Last time we met, we spoke about how to build a good team member. This time around, we look at how to BE a good team member and teamwork in D&D. Every D&D player is not wandering around the world, fighting monsters and looting treasure by themselves. Each Fighter, Wizard and Rogue is a member of a Party. For whatever their individual reasons, sticking together is how each member of the Party gets rich/famous/not dead. In your experience with this game, you’re going to run into players that only care about themselves. They are not the norm, or the majority in any way but they do exist. They want all the loot, want to take credit for all successes and think of themselves as the “leader”, no matter the context in the story. These people suck. You shouldn’t play with them. However, at their table are a bunch of other players that want to get rid of that player too. That’s because those other players don’t suck. They work together and pay attention to each other to maximize their experience. They understand that teamwork makes the game work.
When you’re at the table, there are just a few small things you can do to not only make the most of the session for yourself, but for everyone at the table. There’s the mechanical aspects, like making sure the fighter with super high AC provides cover for the wizard who is trying to solve the puzzle on the wall that will open the tomb door. Or the barbarian distracting the enemy long enough for the rogue to sneak around behind them and untie their captives so they can escape. What I want to talk about is a bit more abstract but just as important. Each player has a story to tell and as teammates it’s up to each to help those stories get told. Here are a few ways you can do that for your team.
- Listen. When a player is having an interaction with another player (or an NPC) PAY ATTENTION! Don’t play on your phone or do something wacky in game to wreck the conversation. Feel free to do something wacky AFTER the conversation. You can learn alot about the members of your party by observing these interactions and using them to shape the relationship with your character. Stronger relationships lead to stronger, more interesting bonds between party members. That’s the meat in a great story sandwich.
- Watch. Does the rogue constantly get caught? Does the Paladin trigger every trap? Knowing how your teammates think means you can factor them in as your character progresses. A smart wizard ignores the rogue when he/she boasts about his/her stealth abilities and casts Invisibility on him/her anyway if said rouge, even after rocking a stealth check can’t resist trying to steal just one extra thing and triggers the alarm. EVERY TIME. If you, the bard just know that the paladin walks right up to every door in the dungeon and opens it before the rogue checks it for traps then you’ll call out to him/her with words of Inspiration to help keep that brave/dumb/mostly brave/pretty dumb teammate alive.
- Speak. Does the barbarian start bar fights? At every bar? Every time? Well, if you know that then maybe as a rule you walk up to the bar and pre-pay for all the damages. Then, the bartender knows to overcharge the barbarian to not only run him/her out of money faster and get him/her less drunk. Also, the local authorities are less likely to get involved slowing down whatever mission the team is on.
There’s one more thing I feel is important to add to the conversation. I enjoy this crazy game because over the years I’ve met so many different people while playing/DMing. As a result, I’ve been fortunate enough interact with different genders, upbringings, religions and political views. I’ve also been at a table with the craziest most outgoing people. I would fall into that column myself. Over the years I’ve done my best to be mindful of all the different types of people that are at my table. Some folks are shy, some are inexperienced with relationships and some are sorting out who they are (gender identity, career/education, family situation). Some have experienced traumatic events that I could not possibly relate to. As such, by listening at the table and more importantly away from the table you will learn what kinds of humor or banter or in-game behavior would make your teammates uncomfortable. Even worse, you might offend or hurt someone. That’s not what this game is about.
The game is meant to foster friendships. Learn about the people at your table, socialize a bit after the session. Ask them how they’re doing or how they think the game is going. Let them know that if something stupid comes out of your mouth that it’s not meant to offend and if that happens to let you know right way. My thing is puns. Usually bad puns. Puns don’t typically offend they mostly cause cringing. I have been at tables when phrases like “man that’s gay” or “how retarded is that”. I’ve had to hear another player be unnecessarily graphic when “seducing the barmaid”. These things didn’t offend me, and I understand that they were not meant to be offensive but I’m sure they COULD offend. Knowing each other helps prevent these things but the least we can all do it be mindful of what comes out of our mouths. Best case, you prevent a friend or teammate from being offended. Worst case, someone hears some dumb thing that hits a real nerve and hurts them deeply, so much so that on top of that pain they give up the game altogether.
On a lighter note, a few weeks ago during a session, my buddy Gene was playing as a telepathic Gorilla with a Firbolg Ranger for an animal companion (you read that right). The team came into some money and he was spit balling ideas on how his unique (to say the least) character would spend his windfall. I suggested opening a brothel and calling it “Gorillas in the Tryst”. In my defense, I warned you about the puns.
So try and be mindful of the other people at your table. It will lead to stronger bonds, a better story and most importantly make sure everyone at the table has the best experience possible. But don’t let your D20s talk to other peoples D20s. They might unionize and go on strike until a “don’t throw us out the window or crush us with a hammer every time we roll multiple 1s in a single session” clause is added to their contract. The contract with us, the players not the Nightmare Hell Beast they signed the “drive players insane” contract with…