Every session, Wednesday
There are a lot of places to get advice on being a Dungeon Master. There are not that many on being a solid D&D player, which may sound weird – but players are essential to D&D. Without them, DMs like myself would be authors and most of our work would show up in a book or possibly never show up at all.
So how do you become a great player? Let’s take a look…
Welcome to the table.
Before you start playing:
- Think about how you want the night to go. Are you a player who wants to kill monsters heedlessly? Do you want a good story, or are you interested in just sitting around with friends and cracking jokes? Once you pin down what you are looking for in D&D, bring it up to the DM beforehand. This will give the DM a chance to incorporate your interests.
- Make friends with your party. D&D is a collaborative game. It doesn’t work too well if players are fighting in real life or if they try to stay away from one another in the game. You don’t need to become best friends, but these players may be with you for awhile so try to put in the effort to get to know your party members.
- Learn the rules. I am not saying that you need to read the handbook front to back or that you should be able to recite every rule and its page number. Instead, try to learn all the rules that apply to your character (abilities, spells, number of actions). Your DM may be smart but doesn’t know everything. If you know exactly what your character does, it makes a huge difference to the game.
- Make a character that plays well with others. So you make a fantastic character. You are excited to bring it to the table and show off in front of your friends. Pause to reflect a moment. Does your character work well with others or are they someone who likes to be alone? Are they antisocial or possibly violent to everyone else? Think of the other players. Go ahead and make a lone wolf character but remember that you’re playing as a group and you should have a reason to work with the other players.
- Help out your DM. Not a lot of people are willing to DM and having a “good” DM is rare. Ask your DM how much time they spend prepping for the game – it might be quite a lot. If you get the chance, offer to bring snacks or host a session. If you are artistic, perhaps offer to draw characters, write short stories, keep an adventure journal or write songs. Everyone loves a bit of fan art.
During the game:
- Remember – Player vs. Character. Separating player and character can make a big difference for the game. Your character is not you – so don’t play as yourself. Instead, play as your sword-wielding, spell-shooting alter-ego. This means realizing that the character is not your personality but that of someone else… and so too are the characters of your fellow players. During the game, don’t worry about having another player challenge your ideas or even work against you. Read the table. Your DM will help keep the game fun. Try not to assume that the other players are fighting you in real life.
- Actively Listen. This doesn’t mean you have to hang on every word of everyone at the table. But having to ask the DM what they just said causes the game to slow down immensely, and listening to your fellow players will give you great chances to react and build on the game.
- Look for “fun” moments. Remember that this is a game. Enjoyment is important and if you are not having a good time, ask yourself why. Can you find fun without impeding on your fellow players? Yes? Then go for it. No? Then wait and talk it out with the DM after the game.
- Help keep the game going. DMs are able to do a lot to keep the game moving, but players direct the action in key ways. As a player, you can push the game in directions that interest you. Be clear about what you want to do. Climb a mountain, seek out the city sewer or try to save someone in distress. Opportunities come to those who want them, and not always to those who wait.
- Know what you will do on your turn. No one wants to wait for someone to plan out their turn. If you are a complicated spell-slinger or a tricky rogue, it could take minutes to rifle through the player’s handbook to know what to do. Try to use other player’s turns to prepare for your own. Plan ahead, know your strengths and play to them. Everyone will appreciate it and the game will continue to run smoothly.
That’s a lot to think about in pursuit of fun and excitement, so let’s sum up.
Be kind and respectful, remembering that what happens in the game doesn’t always translate to real life. Have fun but keep in mind that others are trying to have fun, too! Go to your DM if you have questions. He or she wants to have fun, too, and can usually help.
See you at the table.