It can be difficult to keep your character from dying in Dungeons & Dragons. Almost everybody’s first character sheet burns in the trial by fire that is D&D. There are strategies that will not only increase the party’s chances of survival but make the game run more smoothly. Some of these are simple rules to keep the party alive, while others are tactics that players should keep in mind.
It is important to remember these strategies, especially if the DM likes to strictly follow the rules at all times. If beginning D&D players reading this remember only one of these rules, they should make sure it is entry #1.
10 Only Fools Rush In
It doesn’t matter how powerful the party is, at some point, they will regret blindly kicking in a door. The D&D world is full of creatures, big and small, that can defeat even strong parties almost immediately.
It pays to be cautious when the world is full of dragons and demons. Never alert someone or something’s attention until the party is ready for a fight, or the intent of the other party can be learned from observation. In general, it is also best to assume every door and chest is trapped in some way; it only takes one to potentially kill a character.
9 Characters Should Stick To their Classes
For the best chances of survival, every character should do what their class generally…does. Fighters should stick with swordplay. Wizards and sorcerers should stay back and use their spells and leave the melee to the fighters. Clerics should be healing the wounded fighters so they don’t have to stop and heal themselves, and thieves should strike from behind.
When the players start having their characters do something their character’s class doesn’t allow or help is when bad things start to happen. It only takes one bad turn to spell doom for a party.
8 Run Away, Live To Fight Another Day
There is no shame in running, especially when facing a fire-breathing dragon the size of a small house. This entry goes hand-in-hand with entry #10. In D&D, it is almost always better to decide to run early rather than later into a battle. Many monsters can run faster than humanoids, and spells can devastate a party from a distance.
The other fighters should be ready to carry a paladin or barbarian who refuses to run away from an enemy. It’s also not unseemly to have the wizard cast a sleep or charm spell on the paladin in this instance to get him/her to flee from an overwhelming foe.
7 Have All Relevant Information On The Character Sheet
When preparing your character sheet make sure to include any information the DM might need to know. Fighters should have the damage ready for any physical attack, as well as any modifiers to attack and armor class. Wizards and clerics need to have the pertinent spell information on their character sheets—damage, saving throw modifiers, range, and duration.
Thieves should keep the stats for their thieving skills current. Nothing stops the flow of a gaming session like having to search through the Player’s Handbook to learn the duration of a spell.
6 The DM Is Your Friend, The Dice Are Not
The dice are fickle things. One night they are giving you natural 20 after natural 20 on your attacks, and the next night, you miss a weak enemy five times in a row. Keep this in mind when deciding whether to keep your wounded character in melee for "just one more round."
The DM might be a friend, but, if the dice say your character dies, your character dies. The point is to not expect the DM to erase or ignore negative incidences that happen to the party. Most DMs would refuse to do this even if asked (even really nicely).
5 Draw A Map Of The Dungeon As It Is Explored
When entering a dungeon it is important for one of the players to start drawing a map. It doesn’t need to be a masterpiece; just a rough approximation of the dungeon’s layout on some scrap paper will do. If there’s something chasing the party, the last thing they need is to take a wrong turn into another group of monsters.
Never trust that the DM will tell the party how to get out of the dungeon, either. Drawing a map will also help prevent the party from missing out on loot. It’s easy to forget about a door or hallway that went unchecked in a big dungeon.
4 Don’t Count The Treasure While Still On The Job
Never put on a magical item or drink a potion before it is identified. This is how characters get curses. Don’t stop in the middle of a dungeon to divide the gold pieces equally. This is when the party gets caught flat-footed by an ambush. Wait until the dungeon is cleared before sorting out the loot, or at least wait until a safe resting area can be located (and the immediate area is secured).
It is generally best to just wait until the party gets safely back to town before the treasure is examined in detail. There aren’t any shops to spend your new-found wealth at in the dungeon, anyway.
3 Never Fully Trust An NPC
A good rule of thumb while playing D&D is that if a character isn’t under the control of one of the players that character should not be fully trusted. NPCs can seem friendly, but there is a good chance that any overly friendly NPC, especially one that stops the party on the street to talk, is anything but a friend.
A couple of seconds and a brief distraction is all a thief needs to pick a pocket clean of gold pieces. As bad as it sounds, assume most NPCs are working against the party, and never put the party’s safety in the hands of an NPC.
2 Keep Your Distance (Weapons)
Every member of the party should have a distance weapon of some kind. Getting face-to-face with an enemy is not always possible. Many players running a spellcaster choose to use spells as their distance weapon. Spellcasters will run out of spells at some point. In fact, every character that is not specialized with a distance weapon should carry a sling.
It’s hard to run out of ammunition for a sling since the party can just use rocks if the situation gets desperate. Since they are cheap and weigh next to nothing, why not carry a sling just in case?
1 Never Split The Party Up
This is at #1 for a reason—it is by far the most important strategy for a party. There is almost no situation where splitting the party into separate groups increases the chances for survival. The sum of the separate groups never equals the party as a whole.
Many DMs plan dungeons out ahead of time or use modules, and this means the number of enemies in a certain room is set and meant to be an encounter with a full party. If something forces the party to split up, one group should be as small as possible to get the job done.