January 5, 2021

Easy As 1-2-3: What TTRPG Players Do When It’s Their Turn

On the surface, being a new tabletop RPG player can be an intimidating experience. You’re often surrounded by folks who know exactly what to do all the time. So when the GM turns to you for the first time and says “It’s your turn; what do you do?” it can be a little intimidating.

Today’s Newbie Tuesday post aims to help demystify just what it is exactly you’re supposed to do on your turn. So new players: read on!

The Prompt & Its Context

The start of your turn typically begins with a prompt from the GM, the person who facilitates the story. It can be as simple as “what do you do?” or as complicated as “how do you go about X, Y, or Z?” Either way, they’ve given your turn a type of alley-oop, a setup to guide how you can, and perhaps should, act.

The prompt is your turn’s inertia. If you’re on the battlefield, and the GM asks “what do you do?”, your options are limited to what your character can do in combat. In contrast, if you and the party are deep in some ancient tomb trying to solve a mysterious puzzle, and the GM asks “how do you find the clues?”, then that’s a different set of potential choices and actions entirely.

So the context is key. Once the prompt has been given, you need to ground yourself – and your character – with what’s going-on in the story. Is it combat? Role-playing? What are the challenges & obstacles in front of you & and the group? And what can your character do to help? Use the answers to those questions to help guide and solve how you go about making your choice(s) on how you’d like your character to act.

Choices and Actions

When you’ve got a solid handle on the context surrounding your turn, you can shift your attention to the choices & potential actions in front of you. Keeping with the example from above, if your party is in combat, and you’re aware of the situation on the battlefield, you can narrow down your choices to ones which positively impact yourself and your group. Whether that’s attacking an enemy or healing an injured ally, you should take the time to be cognizant of what your options are – and what the potential impacts of each might be.

The system you’re using to play, whether it be Dungeons and Dragons or StoryTogether’s StoryNite or myriad other systems, then has rules about the action(s) your character can take during their turn. Most commonly, systems have rules around how much/how far/how fast your character can move in relation to the others. And what skills/abilities/feats/attacks your character possesses, depending on how you’ve customized them.

Back on the battlefield, for example, you could move your character into position next to an enemy and attack (choice followed by action). Or in a negotiation with a king, you could have your character use their skill in persuasion to try and earn an additional prize for your group for completing a quest. When trying to solve that puzzle, perhaps leaning on your character’s expertise in history might garner you the clues you’re seeking.

Easy As 1-2-3

So it’s as easy as 1-2-3: Prompt, Context, Action(s)! Take the time to learn your character’s abilities. Memorize what dice you’re supposed to roll and what you should be adding to them. Take-in how the tabletop role-playing game system you’re using is flowing as the story is progressing.

You won’t regret that investment of time and energy when you’re having an absolute blast with your friends and family! And if you have any questions, I’m more than happy to help…