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Five Ways To Make Your DM’s Life Easier

posted Friday, July 3rd 2009 by Brandan Landgraff
Player Advice

Tabletop roleplaying games are special among their peers in that they require a GM or Game Master – in D&D terms a DM, or Dungeon Master. The DM is a source of the D&D’s strengths, but it’s also a weakpoint: if your DM isn’t having a good time with the game, there’s a good chance he’ll up and quit, leaving you gameless. It stands to reason, then, that D&D players should keep their DM happy and content at all times.

Below are five helpful hints towards accomplishing that goal.

1. Talk to the DM about what you’re looking for in the game

Even experienced players often overlook this first point. Every gamer has different tastes and expectations, and the only way your DM will know what you’re looking for out of the campaign is if you let him know. If you want to play a roleplay-heavy game with strong emphasis on character development, but he’s running a traditional dungeon-crawl, then you’re not going to be happy—and your DM won’t be happy when they find out that you’re unhappy, especially if you never mentioned it before. There are very few GMs who are in this solely for their own enjoyment, and the best way to ensure that you’re getting what you want is to talk to them about your expectations.

2. Talk to the DM about your character

Most GMs have some idea of the kind of campaign they want to run ahead of time. It can be interesting and fun to create unusual characters but if they don’t fit into the campaign the DM is writing then it will cause problems down the line. Creating a hot-headed bullywug barbarian who thinks the world is out to get him and treats violence as the first and best solution to any problem could add an interesting dimension to a game, but if the DM had planned a very intricate campaign based around courtly politicking and intrigue, it can be disruptive, and, depending on how you play it, destructive. This is not to say that such a juxtaposition can’t work, but it’s often more satisfying to choose a character concept that will work well within what the DM has in mind rather than at cross-purposes, for player and DM alike. The bullywug barbarian may give him an idea for another campaign, one that would play to the strengths of the concept, as well.

3. Talk to the other players about your character.

Although the DM may be ready to approve your character as fitting in with the campaign, it’s important to make sure that your character will fit in with the other characters as well. It’s quite possible to have characters who each work individually, and even have a common enemy, but still lack any sort of cohesion. Most GMs find little so frustrating as a campaign that falls apart because the characters hate each other and can’t work together, or never even try—and your own enjoyment of the game may even be increased when you and the other characters have a common background or shared story elements that stretch back to before the campaign even began.

4. Remember that you are not the only hero

In a similar vein to the previous point, it’s important to recall that you are not the sole focus of the game. You may enjoy skulking and skullduggery and solving problems through stealth, but if every time a problem comes up you’re the one to who gets to solve it, the other players are going to start to feel bored. Conversely, if every time a chance for sneaking around came up the party’s fighter were to charge in screaming bloody murder, you might begin to feel as though your character’s strengths are being ignored. Ideally every character should get to share time in the spotlight, and every playstyle will see equal representation.

5. Be co-operative and willing to compromise

Above all else this is the most important thing that you can do to keep your DM happy and running games for you. If the DM offers a plot hook, don’t run the other way at full speed. If there’s a debate over disposition of treasure, volunteer to let someone else take the treasure this time around. If the DM tells you your character concept won’t fit the campaign, don’t get too upset—there’ll be plenty of other games to run it in. If you make the effort to make the game fun and cooperative, you may find that you’re invited to more games. This goes double if some of the other players are also GMing their own games and need a good player! In contrast, if you demand that you be the central focus of every session, don’t play well with others, and generally create a disruption for the game, you may find yourself without a game to play in. Ultimately, one of the best things about RPGs is that they are cooperative games, rather than competitive, and you never need to have fun at someone else’s expense; remember that and the game may turn out to be more rewarding by far.

Comments

  1. Kimyou

    July 3rd, 2009

    All simple lessons everyone should learn, I think.

    Much wisdom.

  2. Nick

    July 3rd, 2009

    Can I just CC my gaming group your ENTIRE SITE?

  3. Zzarchov

    July 3rd, 2009

    Brilliant advice, and something that should be included with all first time RPG purchases.

  4. Toord

    July 3rd, 2009

    It usually boils down to, if you pardon my French: don’t be a dick.

    There’s nothing worse that playing a coop/group-oriented game with a bunch of people that just don’t jell with each other. It makes it an awful experience for all including the DM.

    We all invest ourselves to develop our characters, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bragging rights contest. Be humble and always keep in mind you are part of a group.

    D&D is a ROLE-playing game. Play your role and every one’s happy, pull some battle-cleric-mage-trapsmith antics and soon enough you’ll be a sore spot — like a bard (j/k just wanted to poke fun at them)

    And lastly but not at all least, it’s a damn game. Games are supposed to be for FUN. If all you get out of the game is frustration or if you get filled with rage because an aspect of Tiamat pwned you, then it’s time to find a new hobby. It’s for fun — period.

  5. E. Foley | Geek's Dream Girl

    July 3rd, 2009

    I’d add:

    KNOW YOUR CHARACTER. Nothing is more annoying than someone who has no idea what their character can/should do and spends 5 minutes fishing through all their sheets and source books before doing something.

  6. satyre

    July 5th, 2009

    A concise summary of brilliance. Nice post!

    @toord – It can also be expressed as ‘respect the people around your table.’ Finding where it gels isn’t always possible… alas.

    @e.foley – *heartfelt Citizen Kane applause*

  7. Golden Rules of Game Mastering « Jonathan Drain’s D20 Source: Dungeons & Dragons Blog

    July 8th, 2009

    [...] Thursday, Brandan posted five ways to make your DM’s life easier. As a Dungeon Master, however, it’s incumbent upon you to repay your players’ efforts. [...]

  8. Five Ways to Make Your Players’ Lives Easier « Jonathan Drain’s D20 Source: Dungeons & Dragons Blog

    July 15th, 2009

    [...] This is a follow-up to an earlier article, Five Ways To Make Your DM’s Life Easier. [...]

  9. Tom

    July 15th, 2009

    I would like to add: Don’t cry if your character dies! :)

  10. Cinco maneiras de tornar a vida de seu mestre mais fácil

    July 20th, 2009

    [...] Essa matéria foi ao ar no dia 3 de julho deste ano, no D20 Source e tem como título original Five Ways To Make Your DM’s Life Easier e foi previamente autorizada pelo [...]

  11. David Devine

    June 3rd, 2010

    #2 is so useful for the DM too. If you discuss your character design in advance of the development of the campaign, you can ‘get in on the ground floor’ … the DM will figure out a way of making your eclectic character work within their concept, making you feel that your character is part of the world, as well as spawning all sorts of adventure ideas.

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