Nothing is more frustrating than waiting for a disorganized player to find their dice or figure out a skill roll.
Arriving at a game session with the necessary equipment is important, but being prepared to actually use it is equally important. As with most other aspects of life, organization is the key to a smooth gaming experience. So let’s take a quick moment to go over some things that you can do, as a player, to be more organized at the game table.
When you know where things are and can get to them quickly, it keeps things flowing at the game table. Your game master will appreciate this extra attention you pay to their game, the other players will appreciate that they don’t have to wait for you to get to their turn, and you’ll reap the rewards of a more efficient game where you can experience more content in the limited session times.
1 – Use a binder or folder to organize everything.
It would be redundant to spend time talking about what should be within this folder, but you should have the folder and use it for all of your gaming paperwork. This can be a literal folder or a digital one (or both!) but the key point is to know what’s in it, and where to find it.
Your character sheet (in a protective sleeve) should be the first thing in the folder when you open it, so when your game master asks you a question about a stat (or you decide to roll one and need to find it) you don’t have to rifle through a stack of paperwork to get to it. I like to keep my inventory sheet(s) behind that followed by binder dividers separating my character’s history, print-outs of the rules and house-rules related to my character, my personal notes on the campaign, and anything else that the game master has provided me (in that order).
Using those sticky notes flags, or a sticky note or just a highlighter and a pen is a good way of flagging things within each section to make them easier to find on demand. This speeds up game play and helps you support any rules or stats questions that come up during game play.
Whatever organization scheme works for you, keep this folder tidy and know what is in it (and where!) so you can get what you need quickly. The way I look at it, this folder is my character and it is my responsibility to know how to play it. Time spent digging through my folder for information is time I could be killing green-skinned terror monsters.
2 – Keep track of your modifiers.
I struggled with this as a starting player – and really continued to struggle with it until a recent game. The game master has a lot to keep track of – it is polite and efficient to keep track of your own modifiers. Whether it is a bonus given from a spell you’ve cast or a negative that the game master has imposed for the situation or monster effect you should be tracking your own modifiers. This includes their effect, duration and their source if you know it.
My recommendation on how to track it is to use a note card on your character sheet, held in place with a paperclip. Another way I’ve suggested is to use a dry erase marker on the plastic cover of your character sheet itself – and that is better suited to longer-running effects. However you track it, do not forget it. Forgetfulness is still cheating!
3 – Know your rolls or where to find them quickly.
For the stats that are related to your character concept – melee combat for a fighter or performance for a bard, for example – you should know that skill without having to think too much about it. I use a colored marker or highlighter to put a box around those skills on my sheet so even if I forget I can find it by just opening my folder.
For other skills, or skills you do not use often, be familiar enough with the layout of the character sheet to find those values quickly when called to use them. Sure, it isn’t often that your fighter will need that Underwater Basket Weaving skill he took, but when he does it is going to be a limited window that will pass by quickly. If you don’t know the skill roll off the top of your head and it doesn’t seem to be crucial, don’t be afraid to take a pass to move the game along – maybe your fighter was so focused on the goblins pouring up from that hole in the ground that he didn’t even think about that semester he took learning knot-tying at the university?
4 – Roll damage with skill rolls.
This one comes straight from The Fez who will hopefully cite his source in the comments. Whenever you roll a skill – to-hit with a sword or a contested mental attack, for example – that has a damage or follow-up roll on success, roll them both at the same time. This saves time if you are successful as the damage is already right there.
This works best in systems where the dice are different – like D20 systems where damage might be 2D6 after a 1D20 to-hit – but can be adapted to other systems. For example, in the D6 Fantasy game The Bad Batch is currently running, they could roll different colored dice to distinguish their damage vs. melee rolls.
Keep your area clean
Whether you’re playing at a friend’s house, a local restaurant or supporting your local game shop (as a good gamer should) you should keep your designated area organized and neat. Keep your game materials close at hand and easily accessible, police your trash or dirty dishware and make sure you’ve got a designated area to roll your dice that isn’t going to send them scattering all over everyone.
This is a common courtesy of gaming that often gets overlooked (making it not so common, I suppose). But it will help things run more smoothly, and make you a more attractive player that others enjoy being around.
So there it is – follow those five rules and your games will be more efficiently, which will be more fun for everyone.