There’s a whole lot of advice on how to be a great Dungeon Master out there, but not a lot on how to be a great Dungeons & Dragons player. Having an awesome DM helps, but players have so much power to make the game come to life and be amazing. No DM can do it without players (otherwise it’d be called writing a novel). So how can you be the best Dungeons & Dragons player possible? Consider these tips.
Before the Game
Be a good person.
Wil Wheaton’s Law: “Don’t be a dick.” You’re all friends here, and you should treat them that way. Don’t forget that the DM is your friend, too. They aren’t out to get you, even if it might seem like it sometimes. Is the roleplaying getting too heated and it looks like people are getting angry in Real Life? Take a step back and assess: are we still having fun?
Make friends with your gaming buddies.
Gamers in school don’t have to worry about this one as much; odds are your gaming group is already made up of close friends. But if you’re not, try and put in the effort to get to know your party members.
A good DM is more precious than gold. If you don’t know why, ask your DM how much they do to prep for the campaign, schedule game nights, get snacks… the list goes on. How can you give back? Look for little things you can do for the DM, things like showing up right on time, bringing snacks of your own (or offering to pay them back for food), and even taking over little tasks during the game, like tracking initiative. If you’re an artistic person, you might even want to make drawings, short stories, or songs about your campaign. Everyone (everyone!) loves fan art.
One cool, low-intensity artistic thing you can do is to create custom initiative tents for your party members! The players always get to see them, and they serve a functional purpose.
Learn the rules.
You don’t have to know the rules backwards and forwards—but if you only have time to learn the rules that pertain to your own character, that makes a world of difference. As long as you don’t become a rules lawyer or start being a jerk about it, your encyclopedic knowledge will be helpful.
Build characters that play well with others.
So, your character has a great personality. Awesome, that’s step one! But take a second look at your new alter-ego. Is your character a brooding lone wolf who sits smoking in the shadows of the tavern? They might have a tough time fitting into the team. Is your character a cowardly peasant who wants to hide from every fight? It might be funny for a bit, but the joke’s gonna get old fast.
During the Game
Find the fun.
We keep coming back to this “fun” thing. It’s because D&D and other RPGs are roleplaying games. While you don’t have to be riding the joy train to Funtown the entire time (a little bit of frustration can actually increase enjoyment in the long run), don’t torture yourself over this game with elves and wizards. If you’re not having fun, ask yourself why. Can you start having fun without ruining someone else’s fun? Yes? Do it. No? Be patient, but also be willing to talk it out IRL if the not-fun goes on for too long.
Don’t build dice towers.
Help speed up the game.
A game that drags is boring. It’s not called Dungeons & Drag-ons, people! (…I’ll show myself out.) We talked earlier about how sometimes frustration can be a good thing sometimes, but this isn’t one of those times. The next tips elaborate on this idea, giving examples of how you might speed up play at the table.
Or, “pay attention when it’s not your turn.” Telling people to pay attention sounds condescending, but we all get distracted sometimes. And getting distracted is okay, but try to make sure your focus always comes back to what your friends are doing. They’re trying to be awesome, badass fantasy heroes, they want people to notice how cool they are! Also, having to ask “what just happened?” all the time slows the game to a crawl.
Know how you want to act.
Or, “don’t make people wait around for you to figure out what to do in a fight scene!” If you’re playing a Wizard or another class with complex powers, figuring out how your spells work on the fly is a huge task that requires a lot of time spent digging through the Player’s Handbook. An easy way to avoid putting a moratorium on gameplay is to figure out what you want to do while other people are taking their turn! You’ll feel more confident when you take your turn because you’re prepared and the game keeps moving. It’s a win-win!
What’s the takeaway of all this? Long story short, take it easy, be proactively kind and helpful, and make sure that your fun isn’t infringing on anyone else’s. Or in other words, live and let live. Unless there are monsters involved. Those guys gotta die.
Originally published on April 7, 2016.