General Adventuring Tips

NOTE: This is a LONG list. The underlining is so you can skim this list quickly and get the salient points.

Routines and “Standard Practice”:

  • Have a method of recognizing / validating party members when they re-unite. You never know when a doppelganger, impostor or illusion might be introduced by the DM.
    • Suggestions: secret passwords, handshakes, and also a physical, unique object (such as a flat disc with each of the PCs names or signet ring emblems engraved into it, and the disc sewn in to the back of a cloak). Alternately, having matching magical rings that only good-aligned creatures can wear (assuming your party is all good-aligned…)
  • Specify a meet-up location (and time, even if it’s sunrise/sunset) in case your characters are separated, or if you *gasp* choose to separate.
  • Have a common loot list (especially for misc magic items), so others can pour over creative uses of “utility” items
  • Have (a) standard marching order (or two: one for outdoors, and one for indoors), and ensure that the party isn’t TOO tight-packed (this is also known as “fireball formation”, when the entire party can be hit by a 20′ radius blast effect).
  • In general, it is better to have the scout ahead of the party, the tank with but in front of the mage, and the healer at the back. If you have a second scout, have them flank the mage so attacks from the side don’t hit the mage first.
  • Even if the DM doesn’t ask for it, state or arrange your miniatures in the desired marching order, before anything happens.
  • Have a party-agreed method of making decisions quickly
  • Have a pre-agreed-upon method of dividing the loot
  • Have a standard “alert” or “come running” call, preferably one that sounds like a common animal (like a crow, horse, owl, or dog).
  • Arrange code words or gestures for your party members to use to convey “attack” and “flee”.  Some examples:
    • Words:
      1. Fight = “Red”, “Dragon”, “Bear”
        1. E.g. “What was the name of that inn we passed? The Red Dragon?”
      2. Flee = “Yellow”, “brown”, “ostrich”
        1. e.g. “Hey, calm down – we’ll buy you some ostrich stew…”
    • Gestures:
      1. Fight = Scratch opposite side of head with arm above head
      2. Flee = Scratch/stretch with both hands on buttocks
  • Use a time of day to indicate direction of threat or travel (e.g. “When were we meeting that cowardly bard, 3 o’clock?” = flee, head to the right of the speaker’s facing)
  • Keep a monster log for your character. It might be meta-gaming to check the Monster Manual, but it’s smart gaming to remember previous encounters. Ensure that your character actually has the ability and means to do this recording!
  • Take notes, or assign someone to be record-keeper. Don’t expect the DM to give you the same clue twice.
  • Every party member should have a hidden weapon, with the details of how it is hidden WRITTEN DOWN on his character sheet.
  • If you just went on a forced march, and the DM tells you that you’re all tired, have MORE THAN ONE person on watch, or you’re just asking for the watch to fall asleep…
  • Never eat food that you haven’t seen prepared, or haven’t seen someone else eat safely, first.  Even then, an NPC might have an immunity to whatever poison he’s feeding you.
  • Overpay all street urchins and beggars, but make sure they do something to earn it first
  • Never purposely trigger a trap; it is likely to set off secondary traps or warn monsters
  • Whatever you decide to do, it’s best that your whole party is on the same page.


  • Have a “breaking camp” routine that includes some scouting and general wariness (especially when exiting a Rope Trick or other closed-in area)
  • Have a scouting-ahead-of-the-party routine, with some method to it
  • Have a way for the scout to communicate silently/secretly back to the party, in case the scout can’t return to or alert the party before they stumble into danger
  • Have a method of creating audible warning alarms around your campsite (bells on a string)
  • Never trust the lock on the room at the Inn. Add more alarms and deterrents.
  • Sleep with a weapon / wand under your pillow. Having all your gear across the room or at the foot of the bed doesn’t really help.
  • Always explore the WHOLE cave before you sleep in it
  • Always set a watch, even when in town
  • Don’t light a fire when camping on the plains; enemies can see it for miles.
  • If you have something to do that needs to be kept secret from the party, instead of separating from the party, do it at night when you’re on watch


  • Ensure that you have anything you can get to improve your skill rolls (climber’s kit, healer kits, masterwork thieves’ tools, elven cloak for stealth, etc)
  • Ensure you have a change of clothes.
  • Ensure you have adequate clothes and rations for the journey.
  • Ensure you have good clothes for role-playing encounters with nobility. Jewellery helps too.
  • Wear your jewelry, and make your gems into jewelry. It’s a lot harder for people to rip earrings out of your ears than steal a pouch full of gems off your belt.
  • Make everything you carry and wear waterproof, if possible (especially your pack!)
  • Don’t let one PC carry all the important stuff, and especially not in ONE bag or pack!
  • Don’t store anything important on your mount(s), especially if you tend to leave them in strange/dangerous places
  • Anyone you can afford to hire to guard your mount will save their own skin before they save your mount and/or gear.
  • Anyone guarding your mount who you forget about, or forget to pay, will pay themselves out of your mount-carried gear.
  • Have higher-strength characters carry extra items for more-easily-encumbered characters, or those who need to maintain a light load
  • If you are going to wear heavy armor, it might as well be spiked, with spiked gauntlets.
  • Always have lots of rope.
  • Always have a means to make fire.
  • Always have both magical and mundane sources of light (vs. anti-magic field, and windy tunnels)
  • Always have glue and solvent.
  • Solvent is (usually) flammable.
  • A shovel is more useful than you might think, despite the encumbrance
  • A mining pick may also be worth the encumbrance, especially if your DM likes inaccessible “loot” or cave-ins.
  • Carry weapons made of special materials including silver (werewolves), adamantite (demons), cold iron (fey), and bone (for rust monsters). Even a dagger will do, so you don’t have to fight unarmed.
  • Have a pre-knotted rope. Keep in mind that the rope won’t be the standard 50’ length anymore
  • Hammer and nails are very useful for repair, security, building things, and defence.
  • Everyone should have a dagger
  • Fishhooks and wire/strong thread make great traps
  • Always buy extra bowstrings
  • Wear heavy gloves whenever possible
  • Always carry cheap glass jewelry for negotiating with stupid monsters or bandits.
  • Walking everywhere is overrated. Get a mount. Expect to replace it frequently until you get a magical means to create mounts for the party.
  • If there are more things written on your equipment sheet than what you can carry or want to carry, ensure that you write down where each item is stored, or else that extra bow you thought you had might have been left on your horse, back at the stables, or wherever your DM thinks it would “reasonably” be stored.
  • Keep track of where you left your horse.
  • If an item weighs “effectively nothing”, and is inexpensive, buy a lot of them. You’ll find a use for them sometime (fishhooks, needles, vials, chalk, etc).
  • Bags of flour, or chalk powder, can be used to detect invisible foes.
  • If you cast continual flame or continual light on some small stones, then cover them with clay and bake them, you can scatter them on the ground and if someone steps on them, the clay shell breaks and they will start giving off light. Blind enemies won’t even realize they are setting these off.
  • At low levels, buy Riding Dogs and train them for combat- but don’t get too attached to them.
  • Most monsters don’t wear shoes – this means that contact poison works on their feet.
  • Marbles can be better than Caltrops to discourage pursuit (hint: there are no rules for marbles, so it’s DM-dependent what happens!)
  • Loaded crossbows save lives. Most DMs don’t let you leave crossbows loaded overnight.

Magic Items:

  • Rings of Featherfall are among the most useful and life-saving low-level, low-cost rings. Pit? No damage. Need to escape? Jump out the tower window – no problem.
  • Buy healing consumables: potions and/or wands of healing, even if you have healer-classes.
  • Have scrolls or potions for your least-frequently-memorized spells. Ones that can: cure diseases, poisons, curses, and cure or prevent other conditions (life drain, fatigue, hot/cold, fear, etc). The less likely you are to memorize that spell that day, the more you should think about having it in the form of consumable magic.
  • Bags of Holding / Haversacks are among the best party-investments
  • Universal Solvent is very useful. Bring glue, too.
  • Put shelving in your Portable Hole
  • Do NOT put Bags of Holding in your Portable Hole
  • Always get a caster to Identify items before you drink, wear or use them. It’s cheaper to spend gold / resources on Identify than on Remove Curse, Disease, or Poison.
  • Invisibility + Gaseous form = escape from almost any situation
  • Never underestimate the impact of mass use of consumables to overcome a difficult challenge
  • If you purchase potions from an NPC, never assume they are what he says they are. Get them Identified, preferably by the party Wizard.


  • Things that you may consider part of the room description may also have value. This includes artwork, tapestries, candle holders, etc.
  • Don’t keep all your gold in one pocket, pouch, or backpack
  • To take a painting, you may not have to take the frame (roll it up).


  • Always do a background check on the quest-giver. You might be doing a quest that isn’t going to be in your long-term best interests
  • If the BBEG (Big Bad Evil Guy) needs several items to fulfill his grand plan, you only need one to foil him.
  • Always try to negotiate for a bigger quest reward. You’d be surprised how often it works.
  • Instead of trying to sneak or fight into the heavily-guarded castle, leave your equipment (except lockpicks) with the party, then insult the castle guards, and try to get thrown in jail instead. Let the rest of the party into the Keep from the inside. This assumes, of course, that the one party member can get out of jail easily…
  • Hire a local guide.
  • If you ever clear out a lair, be sure to re-populate it with friendlies. Otherwise the place will just fill up with monsters again.


  • When scouting, ONLY scout, then return to the party. There is a great temptation for the scout to strike the first blow, or do some spontaneous sabotage – and this is almost always a mistake, because this occasion is inevitably when your scout rolls a 1 and there’s no backup nearby.
  • Don’t start your planning / discussion once the enemy is already aware of you. It just gives them more time to plan or escape.
  • Buff BEFORE combat, whenever possible. This is the whole reason for scouting.
  • Don’t scout further ahead of the party than the number of rounds you are likely to survive until they can reach you.
  • Never use the main entrance. There is almost always a side or rear entrance.
  • Vision, from low-light to darkvision, is more important than you might think. If you are unprepared, the DM is sure to screw you over with it. Try to screw over his monsters instead.
  • Always scout further ahead than the noise the fighter is making


  • Keep track of what your enemies wear: not only can you recognize them more easily, but you can make better disguises, too.


  • You have five general options:
    • fight
    • run
    • negotiate
    • intimidate
    • surrender
  • Buffing, then Crowd Control / AOE, then Ranged, then Melee. Yes, even the Barbarian is capable of waiting a round before charging in.
  • Surrender can give the DM a way out of a TPK (total party kill).
  • Retreat is a valid option.  Explain this to the barbarian.
  • Always have a ranged weapon – even a sling is fine (cheap, simple, ammo everywhere)
  • Always make sure downed enemies are actually dead
  • Don’t be too afraid to react quickly (example courtesy of Mr_Seth, from forums):
    • DM: “As you open the door, you see a troll sitting in the saun-“
      Me: “I close the door!”
      DM: “Uh – as I was-“
      Me: “Closing the door! Spiking it shut!”
      DM: “Ah-“
      Me: *rapidly makes door-shutting motions*
      DM: “You… close the door before the troll notices you’re there. Move silently check.”
  • Overkill is never overrated
  • Take out the casters first
  • Avoiding the encounter is a perfectly acceptable solution
  • If you avoid the encounter, make sure you’re not just leaving enemies behind you that can gang up on you later.
  • You don’t have to confront the enemies where you first found them.
  • Focus Fire.
  • Know when to hide or take cover. Many encounters can be made easier or even completely avoided
  • Random encounters should be considered time-and-resource wasters, not “extra XP”. Avoid them.  Many DMs give XP for avoided encounters, if you do something clever to avoid the conflict.
  • If one of them runs away, heading in a direction you haven’t explored, he’s going to warn the others.
  • Flank your opponents. Protect your own flanks.
  • Always have an escape plan… preferably TWO escape plans.
  • If you’re running away, make sure to do it in an initiative order that doesn’t leave the low-init person to tank all the monster damage, get surrounded, and die.  Delay your initiative activation if you have to, but run away together.
  • No one wants to be the first to run away, but staying to die with your fellows is worse than living to come back for a rescue.  Your DM may take pity and take prisoners rather than wiping out the rest of your party.
  • Ensure that you’re not the only party member without a means of escape
  • Explosive magic indoors can bring the house down
  • Try to lure enemies out of their natural environment, whether it be their cave, water, swamp, warehouse, or temple. Remove their home advantage.
  • If you can’t lure enemies out, ensure you have the means to survive in their environment.
  • Creative use of the environment (like swinging from chandeliers) is good for gaining small advantages, entertaining your fellow players & DM, and sometimes even for getting bonus XP!
  • When facing enemies with high AC from armor, use touch attack spells and those with Reflex saves.
  • Whenever possible, through positioning or spells, try to halve the number of enemies that can attack your party members, each round.
  • Never assume that monsters are the standard stats from the Monster Manual. DM’s love to change things up when they know you read/own manuals.
  • When fleeing, don’t be the slowest party member.  Have a means to increase your speed in an emergency (single-use item).
  • Difficult fights aren’t always a good time to try things for the first time. A wasted turn could cost lives.
  • Animals hate fire: Most animals will not cross an area that is on fire
  • Full attacks: Never underestimate the damage a foe can dish out if allowed to full attack.  Attempt to limit its attacks through positioning or magic.
  • Enemy wizards who remain in one spot during combat are probably illusions.
  • If it didn’t work, and it’s stupid, don’t try it again. DMs may forgive you the first time, but punish the second try.
  • You’re not an army, you’re a SWAT team. Your advantages over your enemies are speed, planning, and power out of proportion to your size. Once you start to lose those advantages, it’s time to back off and rethink your tactics.
  • A healthy dose of paranoia is a useful thing … and never forget that an enemy in one campaign may have friends in another. Nothing like finding out that the partner of the crazy-awesome Fighter/Monk you fought at the climax of the last campaign is an even better Fighter and the starting point for an army of clone Fighters, and he’s really ticked off at you.
  • Have several plans ready: At least two battle plans, and at least two for retreat. Little hurts more than finding out you’ve been outmaneuvered on the battlefield, then finding out that when you try to run, you’ve gotten yourself lost.

Diplomacy / Role-playing:

  • Don’t be the one PC in your party that has the abysmal stealth modifier when everyone else is decently good at it.  Buy an item to fix this situation if you have to.
  • Don’t talk to NPCs if you have a negative Diplomacy modifier (or the lowest in the party). Whisper your advice to a more charismatic party member, instead.
  • If an NPC mumbles something, ask your DM if you can make out what it was.
  • Someone in the party should be intimidating
  • Don’t let the newest / youngest / least-experienced player handle social situations.
  • Don’t annoy NPCs until you know how powerful they are. This is especially true with NPC adventuring parties.
  • Don’t annoy fellow players or their characters to the point that they’ll leave you in a bad situation just ‘cause they are sick of you. On the flip side, players will remember when your character saves theirs.
  • Cultivate allies. Even a few gold spent at the tavern on a regular basis can pay back many times its worth.
  • Remember that commoners may only have d8 hp (*cough* John *cough* stable-boy incident). Don’t go smacking them around, assuming they’ll live through your abuse.
  • Don’t trust anything learned from an NPC who surrenders too early
  • Stabilize enemies for later interrogation. Just ensure that the DM doesn’t consider you too “good” to kill them again afterwards.  Also, don’t promise them you’ll let them live before/during the interrogation.
  • Just because someone is good-aligned, it doesn’t mean they are your friend.
  • When you’re trying to “lay low”, get common clothing – don’t walk around in adventuring gear.
  • Always remember what languages your character speaks.
  • Romantic entanglements with NPCs are the best ways to make enemies
  • Romantic entanglements with fellow PCs is the best way to make the other players sick of the whole thing.
  • If you’re going to stick with a romantic entanglement, ensure that the object of your affections can fight or otherwise be useful in combat.
  • Never underestimate a simple act of kindness. That beggar? That lost kid? That shivering kobold? Any one of these very well be a Dragon in disguise or some other powerful entity. Even if they aren’t, that beggar could give you information, that child could have parents that do the same, and that kobold may grow to love you and all things good becoming the first of a new line of kobolds that wish to fight for good.
  • Treat those you capture well. If you are good, show them what that means. Yeah, it may be cliche, but it can work for you. A baddie may decide you aren’t such a bad person and it would be better for him on THIS side, and therefore, okay to help you.
  • Give peace a chance. That BBEG? Yeah. He may NOT be evil. He could have a dang good reason, just a bad way of carrying out his goal. Talking to intelligent creatures is never a bad choice, whether you use diplomacy or not. Heck, try it on magical beasts too. You never know when you may run across one who understands you. Also, speak with animals (especially on scrolls) can help loads.
  • When all else fails. Never. Ever. EVER forget who you are. Adventurer, hero, survivor, you are a thing to be feared. Don’t sell the power of a party short.
  • Never assume the damsel IS in distress. She might be the BBEG.
  • Never assume that captives are on your side. They may not actually be captive, and they may attack / betray you even if you free them. The enemy of your enemy is not always your friend.
  • Never assume there isn’t a baddie planted among the hostages – it may even be the ringleader.
  • Make contacts wherever you go. Write down contact names and occupation, and what you did for them to make them a contact.
  • The ends don’t justify the means because of this thing called “alignment”.  Unless you or other players like it for flavour, try and get your DM to do away with using alignment as a game concept.
  • If someone puts a curse on you, try to use it to your advantage
  • Evil / rival adventuring parties will always be more powerful than you when you first meet them, because DMs know that you’ll just wipe them out if they’re not. Also, DMs have perfect information about your party, but you don’t know much about the rival party.  If you have to take them on, go away and get more experience first, get more information about them, and wait until they split up and then go after them individually. Just make sure none of them escape to warn the rest of their party.

Cities of the World:

  • Try to learn the culture of your race. It might be important to know what duties you’ve been shirking while off adventuring
  • Killing a sentient being in a city is murder. Don’t just expect to “get away with it”, especially in a world that contains magic divination spells and “speak with the dead”. Most commoners would gladly see you at the gallows for their entertainment.
  • Know the laws of the region you are in.
  • Thieves Tools and concealed weapons might be enough to get you arrested


  • Don’t charge in early, before the area-effect spells or crowd-control spells have been put down
  • If you’re the one with area-effect spells, you’d better have a high initiative bonus.


  • Area-effect healing, especially when it doesn’t discriminate between friend and foe, should be used AFTER the combat, when you’re sure the enemies are out of its area, or the enemies are confirmed dead.
  • If you MUST heal during combat, use the best healing spell you have, otherwise you are wasting rounds healing frequently rather than helping finish the battle faster.

Cardinal Rules:

  • Don’t trust strangers, especially ones who haven’t helped you out in combat yet
  • Don’t split up the party; inevitably, the resources you need for the encounter will be part of the other group, or the challenge will be too great for half the group
  • Protect key NPCs with PCs, NOT with other NPCs (e.g. witnesses to a crime). Inevitably, the NPCs will fail you or do something stupid.  Otherwise known as “your DM wants to screw with you”.
  • Decapitate and burn all dead (and undead) bodies.
  • Never pass up an opportunity to rest and regain spells / hit points / ammunition.
  • Make sure everyone in the party is in on the game plan. Whatever plan you have, it will probably take everyone to make it work
  • Never “let one get away”. This one will become a plot device for the DM and come back to haunt you (with friends).
  • When the party healer says it’s time to rest… it’s time to rest.
  • Remember to tell the DM that you picked up anything you dropped in combat.
  • Always run back the way you came. Running in a new direction is just likely to trigger yet another encounter.
  • The larger the party, the less you want to be in the front of the marching order, because large monsters will hit MUCH harder because of the challenge-rating-vs-individual-character ratio.
  • Do not assume that “wet” means “water”…
  • Avoid getting on a ship unless you have a magical means to get back to land.  Being stranded or shipwrecked might be an unsolvable problem requiring outside help.
  • Daggers are disposable. Carry several.
  • Never trust the following:
    • Mirrors
    • Loot out in the open
    • Blood stains or bones in an open area
    • Sudden generosity from NPCs, even familiar ones
    • Normally harmless people in places they shouldn’t be found
    • Big expanses of tiled flooring
    • Statues
    • Anything inset with gems
    • Holes that you can only fit your arm/head into

Party Dynamics:

  • If one character borrows a lot of gold from an NPC, it’s now the whole party’s problem
  • Causing problems for other players will decrease your fun, and your character’s lifespan: no more buffs, flanking, or being pulled out of a pit…

The Meta Game:

  • If the DM asks “are you sure?” it’s a good time to re-think your actions. However, don’t be too hesitant, as the DM might just be trying to screw with you.
  • Pay attention when the DM is speaking, even if the information is not directed at you.  It also prevents the DM from getting annoyed, which can eventually lead to anything from a TPK to a DM quitting.
  • It’s not actually bad having one player leading the party. Individual party members always have the right to veto, and it speeds up mundane decision-making.
  • Use your Knowledge checks to try and get more info on new monsters, preferably before combat begins.
  • Know when to quit for the (gaming) night – when it gets too late, and you’re tired, there’s a greater chance of you as a player having your character do something stupid.
  • Never give the DM ideas. Keep your fool mouth shut and talk about it after the session, preferably on the drive home with your fellow players.
  • Don’t look at the DM’s notes or behind his screen. Chances are that your character will be punished in-game, even if it’s by bolts of fire or lightning from the sky as divine retribution.
  • Always keep track of the numbers that the DM provides. If he says that there is a band of 100 Orcs ravaging the local area, keep a kill tally.
  • If the DM says a name more than once, then you REALLY need to write it down!
  • If an NPC says something weird, even if it’s just one word, write it down.  It’s probably a command word or key to the plot.
  • Share all clues with all party members, especially if their character isn’t present for the reveal.  Preferably share it by giving each player a written copy of it.
  • Keep better track of your rations than your DM does.
  • Keep better track of your hitpoints than your DM does.
  • Beware of players who always play Halflings and Gnomes. They are generally the ones who get the whole party into trouble.
  • Prepare before game night just like your DM would (or should!) – read rules, remind yourself of goals or clues, and check your remaining consumables (rations, rope, potions, etc).
  • Re-write your character sheet frequently enough that it’s legible.
  • The more the DM likes your character concept, the better your chances of survival.
  • You can never have too many dice.
  • Have a separate set of dice that you are okay with lending out. Lending out dice will eventually result in lost dice.
  • Avoid “rescue loops”, where you run in to save someone and then require saving yourself.
  • Learn how far you allies are willing to go in order to save you, before taking a curse/poison/anything for the team. Ask if you will be resurrected, or rescued from the Abyss.
  • Allow the DM to finish his description before you say your’re doing something, especially if it includes entering the room he’s describing.
  • Sometimes real-time equals in-game time, and sometimes the DM lets you have all the time in the world. Know when each situation applies.  Ask if unsure.
  • Do not “rules-lawyer” against your DM. You will lose. You may not lose today, but someday, you will pay for this bad habit, even if it’s not asked to play in his next campaign.