Now it’s time to focus on all the little things you can do to make the DMs job easier! I’ve talked before about how much more time the DM spends preparing for a session than a player, so the least you can do is take a load off their hands when the session actually gets going.
I should note that I’m probably outright stealing some of these tips, since I’ve had some of them suggested by players who have read them in other places.
- Recap: When I DM a session, I give a minor quest if the players can do a good recap at the beginning of a session to get things started. As a player, whether or not you get rewarded, you should always be ready to do a fun recap to start things off. Taking quick notes at the end of a session never hurts. Giving a good recap saves the DM a lot of time explaining things to players who were absent from a session or forgot what was going on. Plus it shows that you are invested in what’s going on, whether it be a complicated web of intrigue or a delightful romp of orc bashing.
- Take Notes: Taking notes during a session is always a good idea. I said this in a previous post but it bears repeating. Take notes! It helps you keep track of what’s going on, shows the DM that you give a damn what his NPC’s names are, helps maintain continuity since the DM might have trouble keeping track of everything, and can help you out later on. If the main villain walks with a limp, that would be useful information when you meet a mysterious limping stranger later on. Names, particularly, are good to keep track of! As a DM, I love it if a player remembers the name of the innkeeper I made up on the fly two sessions ago, saving me the trouble of digging up my notes or making up a new name that everyone knows isn’t the real one.
- Bring Snacks: Snacks are another easy way to rack up extra XP if the DM is in a generous mood. Plus, they’re tasty! Plus, they show that you’re at least willing to shell out 5 bucks or so to make up for the several hours the DM spent prepping. Finally, they keep your energy level up!
- Volunteer to Keep Track of Initiative: One of the players should definitely volunteer to keep track of initiative, since it’s one less thing for the DM to deal with.
- Volunteer to Keep Track of Conditions: There are a few different ways to play this. If some of the players are new or kind of airheads, and you’re not, then it might make sense for you to keep track of conditions on all monsters. Otherwise, all players should offer to keep track of conditions they’ve caused to monsters. PCs should really be able to handle keeping track of their own conditions, hopefully. Keeping track of monster conditions saves the DM more time AND cuts down on the chances that the DM will miss a crucial condition that would have caused a monster to miss with an attack or take more damage.
- Volunteer to Keep Track of EVERYTHING: If the DM is willing to let you keep track of monster HP or other effects, then go ahead and do it. It speeds up the combat and gives you a useful edge! As a DM I usually draw the line at HP tracking, since I think it hurts the realism of the encounter and makes for weird meta-game choices, but if a DM is willing to take your help in this way they can probably use it.
- Be the Party Banker: D&D can get annoyingly complicated when it comes to an even distribution of wealth. At the very least, it’s usually good for one PC to be keeping track of party gold and the like. When I’m a player, I often like to keep track of what magic items certain PCs have in order to help figure out whose lagging behind and should be next in line for a magic item from the DM or a chunk of cash to buy one.
- Help Prepare the Combat: As a DM, if I don’t have a map planned, I sometimes ask a player to draw a fun one out while I do other precombat prep. So I might say “make a crazy garden filled with mystical traps” and let the player go from there. This is a chance for a player to flex their creative muscles a bit and make an awesome combat location. More mundanely, it can be useful to help the DM pick out minis and tokens for an encounter if they don’t have them out yet or simply clear the table of paper and debris so they can roll the combat map out.