Using a D&D Campaign Tracker to Improve Player Engagement
Stepping into the role of a Dungeon Master (DM) can be extremely intimidating- and not just for players new to D&D. As the driving force behind the campaign, DMs often feel the pressure to hoard and perfect every aspect of the game. That takes a lot of energy, even more time, and makes it all the more disheartening to find yourself at a table of distracted or uninvolved players. All too frequently, this leads to a frustrated DM, frustrated players and the abandonment of yet another promising campaign. The good news is there are some things you can do as the DM to foster your players’ engagement- and we’ve got some tips on how using your D&D campaign tracker can make it easier.
1.) Hold a Session Zero
One of the most important things a DM can do to cultivate player investment is to include them in the creation of the campaign. For new DMs, releasing some of the control might seem counterintuitive at first. After all, isn’t it your job to provide the world and the story? The problem with hoarding too much control is that it can backfire quickly. At best your players may feel bored or un-invested. At worst, it can create a combative atmosphere, placing the DM at odds with the players. Use this time to invite your players to contribute to the world by having them describe locations, suggest obscure laws or establish connections to NPCs or other players. Obsidian Portal’s Ascendant membership grants access to a campaign forum which is a great place to ‘hold’ a session Zero, especially if it’s difficult getting everyone’s schedules to line up. There’s many ways to do this too.
2.) Get to Know Thy Players
Your world is a sandbox, and you want your party to play in it. More importantly you want them to want to play in it. So it’s important to know how they like to play. Do your players prefer combat-heavy encounters, or do they like having space to build on the story with RP? Are they goofy or do they expect a serious, rules heavy campaign? This is usually a big piece of “session 0”- and another opportunity to use a D&D campaign tracker with forums! Creating an “OOC” space that allows you freedom to communicate and build bonds with your party is essential. Plus, it allows you and your players to ensure everyone is on the same page with similar expectations.
3.) Give Them a Job
Another great thing about utilizing a D&D campaign tracker like Obsidian Portal is you can enlist help in maintaining it from your players (if they are willing). Not only can this save the DM a TON of time, but it is another opportunity to keep your players connected and invested in the world. This is most helpful when you and your players are clear on everyone’s responsibilities. Who will manage session logs/notes after each session? Will one person maintain the wiki, or is it easier to assign one player to pages dedicated to items, and another to quests? The most important thing is that everyone has a job they are interested in and everyone is clear on exactly what that job is.
4.) Let Them Get Creative
It goes without saying that each player brings unique skills and talents to the table. Some are gifted writers who can write beautiful session summaries and some are methodical and detail oriented, great at keeping track of important information. But there are more ways that a player can contribute. Perhaps you have a player who is musically inclined- would they be interested in creating a playlist to enhance immersion and ambience? Skilled at drawing- would they be willing to create a campaign logo, or perhaps create maps of the cities they frequently visit? Different D&D campaign trackers offer differing levels of customization for your campaign. Some offer incredible opportunities for customization. While Obsidian Portal does offer preset customization options, it also allows for fully custom CSS, if you have someone willing to take it on.
5.) Collaborate… and Conspire!
A big part of encouraging player engagement is ensuring that your PCs have a vested interest in the world. So make them a part of the story! Work with players to evolve their characters from interchangeable, empty vessels to a robust character with hopes, dreams and fears that has their own place in the world. You can keep them small and easy to adapt, such as a PC having insider knowledge of a specific location or faction. Or perhaps there is something more devious at play and a PC harbors ulterior motives for joining the party. Certain D&D campaign trackers have built in “GM Only” options for your personal secrets. However, fewer D&D campaign trackers offer the ability to secretly share information between a player and the DM. A particularly cool feature of Obsidian Portal’s Ascendant Membership is the ability to add “player secrets.” This section is only viewable by the player and the GM, making it a convenient way to make sure you are both on the same page. You also get access to a “Wishlists and Goals” section that players can use to communicate their goals and aspirations for their PC, or themselves.
In the end, it’s as simple as shifting your perspective from running “my campaign” to “our campaign”. Shared investment fosters an environment of enthusiasm for the game itself- and makes it a lot less likely that you’ll catch your rogue scrolling through TikTok in the middle of the BBEG’s big reveal. Not to mention, it doesn’t hurt that by passing along some responsibility, it eases the stress and pressure on the DM. The best part is that there are a lot of ways using a D&D campaign tracker can help you create an immersive and involved world that your players don’t want to break away from.
Want to know more? Check out how D&D campaign trackers can make running games so much easier, then head on over to discover how to get started on your wiki and learn how to make your campaign tracker work for you.