Tabletop RPGs are typically very technical. There are generally a lot of rules that you’ll eventually need to familiarize yourself with. At least those that pertain to your Player Character. Oftentimes, it can be daunting to be a new player at the table. You want to enjoy yourself, and, naturally, you want to impress.
I’ve run a couple of small campaigns myself, and have played in several major campaigns on pretty large platforms, under one of the greatest Dungeon Masters you’ve never heard of, Steve McAuley. Remember the name.
To help new players (and even offer some refinement to those more experienced), I’ve developed the Simple Tips series. This series will contain some bits of advice that, having experienced these situations myself, I think would behoove gamers to know.
And, believe it or not, not all of them have to do with game play.
Simple Tip 1: Empathize with your Dungeon Master or Game Master
Remember, even though these guys and gals are typically living vicariously through their campaigns by trying to kill you, they often spend a lot of time and energy putting together their adventures. It is seldom their full time job, and it is hardly their top priority, but the hours most Dungeon and Game Masters put into writing awesome adventures equates to that of something that is high on the priority list. So, here are some reasons I’ve learned as to why it’s important to empathize with the man or woman behind the screen, and ways that we as a players can make their life a little easier.
They are literally the god of this world.
Ever see Bruce Almighty? Remember when all the voices started kicking in? Yeah, it’s like that.
As players, our job is simple. Play one character, study one character, upgrade one character, keep track of that one character’s new items, financial standing, spell slots, etc. The DM or GM has to do that for every character at the table, as well as any in-game NPCs they weave into the campaign and/or creatures/adversaries they introduce. It’s a lot of math, a ton of organization, and it can get super pressurized and heavy really quick.
Know Your Character
You can alleviate pressure on a DM by knowing your character like the back of your hand. This might seem like an insurmountable feat at first, but the more you read up on your character’s race and class, the easier it will become for you to recall important bits of information that you can apply to gameplay.
Before your first adventure, mark up your handbook with sticky notes so that you can readily open to the pages appropriate for your character. If you don’t have a handbook, see if you can locate a PDF file online. Something I did before I purchased my first Player’s Handbook was borrow a fellow player’s and make a “cheat sheet” of my character’s features, along with ideas for different ways to use the cantrips and spells I chose for my PC. It’s important to realize that, in the midst of gameplay, a DM or GM can’t afford to help you soul-search or find the correct page in your handbook. Being as prepared as possible before the start of an adventure will go a long way.
Pull Your Weight.
Help out your DM or GM in any way you can while at the table. If they need something marked up on the board, offer your services. If they require characters to be placed in marching order, volunteer to move characters or game pieces around. If they need something recorded or kept track of, do it. If at any point they need confirmation or clarification on a spell or in-game technicality, have the book and/or materials handy to be able to assist. Establish yourself as a reliable player and someone a DM or GM can count on for the little things. They really do go a long way.
Show Your Gratitude
These people are welcoming you into their handwoven story. A very vulnerable part of their personal world. Saying “thank you” goes a long way. Don’t ever assume that you were an obvious choice for the campaign because your buddy or relative is running it. Entitlement is never a good look at the table, and can rub both your DM/GM and other players the wrong way.
Oftentimes, the DM or GM will be welcoming you into their own homes, serving you their food, and offering up their drink supply. Try not to come empty handed. Learn their beverage or snack of choice and make an effort to show up with something along those lines as a way to show your appreciation.
When the night is over and everyone is winding down from avoiding certain death (or not), make yourself available to help clean up. There will be empty bottles and wrappers sitting around, as well as game pieces and other components to making your night a success. Your DM or GM is exhausted from telling a story out loud for three or four hours. Don’t make them clean up their set alone. Stick around. Gather up empties. See how you can be of some assistance.
These small gestures will play a large roll in continuing to let the good times roll!