D&D is a complicated game. There are the general game rules, the specific rules that apply to player characters and then there’s your character himself. It can be tough just to keep all of that straight, especially if you’re just getting into D&D. After participating in the Spellstorm gaming convention this past weekend in Toronto, I’ve put together a list of things to keep in mind when you’re playing D&D. These tips are applicable to any D&D game, but even more so at a convention where you’re less likely to know all the people at your table.
Respect table space
Know your PC
Be helpful, but not too helpful
Roll your damage first
Seven people shouldn’t have too much trouble sitting around a table (1 DM + 6 players). However, every player’s going to have his character sheet, power cards, dice, a pencil and RPGA cards at minimum in front of them. Add to that list a PHB, a beverage, condition markers for minis, and scrap paper for notes and table real estate is suddenly at a premium. Only keep things on the table that absolutely need to be there.
My rule of thumb is to put my PHB and PHB2 side-by-side on the table. Everything else I have out rests atop these books. Anything that doesn’t fit within these confines stays in my bag under the table. If everyone is mindful of their own space everyone should have ample room.
We’ve said this before, and I’m saying it again – know your character! Unless you’ve just made your character on the demo of character build at the convention or you’re using a pre-generated PC, there’s no excuse for being lost. You created this PC ahead of time. It’s your responsibility as a player to know what he’s capable of doing. If you don’t understand something, that’s fine. Before play starts ask the DM or one of the other players for guidance. But when the game begins you’re expected to know your character. If you have to look something up every time your turn comes around then you haven’t done your homework. You end up slowing down the entire table and it ruins the flow of the game.
I give brand new players a lot of latitude on this point, but if you’ve played before then you’re just being lazy and inconsiderate when you’re not prepared.
If you need help, ask. Most gamers are very friendly and outgoing. They’re happy to clear up how a power works or what your options are in an unusual situation.
If you’re an experienced player it’s important to ask other players if they want or need your help before offering assistance. If you just assume they need help and keep telling them what’s what you pretty much end up playing their character for them. It also doesn’t give the struggling player a chance to learn whatever it is that he doesn’t understand. By jumping in too quickly or when your help isn’t wanted you run the risk of being the Gaming Jerk and no one wants to be that guy.
Most PCs have items or powers that allow them to take immediate actions or immediate reactions. As your PC gains levels you’ll get more and more immediate powers. Since these powers don’t happen on your turn it’s very important that you know what they are, what they do and what triggers them. When you’re ready to use an immediate action announce it to the table clearly and with confidence. Make sure the DM hears you and acknowledges your action before you do anything. If you hum and haw about taking an immediate action then the play will go on you’ll miss your chance. Alternatively if you just say you’re taking an immediate action and start rolling, the DM may ask you to stop, back up and roll again. If you rolled a 20 and are asked to re-roll it you’ll be disappointed with the new result 19 out of 20 times.
Immediate actions aren’t the only reason to pay attention when it’s not your turn. By watching what the other players do you’ll be better prepared to act on your turn. Always try to have your actions ready so that when your turn comes up in the initiative order you can act quickly. State what you’re doing with your standard, move and minor actions before you do them. If you’re going to use an action point, make sure you say that too. When your turn’s over clearly let the table and the DM know.
Planning your actions becomes more important at higher levels. With more options available you need to know which ones you’re most likely going to use and not slow the game down while you flip though all of your cards on your turn. If you’re ready and act quickly on your turn, perhaps the other players will follow suit.
This applies mostly to controllers. If you’ve got a power that targets multiple creatures, roll the damage along with the first attack or even before the attack roll. This way as you roll to hit your enemies the DM can score the damage as you go. If you roll to attack six targets, hit four and then roll the damage, the DM has to go back at the end of your turn and score the damage. If he knows that each hit does 9 points of fire damage he can score it as you hit or miss your targets. The time saved will really add up over an adventure.
I don’t think any of these tips and reminders will come as a surprise to most experienced gamers, but it never hurts to get a refresher on the basics. If you found these tips helpful I’d also recommend you check out some of the other articles we’re written covering tip, tricks and reminders to speed up play and make your D&D experience more enjoyable.
- 10 Reminders for All D&D Players
- 10 Things I Learned at Worldwide D&D Game Day
- Speeding Up Your Game
Be sure to check out 6 D&D Convention Tips for DMs.
I’d like to give a special shout out to Dominic Amann, Stephanie Amann and Naomi Bernard for organizing Spellstorm. Thank you for all your hard work to make Spellstorm a reality for a second year. I’d also like to thank everyone who volunteered to DM. Your contribution helped make the convention possible.