A few months ago I wrote a post about things you should never say to your DM during a D&D—or any RPG–campaign. And while the DM wields the most power, you can’t underestimate the importance of good group rapport. Over the last two years I’ve absolutely lucked out with a fantastic group of players. We all have very different playing styles, but we have a great dynamic. And a huge part of our success has to do with mutual respect and a general understanding of our individual playing styles and preferences.
But until this fantastic group, I hadn’t had the best luck with groupings in the past. Finding good party members is a balancing act at best, and can quickly spiral into ultimate fail—something about personal characters and competition that can just bring out the worst in people.
Yet, I think that many of the issues cropping up around the D&D table can be avoided with just a little etiquette. So, here’s some tips to bring peace to your D&D party, some general suggestions to keep in mind before you roll the dice.
“Man, looks like I’m going to take care of this boss all by myself the way I’m rolling!”
It’s a game. We’re all at the mercy of the dice. But if the paladin next to you can’t seem to roll over a three, don’t rub it in that you’ve just rolled two crits and are on your way to destroying every last creature on the board single handedly. If your party member is in trouble, it’s your job—as a group—to help them out. Making them feel bad only adds to frustration and can lead to a boiling pot atmosphere. Instead of offering jibes pointing out the low rolls, how about thinking of ways your character can aid them. Or just offer some words of comfort. We all know how fickle the dice are, and pointing out someone’s bad day is just uncool.
“Do you really want to use that power? Right now? Don’t you think you might want to…”
Don’t tell other party members how to play their own characters.
This is really one of the most important lessons any player needs to learn. We all have varying experience with games, and it’s the group’s responsibility to help each other out. But being bossy, or telling other players what to do and how to play won’t win you over any friends. If you have suggestions for a player, tell them in private—don’t call them out in the middle of an encounter. Not only is it totally embarrassing to the player you’re singling out, but it makes you look like a control freak. If the player is doing something really unwise, it’s up to the DM to sort it out.
“So then she was all…”
Don’t talk during other players’ turns.
We know you had an awesome weekend. But when someone in in the middle of deciding what their next move is going to be, up against the wall with a displacer beast, it’s not the best time. Sure, sometime there is a much more lax environment during a game—and that’s fine so long as everyone agrees to it. But taking control of the conversation at crucial points in the game serves no one. Chances are it’ll set back the game and take even longer until your next turn, or you’ll miss something really important. And then you’ll look like a doofus.
“Can’t you just talk like a normal person? You’re creeping me out.”
Don’t criticize other players for being too into/not enough into character.
So we all have different styles of play. Personally I like playing as my character, accent and all. But not everyone in my group does, and we’re all okay with that. You can’t expect anyone else at the table to approach the game the way you do. If you’re over the top with your character, consider helping fellow players come up with concepts. If you play as a thinly veiled version of yourself, don’t laugh at people who are getting deep into character. In fact, you might want to take some cues from them as how to make your character feel unique. No one says you have to wear a cape or play pipes to be a bard. Loosen up. Have fun. There’s no point in being self-conscious.
“Seriously? What’s the point? I might as well not even be here.”
We all have bad days. As I said before, the dice are fickle. But being a spoil sport and tuning out everyone else while you play games on your iPhone and wait for your next turn is just about as passive aggressive as can be. A little bit of humor goes a very long way. If your dice are sucking the whole time, why not add a little extra flavor to your failed attacks? Maybe your character had a bad night nipped into the ale stores and ended up drunk at the encounter or something. Take the opportunity to bring a little creativity to the table rather than bring everyone down with you. I mean, that’s the great thing about a good party: chances are, they’ve all been in your shoes before and will be able to laugh along with you.
Remember, more than anything, it’s about having fun and helping your party members have fun, too. Keep that in mind and your campaign is bound to be a success.