Almost every single D&D or Pathfinder tip column you see is written for Dungeon Masters. Yet there are what, four or five D&D players for every one DM? Let’s do our part in balancing those scales.
D&D Player Tips
Be present. “Hey, what do you keep peeking at on your phone over there? Oh, playing a little Candy Crush while you play D&D, huh?” Give the game and the other players at your table your attention. Be present.
I know it’s difficult, but keep that phone in your pocket. (Here’s a Simon Sinek video of why it’s important.) Always asking, “Hey, what just happened, I wan’t paying attention” turns the game in to a slog. So give the game your attention, even you if do have a level 3 lollipop hammer (Disclaimer: I’ve never played Candy Crush, so I probably made a cuckoo banana pants reference.)
Bring paper and a pencil. I don’t want to make playing D&D sound like doing homework, but you’ll want to take notes. Fantasy names can be hard to remember and the story will drops hints and clues about next steps. Taking little notes to keep those things straight will help your fellow players, and your notes will be an asset come decision time. Notes will also help the DM, as he or she won’t always be pestered to have to repeat things.
Learn the lingo and the basic gameplay. First, a word to veteran players: don’t be that guy who rolls your eyes when a new player actions a question. That doesn’t help anyone or anything and it only makes you seem like a jerk. Help new players learn the basics.
But if you are the new player, do take time to ask good questions and come prepared to learn. Focus and pay attention when someone is trying to help you learn in hopes that you’ll be able to pick it up quickly. No one is frustrated when you ask about a d20 the first or even the fifth time, but by the 12th time, you should aspire to be a little more self-reliant.
Know the rules, but don’t be a jerk about them. A player who knows the rules well is a major asset at the gaming table. A player who is a jerk about the rules is a major killjoy at the table.
Please do know the rules. The D&D 5e Player’s Handbook is an excellent read! Know it; love it! Knowing the rules keeps the game moving, as the table isn’t always flipping through for clarification. And having rules-knowledgeable players also helps keep the game feeling fair and equitable.
But know when to relax about the rules. Suggest corrections gently and respectfully. And if you feel deeply that the incorrect rule dramatically impacts the overall outcome, then feel free to respectably offer a second rebuttal. Then know when to let it go. Is it more important to feel like you are right or is it more important to have good relationships? So practice respect and self-control as well, knowing when to simply let something slide for the sake of having fun.
The GM is always last word, even if you rolled a natty 20.
Offer to help out the DM where possible. Your Dungeon Master spent a lot of time in prep, so always offer at least a “thank you.” In addition to that courtesy, you can also offer to shoulder the burden on some other aspects of the game.
Can you help do the scheduling? Could you be the one who brings the snacks? Maybe you could commit to arriving 10 minute early to help with setup. Whatever it is, look for small and simple ways where you can extend a kindness to the DM.
Enjoy yourself. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s pretty easy for folks to get into a habit of grumbling. D&D is a game of shared storytelling, so it’s only human nature to have expectations about your share in that shared storytelling. If things aren’t going the way you want them to, you can choose to use the old improv trick of “yes, and…” to go with the flow. Because pouting won’t help.
Remember, D&D is a game with wizards. Enjoy it! But if it isn’t fun, begin with the advice of Michael Jackson and take a look in the mirror. If the problem sincerely isn’t with you, then be courageous enough to respectably talk about the issue in real life. But always remember that the goal is to have fun.
Make it funny. Related to the above, remember that D&D can be a serious game, but it doesn’t have to be. A well-timed joke at the table is excellent.
Be aware of alignments. When you create a character, you decide if they are basically naughty or nice. Good aligned characters shouldn’t flat murder someone in the street and loot their corpse. There is always ebbs and flows and shades of grey to alignment, but do try to have your character act within their basic nature.
Create characters that aren’t anti-social. It might sound funny to create a character with the identifying trait that they fart loudly during every diplomatic meeting, but I promise you the gag will wear thin fast. D&D is a co-operative team game, so make sure you create characters that have a chance to mesh with the rest of the player characters.
I was playing Adventurers League once and a player had his druid climb up onto the roof every time we interacted with a new NPC. What was seen as goofy fun the first time, quickly turned into a pain in the butt for every other player at the table. To the player’s credit, he apologized after the game. It turned out that he isn’t confident in the roleplaying parts of D&D, so he didn’t know what to do until initiative was rolled. Everyone understood that, so we assured him he wouldn’t have to take to the rooftops in the future. Instead, we’d help him be a better player by being patient and coaching him through those roleplaying times.
Be aware of the time commitment. Know your character so you can be ready to act when your turn comes. Nothing grinds the game to a halt more than a player who after every round acts like it is the first time ever looking at their character sheet. D&D famously throws curveballs, so it’s entirely understandable that there will be times when you have to take a little time to determine your action. But for the majority or rounds, you should be prepared to act quickly.
And on a higher level, know that full campaigns require a scheduling commitment, so do your best to be a team player.
The bottom line is that we should strive to be a good human while playing D&D, just as we strive to be a good human throughout the rest of our days. Most tips to being a good D&D player don’t involve knowing the difference between two different wizard spells, it simply involves being courteous, attentive, and a joy to be around.
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