• Justin Handlin

D&D: 10 Tips to Help You Become a Better Player

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How do I become a better Dungeons & Dragons player? This isn’t a question many players ask themselves. How do I become a better Dungeon Master? This is a question almost every DM asks themselves. Why is it that making sure that the game is fun rests solely on the DM? Don’t they have enough work to do? Before I made the Crit Academy show, I asked myself this question. Combined with some other thoughts, a show dedicated to providing guidance to Dungeons and Dragons to both players and DMs was born. Since then over 250 episodes chock full of DM and Players tips has been created.

So, if you’re looking for a few ways to not only take some weight off your DMs shoulders but also make the game more fun for everyone involved, then check out this list of “10 Tips to Help you Become a Better Player”.

Know Your Actions

You’re sitting at the gaming table, and it’s your turn. You look over your character sheet, flip through your spell cards, and eventually, you decide to simply attack the closest target. You roll attack and damage, but then you remember something else you wanted to do with your Bonus Action. Then you open up the book again...All the while, the entire group is waiting for you. Your turn only took about three or four minutes. But when you’re one of five players, if everyone else’s turn is that long, it adds to around twenty minutes per round until it's your turn again.

There are many factors that cause combat to take longer than it has to, the biggest factor is players not knowing their actions until their turn. At any given moment, you should have some sort of a default action for your character. Attack the nearest target if you’re a Fighter, cast Eldritch Blast if you’re a Warlock, etc. If you have a few spells you’re likely to cast, read up on those spells when it isn’t your turn so you know how they work. If you have a magic item you might use, have the page open so you’re ready to go if you need it. Know your weapon damage. Know how many attacks you’re able to make.

Know what actions you have at your disposal so you can easily pick one when the time comes. If you can’t decide, go back to your default until you can make a decision. Everyone’s time at the table is valuable, so try to use it wisely.

Help Clean Up

It’s worth noting that the pandemic over the last few years has caused us to play virtually, but I still want to include this one because it is important in my opinion.

Do you ever wonder who cleans up after the game is over and everyone has left? Probably not. But if you do wonder, it means you aren’t sticking around to help, and you absolutely should be! Running a game is a lot of work for the DM, and whoever is hosting the game puts a lot of work into getting their home or game site ready for people to play. As a player, it’s the least you can do to stick around and help gather up dice, clean off the battlemat, recycle soda cans, and clear up any other mess that was generated by the group.

Be considerate! A player that sticks around to help clean up is definitely a player who is appreciated by their host, and even if not, it’s still the right thing to do. Be a good player. Help clean up.

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How did you learn that?

Your party is hired to track down and kill an evil green dragon that’s been terrorizing a village. Remembering that as a ranger with the Favored Enemy: Dragons ability, you proudly proclaim that you will lead the expedition!

Think about that for a second. Why does your character have that ability? Were your parents killed by Dragons? Were you part of an ancient order that was tasked with eradicating dragons? Did your character spend years learning what sort of tracks dragons leave behind, or do they have a supernatural ability to sense where a dragon has been recently?

These sorts of questions can really flesh out your character and give you inspiration for new ways to play the character. Think about these questions to make your character feel more real!

Related Article: Note Taking Tips for D&D Players

Describe your Character's Actions

“I move here, I attack.”

“I cast Magic Missile. Eight damage.”

While these are perfectly acceptable ways of playing the game, most would agree, they’re not very interesting. As a player, you have an opportunity to enrich your gameplay when you take action. Imagine if those actions sounded like this instead:

“I run around the enemy and duck under their blade and thrust my rapier under their arm.” or “I chant words of power with an outstretched hand and Three glowing skulls of arcane energy erupt from my fingertips, streaking across the room to strike the ogre.” Anyone can agree that those sound more exciting than simply saying, “I attack”. Simple descriptions of your actions can enhance the fun of the game.

Roleplaying is Action

When it comes to getting the most out of your roleplaying experience, show, don’t tell when it comes to your character. Don't just write “Brave” in the margin of your character sheet. Instead, display your character’s bravery by leaping into action to take on touch challenges or in a selfless way. Remember, deeds always speak louder than words. You will know you’re successful when others describe your character as well as you do.

Enhance your Rituals

When you cast rituals in your game, do you just say, “Okay, I cast this spell as a ritual"? Ten minutes pass, what happens?” You might, because lots of players do that. Why not put in a little bit of work to make your rituals meaningful and exciting? Consider why they take ten minutes or even an hour.

When you cast a ritual, describe what your character does. Do you draw out arcane glyphs on the floor and light candles to focus the magical energies? Do you take out your spell component pouch and sprinkle some bone dust on your head while crushing the skull of an enemy under your boot, or do you perform an ancient dance using your arcane focus as an extension of your body? What are the visual effects of your ritual? What does it sound like? What does it smell like?

These aren’t necessary when playing a ritual caster, but imagine how much more immersive the game will be when you describe all of these sights and sounds to the other players. If you feel like it, you could even bring an actual book to the game (maybe something in another language or a book of rhymes or poetry. We recommend Words of Power) and read a line each time you cast a spell. The more work you put into your spells and rituals, the more exciting and memorable they’ll be!

Build Group Connections

When you form an adventuring party with people who you just met, chances are you aren’t going to be invested in what happens to them. However, What if two of the party members used to serve with you in the city militia? They’ll probably work more closely together because they know they can rely on you. How much harder are you going to fight to save them when they are in trouble?

Now, not all connections are positive. Maybe you and a party member are at odds because in the past they ratted you out to the guards when a heist went wrong. Adding even a single sentence of connection to other PCs makes the game so much more exciting and personal. Work with the other players to build these connections to one another and watch the story grow.

Related Article: 20 Orcish Taunts, Insults and Curses

Create your own Magic item Command Words

“Sword of Omens, give me sight beyond sight!”

“Camaro, come out!”

“By the power of Greyskull, I have the power!”

Some could argue that the best part of combat in Dungeons & Dragons is having memorable, exciting encounters. When you find a magic item with an ability activated by a command word, one way that you can make every encounter that much more memorable is to create your own command word! Too often magic item activation is a complete afterthought- something taken for granted whenever the item is used. But if you create a memorable command word such as “Brisingr!” whenever your sword is drawn, then it evokes so much more emotion and excitement than simply saying, “I draw my flaming sword.”

Accept Limits

Oftentimes a DM may place restrictions on character options as part of their unique campaign setting. Such things as races, classes, feats, spells, etc. When entering a story or campaign and before you become committed to a character concept, be sure it doesn’t conflict with any limitations that are set in place. Now, I can already hear the bitching and moaning coming from the “It’s in the book!” crowd. While I agree to an extent, some things just don’t belong in certain settings. Imagine how much different the desert planet Tatooine would be if there were penguins running around!?

Instead of considering it a limitation, think of it as a great opportunity to challenge your preconceptions about various other character combinations. Now, if you’re just looking for a particular set of stats and features. You can always just ask the DM, “Hey I really like the small size and the features of the Halfling. Are there any races or creatures in your world that can be reskinned as”? With something like this, not only are you accepting the limitation, but you could be breeding a new creation in the setting. In either case, accepting limits can help avoid unnecessary drama and open new opportunities for us as players.

Shift the Focus

You’re a great roleplayer. Of course, you are! When a situation comes up in-game you’re always among the first to come up with a reaction from your character and to engage in the world around you. Other players might not be as seasoned as you, and they may keep quiet and follow the leader rather than take charge themselves. While this isn’t a bad thing - shifting the focus can encourage other players to get more engaged.

There’s a lot of ways this can be done. Maybe you can ask the other player what they think about a given course of action or you can tell them your plan and ask for ways to make it better. As long as you’re incorporating the other players into the action, they’ll be encouraged, and they’ll feel more confident about participating on their own. Before you know it, they’ll be the ones helping newer players engage in the game world!

While I know every table is different and some of these may or may not apply to you. I can promise that applying at least one of these techniques to your game will make it a better experience for everyone at your table, regardless of the game. If you enjoy these tips, make sure to sign up for our newsletter and get more tips and blogs like this sent right to your mailbox. Become the best player I know you can be!

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Keep your blades sharp and spells prepared heroes!

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