Probably the best decision we ever made was to use handouts in our games. They serve so many different functions for the table. They benefit the players as well as the DM. I am a big believer in the immersion of the players into the game. It makes the world feel more real to everyone. Handouts are a big help in creating some of that immersion.
We have given handouts for quests, letters, titles, and deeds among a few other things. I have even written entire journals for some players to find and read. Fafnir the Black Dragonborn left a journal for his son and player character, Kaladrax. Gralmor left a journal for player character, Dvalin. Zephyr received a letter from his mother explaining a lot of things. These documents provide tangible keepsakes that the players can keep and cherish as mementos of their adventures. All it takes is some “aged” looking paper that you can make or buy and some sealing wax with a seal.
Besides being cherished mementos, handouts provide references that players can access throughout the campaign. If they forget something or need a quick double check to make sure, handouts help give concise information in a fun format. This really helps with player immersion. It also relieves some of the pressure on players to keep track of everything if they know they can always look it up when they aren’t quite sure. It also alleviates the pressure on the DM to keep track of all player information and places the responsibility of keeping that information on the players that info belongs to.
Handouts increase player interactions and help create the camaraderie thee need to function as adventurers. We usually create a welcome packet with relevant information inside for our players. Players passing quests to each other to read doesn’t seem like much but even simple interactions can help players relax and feel like they can act without feeling self conscious. If people are meeting for the first time, handouts and the conversations they create can really break the ice. If people feel inclined to share they can or they can keep secrets and only reveal what they wish. These decisions help players shape their character personalities and future choices.
For our next homebrew campaign we plan on taking this concept a step further. We want to provide, not just handouts, but items too. If someone has a holy symbol or a special ring, we want to be able to include that for our players. There are some awesome Etsy vendors out there that recreate D&D items and other vendors that create amazing jewelry or items for a decent price. We will also be providing a reference card for character creation with some seals that represent different things and information to help build character sheets. This is a simple addition that we hope will help out players feel more at ease with playing in a homebrew world.
I can never state enough how much I appreciate the importance of handouts in a D&D game. Without them, we wouldn’t have gotten some of the best reactions and stories out of our campaigns. I recommend handouts as a great means to bring more fun and organization to a table. As always, the goal is to have fun with good friends or some new friends.