[RPG] How to help/encourage a wizard player with their bookkeeping


One of my players is playing their first caster in 5e and chose a wizard.

Unbeknown to them, the wizard class comes with a fair amount of bookkeeping both in long rests and downtime with their spell lists, both spellbook and prepared, and this doesn't appeal to them.

I would like to avoid allowing them to change characters because we have had some issues with people attempting to seem displeased with a character so they can play the cool new character idea they've come up with. I found allowing this greatly took away from the RP side of things.

The player seems to find anything non-combat uninteresting and is frequently on their phone while the others are RPing or resting/downtime-ing.

Simply what tried and tested techniques work for getting a player to bookkeep more? I am willing to teach them the rules and spells but they don't seem to be
very interested.

Best Answer

I have to say that I agree with Theik. I think this is not really an issue of bookkeeping at all, but of misjudged interest or perhaps a discomfort with roleplaying. But maybe I am just confused by your explanation and bookkeeping really is the issue, so I'll give my thoughts on both problems.

First, I recommend you talk to your player one on one. Tell them that you've noticed that they seem bored (phone, etc.) and that you want to make sure they're having a good time/what you can do to help them have more fun. As you have this conversation, here are some things that hopefully you can figure out:

  • Why they signed up to play in the first place- what they were hoping to get out of this.
  • What drew them to their wizard character, and if they feel like their expectations about playing a wizard have been met.
  • One or two moments that they have really enjoyed so far, whether that was a silly running joke, a cool thing they got to do in battle, figuring out a puzzle, etc.
  • One or two moments that they have disliked or felt "meh" about so far, such as a moment where they didn't know what to do next and felt like the group had lost focus, a moment where they weren't sure what spells they had available, etc.

If you can figure out those things, you will likely have a much clearer understanding of how to best address the issue, but I'll give you some general tips as well.

Dealing with Players who Only Want Combat

(Note: I'm assuming here that they are going to continue playing in your game. There are cases where a person just doesn't understand or enjoy the spirit of collaborative storytelling, and really just wants to play video games with a friend. I'm assuming that is not the case for the sake of this answer.)

  • Manage expectations: Talk to your player and make sure that they actually know what the game you're playing entails. When I talk about table-top RPGs to the uninitiated, I typically describe them as "It's a collaborative storytelling session! We sit at a table and make up a story together. To keep it interesting for us, we sometimes use random chance to see how things turn out." Make sure that your player knows what that they signed up to make up stories which sometimes involve swords and spells, not just to beat up enemies like in a video game.
  • Draw in their character: If they have a hard time getting involved in roleplay and more general adventuring, have the adventure come to them. An NPC from their past shows up, what does he want and why is he being so cryptic? The party is asked to go to your player's hometown for some reason, but when they get there, the house your player grew up in is gone, and only a charred ring marks where it once was. While shopping for magical artifacts in a market, they pick up a strange disk that burns an ancient rune onto their hand which starts to periodically glow. When it lights up, strangers don't see your player but instead the person last on their thoughts. How does your player deal with being mistaken for a lost lover, a friend who is standing right there, or a mortal enemy?
  • Deal with any accessibility issues: This might seem like an obvious thing, but are there any barriers preventing your player from enjoying themself? Do they need to be doing something with their hands? Suggest a fidget cube, knitting, or doodling. Are they given time to think about their actions before someone else cuts in? Or are they being talked over and bypassed? Can they hear everything that's going on? Position them in the middle of the group or closer to you if possible.
  • Get them to put down the phone: I get it, screens are captivating and when you're bored it is hard to not pull out something more engaging. But I bet if your player wasn't on their phone, they would have an easier time being less bored. I personally always ban phones when I GM. If my players need to text someone, I ask them to physically step out of the room while they do it to "avoid distracting others" (which is part of it, I find phones very distracting. But mostly it's to limit their screen-time while in game.) This is a great time to review any ground rules your group set at the beginning or to make some together! Be Present should be on the list, and you can cite it when asking them to put their phone away.

Dealing with Players who are Unsure How to Roleplay

This might well be the issue. When I played my first game I don't think I ever said anything at all without the GM or another player prompting me to. I hadn't made a particularly interesting character, and I wasn't sure at all what to say or do. I was also more than a little bit intimidated by my much cooler (ie nerdier) friends in the group and was afraid of doing it "wrong."

  • Draw the character into the action: see above
  • Give opportunities for character building: when you take a break or when you end a session, ask your players to think about the answer to a character building question (you can google for them, there are thousands online). When you regroup next, share your answers or have everyone write them down and guess who's was whose. You could also roleplay character building by having your party play truth or dare, never have I ever, etc.
  • Make sure everyone has a chance to contribute: If one or two players aren't talking much, make sure that you go around the table and ask everyone what they're doing in most situations. Change up the order too, so that one person isn't always the last to speak.
  • Provide hooks for actions: While experienced players can often handle being put in an open world sort of situation ("You enter the gate of the small town, what would you like to do?"), new players can feel overwhelmed by the options or be unsure what to look for. Instead try using your descriptions, NPCs, etc. to suggest a few possible points of interest. Maybe there's a broom sweeping a porch of one of the houses (no human visibly using it, just a broom sweeping by itself). Maybe the rich scent of roast meat and mead greets the travelers as they enter, coming from the village common. Maybe a loose goat runs past followed by a dog followed by a young girl followed by a crying toddler, each one chasing the one before. Sure, your players don't have to investigate any of those things, but a player who doesn't know what to do will probably jump on one of them.

Dealing with Players who Struggle to Keep Track of Mechanics

Honestly, I don't think I have anything new to contribute on this topic that someone hasn't already said in an answer. Spell cards are great. You can make them for your player or they can make their own. Make sure they're tracking which spells have been used and remind them that they can always ask for help if they are confused about something.

I hope this helps! Good luck!