Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Thoughts on Being a Good Caller

In old-school D&D parlance, a "caller" is a player who acts as a designated suggester for group actions in situations where collective decision-making is required. When a party is discussing plans, it is also the caller who reports the "final draft" of their ideas to the dungeon master. In the right kind of game, a caller can cut down on wasted time and uncertainty.

The procedure of being a caller is based in the important fact that they are "calling" in the sense that they are announcing the group's will, not that they are "calling the shots." Therefore, a caller who is certain of consensus announces it to the dungeon master, and a caller who is not certain asks for opinions and offers their own until they are certain of consensus. To put it in a list:

Caller Procedure

  1. The DM describes a situation and asks the players what they do.
  2. If the players already discussed what they would do in this situation, the caller announces it. (skip to step 6)
  3. Individual PCs act, if they wish.
  4. If not, the players discuss as normal. The caller comes up with suggestions if no one else cares to.
  5. After discussion, the caller restates the plan to the rest of the party and to the DM.
  6. They ask the rest of the party to confirm they said everything right.
  7. The DM adjudicates the new situation.

This is the core of being a good caller: listening, understanding, clarity, volunteering. Everything else is footnotes.

Robert Caney


  • The caller will benefit from tracking standard procedures, such as marching orders, watch rotations, and typical ways the party checks a door for traps.
  • In situations with no pressure and little information, the caller can speed things along. For example, if the party comes to an empty chamber with two identical rooms, the caller can propose something like "shall we have the rogue listen at both doors?"
  • You don't need to report the entirety of a long plan to the DM. Walk through the first few steps and keep the plan in mind, in anticipation of the situation changing. If things go surprisingly well you can just go to step 2 and narrate the next part of the plan.
  • Pay attention to the features of the room you're in, the features of the room behind you, and any patterns connecting them to places you've been before.
  • If another player is mapping, the caller should try not to explore faster than it takes the mapper to map.
  • It often makes sense to describe what each PC is doing. This gives you an opportunity to notice if someone is left out, allowing you to ask them what they're doing. If they are uncertain, feel free to suggest they help another PC or keep lookout.
  • If the plan involves several steps in sequence, try to visualize them to make sure you aren't leaving anything out.
  • The caller's PC gets to wear a big hat. It's just the rules.


  1. Callers seem great. What I especially like is that they prevent players getting in each other's way. Strangely, by appointing someone who anounces what to do to the GM, you make the game more collaborative.

  2. Should not the caller also get to wear a big hat IRL?