This section is focused on recommended time with your character sheet between sessions. As you gain experience (as a player, not as a character), you likely won’t need to spend quite as much time on this, but you should still probably check back on these every so often, particularly with: new characters, levelling up, and coming back from a long absence.
Note: Some of the notes I’ll make will refer to using the rulebooks under the assumption that you have your own. I understand that not everyone can readily obtain their own copies of rulebooks, particularly when they are deciding whether they like the game. If you don’t have your own rulebook, I recommend doing what you can to arrive early and go through these steps by asking to borrow a book from one of the other early arrivals at the table until the session gets going. I’m making a note here so I don’t have to keep repeating myself.
Take Time to Learn Your Character
Take time to look over your character’s abilities and make sure you understand how they work. If you have questions, write them down and ask the DM for clarification after you’ve tried to look up answers for them in the rulebook first. If your group has a discord or other way of communicating out of game, ask on there between sessions if you can. I hesitate to recommend using sources further from the table, as some are good and some are full of bovine excrement. Overall, remember Rule Zero: the DM has final say and judgment about the game they are running.
For a lot of abilities that would be tedious to write out in the abilities section of the character sheet, I recommend reading over the full ability in the book, and marking your character sheet with the ability name, book it came from, and page number. ESPECIALLY if you are using a +1 rulebook to go with the standard PHB rules for characters.
Spellcasters, Prepare Your Spellbooks
I HIGHLY recommend that you find or create a reference for your spells if you play a spellcaster. And have that reference open to the correct spell BEFORE your turn comes around. Waiting for people to look up spells after someone has already said what spell they plan to cast drives the rest of the table bonkers. Starting out, I highly recommend keeping a copy of the Player’s Handbook nearby when gaming, so you don’t have to hunt down a book in the middle of the game. Lately, I mostly use the spell cards Wizard’s of the Coast makes for convenience (though they are frustratingly expensive). In some cases I go a bit overboard, trading time in place of money. I wrote my current character’s spellbook out, only writing down the spells the character had and keeping them sorted by spell level. If you build your own reference like I did, I highly recommend keeping notes for the correct book and page number. There are often times when the DM will call into question the exact wording of a spell description and ask you to look it up in the official rulebook.
WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO YOURSELF?
Keep Your Character Sheet Up To Date
If your character is supposed to level up, make sure you level it up between sessions (if possible) so you don’t lose valuable play time to level your character. This is a lot more flexible in homebrew, but in Adventurer’s League we’re on the clock, particularly with Season 8’s rules. Also, game stores throw us out at closing time. Their employees need sleep too.
Oh, and make sure your inventory is right. I’m banging my head against a wall myself for not having kept some stuff up to date as I went along. I was recently trying to make sure my character stable was ready for the next game night, and I didn’t appear to have transcribed some of the inventory from the logsheets to the actual inventory page. D’oh!
Reflect on the last session
This feels a bit odd to put in here, but I recommend thinking about the last session at some point before the next one. What worked, and what didn’t work? If there were player/character conflicts at the table, think on why they happened, and if there is anything you can do to resolve it or work around it. I won’t harp on this too much, but I think it can be productive to at least think about sessions in between.
Someone with a low AC was ambushed from behind. Would changing the party marching order help?
The party was blindsided by a trap. How could you increase your chances of finding and disabling that kind of trap in the future?
Spending a little time between sessions helps us all maximize our gaming time, and reduces headaches.