D&D Primer: On Character & Impact

It’s a year ago per this date and I’m at my desk for at least the 100th time talking to friends and one of them is asking me if it is even worth the effort to continue being a part of this D&D community.

I’m a relatively new player at this point and I’ve not managed to successfully complete a campaign that I’ve started in all the times I’ve played (and I can count that on exactly two hands), so I offer all the encouragement I can for them to keep DMing.

They are a wonderful DM, but they don’t feel that way and it’s really unavoidable because we don’t seem to have a sense of etiquette when it comes to D&D.

This guy explains so many things, but I’m going to have to spill this tea in a long friggin post because it keeps spilling all over my clothes and burning me. Let’s start with topic one.



From player to DM, the first thing you are going to need to run a successful campaign. Forget the manuals, the materials, the perfect story, etc because none of it matters if people don’t actually come.

Here’s a simple guide:

  1. Ask the DM what they intend to do. Is this a one-shot? A month long? A longer-term commitment? Do you have a session a month or two sessions per week?
  2. Actually listen to the answer. Write it down if you have to.
  3. Consider if you have the time and will to commit. Again: time. and. will. You can have free time, but decide you don’t want to actually be in a campaign. That’s fine. There are no laws that punish you for that and no one worth a damn is going to harass you about it.
  4. If you commit, show up. Not that I should have to say it, but I’ll say it again because it clearly needs repeating. Show up. If you can’t show up, communicate when you know things are going to prevent you from showing up.

There you go. Decide to do a thing, then do the thing you decide, and let people know what’s happening regularly. Simple.



When I say character, I mean a raison d’être. While I’m sure it is probably easier for many people to play the type of badass character that can smash things and not be smashed, I would like to invite you to consider that you – the player – are not the only person who has to participate in this campaign.

You. Are. Not. The. Only. One. Playing. This. Game.

(Feel free to clap after every word)

Your DM took the time to make a world that includes:

  • peoples
  • histories
  • gods
  • realms of existence
  • plot
  • secret items
  • actual places

It is a slap in the face of every DM in all of D&D-dom to then demand that they condense their story to that of hacking and slashing because it is considered to difficult to be bothered explaining why a character wants to do something at all, playing the part, and actually considers the consequences of what they do and do not choose in the course of the games.

I’ll add that I have nothing but the harshest of judgments for people that choose not to engage with the game except for the parts they want to rather than attempting to engage with the world before them (new players aside, of course).

Please be respectful of the efforts of the DM and the other players to have someone in party that is something a cut above moving cardboard.

Play with the intent to impact the world you come into. DMs only provide a framework for your character to build things with. Everything after that is built on our decisions as players.

If you demand good DMs, then be the best player possible and learn from every session you play.

Repeat that until you get it and it sticks.


D&D has a finite set of classes and race and alignments, but between all of those things there is the life you breathe into the character. With that, I add one more thing: be uncomfortable more often.

There are some obvious ones we can take here:

  • If you’re melee, be a mage.
  • If you’re a mage, be melee.
  • If you’re ranged, get up close and personal.
  • If you’re evil, be good.
  • If you’re good, be evil.

I invite you to think further than that. For example, many players, in order to justify the stats they want to have give themselves the most trouble past imaginable.

What if your character did not experience tragedy, but was driven by wonder? Curiosity? A desire to simply do good for the sake of doing good?

Create someone that goes against the grain of everything you know. Do it all at once or in small bits. Then play that role to the hilt.

  • Play a character that isn’t mistrustful, if that’s the norm for you.
  • Play a character that is endlessly cheerful.
  • Play a character who is entirely unselfish.

I’m focusing on the darker sides of things here since that seems to be a part of ourselves that we use D&D to entertain most of the time, but the other end is true as well.

Try playing Chaotic or Lawful characters if you’re more accustomed to not being pulled into extremes. Be a bit more reckless, more emotional, more invested in the world in general.

The DM will surely reward this.