03 January 2013

Beginner's Guide to Playing an RPG

I was reading about the Deck of Many Things on SuperGalacticDreadnought and it got me thinking about D&D and RPGs in general. I have learned much from those games and have had a damn fun time learning it. I've decided to share some wisdom I have gleaned from hours spent at the table.
     Be prompt. DMs hate it when their players are late to a session. I know this because I have DMed as often or more than I have been a player. Late players end up rolling up new characters because their temporarily NPCed character was used as a trap monkey / canary. I understand that character death is a traumatic experience and rolling up a new character is a giant pain (Really? 3d6  X 6, sword, shield, chainmail. Simple. For variation try shortbow, shortsword, leather armor.). Truth is, there is only so much time for gaming so let's get as much as we can out of the three, four hours that we have. 
     Wizards die. Seriously, who the fuck thinks 1d4 hit points and shit for weapons and armor is a good idea? At least in Hackmaster you start with 20 + 1d4, but the monsters also get the 20 point bonus. Fighters are survivable as are properly kitted-out Clerics for you "role players" out there. Barbarians, Rangers and Thieves are acceptable, but don't expect me to heal your dumb leather-armor wearing ass if you go off and do something stupid like fall while tight-rope walking over a spiked pit. New character sheet, bub. Magic-Users, Monks, "Sorcerers," and the like are just asking for it at low levels. Hardly worth it. Illusionists may be the biggest waste ever.
     No problem cannot be solved with fire. More useful than the 50' rope and 10' pole. Fireball? Bah. Let me show you the Porcine Cruise Missile*. Fire is a great distraction. It is visible from a great distance. Fire is a powerful weapon that keeps going. An arrow does its 1d6 or 1d8 damage and that's that. A FLAMING arrow does that same 1d6 / 1d8 PLUS fire damage. And the fire keeps damaging the thing UNTIL IT IS DEAD unless the thing takes the effort to extinguish the flame. Have you ever almost set yourself on fire? I bet you didn't let it go for a few "rounds" until you were close to zero hit points. Any DM whose orcs do not immediately stop drop and roll should be called out immediately. Creatures that are specifically immune to fire damage are scary things.
     Joo-Janta Peril Sensitive Glasses. Reading books, seeing mirrors, viewing medusas, damn near anything in Call of Cthulhu. Your eyes are your enemies! I watched two friends kill themselves having to fight their mirror image clones in D&D. They were 9th level and had worked up since first. I felt bad for them and had their corpses carried to a healer for rezzing after I lightened their pockets and bags. I watched half the party go nuts and kill eachother in CoC. (That was actually pretty funny since I had gone a different sort of crazy and ran off in another direction prior to the wipe.) Let's review: NEVER LOOK AT ANYTHING! 
     Dice are evil. They are best used as a distraction while playing. Stacking, spinning and playing speed Yahtzee are acceptable. If you actually get to the point of having to roll dice to keep your character alive you're doing it wrong. I'm not saying that combat is to be avoided, but it is best kept for mindless drones that you can slaughter without a second thought. Beholders, Giants, Dimensional Shamblers and such should not be fought. Avoid or reason with them and you'll do alright. Some spells, if you end up using a character that does that sort of thing, are diceless. These are the best spells. Magic Missile. No Saving Throw! No Roll To Hit! Just INSTANT DAMAGE BABY! When the game gets to inevitable point of having to roll dice it is best to be superstitious and arcane. Bounce a few dice off the table. Get some results cocked on a book. Set your dice with the high number up. Remember, some dice indeed are cursed and will bite you in the ass at just the right moment. Other are cursed to roll shittily all the time. Determining which is which is a skill to be developed over years of playing.
     Pencils and paper. Have your pencil handy to take notes. Regardless of how much destruction and death you are causing, D&D or what have you is about getting through a story and taking notes is important. So is doodling.

I hope this helps a bit. I may add some more tips later on.

* A pig with a few flasks of of oil / Greek fire strapped to it. Just add something to use as a fuse and a slap on the porker's ass. Good for long hallways.

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