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by Mike on 9 January 2023
Regularly on the Sly Flourish Patreon I get a question from DMs who find themselves in the player seat. There are many variants but it almost always comes out to:
"How can I be a good player?"
I offer three tips for any D&D player, DM or not, on how to be a great player. These come from my own experiences on both sides of the table and from hundreds (thousands) of conversations, posts, videos, and other sources of feedback on the topic.
By far, one of the best things you can do to be a great player is take notes. Whether it's by hand in a notebook or a note in your Notion notebook, taking notes keeps you engaged with the game. It lets you ask the right questions to your DM. It lets you share information with your fellow players. It gives you a diary of events so you can look back fondly on the details of your campaigns years later. Even if other players are likewise taking notes, there's no reason you can't take notes too.
Seriously, take notes.
If you really want to help your DM out, build your character around the theme and story of the campaign. Before you fill out your character's backstory — thinking all about who your character is, where they came from, and what they want to do — talk to your DM about the campaign. Read your DM's campaign notes and descriptions. Play a game of "what if" with your DM, riffing back and forth with them until you have a character you love who's also wired into the story of the campaign. Even if you're already in the campaign, leave some blanks in your character's backstory to add new elements or new histories as you learn more about the story of the campaign itself.
I got this one from DM David and it's awesome. Instead of building a stand-alone character, build one intended to support the group. You can do this both mechanically and in the story of the game. Choose a class like bard or cleric and choose spells and abilities that boost up other classes. You'll make friends for life regularly casting haste on your paladin.
You can also support the group in the story of the game too. Listen to the stories of the other characters and see how you might fit in with a supporting role in that story. Talk to them about it. Think about how you might be connected. During the game, boost them up as they tell their own part of the tale. Be Robin or Alfred to their Batman.
It's easy to focus on your own character in a D&D game. You have a big pile of mechanics in front of you. You have a big story in your head. You want to focus on all that stuff but you're also at the table with a bunch of other people who feel the same way. The DM has a story they want to tell. Each of the players has a character they want to portray. Above all, work with these people. Learn their stories. Boost their characters. Take notes and share them. Support the story expanding at the table.
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