10 Reminders for All D&D Players

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on November 18, 2009

During a recent game I took note of all the things the players at my gaming table, me included, could be doing better or doing differently. What I came up with was a list of general reminders that all players should review. Most of these are common sense kind of reminders, but I’m amazed at how often PCs forget to do the most obvious things. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the game or the most experienced player in the room, everyone benefits from a quick refresher.

  1. Make active Perception checks

  2. I don’t need to make active Perception checks, my passive Perception is 24.

    I’ve discovered that DMs love to have their monsters use Stealth. The monsters wouldn’t be sneaking if they weren’t good at it. So make those active rolls. After all, the passive roll is only the equivalent of rolling 10. That mans you’ve got a 50% chance of rolling a higher number. If you can’t see an opponent, make active checks. You’ve got everything to gain and your life to loose.

  3. Good DMs employ good tactics

  4. The minions move to flank you, the archers all target you and the Wizard targets you with a spell that won’t hurt his allies.

    Just because the PCs are too dumb to use good tactics doesn’t mean that the DM should follow suit. In most cases there are suggested tactics printed right in the monster’s description. So don’t get angry at a good DM for using smart tactics. Even if those tactics result in all the monsters ganging up on one PC.

  5. Always do the math

  6. Damn, I rolled a 4. Oh well, that’s going to miss.

    Never assume that a roll is a miss. Apply the relevant bonuses and call out the number. Let the DM tell you if it was a hit or a miss. This is especially true if you’re attacking Fort, Ref or Will.

    Just because a number missed last time doesn’t necessarily mean that it will always be a miss. Between situational modifiers, one-time powers and ongoing conditions your target numbers will fluctuate as the battle continues.

  7. Use you daily powers

  8. I don’t know if I should use my daily yet. After all, he could just be a minion. I want to save my big attack for when it will do the most good.

    Use those daily powers! I’d rather use my daily and kill a single minion, or even miss the target all together than get an extended rest and realize I haven’t used my dailies. They’re your biggest and best attacks. If you use them in the first encounter and then get an unexpected extended rest it’s like having twice as many daily powers. Stop hording and start using. This goes for action points too!

  9. Ongoing damage adds up fast

  10. You take 5 ongoing acid damage from that bite. And then you take another 5 ongoing necrotic damage from this attack. And because you’re in the creature’s aura at the start of your turn you’ll take 5 more cold damage.

    When I first began playing 4e D&D I thought the feat Human Perseverance was dumb. I mean, really, how often will +1 on a save really come into play. As it turns out, a lot! As the PCs get tougher they seem to be subjected to more and more attacks that do ongoing damage. At first it’s not a big deal, but after failing the saves three rounds in a row you realize that you just lost over half your hit points to ongoing damage. Worse still, if you fall unconscious the ongoing damage still hurts you as you inch closer and closer to permanent death. Items that provide bonuses to saves should be coveted above all others. I no longer scoff at feats that only provide a +1 bonus to saves.

  11. Don’t be the guy who slows down the game

  12. So on that attack I did 11 points of damage. No, wait, I think I have a power that gives me +1 more damage. Or was it +2. You know it might not really apply in this circumstance. Let me look it up just to be sure.

    In the grand scheme of things, 1 or 2 points of damage rarely makes a difference. Slowing the game down to look up some obscure rule is not cool. If you’re not sure about something use your best judgment and move on. If the monster’s not even bloodied then 1 point shouldn’t really matter. Put you time (and the time of everyone else at the table) to better use and just keep the game moving.

  13. Stealth is always an option

  14. I may be a Fighter with a measly +5 in Stealth, but I’m going to try and move closer to the camp without being detected. Holy crap, I rolled a 15. Hey guys I’m being stealthy.

    The monsters aren’t the only ones who can be sneaky. Although only a few classes provide PCs with the choice to train in Stealth, you can still attempt to be sneaky. Much like the PCs, monsters will generally be using their passive numbers to detect approaching adventurers. This may not be true if they have sentries posted, but in most cases a decent roll will let you gain a huge advantage by moving silently. Never assume that the party will be too noisy until you actually blow a Stealth check.

  15. Dice hate everyone equally

  16. Ouch, the monster hit you again. You take 4d6 damage… I don’t believe it: 7 damage. I rolled a 1-2-1-3.

    Dice are finicky and indiscriminate. You assume that bad things happen to PCs because their dice roll poorly (and might even be out to get them), but DMs are susceptible to bad rolls too. Don’t count on it happening a lot, but every now and then the PCs catch a break and the DM’s dice go cold.

  17. Don’t forget, you’re supposed to be having fun

  18. My character would be so outraged by this turn of events that he’d storm out and refuse to participate in the coming fight.

    There are times when the out-of-game decisions are more important than the in-game decisions (as I was reminded not too long ago when a PC was killed). Sometimes it’s more important to ignore the negative, in-game consequences for the betterment of the out-of-game players. Taking an unpopular in-game action may be good role-playing… sometimes. If it creates too much friction or tension at the table for the real life players then perhaps it’s time to just do what’s best out-of-character even if it’s not the best choice for your PC. It’s just a game and we’re all supposed to be having fun.

  19. Pay attention

  20. Damn it! I missed again.

    Even though it’s not your turn you need to pay attention to what’s going on around you. Many classes have powers that will lower monsters defenses or provide you with bonuses to hit. If you aren’t paying attention when the Wizard casts a spell then you may not realize that the 16 that missed was really an 18 that would have hit.

    If you’re playing in an LFR game and there are +1 reward cards on the table, paying attention to these details becomes even more important. Knowing that a 17 hit last round means that using the +1 can turn 16 into a hit.

    Paying attention will also let you put immediate actions to their best use. But you have to know what they do and under which circumstances you can actually use them.

If you found these reminders helpful, you should also check out the 10 Things I Learned at Worldwide D&D Game Day.

What other tips and reminders do you think all players should keep in mind? Are there obvious actions or common sense tips that you think we’d all benefit from doing? Let us know in the comments section below.

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1 skallawag November 18, 2009 at 10:57 am

Very good points!
When we were running a level 30 delve, I know that I had to make a cheat sheet for my character sheet just so I could remind myself of all my available immediate interrupts/reactions as well as listing out my damage bonuses and why (e.g. hunter’s quarry, prime quarry, etc.). This helped me to keep track of my available feats/powers and more easily calculate damages done so I didn’t need to be that guy who looked up the +1 or +2 and holding up the whole night.

2 Anarkeith November 18, 2009 at 10:59 am

Nice reminders for DMs and players. The reminder not to worry too much about one or two points of damage, while good advice, has haunted me more than once. Creatures that would be dead had I better used my resources, or calculated my bonuses, have done serious damage. Like any competitive game, paying attention to details is what makes the difference between mere players and true champions.

3 mthomas768 November 18, 2009 at 11:48 am

I’d add: Think ahead! Too many players sit in a fugue state while everyone else takes their action, then stutter and fumble about when it’s their turn. Be planning your next action while others are taking their turn to keep things moving!

4 Tyson J. Hayes November 18, 2009 at 11:53 am

Number 6 reminds me of an article we just wrote today (see comluv) in which Jeff confesses that he can be one of those guys. Good reminders, and thanks for the list.
.-= Tyson J. Hayes´s last blog ..Confessions of a Rules Lawyer =-.

5 Rook November 18, 2009 at 8:32 pm

I second mthomas768’s comment! “Think Ahead” should definitely be #11 on that list. Of course, as quickly as things tend to change on the battlefield, planning ahead goes hand-in-hand with #10.
.-= Rook´s last blog ..A Creature Featured: The Talyn Hunter =-.

6 Ameron November 18, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Familiarity with you character (gained over many levels of play) would reduce the need for a cheat sheet, but for the one-off delves a cheat sheet is a great idea.

If you keep missing those +1s every turn they will certainly come back to bite you. But if you miss one every once and a while then it shouldn’t make a huge difference. I agree that those who really want to excel will pay attention.

Excellent addition. In some cases my group will actually pre-roll their attack and damage so that when their turn comes around they just explain what happens. It’s not for everyone, but it works for our group and things move along just fine.

@Tyson J. Hayes
Thanks for the comment. I checked out your article. Good work.

Perhaps “Think ahead” is more appropriately #1 on a new list rather than #11 on this one. Either way it’s a great reminder.

7 Swordgleam November 18, 2009 at 11:10 pm

I think “don’t be that guy” covers “think ahead.” If you think ahead, you don’t have to add up bonuses and fumble around for rules each time because you already know what you’ve planned and you’ve looked up all the relevant numbers.

8 Buccaneers Guild November 19, 2009 at 6:22 am

Great points, I’m particularly guilty of not using my daily powers enough. Admittedly I’m a newbie 4e player, only DMed it so far.

Now as DM I’d never forget to use a monsters kickass power. Perhaps I should treat each fight my character gets into as her last. Sames as I do for monsters when DMing.
.-= Buccaneers Guild´s last blog ..We Build Worlds =-.

9 knowman November 19, 2009 at 12:03 pm

In #9 – about “having fun”, I’m disappointed to see you advocate watering down the role-playing part of an RPG. It is still an RPG, isn’t it? If there are diametrically opposed PCs that are constantly going to be at each other’s throats, perhaps the long-term outlook for the party isn’t so good. But asking a paladin to compromise, or a thief to not help themselves to extra loot because OOC the other players won’t like it, then what’s the point of role-playing. Our DM does an excellent job of presenting a variety of challenges for our characters – ethical dilemmas as well as strategic and tactical obstacles to overcome. It makes for a much richer game when characters are flushed out rather than amorphous stat blocks.

Granted, in the example you gave, I could see why that was an issue, especially when you’re playing with strangers or on a one-shot. But I fault the DM for that situation. One-off games should focus more on the fun than the campaign continuity (because there isn’t any), and he should have been more flexible.

10 Ameron November 19, 2009 at 11:24 pm

I agree that the two are definitely related, and perhaps that’s why I didn’t think to list them as two separate points. Either way they’re both good reminders.

@Buccaneers Guild
I was like you for a long time, never using my daily powers. And then I actually started using them more often and earlier in the fight and I realized just how powerful my PC actually was. Now I usually use my daily in the first few rounds of the first fight. I rarely regret it.

The “have fun” reminder is a tricky one. I agree that the role-playing should be an important part of the game and usually I’m the biggest and most vocal advocate of that side of D&D. But during a recent game we realized that there will be occasions (like the death of a PC) when you have to consider the reaction of the player. In my specific example, role-playing the PCs “correctly” meant continuing with our mission and getting the dead PC raised from the dead later. In real life that meant the poor player was done for the night. We opted to put fun first in this case and did what was best for the players, not the characters.

I think your examples of how people generally play certain types of PCs is valid and I agree that they indulge in these aspects that make their character fun to play, even if it means the occasional disagreement at the table.

11 Charisma April 25, 2010 at 9:35 am

#11 – Make the character you want. If you want a human, but for him to have the shifter racial traits, just make a shifter and reflavor him as a human.
.-= Charisma´s last blog ..Stuffer Shack Progress =-.

12 Zrog April 18, 2013 at 11:05 am

I disagree with your “using dailies on a minion is better than not using them” statement. Maybe if your DM allows you frequent “full rests”, then maybe you can get away with this. In a tougher campaign, using your daily without figuring out which are the minions is a recipe for getting destroyed later, when you don’t have your best powers available when you need them. Yes, dailies should be used early, and no, they shouldn’t be saved “for a rainy day”, but for heaven’s sake, find out which are the minions first!

I also disagree with “one or two points of damage doesn’t matter”. I’ve had many experiences where even 1 hp of damage left on the BBEG means the difference between the bad guy getting away, another 1-2 party members dropping, etc. While I see your point about “getting the math done fast is important”, I disagree with your example. Instead, just get a math-oriented player to help the one(s) who seem to have trouble with all the modifiers.

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