The Do’s and Don’ts of D&D
Recently have I changed from “video game playing geek” to the scary sub-levels of “Magic the Gathering playing geek” and some may even say, scarier still, “D&D playing geek”. In my few short months of playing, I’ve learned many things I wish I had known earlier. Now I shall impart my knowledge to you.
Now the version I have been playing is 3.5 so if you have some info from older and newer versions that affect these, please leave a note below.
DO prepare with the proper materials. Get yourself a Player’s Handbook (PHB), some character sheets, and a notebook for scratch paper. The PHB is your Bible. It tells you almost everything you need to know about creating your character, leveling up, fighting, abilities, spells, EVERYTHING. The notebook is very valuable for keeping track of the details that aren’t listed or are too numerous for your character sheet. You will be writing down everything from loot you find, to people and city names, to how many arrows you have left on your person.
DON’T jump into the game without reading it! There is a treasure trove of information in there and you will quickly annoy your compatriots when every few seconds you ask, “How do I roll a save?” or “How far does this spell shoot?” or “Uhm… How I mine for fish?” You don’t necessarily need to memorize it (but if you can, awesome!) but you will want to know enough to quickly find a section to check details. One of the individuals in my group used small sticky tabs to create easily locatable sections for all the major concepts.
DO get some of your own dice. Your buddy may have tons and will let you borrow his, but it can be nice to not have to constantly ask for a couple more D4 to calculate damage. Also amongst some players you may get superstitious people that will say that borrowing dice has a tendency to give you bad karma in your rolls.
DON’T go spending all your coin on fancy shmancy dice. There are plenty of places (especially online) that you can order dice made from all sorts of materials in all sorts of sizes. I’ve seen them even made from brushed steel, ivory, even mammoth bone. Although this may get you a few gawking jealous friends, there are tons of places to get cheap plastic dice that will work just fine. If you don’t want to spend money on weird dice that you rarely will use outside of D&D but happen to have a smart phone there are a few free apps that emulate all sorts of dice rolls. The one I personally enjoy is called Dice Bag. It has all the various dice programmed in (D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D20, D100) as well as the capability to roll multiple dice, change them to exploding dice, and add in your bonuses for you. All of which can be saved for easy access later.
DO bring a laptop. They can be handy to have for creating notes and writing down important things like your spells and gear. You can even get digital copies of manuals and handbooks for easy searching. Also you can use the internet for explanation of rules that confuse you, tips to assist you, and guides that have compiled many sections into one convenient area (many times you will need to have access to multiple diagrams and sections of the books at the same time). Also if you get completely wasted in a battle and need to spend the rest of the fight in the background hiding or get separated from the main group and therefore are not participating in this current part of the story, the laptop can give you something to do in the meantime. Play some Minecraft, peruse your webcomics, etc.
DON’T bring a laptop. Yes, I just contradicted myself. With as many good things a laptop can bring to the table, there are just as many bad things. Without proper space in your playing area or table, you will quickly find that everyone is looking at their laptops and there is no space for a map or even space to roll your dice. If you are not separated from the group and start spending your time between turns on the computer, you will find your group having to explain what just happened and quickly getting pissed. You can easily find some other things to do that are beneficial to the game like reorganizing your equipment or spells on a neat list, planning out your next level up for a quick seamless transition, familiarizing yourself with the book, or even just listen to what your buddies do.
DO take time to flesh out a character. Do the necessities like class and race, but also give them a solid background, give them quirks, fears, experiences, etc. It changes the game from character X to a story about the actual character and the world in which he resides. It can also help prevent metagaming to an extent because you can react to a situation as your character instead of as an overly cautious person playing a tabletop game. It can help you decide on feats, skills, and spells to learn as well because you can think what your character would be learning and not what is most likely going to swing the game to your favor.
DON’T jump into a certain class without doing some research first. I had randomly decided to take my first jump into the game as a wizard instead of copying what I usually choose in RPG video games as a nimble thief/rogue. Only problem is that the group I joined hadn’t really learned much about wizards due to them being possibly one of the more complicated choices. So when I jumped in I had a large learning curve with little help from my buddies. If I had chosen a more simplistic class such as a fighter I’d have only to learn a few basic premises such as fighting and a few special moves. I’m glad I chose it and I’ve learned a lot, but I had to do it the long/hard way of reading it instead of being able to ask for quick information.