Become a Better Tabletop RPG Player - Part I


many dice for board games and roleplaying games

An online discussion forum I frequent recently lamented the lack of discussion on being a good player, as opposed to discussion on being a good Game Master. There’s a ton of the latter, but not a whole lot of the former.

I have definitely seen discussion on best practices for being a player, but I agree it’s more rare.

I’ve also talked about the dangers of trying to codify best practices for D&D and other tabletop roleplaying games. Tables shouldn’t feel as though there’s a “right” way to play the game, but rather should feel free to explore what works for them.

All that said, I do think there are more universal ideas that are uncontroversial, and which all players can benefit from considering. The concepts below aren’t hard and fast rules, but ways to think about your presence at the table that have the potential to improve your play and enhance the fun of everyone you game with.

Become a Better Player: 5 Ideas for TTRPG Gamers

ONE: Do The Thing
Occasionally it can be interesting and realistic to use caution during play. But a player who is always sitting on the sidelines is not going to be having as much fun or creating interesting situations.

There’s a trope in RPGs where a room has “A Thing” and players want to touch the thing. The players know something crazy will trigger when they do so. And the game master knows this as well, and each knows that the other knows, and so on. But it’s still tense. It’s still exciting. There’s power in that moment.

So don’t be afraid to create a crazy adventure through your actions!

TWO: Bad Things Are Good Things
Most D&D sessions aren’t something you “win” in a traditional sense. And inevitably, bad things will happen too. Failures. Frustrations. Even character death.

These are opportunities. Opportunities for your character to change and grow, or for you as a player to grow and learn how to interpret them as part of the fun.

Some of my favorite moments in games are ones where everything goes wrong. Learning to see them as part of the fun instead of detracting from the fun was a big step.

THREE: The Table’s Fun Should Be Your Fun
Ideally, you aren’t there to show everyone you’re the best roleplayer, or that your character build is the greatest. By all means, lean into the intense roleplaying moments and build a character that you love.

But ultimately, this is a group game and a cooperative experience, including the game master. When I started to see everyone else’s fun as my own, it shifted my mentality from having the most fun to creating the most fun. And my gaming has never been the same since.

FOUR: Be Prepared
Be prepared for sessions holistically. Do you have your character sheet? Is it up-to-date? Do you have dice, pencils, any necessary books and other materials?

Second, be prepared within the session. Long, boring combats can be a GM’s fault, but more often it’s the fault of players who weren’t prepared for their turn and take five minutes every time it comes around to them. Sometimes your plan will be altered and you’ll have to rethink what you want to do. This is fine. But having a plan beforehand will allow you to take a lot of quick turns in encounters.

FIVE: Respect the Time and Effort of Your Fellow Gamers
Some game masters spend 10+ hours per week prepping for RPG sessions. This can be fun, but it’s also often thankless work. Make sure you’re doing your part to respect their time and effort.

This means showing up on time, being engaged and positive, and not trying to undermine the experience everyone is engaged with at the table.

Other Roleplaying Ideas to Improve Play

This is truly just scratching the surface of what it means to be a good player. Future blog entries in this series will explore similar ideas that can aid many players in getting the most out of their time at the RPG table.

Until then, happy gaming!


For more content, or just to chat, find me on Twitter @BTDungeons, and if you enjoy my work, check out my creative work for D&D and other RPGs.