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I’m going to be honest here, this is just part of being a good human being (or elf or dwarf etc.. Smartass). Playing a TTRPG is a group thing, so showing up at the time you’ve all agreed upon shows respect for the DM and the other players.
We all have lives too you know. Most of us do at least.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced the frustration of having everything ready and then having to wait for the last person to turn up, and then get their stuff in order, before we can start play. Yes, sometimes life gets in the way, there’s traffic or you had to work late, or the kids wouldn’t go to bed, whatever, at least call ahead and let the rest of your group know that you’re not going to get there on time.
However, if you’re regularly late to sessions, or maybe don’t turn up at all, you’re a bad player! But don’t despair, there are ways of being a more casual player if a regular commitment is too much for you. Maybe you could work out with your group a different time to play that works better for you? Or maybe your hectic life would suit a character that isn’t always part of the party, like a Gandalf character that comes and goes between sorting out his own business.
We could have a whole blog post on just this section alone. Oh wait, we do have one, take a look if you want a more in depth post about why you should stop trying to win. But anyway, I’ll give you the cliff notes here.
For starters, TTRPGs aren’t board games. It isn’t you vs the DM on every skill check or scenario that you come up against. The goal isn’t always to get to the end point, defeat the bad guy, and get all the loot. TTRPGs are cooperative, and yes that means with the DM as well! So don’t throw your toys out of the pram if they make a decision you aren’t happy with. You should always be able to talk to your DM about it after the session, but try to remember while you’re playing that there is likely a very good reason that they made the decision they did.
Which leads nicely into our next point.
You are part of a story. A good campaign has arcs and chapters just like a story. If the good guy always triumphed immediately it would be dull. A story is engaging when there’s a mixture of wins and losses. Sometimes you need to feel the beat down to make that victory all the more sweet.
So next time you feel like the DM is being unfair, don’t whine about it, embrace the suck and remember that you’re contributing to a story in action.
In case you’ve never been a DM, let me tell you, we have a lot to keep track of! There are endless numbers of NPCs and monsters, all with stats, not to mention the story, and if they’re really going all out for immersion, the DM may also be trying to juggle music and sound effects. They do not need to try to keep track of your stuff as well.
Try to remember where you are in the initiative order, this shouldn’t be hard because it’s roughly the same each round. The DM will know this anyway, but it’s so much more helpful if you do too! You are in charge of your own HP, spell slots, hit dice, saving throws etc.. If it’s on your character sheet, it’s your responsibility. Please, please, please, do not expect the DM to track this stuff for you, it’s too much for one person to handle and it slows every interaction down.
This should also be applied to non combat items, some games require you to have a certain number of rations and supplies like torches, and money. If you’re playing this kind of game, the DM will tell you how much you use during a journey or other scenario, but you should be keeping track of what you have left.
Your DM may appear to be all-knowing, but everyone has their limits.
I don’t think I can stress this point enough. If you aren’t paying attention, why are you even there? Paying attention shows you care about the other people at the table. An interaction may only be directed at one of the other players, but they share in the story as much as you do and you should care about what is happening to them.
You should be listening.
It isn’t only frustration at having to repeat ourselves if someone misses an important bit of information that makes us write this point. While this is annoying, especially if a player is regularly disengaged, it lessens the weight of the original interaction. As we mentioned in a previous point, you are part of a story. You should be interested in every part of the story because everything is connected. Narrative doesn’t just focus on one character all the time, there’s a lot of context involved.
Your DM has likely put in hours of time, writing and preparing the content that you are going to play. It is incredibly disheartening to go through all that effort to see a player sat with their face in their phone screen as soon as they aren’t an active part of a conversation or interaction.
This section leads nicely into our final point…
Personally, we’re fans of taking notes as we play. This could be due to us having terrible memories. Taking notes helps you to be more engaged in what’s going on, because you’re writing stuff down as you’re paying attention to it.
Because as we talked about in the last section, you will be paying attention to it, won’t you?
You’re more likely to remember things that you went to the trouble of writing down. This doesn’t mean it should be a chore, or that you should transcribe everything that the DM says, but noting down important points, perhaps the specific way an NPC worded something, or maybe a question you have about something, can really add to the overall experience of a session.
It also gives you something to refer back to later in the campaign, when you have one of those ‘my character would know that but I don’t remember’ moments. It can also be fun to compare notes with other players, sometimes you find that they had a completely different take on the situation than you did, or that they remember different details. This can make the overall session more memorable and add extra depth that you might not have realized was there.
You may not be a bad player, but there's always something we can improve on right? So to sum up the points:
What do you think makes a good player? Let us know in the comments :)