You can find part one here, it’s just as important and full of rants as part two. How many parts will there be? Probably four. I don’t know. It really depends on how creatively disruptive players can continue to be. Seriously, though, I’m just trying to help people be aware of the things they might be doing or see others doing. That being said, let us continue to discuss these… SINS OF PLAYERS!
Dismissing Other Players- New Players In particular
This is easier to do than you think, and I often see people do it without thinking about it. Just as often, people do this not out of malice, but with good intentions. Perhaps a player is eager to share the game with a new player and tries to show them all of the options available, but without waiting for the newcomer to provide feedback or be allowed to process all of the material at their own pace. Such magnanimity can easily smother a player and come across as dismissive.
The same problem, but from a different approach, involves “veteran” players dismissing the ideas of new players because “That won’t work, but this worked in another game I played.” You need to instead appreciate a fresh, uncaged, mind. You don’t need to be a veteran to be good at this game, and you don’t even need to know the “rules” to be good at solving puzzles or role-playing. Don’t stifle the creativity or ideas of other players.
DO NOT criticize them for suboptimal combat decisions. Any DM with experience will identify that people are choosing fun and role play over “trying to win D&D” and adjust things accordingly. DO NOT pressure them into “optima;” builds. I can’t stand it when a new player joins a group and someone says “we need a cleric.” If you want to be healed so bad, then YOU play a cleric. No? You wanted to play “something fun”? Then let others do the same.
Allow new players to explore the game on their own – it’s a wonderful and memorable experience that will leave them with many memories. Don’t ruin it with “optimization” suggestions or sighing loudly when they decide to not attack for a couple of rounds because their character hasn’t committed to the same course of action that yours has. Finally: don’t count their dice for them. We’re usually all adults here, and definitely old enough to add.
Rules Lawyering and Critiquing
This trope and style of players are one of the most commonly “feared” and avoided. I’m very glad for you that you have not only the Player’s Handbook, but the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide memorized as well. Maybe not, and you just have all of those books right there in front of you on your phone or tablet. Either way, you need to stop critiquing calls and rules – especially when it delays play, and ESPECIALLY when it takes away from fun or undermines the narrative.
You need pause and take a moment to think and realize in your moment of feverous zeal to show off your knowledge of the rules that a Dungeon Master might intentionally “forget” about a rule or ability available to an NPC to preserve pacing and balance. I often play my NPCs suboptimally if my high rolls have made what would have been a well-balanced encounter into a potential TPK. I’m not afraid to let my players die, but I prefer to have them go down fighting and in a memorable fashion.
Rules lawyers have a place, and if you’re that type, there is a way to use your powers for good. There are more than these three types, but consider these three Lawfully Aligned Rules Lawyers:
Lawful Good: These guys believe the rules are important and can help support the DM if the DM asks for clarification and someone else knows the answer. The Lawful Good Rules Lawyer also knows that the Dungeon Master can change the rules.
Lawful Neutral: She believes that it’s because of the rules that the game exists, and without enforcing them it begins to fall apart. The rules are what make the game “a game” and they need to be followed at all times. This is a common mentality, and easy enough to deal with if the player isn’t obnoxious.
Lawful Evil: This poophead only brings up rules when it benefits them or, perhaps, other party members only.
When people complain about Rules Lawyers, they are complaining about the Lawful Evil Rules Lawyer. They aren’t people who care about what’s right, they care about what benefits them. They are perfectly happy to ignore a rule that harms them but will endlessly argue about it if they think it can be in their favor. The other two versions are more often than not helpful.
Why Do People Dislike Rules Lawyers So Much?
- Because they to be more focused on having the last word instead of bringing attention to something for the sake of enhancing the game. Also, there’s something super icky about a player who is constantly challenging the DM on calls during gameplay.
- The job of the DM is to say “yes”, within reason. The rules lawyers – both player and DM – are there to say “no”. it turns fun into arguing, which isn’t fun for anyone but the instigator.
How Can Rules Lawyers Help The Game?
- Rules lawyers keep internal consistency. If the player says “I want to kick in the metal door,” and I don’t know what the DC is, I Might then say “Sure, make a DC 20 Strength check.” That’s actually wrong. Now, the next time a player asks to do the same thing, they will expect it to be a DC 20, and I will have to remember that.
- Rules lawyers help keep the game balanced. D&D is a structured game with well-balanced rules. There are rules for all sorts of things, like holding your breath underwater. If the players are diving down to fight an aboleth, then there is a set amount of time they can do so, and a rules lawyer would point that out.
- Rules lawyers help you remember things. There are a lot of rules in Dungeons and Dragons! It can be tough to remember all of them. It’s great having someone who does, so you don’t have to search through the rulebook for ten minutes when your player animates a skeleton.
- Rules lawyers shut down cheating players. Someone with extensive knowledge of the rules can catch cheaters easily, and I’ve seen it a few times.
Stop being the Lawful Evil Rules Lawyer.
Let me preface this by clarifying that for a new player to be unprepared makes sense. I’ve stated it so much by now throughout various posts that it’s sort of becoming a mantra: there’s a lot of information to take in quickly in Dungeons and Dragons. I understand, as should others. However, if you’ve been playing for months now, which generally means dozens if not HUNDREDS of hours, you absolutely need to understand the core mechanics that apply to your class.
You’re slowing things down for yourself, and everyone else at the table. Pacing is absolutely a thing that a good Dungeon Master keeps in mind, and you’re RUINING IT if you’re unprepared.
There are several different ways you’re doing this, and you need to fix yourself. Now.
- Showing up unprepared
- Not knowing the core mechanics of the game or your own class’ features and how they work
- Not planning your turn ahead of time
It’s uncommon for most players to have to prepare for a session. If you’re playing at a hobby shop or a friend’s house, you grab your character sheet, your pencil, your dice, and dice bag. Maybe a couple of other things, but that’s it. Even if you forget most of these things, a well-prepared DM will have a copy of your character sheet and you can borrow the rest from someone else. If you’re playing online, you need even less.
I’m not talking about this stuff. One example I mean is a scenario such as this: Your party leveled up at the end of the previous session. You’ve had an entire week or more to update your character, but for “reasons” you’ve put it off and ultimately deemed it unimportant until next session. You now show up to the next session without having looked at your character whatsoever. I guess you’re stuck at that level then until next session because nobody is going to wait for you to do something you’ve had hundreds of hours to do – and it takes like 10 minutes.
If you’re playing online, make sure you have all of the technical issues taken care of. I’ve had to start way too many sessions late because we’re all waiting for someone to show up. There’s always that one late person (but I’ll complain about this later). Even after they finally decide to show up, they have to then figure out their headset and microphone technical issues. YOU’RE TAKING AWAY FROM EVERYONE’S GAME TIME. Take care of this stuff ahead of time, holy $H!T!
Not Knowing The Core Rules Or Class Features
Player: “I want to grapple him!”
Player: “How does that work?”
Player: “I want to cast this spell, what does it do?”
Me: Smashing my face into my desk because you should have $%^&ing; read that stuff already.
… and so on and so forth. Again, this stuff is understandable for new players, and most DMs, as well as players, will be understanding of these struggles. However, if you ask me one more time how a spell works when you absolutely have it right in front of you AND the question you’re asking is answered right in the first sentence, standby – you’re pissing me off. If you think that because I’m the DM and you’re the player, that I must know every single rule and class feature and spell, you’re wrong.
We’re playing the same game, and the Dungeon Master has way more than enough on their plate to keep him busy without having to continually hold your hand. If you expect the Dungeon Master or players to catch all of your mistakes for you, or you hope nobody will catch those mistakes, you are a problem – a recurring problem.
Not Planning Your Turn Ahead Of Time
This often coincides with “Checking Out” that I mentioned in part one. You know the scenario. Meteors are raining from the sky, the room is flooding, and the big bad evil gal is conjuring Actual Cannibal Shia LeBeouf from beyond the grave. The heat of battle burns as hot as pizza cheese fresh out of the oven when it meets the roof of your mouth (hotter than 1000 suns).
The time for action is now. There’s no time to think. But now it’s Jeff’s turn, and he’s just beginning to search through his spells for the “best possible spell” to utilize.
“No… not this one… Oh hey, this one! No… I just have so many options.”
And now combat grinds to a halt as Jeff must spend like three entire minutes (or MORE?!) on his one single turn. Jeff eventually, somehow, manages to figure out what action he wants to take. And now his turn is ended. Or has it?!
“I still have my bonus action and 15 feet left to move, or was it 20 feet?”
You need to stop this insanity NOW.
“I’m done! Oh, wait, my spiritual hammer gets a turn now, too.”
Meanwhile, all of the other players are slamming their heads against something, or just checking out because Jeff has now taken like five minutes on his turn that is supposed to represent SIX SECONDS of COMBAT. Other people are checked out, so the combat slows down even more and begins to spiral into a bottomless pit of pregnant pauses and min-maxing decisions.
If you recognize yourself while reading this, or even think it might be you, you need to fix yourself. You’re ruining the experience for other players and maybe even the Dungeon master because they want their players to be happy and engaged in the world that they have worked so hard to build together. Yes, combat is complex. You know that. So prepare for that. Know your capabilities and PLAN YOUR TURN AHEAD OF TIME.
Sometimes you can’t because something unpredictable happens right before your turn. That’s understandable. But when it takes the party three hours to slaughter some mindless undead, and absolutely no Role Play involved, this is awful and you are sinning. You need to have some respect for a time as well as your fellow players.
And So Concludes Part Two
Rest assured: there is plenty more to come. I have a significant list of things I want you to stop doing. I hope you’re now on the path to correction.
For now, have some finger guns. *pew pew*
What are some of your pet peeves with other players?
Share with us! Make others aware of their disgusting habits.