Be a better D&D player – your DM will thank you

Though there are countless articles on being a good Dungeon Master, it’s my experience that it’s often players that are in need of guidance.

Players are just expected to show up and roll dice. However they like to play the game, the DM is expected to figure out how to corral different play-styles and personalities and disparate characters and push them down the path to adventure.

It’s not always easy.

So you can make things a load easier on your DM and lots more fun for you and all your pals if you keep the following in mind.

Be nice. Even if your character is a raging barbarian, you’re not. RPGs are about escapism and fun and adventure. Don’t be a dick.

Help out your DM. For sure, being a player takes some time. You have to create your character and whatever. But mostly you show up and play. The DM has spent a ton of time preparing for adventure, so make his or her life easier.

Pay attention. Know what you’re going to do on your turn. Try to remember what the king just told you so it doesn’t have to be rehashed again. The more into it everyone gets, the more fun it will be. I love planning out my character’s next action during the other players’ turns. Then I’m ready to go when it gets to me.

Be prepared. Do you have your character sheet? Pencil? Dice? Good. More importantly: Do you know how your abilities and spells work before you get to the table? Even better. Your job isn’t done when your character sheet is filled out. Know how your spells and abilities actually work, especially as you get to higher levels and things get more complicated. DMs hate wasting time while players look everything up turn after turn.

Have your spells prepared. This is an expansion on the previous entry: Spellcasters ought to know what spells they have, know how they work and, for the love of all that is holy, have the spells and their descriptions listed somewhere. Don’t look up each spell in the rulebook every time. Write them out on notecards, keep a list on your phone or buy ready-made spell cards. Your DM and fellow players will thank you.

Know your character, and I don’t mean only in the nuts & bolts sense of the rules. It’s a role-playing game, so keep in mind how they’d act. It’s easiest just to remember a single thing. I like how D&D’s  5e makes it easy with personality traits, bonds and flaws, but even those can be tough to keep in mind all the time. Pick one and go with that. It’s easy to remember “Flattery is my preferred trick for getting what I want” or “I’m quick to assume that someone Is trying to cheat
me.”

Ask questions. If you’re not sure how an ability works, ask. If you’re curious about the ornate carvings on the altar the DM just described, ask. If you’re wondering how people are reacting to your dark elf walking into town, ask. Some of the best gaming, roleplaying and storytelling comes when curious players ask questions.

Get creative. Think outside the box. One of the cool things about 5e especially is the ability to say, “I’d like to run across the table, flip off the end and attack those two orcs at once.” That’s so much more exciting than moving you miniature four squares and declaring “I attack,” and your DM should be more than happy to help you figure out the rolls to jump on the table, run and swing your two blades at those pesky orcs. Even if you mess up and trip off the end of the table, it will make for a fun story.

Explain yourself. If you have some new wacky ability, explain it to the DM before the game if possible. That way you don’t bog things down when you drop in some spell or tricky ability.

Accept the DM’s rulings. It’s the DM’s game, and he, by definition, is the adjudicator. Let his ruling stand, and, if you still have questions later, ask them.

Know what to expect. If you love roleplay, don’t join a more combat-focused campaign. If you’re not already friends with your DM, talk to them and figure out how they like to run things and what kind of adventures to expect.

Leave other players alone. I’ve been the thief that grabs more than his fair share of loot, and that was not cool of me. Don’t be a dick. (See above.) There’s some fun in mild adversarial relationships between characters, but harming the party because you want more gold or whatever is really frustrating.

Be OK with failure. Your character dying isn’t the end of the world. The party being captured isn’t the end of the campaign. Not finding that one artifact that will prevent the dragons from taking over the world isn’t actually the end. Your d20 only coming up 5s and 7s all night isn’t the worst thing ever. Failing can lead to some really cool stories down the line. Even a series of bad rolls can be turned into a story about your character needing to do more training (or something).


What tips do you have? We want to hear them all!

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