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It's Clear That...

Do you ever have players that don’t get it? You’ve laid out all the clues and answers but the players can’t seem to pick them up? Here’s a secret: the problem isn’t the players. The problem isn’t you. It’s the nature of tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons. But there’s one trick that can solve this problem. And it’s easy.

When you describe a situation, you might have a vivid picture in your mind. You know the options available to the characters and you give hints to them in the world. But, as SlyFlourish once said, “Players only understand about half of what we describe”1 And again, it’s not anyone’s fault.

Everyone visualizes a situation their own way. And not every player picks up every detail you describe. Some miss the connections you expect them to make. Others make connections you never thought of. That’s part of the beauty of this game. We all bring different imaginations to the table to create a story unlike any other.

Where this causes problems is when the story gets stuck. Players are out of ideas and thinking I don’t know what I’m supposed to do here. This could be a conversation with the warlord that appears to stall. Or a combat where the party can’t figure out how to break the boss’s shields. Or exploring ancient ruins and the players miss a key reference.

There is a simple fix.

One Phrase to Fix Them All

It’s clear that…

One of the most powerful tools in your DM toolbox is the phrase “it’s clear that…“. The players don’t get it. But their characters do. To bridge that disconnect, the DM can say, “it’s clear that X,” where X is the information the players need.

“It’s clear that the warlord is upset you didn’t bring him an offering.”

“It’s clear that the necrotic pillars are powering the boss’s shield and need to be dealt with first.”

“It’s clear that these carvings are the same you saw in the Neverwood at the beginning of the campaign.”

This tool helps you maintain pace and get to the fun. Grab a Sharpie and write it on an index card. Keep it visible while DMing as a reminder of what you have at your disposal. Use it when it feels like players are struggling or getting stuck.