For people getting into Dungeons & Dragons, there are quite literally thousands of guides on how to be a good DM, but there are considerably fewer resources for players. The other people at the table are just as important to D&D as DMs, and good players can contribute to a campaign as much as bad ones can hinder it. These are some of the most common tips for DMs, and how players can use them to their own advantage.
This is a perennial DM tip, and it’s important. D&D is a fairly flexible game. It is also the most popular TTRPG in the world, and almost every type of game, from mystery to dungeon crawl, has been made to fit into D&D. Because of this, it is important for a DM to know what type of game they want to run, so that they can prepare well and communicate to their players.
Player Tip: Know What Type Of Player You Are
Just like a DM needs to figure out whether they want to run an intrigue game or a nautical campaign, players need to figure out whether they prefer to play as Grogar the rampaging barbarian or Fyrrin the charming rogue. Finding a preferred playstyle is necessary for finding a good table. Players who love combat mechanics and solving problems with violence are not going to feel at home in a sleuthing situation. Once a player figures out their playstyle, they can communicate with potential DMs to figure out if their campaign would be one they would want to join. After all, no one wants Grogar smashing up the parlor scene in a murder mystery.
This is one of the best DM tips. DMs are not trying to destroy their players, they are creating a challenge for them. D&D is a collaborative game, and having fun is more important that getting a TPK.
Player Tip: Your DM Is Not Your Enemy
Many forget that this goes both ways. So much D&D humor is built around tormenting, annoying, or otherwise pulling one over on the DM. The DM is another person playing a game with the rest of the table, often with a much larger time investment. They aren’t the players’ boss, and making their game difficult isn’t “sticking it to the man.” Obviously, things will go awry sometimes, as is the nature of D&D, but players should never try to make their DM’s life difficult.
The conversation around consent in RPGs has picked up steam recently, which has led to DMs being more aware of boundaries at the table. DMs should be aware of topics that players wish to avoid and should avoid introducing triggering or uncomfortable subjects when DMing for them.
Player Tip: Know Your DM’s Boundaries
Consent goes both ways. While the DM creates the world, players have agency within it, and can still introduce uncomfortable topics. Players should be as cognizant of their DM’s comfort zone as their DM is of theirs. For that matter, players should respect the boundaries of other players at the table as well.
For longer campaigns, having a rough outline, lists of random NPCs, or other plans can help inform roleplaying and story. It can also help when players go off-track; you have a ready-made NPC or bit of juicy lore at the ready.
Player Tip: Take Notes
It’s an amazing feeling when an adventure goes off the rails and the DM still has enough prepared to keep up, but it’s even better when the players remember the DM’s hard work. Taking notes about the NPCs you meet, the lore of the world, and clues the DM drops can help make the campaign seem like a more cohesive adventure. Plus, your DM will love it when you remember things they said in a previous session and can work them into the current narrative. These details can help add flavor, inform your character’s decisions, or even provide foreshadowing to future plot points, so make sure you remember them.
One of the most oft-repeated tips for DMs is one of the easiest to follow — describe things! Simply adding vivid descriptions to your settings and characters, even just a few words, can draw players into the game in ways that no rulebook can.
Player Tip: Make Your Actions Interesting To The Table
No matter how beautiful a scene the DM paints, it still won’t help if it gets to a player’s turn and they say, “I cast fire bolt.” Nothing is more boring than just telling the table the name of an action and nothing else. Casters can describe the color of their magic or the movements of the somatic components of their spells. Warriors can describe the strikes they make with their swords and axes. Never take a boring turn again.
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