How To Be A Better Role-Play Gamer

Advice, hints, and tips for both new and experienced role-play gamers

This is a collection of advice, hints, and tips to be a better role-play gamer for pen-and-paper table-top RPGs, such as Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder from the many years of personal gaming experience as both a player and DM/GM, and many borrowed from the Internet. There's no particular order of importance these hints and tips are listed, some may apply to new players more so than seasoned veterans, and may also apply depending upon your personality traits in real life.


What You'll Need To Get Started

Here's a list of different things to consider when you get started to play pen-and-paper tabletop role-playing games...


What To Bring To Game Sessions

Polyhedral Dice

Here's a list of materials and supplies to bring to each and every game session...


Create Player Characters Together

Everyone creating player characters together during their first role-playing game session can be very important for a few different reasons...

Even though anyone can play anything they want (at the DM's/GM's discression, of course), please keep in mind that a well-balanced, well-rounded group will do best in any circumstance or situation. Here's a list of what classes I recommend that every party should have...

For very small groups, it's possible for other classes to help fill-in any gaps within the group, although not quite as effectively...


Designate Responsibilities

Role-Playing Group

To help the DM/GM move game sessions along as efficiently and quickly as possible, player characters should assume each role and designate individual responsibilies to different members of the group, such as...

Leader/Spokesperson
The group's leader mostly deals with ideas in the game.
Although the group's leader is often the party's spokesperson when negotiating with NPCs (Non-Player Characters), these responsiblities can be divided between two different player characters.
Anyone can the designated leader of the group; however, it is the leader's responsiblity to carefully listen and consider everyone's ideas and opinions of what the party should do and where to go, and make the final decision. Like any leader, the group's leader should be able to quickly and effectively make hasty yet wise decisions, delegate roles and reponsibilities to other player characters, and hold player characters accountable for their actions. It's a very delicate role that will occasionally step on someone else's toes, so this position shouldn't be taken lightly.
Whoever has the highest Charisma (such as Bards, Clerics, Paladins, or Sorcerers), the most ranks in the Diplomacy skill (such as Half-Elves), and/or taken the Negotiator feat should be the designated spokeperson of the group. A dedicated spokesperson is the "mouthpiece" and negotiator of the group, especially for the party's leader. The group's spokesperson should be able to speak clearly, eloquently, and intelligently; and articulate (especially when conversing with royalty).
Note Taker (Lore Master)
The group's note taker (lore master) mostly deals with people in the game.
A player character who's well organized and takes good notes should be the lore master. Their responsiblity is to notate important NPCs (Non-Player Characters), conversations, rumors, tasks, quests, and other important details; and to quickly recall this important information when requested by another player or the DM/GM. The DM/GM may also ask the group's lore master to quickly recap from the previous game session at the beginning of the next game session.
Characters with high Intelligence (such as Wizards) and/or Charisma (such as Bards, Clerics, Paladins, or Sorcerers) often make the best lore masters.
Characters with the most ranks in the Gather Information (such as Bards, Half-Elves, and Rogues) and/or Local Knowledge skills (such as Bards, Rogues, and Wizards), and/or taken the Investigator feat also make the best lore masters.
The group's lore master should purchase a pack of colored index cards, notebook paper with tabs, or anything of personal preference for taking and organizing notes.
Mapper (Cartographer)
The group's mapper (cartographer) mostly deals with places in the game.
Any player with adequate drawing skills should help map unknown areas (such as dungeons and lairs). Although the DM/GM may have maps for commonly traveled places (such as the world, continents, regions, cities, towns, roads, etc.), less commonly traveled areas should be mapped by a designated cartographer.
The group's cartographer may also need to notate important information and details regarding these areas and places, frequently collaborate with the group's note taker (lore master), and should purchase a pack of graph paper for drawing maps.
Treasurer (Quartermaster)
The group's treasurer (quartermaster) mostly deals with things in the game.
Although anyone can be a treasurer, those who are Lawful Good (such as Paladins) should assume this role because they tend to be very honest and fair. It's the quartermaster's responsiblity to notate and record loot, and redistribute wealth evenly amongst the group's player characters.
It's also up to the treasurer to decide who in the group gets what as fairly as possible. If the party obtains a powerful item that everyone wants, it's up to the group's quartermaster to hold onto the item and decide later who gets it. In worst case scenarios where there's no resolve or resolution, the treasurer must sell the item and distribute the wealth evenly amongst the party's player characters.
Occasionally the party's quartermaster may need to collaborate with the group's note taker (lore master), ask the group's leader for advice to settle disputes, and should invest into a ledger or notepad for recording obtained loot and wealth.

It's best to assume these roles and designate reponsibilities while players are creating and collaborating their characters together. Although any player character can assume multiple roles, it's also best to delegate each responsibily to individual player characters so no one feels overwhelmed. Hopefully, each player haracter in the group takes ownership of individual responsiblities, and gets involved.


Be Patient And Respectful

This should go without saying, but experienced players often like to give advice, recommendations, and suggestions to new players, whether they asked for it or not. The best way for people to learn is from making mistakes. If a player's character isn't "optimized" for the race/class/stats/feats/skills/spells/etc., let the new player give it a go and learn! However, if new players ask questions or for advice, hints and tips, seasoned players should help the new player as quickly yet respectfully as possible.


Be Prepared

...taken from the Boy Scouts' motto. It's expected for new players to have a lot of questions during the first few game sessions, but eventually, everyone is expected to learn and know what their character can do (such as stats, feats, skills, and spells). Nothing can slow a game session down to a boring crawl than for a new player to constantly ask questions about their character and basic game mechanics. You'll need to research everything about your character before the next game session, and if you don't understand how something works, ask your DM/GM either before or after the game session, or during a break.

When it's not your turn during combat, pay close attention to what everyone is doing and saying, and prepare what you'll be doing on your next turn will help the battle go much more quickly. Try to limit your turn within 10 seconds (prerrably 5 seconds, if possible) will keep the game moving along. Rolling all of your dice simultaneously (both attack and damage rolls, including any modifiers) while describing your action also helps.

Lastly, update your character sheet before the next game session. If your DM/GM requests to level-up your character, distribute wealth, purchase equipment, etc., complete all that before the next game session begins so everyone's ready to dive in and quickly get started. If you have questions, ask your DM/GM either before or after the game session, or during a break.


Attention Please!

Role-Playing Group

Please pay close attention, especially while the DM/GM is talking! Being disruptive and interruptive ruins the role-playing experience for the other players, distracts the DM/GM, and is considered both disrespectful and rude. There's a place for jokes, and while playing pen-and-paper tabletop RPGs are definitely one of those, choose the timing for jokes accordingly and carefully. Don't be the reason for slowing down a game session and aggrevating the DM/GM. As mentioned above, paying close attention of what everyone is doing and saying during combat will help keep the battle moving along quickly. Please stay off of your cell phone, laptop, tablet, and other electronic gadgets (unless you're using it for the game session) as much as possible.


There's No "I" In "Team"

Anyone who's invested a lot of thought and time into their characters wants to show them off, but pen-and-paper tabletop role-playing games are team-oriented. If you noticed that other players aren't quite as actively involved as you are, pull back, share the spotlight, and try to get them involved by asking them for ideas and opinions, what we should do, where should we go, help performing tasks, etc. Although a good DM/GM will try to engage players who aren't involved, DMs/GMs have a lot on their plate to keep up with. As a good player, please help the DM/GM by getting everyone engaged and involved.


One Team, One Dream

Role-Playing Group

On the opposite side of the same coin, please try to get engaged and involved. Although many new, inexperienced players like to play the "lone-wolf" character, ask yourself, "why would a lone-wolf be in this group, and how does my character benefit the group?" If your character rarely contributes, perhaps you should reconsider and rethink your playing style. It's okay to play the "dark and mysterious loner", but your character should have a purpose, reason, and goal to be involved with the rest of the group. If not, perhaps you should request one-on-one game sessions with the DM/GM.


Think Outside The Box

Honestly, there's nothing more fun than for a DM/GM to stump the group with a difficult puzzle of some sort. It's quite gratifying when you've taken the party off-guard, and got them on their toes. It's times like these when the group has to get creative and think outside the box. Remember that the easiest answers and solutions aren't always the most obvious. ☺


It Is A Role-Playing Game

Actual role-playing (acting) is weird for people, especially new players. We're taught that make-believe is only for kids, but pen-and-paper tabletop role-playing games allows us adults and teens to temporarily escape the issues and problems in real world, pretend to be someone else in a magical land, capable of performing fantastic feats and skills, and cast spells that we can't do in real life. Although you don't have to mimmick the voices of characters such as Batman, Conan the Barbarian, or Gimli in The Lord of the Rings (but would be a big hit at the game session), you can develope your player character that makes them different and unique from everyone's else characters.

First, think about your character's personality and mannerisms based upon their backstory. Think about how they'd use hand gestures while they speak, and how they'd sit and ponder while intently listening to someone speak. Things like that will help you develope your player character.

Secondly, try to incorporate their personality and these mannerisms while your sitting at the table during your game session.

The last thing to try is what makes playing pen-and-paper tabletop RPGs so awkward for so many new players — attempting to develope your player character's voice. It could be as simple as speaking in either a higher or lower pitch, and softly (but not too soft that the other players or the DM/GM can't hear you). Once you start getting into it, you may try hasher or raspier tones, even accents (while still keeping it understandable by everyone).


But It's Just A Game

As with any co-operative game, conflicts and disagreements will arise. Please don't argue with other players during the game session, unless it's a part of the role-playing experience and adds real substance to the dialog, plot, story, etc. Please keep these types of arguments to a minimum, if not avoid them altogether.

DMs/GMs are people, too, who make mistakes, especially if they're new to the role of a DM/GM. If the DM/GM is incorrect about a rule, or if you disagree with the outcome of a circumstance or situation, please wait until either the next break or after the game session to privately and respectfully discuss it with the DM/GM. Please remember that no matter what the rules state, the DM/GM always has the final verdict. Repeat after me: "The GM is always right."


Just Roll With It

Bad things happen to good characters. Please don't get discouraged! It could be a hidden plot or storyline by the DM/GM that happened for a valid reason that will be revealed later, and sometimes it's just the (bad) luck of the dice. Regardless, instead of sulking, just roll with it, own it, and make it yours. Some of the greatest and most memorable fantasy characters were those with disabilities and flaws that made them unique and stand out from the usual, boring heroes because they had to learn to cope, compensate, and overcome obstacles (i.e. Raistlin Majere in Dragonlance).


BYO_

...But instead of BYO_ (insert favorite beverage, food, and/or snack here) just for yourself, bring something everyone can share. Although this isn't a rule you'll find in any rulebook, but it's usually a mutual understanding between us players in the group to provide beverages, food, and snacks (such as beer, chips, pizza, and/or soda) for the DM/GM as gratitude for the hours they spent preparing for the game session.


Have Fun!

This should also go without saying, but some people go into the game session with expectations only to be disappointed, false preconceptions, or baggage from a bad day/week/month/year of real life. Whichever it is, please leave it outside the game. I can assure you that going into the game with a cheerful, positive attitude will rub off, and everyone can have fun! If you or someone else isn't having fun, then what's the point?


Copyright/Registration

Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons and Dragons, and their logos are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast LLC in the United States and other countries. All Rights Reserved. This web site is not affiliated with, endorsed, sponsored, or specifically approved by Wizards of the Coast LLC. This web site may use the trademarks and other intellectual property of Wizards of the Coast LLC, which is permitted under Wizards' Fan Site Policy. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS®, D&D®, PLAYER'S HANDBOOK 2®, and DUNGEON MASTER'S GUIDE® are trademark[s] of Wizards of the Coast and D&D® core rules, game mechanics, characters and their distinctive likenesses are the property of the Wizards of the Coast. For more information about Wizards of the Coast or any of Wizards' trademarks or other intellectual property, please visit their website at www.wizards.com.

This website uses trademarks and/or copyrights owned by Paizo Inc., which are used under Paizo's Community Use Policy. We are expressly prohibited from charging you to use or access this content. This website is not published, endorsed, or specifically approved by Paizo Inc. For more information about Paizo's Community Use Policy, please visit paizo.com/communityuse. For more information about Paizo Inc. and Paizo products, please visit paizo.com.