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Roleplaying Games.. How Do You Do It?

Firstly a little about myself. I have been role playing for over 16 years.

Mostly D&D, but also, Vampire, Werewolf, Warhammer, Dark Heresy to name a few of the better known ones. The following is based totally on my own experiences and the assumption you either own or have access, for a few days at least, the relevant Players Handbook/Guide/Rulebook or similar for your chosen game.

If you’re new to role play type games the first thing to do is  no doubt you’ve read the rulebook for whatever game it is you are playing and have a grasp of how the game works. If you haven’t, then run along and get it done.

Now that your familiar with the rulebook, or have at least red it once, we can begin.

Even if you have been playing for while you may find a few little things contained herein my ramblings which may help you to get the game running, quicker, smoother and more importantly make it more enjoyable to be a part off. The first thing to consider is how everyone playing likes the game to run.

The Games Master (GM) will need to know this, for example some gaming groups prefer a more combat orientated game, where as others prefer a more role play based game. Each has its merits and some role play games lend themselves to one style more than the other. Over time you will no doubt try most of them and settle on your favourite.

Personally I’m a D&D fan and although most of my writings will be based on that, having played most other games to, what I have to write can easily be applied to those. Going back slightly, you may find that some people don’t fit in with the gaming group. This is always a bit awkward, so the best thing to do in my opinion is just be honest with them and tell them what it is they are or are not doing and see if they change.
D&D: Adventuring Party

You may be surprised how some people fail to see their own short comings and as such appreciate the help and guidance, of course, be prepared to take criticism yourself! It is essential though that everyone is on the same page for gaming though or you’ll get next to nothing done because you’ll just be arguing all the time. Now arguments, you don’t want them full stop, let alone at the gaming table so here’s a few things I’ve learnt over the years which really help.

Disagreements WILL happen, whether it be over rules or what someone is doing, so we’ll look at that first.

Disagreement over the rules is common, it happens more often than you think, even in experienced groups like the ones I play in. Firstly don’t let being strict with the rules get in the way of the flow of the game, A good knowledge of the most common rules really helps in this respect so learn them. If something not so common turns up, look it up, simple really. Now the rules are guides, they are not set in stone so feel free to create house rules but do use common sense.

For example one we use in D&D is the collection of arrows.

The rules say they are lost once used, but we know you can pull them out the corpse of you dead foe and the re use them, so a dice roll later and we know how many have been recovered, after all some will break on impact. If there are no rules or two people interpret the rules differently for your given situation, and it does happen, you’ll need a way of deciding what to do.

Often it is as straight forward as a random dice roll to decide whose interpretation to go with, there and then to keep the game flowing. If there is no rule, again, use a bit of common sense, decide quickly on a way to deal with it and move on.

Once the session is over, that is the time to discuss rules for future sessions. Go away re-read the relevant section of rulebook, read it slowly and several times. It will help you to understand what it is saying. If you have to come up with a new rule then do it, take a vote and write it down.

Remember session time is for playing, the time in between sessions is for discussing rules etc. Now on to disagreement over what someone is doing. By this I mean in game terms, is someone not pulling the weight?, not being helpful? Well all I can say is it’s Roleplay.

If it’s a genuine case of someone not knowing what they should be doing then help them, but remember, everyone is entitled to play their character how they want and see fit. Just remember if you constantly leave your party in trouble, don’t expect them to come to your rescue!! Roleplay your character not only on how you want them to appear, but also how they react to others.

The next thing that will help you to enjoy the game is paying attention. No one likes having to repeat themselves or explain what just happened. Paying attention is especially important during combat. Once you have acted, start to think about what it is you’ll do on your next turn. I can guarantee it will change as the others have there go and you adjust your plan each time.

You may find yourself doing something completely different or you may find yourself going full circle and ending up back with you original plan. The reason I think this is important during combat is because the pace will add to the excitement and when everyone knows what they are doing it’s great feeling to walk into a fight thinking you’ll be lucky to survive but in reality it’s over in 3-4 rounds because everyone worked quickly and together.

The moment you start waiting for people to decide what they’re going to do it’s easy to forget what you want to do and loose interest somewhat. Not what you want to be doing when a hobgoblin is trying to make you into a kebab. Another important thing is to listen. Don’t shout above others, in fact, it is better where possible to take turns to speak when deciding what to do in game.

Talk to each other not at each other. A system that works best in my opinion is “round the table” quite simply the DM will start one side of the table and ask each person, moving round what they are doing. This works for pretty much all situations, it’s quick, easy and everyone gets their say.

The next few things may seem obvious, but I can promise you, you’ll fall victim to not having them at some point. Below is a list of what every player in my opinion should have.

  1. Rulebook for the game you are playing
  2. Dice Set
  3. Pencil
  4. Note pad
  5. Eraser

To begin with every player will need access to the rulebook, over time you should all try to have your own copy, this is so you can read it at home out of session time, and look things up at the table when you have nothing to do in game.


On to the Dice, a good selection is necessary, more so if you play a few games as each uses slightly different combinations of them. The only thing I’d say about dice and this is no way something you should do on my say so, but I think keeping your dice all the same color and different to everyone else’s helps to not only stop them from getting mixed up but also helps the DM/other players to know who’s rolled what.

(As a side note I’ve had the same dice for 18 years, I am very protective of them, I truly believe we have a bond as they tend to roll high for me, sad I know)

Pencil, note pad and eraser, great for making notes, maps, writing info down on, but it’s also good for one other thing. Secret notes, the type you can pass to other players or the GM, to express a wish to do something you don’t want others to know. In summary, common sense is all you need in most situations.

Don’t argue, everyone is there to have fun and get something accomplished so work together, not against one another. Plan ahead and make sure you have everything you need to hand. My last bit of advice?

Enjoy yourself!!

If all of the above still doesn’t help you avoid hitting a rut in the game then take a break from it, go get a drink, make a sandwich and take half hour out. Come back, sit down and start going over the problem from the beginning again.

Brendan @ DMB

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