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A lot of people have their own ideas of how to play a table-top roleplaying game. And there are several methods and play styles and none of them are wrong. You can be a min-maxer (someone who optimises their charcters stratigically, making them as powerful as their given class/race can make them) or you can focus on character and roleplaying (not worrying too much about combat capabilities but making choices based on your *character*). Or a combination of the two (my preferred method). Whatever you choose, there are some good practices to maintain at the table to ensure everyone is having fun.
1) Remember that it’s just a game!
If you’re not having fun, if you’re stressed out, if you leave your game angry, there is a problem. Look at why you’re feeling that way and talk to your GM (game master) about it. It could ultimately be a difference in play styles, but it could be something else that’s easily fixed. If it is a difference in play styles, you might just have to say “goodbye” to the party and try to find others who are on the same page as you.
2) It’s a cooperative game.
Playing the reclusive lone wolf with a dark and sordid past is cool and all. However, it’s hard to play a game with other people if you don’t actively work with them. Try to avoid going off on your own and find reasons why your character would work with and like the others. On top of that, remember that you are working with the others. Share the loot, especially if the loot makes more sense for other characters.
3) Don’t hog the spotlight.
You’re going through a dungeon and run ahead of everyone else! You check for traps! You disable the traps! You check the chests first! You must get to things first! BECAUSE YOU WANT ALL THE THINGS. HOLD THE PHONE. Again, you’re not playing a single-player game. If you’re finding you’re talking a lot at the table, take a step back. Let the halfling talk to the scared merchant for a change. Let the fighter go ahead of you and make sure the chest isn’t a mimick (Everyone wins!) Everyone is there to play and if you’re the only one talking, everyone else likely isn’t having any fun.
4) Pay attention to what’s going on!
We all have that friend or family member. You know the one. When you’re watching a movie with them and they have their phone out, and they look up and see an exciting thing happen, and they say, “What just happened? Who’s that?” When all their answers would’ve been answered IF THEY WERE JUST WATCHING THE FILM. Don’t be that person at the table. Your game is a time of mutual story telling and YOU are a charcter in this story. You’re there to play, right? A lot of people use tablets and phones for character sheets. If that’s you, DON’T swipe over to social media, not even for a second. Pay attention to the game that you’re currently playing. If you miss something once, sure, ask what’s going on. But if you’re finding you’re frequently distracted and need to be caught up a LOT, you might as well not be there.
5) Show up on time!
This can be tricky for those of us with kids. I get it. I’ve three and bedtime has been particularly difficult these days. But, if there is no legitiment reason for you to be late, you’re wasting the other players’, and the GM’s, time. If you find that you’re frequently late, maybe it would be best for you to step away from said game and find one that fits better in your schedule (or one that you’re more inclined to make a priority). I’ve had to do this myself when I found I frequently missed first half-hour (or more) because of my littles. It’s ok. Just exercise some self-awareness. Maybe you need to order take-away on D&D night so you’re not cooking at the beginning of the game? Maybe you need to set an alarm on your phone so you know it’s coming up? Make yourself available to the other players who can poke you, reminding you it’s coming up. Do what you can, or step away.
6) The GM is in charge.
If the GM is talking, LISTEN. “Table talk” can be an issue in a lot of games. We’re all friends and having fun, talking about life and random things. However, you’re also there to play a game and talking over the GM, who has prepped treasure, maps, story hooks, and NPCs, who has spent hours crafting a world and story for YOU, is not ok. Respectful playing is needed, and that includes how you interact with your GM. So, listen to the poor soul. They’ve worked hard on what they are offering, and the least you can do is listen.
7) “Rules Lawyer” the proper way.
This is closely related to #6. When I first stepped into the world of D&D, I was introduced to the term “Rules Lawyer” and it was largely used in the negative. For those who are unaware, a “rules lawyer” is a player who is well versed in the rules of the game as-written (or “RAW”) and flexes this knowledge during the game. Unfortunately, they can step into many “well actually” moments, which can cause delay and derailing to an annoying degree. BUT a rules lawyer isn’t always a bad thing. They help save time when there is a legitamate question about how to do something according to the rules.
But the thing to remember about the rules is that they are GUIDELINES. The GM makes the ultimate call about how the game is run. If there is ever a question about how to approach a situation, and you think it should go one way while the GM wants to do it another – the GM is right. If there is a lot of contention about it, and you’re feeling super salty, approach your GM outside of the game.
So the sum up of this one, know the rules but don’t argue with the GM who makes the final call.
8) Be clean and courteous.
I feel like this is a no-brainer but still worth mentioning.
When we can meet in person again: Wear your deoderant. Bring snacks to share.
For any and all games: Don’t interrupt your fellow players or the GM.
Please. Thank you. Seriously, just be a descent human being.
9) Establish expectations from day-one.
This one is heavily pointed at GMs, but not exclusive to them. Not everyone is ok with gratuitive violence. Not everyone wants their character to be romanced. Not everyone is ok with violence against children. There are people who are ok with the grittiness of sexual violence in their games, while the other 99% of us aren’t. This is why I’m a big proponent of Session Zero, where players can discuss what they are ok with and what they aren’t. There are a number of handy “Session Zero” guides floating around the internet. These guides also touch on game styles, campaign expectations, campaign tone (how serious or silly are you looking for?), etc. Establishing these things early will help prevent issues in the long run.
10) MOST IMPORTANT RULE: Feed the GM
That poor person is working hard, making a game and hoping everyone is having fun, and doing a lot of talking. Share your snacks with them because they likely aren’t thinking about it. They also need a beverage. And ego boosts, so tell them how fun the game is….they won’t know unless you tell them. That’s probably more important than the food thing.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but I believe it does touch on the main points. If you have any additions, leave them in the comments! The main goal of TTRPGs is to have fun (you and everyone else at the table). I hope this list will help facilitate that! If you’re looking for a game, drop by our events page to see what’s on and we may be able to facilitate. Our Discord community is also full of TTRPGers who frequently start up games themselves, or have seats available. So come join us over there!