I have been running role-playing games for a very long time, and there are a lot of tips out there to be a better game master, but in my CENSORED years of playing, I have not seen a lot of advice for being a player. Modern role-playing games demand more and more of players these days; story games like John Wick’s Houses of the Blooded, especially. It never should be only about knowing all of the rules of the game. The player is the center of the story, and the GM should work with them to make the game more exciting. So, here are some guidelines for players that can make any game more enjoyable for themselves and everyone at the table.
1. Respect the GM’s time. Narrators spend a lot of time coming up with ideas for games. We spend hours writing and planning out plot points. Beyond coming up with cool plots for players to experience, we also have to have a good grasp of all of the rules of the game. With all of this in mind, it’s important that you show up to the game, hopefully on time and ready to play. Everyone will miss a game now and again, even the GM, but try your best to give lots of notice if you’re not going to make it and definitely call if you’re going to be late.
2. Don’t min/max your character during creation; it’s lame. The goal is to build a believable character. Heroes and villains have flaws. Flaws, to me, make your character better. Failing at rolls and things going badly make the story awesome. People can identify with your character’s struggles. Being awesome at everything gets boring.
3. Try to stay on topic. We all have been at games where everyone was talking about the latest movie or whatever and game time slips away. I have been guilty of this myself many times. Role-playing games are social and you’re playing with your friends, so talking is going to happen, just try not to let it take over the whole game. If it does, your group should think about hanging out and doing something else in addition to your game days.
4. You’re at the table to play, not surf the web. Don’t play on your cell phone or laptop. Even if someone else is role-playing a scene out, you should be paying attention to the action. That way, the GM isn’t having to repeat information you missed while playing Farmville on your iPad. If you are bored and feel like you’re not seeing enough action, talk to the GM after the game.
5. This ties into number 4 a little. I personally find digital dice an act by the devil. Every time I hear dice rolling apps make their soulless die rolling sounds, a little piece of me dies. Bring dice, people!
6. Know the difference between role-playing and real life. If another player is in character, don’t take what they say to heart. If a player’s actions are disturbing to you for some reason, be calm about talking to them about it and let the GM help to move things along.
7. Understand your character and the things he/she can do. I don’t mean you need to memorize every feat or spell, but you should know where to find the information when it’s needed. You can usually look this information up while you’re waiting for your turn and still not miss any of the action going on around you. (Helpful hint: When creating your character or adding new things like items or spells to his/her sheet, write the book and page number next to it on the character sheet.)
8. Make a background for your character and involve your GM in the process. This will help him/her write adventures that bring your character into the forefront. It also helps you play your character.
9. Don’t be a douche to other players. No one likes people who grab the spotlight all the time or do reckless things that get the party in hot water. I never kill players in my games; they kill themselves through stupidity. Now, there is a difference between being a douche and playing a character who is annoying at times, yet fun. Case in point: My friend, Jordan, has a character in my Delta Green game who talks fast, can be cowardly at times, or does crazy things without telling people what he’s doing. And, yes, everyone has thought about killing him at one point or another, but Jordan has great comedic timing and the character works well in the story. He does not, however, dominate the entire game. Knowing when to shine and when to be a supporting character takes time, but it will always make the game better.
10. You’re a storyteller, too. Your input makes the game go forward and shapes what the world your character lives in is like. You should be part of the structure of things. Work with fellow players and the GM to make the game better. Don’t sit at the table, unhappy or bored, and never say anything. Even if your GM only runs modules, you should let the GM know what you want out of the game.
We are all around the gaming table to have fun. I have played with rude, disruptive players and I have been in games with GMs who are terrible, and most of the time it’s due to a lack of communication. Players and GMs who respect one another and work together have better games.