We just released the definitive guide to Candlekeep in 5th Edition D&D, Elminster’s Candlekeep Companion. Featuring design and consultation by creator of the Forgotten Realms, Ed Greenwood, this supplement is packed with lore, new player options, and the first-ever map of the library fortress!
In my day job, I manage three departments, one of which is a pool that supports several clinics when they are short-staffed with per-need associates. A lot of the folks in my pool go from per-need to full-time rather quickly, so I’m essentially always conducting interviews. Last year, I interviewed a woman who left me with a piece of simple yet profound advice that I would integrate in both my marriage and my D&D games.
The interviewee—we will call her Darcy— had worked at a local children’s home that helps youth through difficult times with foster care, residential programs, and other services. Not surprisingly, many of these children have endured hardship, processing it in their own way. Working at this facility requires patience, empathy, and dedication. As Darcy spoke to me about her experiences working there, she mentioned a phrase that stuck with me: “Can I get a redo?”
What’s a Redo?
When one of the kids in the program made a mistake, said something hurtful, or even just had the wrong tone, Darcy would ask them if they would like a redo. She didn’t pass judgement or threaten punishment, but rather sought to understand and offer the person grace. Often, the child would stop, process for a moment, and repeat the statement either in a more respectful manner, or one where their thoughts and feelings were conveyed more clearly.
Over time, Darcy said that children would ask her if they could have redos. They’d say something they regretted, and they’d say, “Miss, can I please have a redo?” Of course, Darcy would oblige them, happy that they are practicing self-awareness and kindness.
The night after I interviewed Darcy, I told my wife Samantha about redos, and we’ve since implemented them in our relationship. Every once and a while, I’ll see on her face that my words didn’t quite come out how they should have and ask for a redo. Sammy smiles and tells me I can try again, and she doesn’t fault me for the previous statement. I do the same for her when she’s having an off day. It’s been a great tool for us in our relationship to recognize and forgive each other for those slights, while painting over them with more wholesome statements.
But you don’t come here for relationship advice! You come here for tabletop roleplaying game content, right? So how do you use this in your games? It’s pretty simple, actually.
Redos in D&D
A redo at the game table is basically an instant retcon. If you’re not familiar with the term, to retcon is to change or remove something that happened in the past, i.e., to say “That never happened.” For a redo, the player and Dungeon Master agree with one another to hit the rewind button and take another shot at collaborative storytelling during a session. After all, roleplaying games involve a lot of improvisation, and improv is hard. Even talented actors flub a line every now and then. Unlike other mediums, you and your DM have the power to control the narrative. There’s no need to record every spoken word in stone.
Even Jim Darkmagic knows the importance of a good redo. Check out the gift of gab spell from Acquisitions Incorporated, which lets you basically erase the past 6 seconds of any conversation your character has with an NPC:
Reasons for redos are numerous, but they have their roots in the most critical aspect of the game: having fun! Here are a few scenarios where you might need a redo:
- You’re at a pivotal moment for your character, but you didn’t know it was coming. Perhaps it’s a sudden reunion with a long-lost friend, or your character is parleying with their arch nemesis as the dungeon crumbles around you. In the excitement, you’re at a loss for words and blurt out something you now find embarrassing. “Can I get a redo?”
- You’re the DM. Tonight, on top of everything else, you’re playing an intelligent negotiator. You forget a critical piece of information when offering a laughable retort. “Can I get a redo?”
- There’s miscommunication between the DM and the player. Your character responds to some misinterpreted signals, and you end up offending an important NPC. “Can I get a redo?”
Video games have quicksaves, why can’t your D&D game? My philosophy is to stick to the rules 90% of the time, but bend or change them when they’re preventing a player from having fun. You picked a cantrip that you haven’t used in any of our sessions, and you want to change it? Swap it out. I think we could all use could allow a little wiggle room here and there, so long as no one’s taking advantage of you or your DM at your table.
Redos vs. Retcons
There have been plenty of moments in my campaigns where I’ve had to adjust something that happened over the course of a session which I didn’t have a chance to redo. These times require a more formal announcement and some reaffirming come session time to make sure that everyone is on the same page, especially if it’s something the characters have relied on for more than one session.
A few times, it’s been something in the background I forgot to mention that I’ve slipped into the weekly recap to affirm information for foreshadowing. Other times, it’s more significant, so I’ll send a message in the group chat stating, “Hey friends, it looks like that war happened more recently than I realized. The two elves in the party could have actually been in it, so I’ll need to follow up with them individually. Sound good?” Then everyone digitally nods unless they have questions, we put it in the recap, and we move on.
Redos Outside of Roleplay
Redos are easier to integrate into social encounters as the guidelines are more relaxed. You might make a few checks during roleplay, or you may have an entire conversation without ever rolling a d20. In combat, however, the rules are much more explicit, and tactical decisions have consequences—sometimes ones we do not like.
My recommendation in combat is to extend a redo to a player so long as 1) it’s their turn and 2) they haven’t rolled any dice. Otherwise, you begin to take the teeth out of encounters and step on other characters’ toes. If a player can change their mind after rolling a natural 1, there’s an explicit mechanical benefit. Thankfully, the Player’s Handbook contains a multitude of ways to allow for combat redos within the bounds of the rules, such as Halfling Luck, Bardic Inspiration, or a fighter’s Indomitable ability.
Do you agree with me, or do I need a redo on this article? Let me know in the comments!
Like this article? Consider supporting me by buying one of my products on the DMs Guild, such as Darkhold: Secrets of the Zhentarim or Elminster’s Candlekeep Companion. If you’re running Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, consider picking up an alternative introductory adventure to the campaign, Devil’s Advocate: A Guide to Infernal Contracts, or Baldur’s Gate: City Encounters.