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Ep 014 – Constraints Level Up Creativity

Everyone wants more creativity in their Dungeons and Dragons Games. Cultivate more creativity through constraints. Constraints breed innovation and creativity.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then constraints are the authors of creativity.

Seems Counterintuitive

It may seem counterintuitive at first, but some of the most powerful works came from the innovations and creativities that came from constraints. You see, constraints limit your options, they make it possible to explore paths less traveled. Along those paths you discover new and innovative.

Think about how when nearing a deadline how your work seems to flow. Consider the times when you’re about to hit budget and suddenly new options make things even better than the expensive alternatives. By leveraging smart constraints, you shape the box that lets your creative endeavors flourish.

3 Steps to Constrained Creativity

These are the 3 steps I have found to best utilize constraints to improve creativity in my Dungeons and Dragons games.

  1. Define your Goal
  2. Define the constraints that focus your efforts toward the goal
  3. Define the functional unit that will drive you to your goal.

1. Define Your Goal

Figure out what you want out of your games. Focus your sessions around a particular character, monster, theme, or idea. This will serve as the focal point to direct your efforts. 

2. Define Your Constraints

Constraints create boundaries. They tell you what you won’t do, so you can focus on what you will. They come in 2 flavors, in game goals and meta goals.

The in game goals help provide limits to the characters, maps, concepts, and structures you’ll use in game. They work like mirrors that direct all your efforts to your goal.

The meta goals direct your personal efforts. They define how much time and effort you’ll spend on reaching your goals.

3. Define your Functional Unit

Most games have similar goals, scoring more points than your opponent, yet they all play differently. Basketball and soccer are different games, and the professionals develop differently.

As a player or game master, you get to choose the functional unit that will drive you to your goal. It needs to be fun, help you reach your goals, fit within your constraints, and help you develop as a practitioner.


These 3 steps worked for me. My games are filled with so much more creativity and innovation than I thought possible.

Try out your own constraints, and see how they focus your creativity and improve your games.

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