Player Tips: It’s Not Always About You

Important tips that will make you a better roleplayer and tabletop gamer

Typical D&D game night

You’re very excited about your character’s personal quest-line, and love playing tabletop rpgs. Your build kicks ass in combat and it’s always awesome seeing how much damage you get to roll. But then suddenly, the spotlight shifts away from you to another player who’s been quiet up until now. The magical jewel you all found in the wizard’s tower is an heirloom with their family crest upon it, sending you all on an epic journey to investigate this artifact’s origins. Everyone seems to be on board for the next arc of this adventure, though you can’t help but feel a bit disappointed that someone else seems to be driving this particular adventure.

Stop. Take a step back. If this is a campaign where you have already been enjoying the spotlight for a period, it’s fine to let someone else take the reins. Your fun doesn’t have to end merely because you no longer feel like the main character. Many tabletop rpgs, D&D in particular, are ensemble stories. You and your friends are the main cast, and there will be times when you aren’t in the center-chair. It’s important for everyone’s stories to be heard.

As a player, chances are you already know this. It’s not difficult to sit back in your chair and politely let someone else’s story play out. But it’s also not fun getting benched.

Did you know there’s a compromise? You don’t have to stop being a part of the story just because you’re not the main character. You can get just as much enjoyment from the game when not in the spotlight. Your character may become very invaluable in this portion story, even though it’s not about them.

Get invested in the other characters at your table. Learn to care about the other players, not just for the roles that they play in your story, but for the role that you play in theirs. Between combat, ask them questions about who they are, what they’re doing there. Get to know these characters as people, so that when the time comes that they need a friend, you’ve already established an investment in them and are ready to fight by their side.

It’s not all about combat either. Going through a personal journey is rough on anyone, and in tabletop rpgs where magic and dragons exist as metaphors of the hardships we endure in life, it can be excruciating on player-characters. After a battle, check in on your party members. See that they’re in a good place, mentally and emotionally. And if they need a shoulder to cry on or someone to talk to, be there to listen to them.

Some of the best stories about D&D are where the party becomes a family, caring through each other and growing closer with each battle. These things can’t happen if everyone remains only invested in their own stories and growth. Learning to care about other people’s stories will greatly enhance your enjoyment of the game. You won’t spend any more time in the gaming chair, wondering when it’ll be your turn next, you will be actively engaged in the entire session. Cheering your party members on in their triumphs, and holding them in their failures.

Then, when it swivels back to you, all of your friends will remember how you were there for them in their time of need. They’ll be there for you like you were for them, and the entire game will be all the better for it.

Dorian Dawes has been DM’ing for Pathfinder, D&D, and other tabletop rpgs for six years. They are the author of Harbinger Island and Mercs. Their non-fiction work has been published on Bitch Media, YourTango, GayPopBuzz, and the Huffington Post. You can support their work at patreon.com/doriandawes