Supplement Review: How to Play Good (R.P. Davis): 5 Stars
Literally every player issue I’ve ever encountered has its genesis in the player being a selfish jerk. Sometimes it’s intentional. Sometimes it’s thoughtlessness. Sometimes it’s cluelessness. I’m never going to impact the first sort of player, the intentional jackwagon. This work is directed at the thoughtless and clueless. Both of those can be fixed.
In this supplement, the prolific R. P. Davis delivers a brilliantly snarky, tongue-in-cheek compendium jam-packed with valuable advice for both DM and player. Not only did I find myself nodding in profuse agreement at nearly every page, but laughing while doing so. In compiling 30 years of his own experience, and that of some of the biggest names in the business, Davis has ensured that even veteran and well seasoned players/DMs will remember or learn something important. While most of the advice is focused on helping Dungeon Masters run better games (and thus perfectly aligned with our mission here), I found the advice he gives to players to be worth the price of the book. In fact, I may make this reading required for anyone playing at my table in the future. Though How to Play Good has a few weaknesses (mostly based on personal preference), I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be in the binder of every DM (and player) who desires a higher quality game.
The Advice. This book is filled with over 60 pages of valuable advice. It’s advice that everyone can learn from. It’s advice everyone forgets sometimes. It’s advice that should stand as a social contract between everyone at the table. While not every tip is applicable for every table, and some (read: very little) of it I outright disagreed with, DMs who want to stay relevant, and players who want to find tables, should read this every year. And the advice is not just Davis’–it is brought from minds like Matt Colville, Matthew Mercer, and Larry Brooks. And the DM section? Players should read that too, so they know the standard to which to hold their DM.
The Production. As with all of Davis’ work, the production is flawless. There are no spelling or grammar issues, the writing is almost always flowing in his distinct style, and for the most part, he says only what needs to be said (though, as below, there are a few instances where this is not the case).
The Humor. R. P. Davis is a delight to read. Almost every page is filled with a self-aware humor that employs snark, cliche’, and a seemingly flirtatious malapropism of curse words. Not only does this aid in fostering a unique stylistic voice for Davis, but it keeps the reader engaged and will likely make the content readable multiple times.
Narrow Perspective. In Davis’ great vault of knowledge, a couple narrow viewpoints appear. We should note that, as Davis admits himself, these are his viewpoints, and not the sum total of all human knowledge on D&D. He admits and owns his biases, so I have no qualms pointing them out.
First, this book is most useful for face-to-face table top play. While a good portion of the advice still applies to online play, the book is geared towards the traditional TTRPG culture. R. P. admits his bias against technology at the table (he has valid concerns), but this bleeds into a huge blind spot when it comes to Virtual Table Top etiquette.
Secondly, Davis has a noted aversion to nearly all “homebrew”* in a game. His reasons, as usual, are well explained and very relatable, but may come off as slightly “out of touch” in an edition where homebrew seems to be rampant and flourishing (for better or for worse). His personal opinion is shared by many, I am sure, but if you are looking for advice on how to incorporate more than a few basic ideas, you won’t find it here.
Occasional Verbosity. There are a few cases where R. P. goes more in depth than is needed. This really only happens in the Dungeon Master’s section, and primarily towards the end of the document. It’s still good advice, but I didn’t find all of it applicable, it seemed long, and they were the only times I found myself skimming to get through a section. Even so, others may find this abundance of advice helpful depending on their situation.
Seriously, there is no reason not to buy this book. You’re neither a perfect DM nor a perfect player, and I’m sure you can think of a half a dozen players who need to “tighten up their game”. This product earns a well deserved 5 stars and gets our Must Have tag. You can find it, and all of R P Davis’ other works, by clicking the picture below.
* By “homebrew” I mean the introduction of relatively complex mechanics used to alter the core of gameplay. Davis has no aversion to the tweeking or modifying of creatures or magic items. He does, in fact, encourage it.