Residence: Staunton, VA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 21st, 2021
Primary Language: English
“Oh! Yeah, so ‘How do you want to do this?’ is a thing that’s been picked up since it’s been become used by Matt Mercer in Critical Role where like if a person gets a sufficiently good kill at like, say, the end of a combat, the DM will go ‘How do you want to do this?’ And then the player will describe how they eviscerate their enemies.”
A little pop culture background is necessary to understanding this folklore. After the release of the 5th edition of the table-top role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, D&D live-play shows became a popular form of entertainment. The most famous and successful of these shows is Critical Role. This is a practice that the Dungeon Master of Critical Role, Matt Mercer, employs that others have picked up. It’s been proliferated to the point that despite not being part of any official D&D material, Dungeon Masters may say “How do you want to do this?” at the end of an encounter because they know that’s the common thing to do even if they’ve never seen the show or don’t know from where the phrase originates. My informant saw this practice as a way to get players involved with the “theatre of the mind” portion of D&D and increase “coolness.”
What’s interesting about this example is that it’s very recent and fast-moving folklore. There’s even an argument to be made that it could count as having authorship to some degree, as its origins can be traced back to a singular figure, but there’s no ownership.
Besides the interpretation that my informant offered- that it helps increase player engagement -there’s another possible function of this phrase. It signals that combat has come to an end. Dungeons and Dragons has a signal for the beginning of combat baked into the rule set. Everyone rolls “initiative” to see in what order they take their turns. There is no instituted method to exit combat. This phrase helps bridge that awkward gap. Within the game, there is a liminal space that isn’t naturally bridged. The way this new unofficial ritual is constructed, there’s a set way that the players and the DM end combat. When that ritual is complete, the liminality has been bridged and the mode of play changes.