Recently I had a chat with a friend who has previously expressed disinterest in playing Dungeons and Dragons, despite enjoying roleplaying in general. His reason: It’s too complicated; I don’t want to do math, I want to play a game!
In a large part, this is true. I play D&D v3.5 almost exclusively, and it involves a lot of rules, a lot of dice, and a lot of math. Now, I am an engineer by trade and I highly support the learning and use of math skills, but there are times when perhaps we are doing too much work and not enough play.
Think about places where you can skip the dice rolling and simply roleplay your actions. Why roll a d20 on a diplomacy check, when you can actually attempt diplomacy? I try to reward this behavior in my players, by allowing them to roll if they wish but if they roleplay the act they succeed or fail based on their skill as a roleplayer.
Here are some other places to cut the math and increase the fun:
There is nothing more annoying to me as a DM when my players try to research or seek information on a subject and they simply say, “I roll for Gather Information…14!”. Well, what approach are you taking? Are you talking to people on the street? Are you going to a library? Are you reading the stars? By roleplaying this action, your players can meet more NPCs, travel to more places, and potentially uncover new plot twists!
Roleplaying this skill adds a great amount of fun to the game. A bard retelling the stories of the party, or singing it, is far more interesting than rolling a 17 on a perform check. My attitude toward perform checks is that if the player actually roleplays it, they always succeed (given they put some heart into it). You may discover hidden talents in your players, and they might too!
This skill takes much more time than the dice roll suggests. If you are searching a room for a secret door, it does not take six seconds (unless you are an elf, with your built-in stud finder or whatever they use for that uncanny racial ability). Roleplay the search and help the DM describe the room, and make it even more exciting when you find those hidden treasures.
Oh, and Rangers, when you are following tracks – ROLEPLAY! Rangers are far more fun to play when you describe just how badass they are when it comes to tracking. Give your party a better reason to follow your advice than a d20 can say.
Roleplay your battles! There is nothing less immersive than a 30-minute dragon fight when all the players are saying, “I attack…I roll 19 – 34 damage.” These are EPIC battles we’re talking about, give it some flavor! DMs, cut back the AC penalties for targeting body parts and let your players fight strategically (go for the eyes!). Not only is this more fun, but the process itself can help the party devise better gameplay tactics because they can “see” the action.
Now these are not the only places in D&D where more roleplaying can increase the fun and decrease the work; everything can be roleplayed. Use the dice as a backup, for resolving risky actions. A group that roleplays will be more absorbed into the game-world, and will stick around for more adventures!