Useful Roleplaying Tips


Players Handbook II has a section on “being a good player at the table” on p143. Some of the points are fairly obvious but some are quite useful to remind oneself of now and again. I have made a short summary of the more relevant ones below.

Know what your stuff does: It’s best if you know how your spells, feats, items and special abilities function. When in doubt, quickly review them before the session.

  • Plan your combat actions: When it’s not your turn in combat, you should be thinking about what you’re going to do when it is your turn. Flip through a rulebook and make sure you know the pertinent details of the spell you are going to cast. Then, when your turn comes up, the other players don’t have to wait for you to figure out what you want to do. If possible, also have a backup plan ready in case things change.

  • Keep track of Timed Effects: Many spells and other effects have durations measured in rounds. If you employ such a spell or ability, it’s your responsibility to keep track of the duration (the DM has plenty of other things to worry about). Keep track on a piece of paper or use a die to denote.

  • Rely on DM Arbitration: Playing the game is more important than looking up rules. Often instant rulings are provided on debated topics. Go along with the DM’s arbitration and then look up the official rule later and let the DM know.

  • Roll Attack and Damage Dice at One Time: If you’re in a large group and combat is taking an inordinate amount of time at the table, consider streamlining your dice rolling.

  • Roll Multiple Attacks at the Same Time: If you have more than one attack, and you know you are going to use all of them against the same target, regardless of how the first one turns out, roll all your attack dice at the same time.

  • Respect the Spotlight: Players take turns in D&D and not just in combat. Characters always want to perform various activities and the DM can focus on only one at a time. The spotlight consists of the DM’s attention and the game’s current focus. Which player is telling the DM what his character wants to do? That player is in the spotlight. Try not to hog this spotlight and be sure to let each other player have theirs.

  • NPC-Interaction Spotlight: Roleplaying interactions with NPCs is one of the most enjoyable activities in a D&D game and every player who wants to participate should have a chance to do so. Be respectful of NPC-Interaction spotlight and of your fellow players. If they look bored, relinquish the spotlight in good grace.

  • The Dungeon Spotlight: Dungeons are big places with lots of doors and hallways. It is easy for a character, especially a stealthy one, to head out on his own and do a bit of exploring. Be aware that this strategy can sometimes strain the game. If you find yourself tempted to break away from the party, you might want to ask the other players first (“What do you think about me scouting down this passageway?”) The game is most enjoyable when the characters help each other and every player has a satisfying amount of time in the spotlight.
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