Joining a new gaming group can, sometimes, be a bit daunting. When you are a part of the group’s origin, settling in is usually quite easy. When the group is long established, though, the experience can call for some finesse. I’ve found in my adventuring days certain ways to help the process of adapting into an established group, such as:
Get to Know the Group
Try to talk at least once with the various players. Talking about the campaign is fine, but getting to know them as people is important. It helps you to settle in to the group and quickly shed the “new guy” label. If you are playing through a digital venue, it can be tough to do but even more important.
Be Active In Character
Don’t let your character be forgotten about. I’ve seen it happen a lot in the group I’m in now. A new player will come in who has a well-built character that they…just don’t do anything with. Insanely high skill checks and deep backstories go to waste because they’re too hesitant to have their character take actions before the experienced players. Remember: the veteran players in that group will love to have another contributing player to the game.
Feel the Group Out of Character
Some groups like serious roleplaying, others like to crack jokes and speak out of character. Learn which one you are playing with. Chances are that you will know how the group likes to play before the first session, but it can still take some time to pick up the nuances. Be yourself, but tailor to the group. An established campaign party will expect you to come in with the same approach they have.
Ask About House Rules
Almost every gaming group has house rules. Learn the house rules before creating a character. The group I’m in now, for instance, tends to have a lot of high defense strikers and high damage defenders. While this makes the conversational aspect of our campaign a little more difficult, combat tended to be too easy. So, our DM instituted a house rule: While you still have two standard actions per turn, only one of them can be an attack power. Combat was now more difficult and much more fulfilling. But, if you are bringing in a character that relies on multiple attacks a turn, you’re going to find life more difficult than necessary.
When to Cite the Rules
It’s important to learn when you should let something contrary to the rules slide or when to correct it. As a general rule of thumb, don’t correct a DM’s rule mistake if:
- The correction results in the death of a party member. Not matter the circumstances that put them close to death, you will be the one that killed your teammate.
- It’s a common rule. This may seem underhanded, and yes, the DM has a lot to keep track of. However, it’s still his job to keep track of basic stuff and know how to run the game correctly. If the players who have been in the group for months or years let it slide, you should too.
- If there is a hint that the DM could be showing some mercy. He could be “forgetting” to add ongoing damage on a player for a good reason. If you call it out, he’s forced to count it. With this one, be careful.
- If it results in a needed advantage for the players. Once, the level 11 group I was in (five players total) came across a level 16 encounter with roughly nine Mind Flayers. We took every advantage we could get and still had people rolling death saves.
Then, there are times when you should call out a correction, such as:
- If it’s an obscure rule in your character build. Always be honest with what’s on your character sheet and how it applies to the game. A DM can be highly knowledgeable, but he may not know the intricacies of how your favorite rogue power interacts with two feats and an item you’ve packaged in.
- If it’s breaking the game. To me, this takes precedence over any reason to not correct the mistake. D&D allows a lot of room to customize and create house rules, but the integrity of the game should never be broken. Only bad things come as a result of that.
- If it will derail the pace of the game. The best time to correct a rule mistake that isn’t a result of your character’s build is between sessions. Correcting the mistake mid game often throws off the pace of the game and can get it stuck in a quagmire of compendiums and indexes in no time at all. Making corrections after the session allows plenty of time for research and discussion.
When you do call out a correction, have sources on hand to back up your interpretation. You don’t want to be the guy who corrects the group then spends five minutes flipping through the rulebook saying, “I know it’s here somewhere.”
As with all things, the tips listed in this article are dependent on circumstances. You know your gaming group better than I do. But, use these as good points to get started with. As long as you remember that the best parts of roleplaying isn't rolling dice, you’re good to go.