RPG Etiquette: The Table Manners Your Mom Never Taught You

There are thousands of new players being introduced to Tabletop RPG’s like Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder every week.  Thanks in large parts to the incredible success of web content such as Geek and Sundry’s Critical Role and Penny Arcades “Acquisitions Incorporated“.   These series have impressive reach and allows fans of the game to easily share episodes with friends to show them what fun they are missing.  I myself have created seven new “critters”, all of which are now in brand new D&D campaigns I am running for them.

As the gospel that is the “Players Handbook” continues to spread, and new players come to the table, this little list will help new players know what to expect and how to behave.

1. Know what your character can do

Generally before the first gameday, your DM will assist you in rolling your character and filling out your sheet.  Your DM should be happy to answer any questions you have leading up to gameday.  But as soon as the game begins, your DM has an entire world to keep track in his/her mind.  Including a deep rule set, NPC’s and a cavalcade of enemies to challenge you with.  Depending on your DM, they most likely have not memorized all the spells and every racial/class ability for the 4-6 players around the table (Have you seen how many pages are in that damn book!).

Think of it this way, your job as LVL 1 character is to memorize 4-6 pages of racial/class abilities and a handful of spells.  It’s okay to ask clarification on how combat works, when/how/if you’re allowed to perform an action etc.

But if your a Paladin with the lay on hands ability, you should go to the table knowing what the ability does.  Because if you have dying party members around you, your DM might not be gracious enough to drop the hint.  Like for example, maybe you should go up and touch your dying friend and allow the radiant energy of your god to put them back on their feet.

You don’t have to know everything about D&D, but you should know what your lvl 1 character is capable of.

2. Your Character isn’t always the center of attention

Excited players new to the experience might want to try and squeeze themselves into every situation, into every encounter or discussion with an NPC.  Roleplaying experiences are infinitely better when everyone is contributing to the storytelling.  If after a session you know notice that one of your party is talking 75% of the time, I recommend taking them aside privately and discussing it with them.  Ask them to draw the more shy members of your party out by getting them to speak in character with each other.

Unless its your characters trait that they always want to be the center of attention. Just be aware of party interactions at the table.

3. Respect your DM’s rulings

I’ve spoken to several DnD players and DM’s over years and we all agree that no two campaigns are the same.  Specifically I’m referring to how certain rules are applied and your DM’s overall style.  If you play with multiple groups you will simply need to adapt to the changing rulesets and playstyle to that specific table.

You should never argue with the DM regarding a decision in gameplay or storytelling – they might even be valid reasons – but overall it’s to show respect to your DM who has put hours into the story and prep for gameday.


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