With GenCon coming up many of the gaming blogs (this one included) will start running a series of articles sharing advice on things to do, things not to do, and general tips for making you convention experience great. Today I want to focus specifically on the masses that will be playing D&D Next at this year’s GenCon. Some of the tips and suggestions I make will be common sense things that apply to any edition of D&D or any RPG for that matter; others will be specific to D&D Next. If you’re play D&D at GenCon I encourage you to review the list below and try to remember as many of these as possible while at the con.
1) D&D Next is still a work in progress
What you play at GenCon is not the final version of D&D Next. It’s just the most current version of the playtest materials. That’s not to say that it’s incomplete, just that it’s still rough around the edges. I’ve been playing D&D Next in my home game and at D&D Encounters for a few months now and I’ll admit that there are things I like and things I don’t based on what I’ve seen so far. But for now I’m not interested in blasting D&D Next because I have issue with this or that. I take it for what it is, and I do my best to have a good time when I play. So far my experiences have been very positive. Please be mindful of this when you play.
2) Be kind to the DM
If you’re new to D&D, new to D&D Next, new to GenCon, or just new to public play this is an important reminder: The DM didn’t write the adventure or create the rules. The person running your table is a volunteer. They’ve donated their time at the con to run the adventure so that you and five other gamers can play. They’re doing their best with what they’ve got. Some DMs will have plenty of experience running D&D Next, others may not. Be kind to the DM. If you don’t like something about your class, or if you have a problem with the way a rule works, don’t complain to the DM. There’s little they can do about it. You’ll just sound like a whiner. Find something you do like about the experience and focus on that.
3) Be helpful
For some people, GenCon will be the first time they’ve ever played D&D Next. Likewise some DMs will have very little experience running D&D Next before the con. If you’re a hard-core gamer and are familiar with the new rules offer to help the players and DM. Emphasis on OFFER to help. Don’t be a Gaming Jerk and boast your intimate knowledge of D&D Next unless it’s requested. I’d suggest casually telling the table at the beginning of the game that you’re played or run a lot of sessions using the D&D Next new rules and can offer assistance if needed. Remember that some DMs may choose to modify rules to keep things moving or to make the game more enjoyable. Don’t point out mistakes or correct them. Only be helpful if your help is requested.
4) Do your homework ahead of time
All of the D&D Next playtest materials are available online for free. If you plan to play any D&D Next events at GenCon visit dndnext.com right now and download the packet. You don’t have to bring printed copies with you or memorize all the rules, but reading over the basics ahead of time will help you prepare and make things run smoother at the con. This is especially true if you’re planning to play a Wizard or other spellcaster.
5) Treat D&D Next as its own game
When playing any new game it’s important not to make assumptions. This is especially true of D&D Next. Many of us have a lot of experience playing previous editions of D&D and it’s tough to unlearn some aspects of those games. Come at D&D Next as a totally new game. Don’t make any assumptions about rules just because they worked a certain way in 3.5e or 4e. If you don’t know with certainty look it up or ask the DM (or a player who’s offered to be helpful). Using the correct D&D Next terminology also helps. Combat Advantage from 4e and Advantage from D&D Next are not the same and do not work the same way. If you didn’t know that, you’d better look it up before the con. Encouraging other players to use the correct terms will help them separate their 3.5e/4e knowledge from the new stuff. For example you don’t take a double move any more, you move and then hustle in D&D Next.
6) Don’t be a hater
D&D Next definitely draws elements from previous iterations of D&D and for that reason people who might not have loved 4e are coming back to D&D. I welcome you and I hope you like what you see. However, if you don’t like it don’t disrupt or corrupt the table. I’m always amazed at how many people play D&D only to complain about the game. If you don’t like it, don’t play! This is especially true of edition wars. If you like one edition over another that’s fine, play the one you like. Don’t show up at my table and tell me about how this version sucks and how your favourite edition is better. Try to find something you like about the game in progress and focus on that part. Along these lines, it get’s really annoying really fast when older, more experienced players spend the whole session drawing comparisons to previous editions during play. Nobody cares that rule X reminds you of AD&D or that rule Y is the same as it was in 3.5e. We’re glad you see things you like, but younger players don’t care.
7) Try something different
When I’m gaming at GenCon I like to try new things. Regardless of how much D&D you play at home, play something outside of your comfort zone at GenCon. I don’t know if there will be time to make your own character before each D&D Next event so you may be assigned a pre-generated character. Don’t freak out if you don’t get your first pick. Embrace the character they give you and have fun with it. Try a new class, a new race, or just a different personality type. If you’re usually the guy in the back, try being the leader. If you normally play a melee guy, try playing a spell caster. Remember that the people at your table likely don’t know you and may never see you again. Don’t worry about being the zany guy. Just have fun and don’t interfere with any of the other players attempt to have fun.
8) Share feedback with Wizards
At the end of it all you need to share your thoughts on D&D Next with Wizards of the Coast – good or bad. They regularly ask for your input and feedback through online surveys. The next time you have a chance to complete one, make sure you do it. After all, how can they improve the game if you don’t tell them what you like and what you don’t like? The feedback surveys usually leave plenty of room for free form comments so if they don’t specifically ask you about an aspect of the game you can tell them all about it. I find keeping notes during the game of the stuff I really like or dislike makes it easier to provide constructive criticism afterwards. Telling them you think D&D Next sucks isn’t constructive! Wizards is trying to make the game great, and asking you for your ideas is one way to make that happen. If you don’t tell them about your play experience then you don’t have the right to complain about the finished product when it’s released next summer.
What other dos and don’ts might you suggest for people who plan to play D&D Next at GenCon this summer? Perhaps you can expand on some of the tips I’ve provided above? What part of the D&D Next experience are people most looking forward to this summer at GenCon?