How NOT To Play D&D
Over the past several months here on our Dungeon Feed, we’ve discussed many habits, behaviors, and practices that can enhance your D&D experience. They will make you a more proficient Dungeon Master and a more enjoyable player! But we haven’t talked much about the other side of that coin. What should you be sure to AVOID doing while at the D&D table? What could you do that will earn the ire of your fellow players, a stern word from your DM, or an invitation to leave the game?
We’re going to highlight my top three least favorite behaviors at the D&D table! D&D is meant to be a cooperative storytelling game, and all three of these cardinal RPG sins get in the way of your fellow players having fun!
Hogging the Spotlight
Part of the Dungeon Master’s job to make sure that all the players at the table are engaged and having a good time. Everyone gets an opportunity to talk, everyone gets an opportunity to shine, and everyone has a chance to stand out from the crowd. Sometimes it is necessary for players to take on supporting or background role during a scene to allow another player to seize those moments when they arise.
But some players can’t stand to be left out, or to step back and let others eem cooler or more relevant than them, even for a little bit! Players who like to hog the spotlight will try to be involved in every moment of every scene, and will take steps to be in the forefront of every interaction. Whether it be combat, exploration, or social encounters, the spotlight hog will frustrate the players around them with their constant need to be the center of attention. Their parties will resent always being pushed aside or put on the backburner. Playing in someone else’s shadow is no fun. We all come to D&D to play the heroes of our own stories. Nobody is happy ALWAYS being the sidekick.
If you find yourself tempted to hog the spotlight, you can try to always bring someone else with you. You can’t HOG the spotlight if you’re SHARING the spotlight. Ask other players for their input regularly. Encourage them to take charge of a situation, assuring them that you have their back. Volunteer occasionally to be the lookout while another player’s character attempts the risky but heroic thing. Your party will notice, and they will thank you!
In Dungeons & Dragons, it’s fun to play heroes who take no guff from anyone! We see something we don’t like or agree with, we smash it! People cross us at their peril! Those around us had best behave themselves lest they incur our wrath! Not every character is this way, of course, but it is a valid character archetype to play: a no-nonsense, my-way-or-the-highway badass!
When characters like these are crossed, they’re likely to respond violently. And that’s okay! That is a realistic and valid response for some characters. However, many players out there find their fun in interacting with other characters in the game, whether they disagree with them or not. They thrive on the roleplay opportunities that conflict can provide! If their interaction with an NPC is cut short by an interjecting battleaxe, then they’re not being allowed to have the fun that they sat down to have. When you as a player allow your character’s bloodlust to get in the way of the story and the fun of your fellow players, you are being a murderhobo.
In no uncertain terms, saying “That’s what my character would do,” is not a defense. Part of realistically portraying your characters is tempering their impulses. Any character that can’t control themselves is essentially a sociopath, and has no business being in a party of adventurers. If the other members of the party cannot trust one another to control themselves, they would leave that party.
If you want to play a character that is hungry for bloodshed, have them struggle with their instincts. While the party’s cleric is questioning the hostage they took from the last encounter, have your character start pacing in the background, loudly complaining “Why haven’t we killed this scum yet?” You get to roleplay your character, the cleric gets to have their interaction, and may even get advantage on their skill check to get information out of them by threatening “If you won’t talk to ME, perhaps you’d like to have a word with my large friend back there…?”
Playing For Someone Else
Players and Dungeon Masters alike came together to play D&D. The DM plays all the NPCs and villains, and has control over a lot of the world. Each player only has control over a single character, and the only actions they get to take are the actions that character takes. When that control is taken away and another person around the table tries to run their character for them, there is no way left for the character’s player to interact with the story.
This can take a few different forms. Perhaps someone is a “backseat gamer,” telling a player directly what actions they should or shouldn’t take. Maybe they’re a “commander,” trying to strategically optimize the party’s actions for maximum effectiveness in achieving what they personally perceive as the party’s goals. Still others might be “underminers,” negatively remarking on suggested courses of action until the player selects one they’re happy with. Additionally, Dungeon Masters is particular can put words into a player’s mouth from a position of authority, determining their actions and reactions to certain events without consulting with the player at all!
However it happens, this is one of the worst things you can do around the table, because it can entirely exclude someone from playing the game. No matter the game, the goal is to have fun, and it’s awfully hard to have fun when you can’t play. If you find yourself wanting to tell another character what to do, bite your tongue. If they want your help, they WILL ask for it. You probably wouldn’t want anyone telling you how to play, after all. They don’t either.
What’d We Miss?
D&D is a social game, which means you need other people to play. Any time any number of people get together, especially for an extended period of time, it’s possible that they can do things that will offend each other. D&D is no exception! Did we miss your least favorite tabletop taboo? Tweet or tag us, or leave a comment down below, and maybe we will include it in our next article!