me. Jonathan’s playing preferences have deepened the aspects of play that I value and have made me a better DM and player and, again, the same can happen in your duet.
I worry that some aspects of this post are not very concrete, and I want you to be able to work from a very practical space for implementing tactics and ideas into your own games. With this topic, though, you’re entering into a continuing conversation between yourself and your duet partner in whichever role you’re occupying in your game.
What is more, you will also continue developing as a player and/or a DM, and your tastes and preferences may evolve over time. I would say that Jonathan’s enthusiasm for combat has helped me grow to like it more, and now it’s something I really look forward to even though I don’t feel as comfortable as I’d like running it. Your passion will fuel your partner’s appreciation and enthusiasm, and the reverse will happen as their play style rubs off on you!
If you like what you’re reading, please consider supporting the blog by purchasing our adventures and supplements in our shop or on DMsGuild or sponsoring us on Patreon. We’d also love for you to follow us on Twitter and Instagram. We appreciate you so much! Thank you for reading. – Beth and Jonathan