Here are three pieces of advice to keep in your pocket to make you a better player, and keep your character alive!
Think Ahead: Know what you’re going to do before your turn comes in the initiative order. It sounds simple, but it’s easy to get sidetracked during the heat of battle. Have a plan in motion, and if possible, have a backup plan. Nothing slows a game down more than hemming and hawing. Make a decision and stick to it.
Honesty is the Best Policy: Don’t fudge your rolls or perform some shady addition. Know what the appropriate bonuses are for your attacks and apply them accordingly (See my post on adding bonuses for more info). Your DM is most likely not going to be able to keep track of everyone’s stats to the point where he or she is able to call BS on a damage number you throw out. So protect the integrity of the game, and be honest.
Be Creative, But Not Wantonly. Every move has its benefits and consequences. Really consider the circumstances before throwing out some crazy move. For example, if you’re surrounded by goons in a tavern, you might not want to throw a fireball at them. That will result in you destroying the tavern and pretty much everyone in your vicinity. In all likelihood, you will become unpopular among your fellow gamers that night.
This is why it is important to read the situation. If you’re at the start of the adventure, and you meet a wise sagely person who is either giving you some advice or questioning your adventuring capabilities, chances are that person is important, and nine times out of ten is not a threat (unless you make them one). Don’t try and hit them with a sword or pickpocket them. One of our players did that early on. She tried to pickpocket an old wizard who was trying to give us information about our upcoming quest. She was immediately turned to stone. Consequences sometimes depend on your DM, but don’t test them! Remember, these adventures are their babies. You mess with the bull, you get the horns!