• Justin Handlin

D&D: 5 Tips on How to Be a Better Player in Dungeons & Dragons |Vol IV

Adventuring Party with wizard, rogue, warrior and ranger.

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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 260 episodes chock full of DM and Players tips have 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

“5 Tips on How to Be a Better Player in Dungeons & Dragons”.

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 your character is 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 by the gods with eradicating dragons from the earth? Do you hate dragons, or do you just hunt them as a profession? How many of them have you killed?

If you do hate dragons, does this hatred extend to dragonborn or half-dragons of other races? Did your character spend years learning what sort of spoor or 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. Also, it doesn’t have to stop at abilities like Favored Enemy. Who

taught your fighter to properly wield a sword? Who was the original caster that developed the Fireball spell that you’ve used to great effect? Who taught you the ins and outs of lockpicking?

Think about these questions to make your character feel more real!

Character Building Away From the Table

Have you ever packed up your books after the session was over, and then gone home and wished you didn’t have to wait until the next session to play some more? Have you ever had a fun moment between two characters that didn’t quite get fleshed out enough at the table? Have you ever just had the urge to roleplay your character, but you’re at home by yourself?

Build your character away from the table! Start an email chain between yourself and the other players, in character. Write out a journal from your character’s perspective. If the last session ended with the characters taking a few days to rest in town, make a list of things your character is doing (or wants to do) during the downtime. Doing these sorts of exercises not only works your roleplaying muscle, but it also might help you develop new motivations and new ideas for fun things to do at the table. Next time your group gets together you’ll have all sorts of new fun things to tell the other players that will make it more fun for everybody!

Related Article: 5 Tips on HOw to be a Better Player in D&D

Don't Metagame

The player characters are out on their first adventure, and they’re learning about the magical and dangerous world that they live in. While traveling through a swamp, they encounter a hulking humanoid with vicious claws and rubbery skin. The fighter leaps forward and slashes at the beast, impaling it right through the chest. However, victory turns to dismay as the humanoid's wound starts to close and it lurches forward to attack! The party wizard begins casting ray of frost, when one of the players pipes up:

“Use Firebolt instead. This troll has regeneration, and fire is its weakness.”

What just went wrong here? Well, a player used information that their character wouldn’t have in order to gain an advantage. That’s called “metagaming,” and it’s generally frowned upon. In this scenario, nobody in the party had knowledge of trolls or how their regeneration functioned, so specifically calling this information out was metagaming.

Metagaming is a tricky issue because you can’t exactly erase the knowledge that you, the player, have, and you shouldn’t be penalized for being more experienced than someone else. Even so, there are ways to mitigate metagaming by working it out in character. Instead of simply urging a fellow player to use a specific tactic, try to work with the DM to see if your party might have that information. Offer to make skill checks (Nature, Arcana, etc.) to see if your character has studied the monster in question, or - if your DM allows it - say that your character used to go hunting in these parts and they were told by the locals to bring along a torch in case trolls showed up. If your character typically used fire anyway, then don’t worry about it. Just keep doing what you were doing.

Metagaming is going to bother some DMs more than others, so try to work with them to help the game run smoothly.t never hurts to run an idea by the DM before doing it in-game. If you don’t know if your character would know or do something and you’re afraid of metagaming, just ask! Your DM will surely appreciate the question over you just acting on it without bothering to check.

Wandering adventuring at the entrance of a ancient fortress dungeon with a waterfall.

Don't Be a Rules Lawyer

I’ll just put this out there: knowing the rules front to back isn’t a bad thing. I’ll also say that while the DM should usually know the rules better than everyone else, oftentimes they don’t.

Sometimes they might make a judgment call that goes against the rules, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with pointing out a rule when the game veers away from them.

However, many DMs make a conscious decision to veer away from the rules for various reasons. Maybe they don’t like that rule, and they want to play it differently. Maybe the scenario they have in mind works better with a little tweak to the rules; that’s their right and theirs alone. While it’s perfectly fine for you to know the rules and even to offer up a page number when the DM is unsure, once the DM makes a ruling, that’s it. It’s now your responsibility as a player to follow that ruling, whether you agree with it or not, and play as if that was the rule printed in the rulebook.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If this bothers you you can bring it up to the DM away from the table. Once it’s been addressed and ruled by the DM, don’t bring it up during the game session. Just don’t. Instead, play the game as adjudicated. Once the session has concluded, take the DM to the side (or send an e-mail, make a phone call, etc.), and explain to them why the ruling bothered you. A good DM will take the players’ thoughts and concerns into consideration, but if the DM decides to stick with the previous ruling, then that’s it. You shouldn’t bring it up again, even if it bothers you. If it only bothers you a little, then over time you’ll get used to it. If it’s a deal-breaker, then you might want to consider finding a new group. It’s not that it will be impossible for you to enjoy the game, but a strong rules disagreement might be a symptom of a difference in expectation between players. If that’s the case, then it might be in everyone’s best interest for you to find a game that’s better suited to your expectations. The old group will be able to play the game as they were, and you’ll be able to enjoy the new group without constantly butting heads with the DM.

Remember, never argue with the DM about rules at the gaming table. The rest of your friends took time out of their busy schedule to play a game, not to listen to you argue about something that they probably couldn’t care less about. You can try and use your knowledge of the rules to help the DM run their game more smoothly, but, again, once a ruling has been made, that’s it.

-Yours truly, a self-admitted Rules Lawyer-

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Share Loot

Have you ever been in a group with a player who insists that they need every piece of treasure from the magical armor to the magical weapon to the magic ring and the magic cloak AND they also expect a share of the coins? Don’t be that player.

Treasure should always be divided up as evenly as possible, even if that’s a bit difficult to discern at times. Sometimes the treasure will include magic items that are clearly best suited for certain characters. The magical Thieves’ Tools might provide a great benefit to the Rogue, and the +2 greataxe will do more damage in the Barbarian’s hands than the Wizard’s. Even so, just because an item is best suited for your character doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be included when evenly distributing the treasure. If you take a valuable item, then you should also take a smaller portion of the cash from the hoard. If there’s an uneven amount of treasure that is suited for your character (e.g. a chest containing a magic staff, a magic spellbook, and almost nothing else) then consider taking some of the magic items your character already has and putting those into the pot so that another player can use them. You could take the staff and spellbook, for example, and then give your Ring of Protection to the party Rogue to bolster her Armor Class.

It’s not always necessary to stress out over counting each and every gold piece to make sure everyone gets an even share but try to keep an eye on whether or not you’ve been getting more treasure than everyone else. If you are, try to do something to even it out. A benefit to one member typically benefits the whole group, but if you can spread the benefits out so everyone has something, you’ll be much better off.

While there are way more ways to better yourself at the table. When it comes down to it, these tips not only make the game more enjoyable for you but also enhance the fun at the table for everyone else. Remember, we’re all here to have fun. Let’s each do our part.

If you enjoy this content, please consider picking up our Unearthed Tips & Tricks books. This information is right from this best-selling Dungeon Master resource.

A dwarf and elf adventuring party exploring a wizards library

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