Tips for Players
This is the barest beginnings of a page.
A player has responsibilities, just like the game master. While a player's responsibilities are usually easier, they're still important. If you slack the game will suffer for everyone.
- Show up on time. Really. Set an alarm if necessary. If you must be late, call ahead to warn people. Waiting for missing players sucks.
- Remember your stuff. Especially your character sheet. All too often GM's are forced to fake up a character sheet. If you're likely to lose, misplace, or just forget your character sheet, leave it with your GM.
- Minimize pre-game chatter. (But do get it out of your system before actual play begins).
- Absolutely avoid non-game related chatter during the game. During the game is disruptive; taking people's minds off the game and slowing the game done. Do it before or save it until after.
- Consider having a party leader. It can speed up mundane decisions for detail heavy games (Especially D&D).
- Avoid arguing decisions in circles. GMs often place hard choices in front of characters. It's a key element of good stories. If discussions amoung the players have started going in circles, old arguments are repeated but nothing new comes up, just pick something. It's almost always better to pick a questionable choice than to waste everyone's time discussing something forever hoping for a new possibility. In most cases an hour is too long to discuss something, but the ultimate test is "are things moving forward, or just in circles?"
- Don't hog the spotlight. Give the quieter players a chance to shine occasionally. Cheer others on. You'll have more fun if your friends are having more fun. (And if you're not friends with your group, you have deeper problems that can be solved with a web page of random notes.)
- Don't argue from the real world into game logic. Don't try to add major new ideas to the game world or modify existing key ideas. Maybe you actually fence, but that doesn't mean you can insist on rulings regarding sword play. Similarlly, maybe you're really a skilled archer; well, if the rules and the GM say a long bow can fire 100 feet and you disagree, well, your experience is irrelevant. Your GM cannot be expected to be an expert in every possible field. The only thing that the GM can be expected to be is an expert in the game. This is the great equalizer, the Universal Physics that everyone understands. Arguing based on your experience destroys any balance; the lone GM has to compensate for the speciality knowledge of a handful of players. Also, Arguing from reality is ultimately arguing by analogy, your insisting that the GM argue within your analogy, often in an area he may not know. Is it fair to ask a GM not familiar with cryptography about the possibility of using an uncrackable one-time-pad for communications? In addition, many games have world models that don't accurately map to the real world, but are internally balanced and consistant. Meddling with those variables can have surprising results. For example, while gunpowder may be realistic, many fantasy games combat systems are destroyed by the presence of firearms. You're putting the GM in an awkward position by asking him to fiddle with the world's reality.
- If your GM asks for a bit of out-of-game commitment, take the time to help. For example, your GM might ask a question about your character by email each week. Or your GM might ask for ideas to help flesh out the game world. Your GM is soliciting your thoughts and ideas to try and craft a better game for you: don't ignore those requests.
- Conflict and struggle are the basis of stories. Absent real risk, you cannot have real rewards? While a GM shouldn't arbitrarily harm the characters, you have to expect to occasionally have your character, their property, thier powers, or their friends harmed. It's unpleasant, but it's the basis for a good story. The Lord of the Rings would certainly have been much less of a book if Frodo didn't lose his home, his friends, and suffer life threatening and permenantly debilitating injuries.
- Create a party and game friendly character
- Never create a character likely to sit on the sidelines.
- If your character has secrets, expect them to be revealed. If you're not willing to risk having them revealed, what's the point? A secret in your character's background that never comes up is boring and pointless. A secret that the GM occasionally pushes, forcing your character to take actions to keep it concealed, that's a recipe for excitement!
- Define your character character by what they do, not what they don't do. Definately avoid defining your character by failure to act. Other players and the GM can't see your character's deep internal struggle to make a decision; they see your character's actions. Robin Laws has some thoughts on the matter.
- Avoid external commitments. Running a blacksmithy might prove problematic if the party travels frequently. You run into similar problems if you have a family member who needs care. Discuss possible workarounds with your GM (a common workaround for religious types is that the character is being sent into the world to learn, grow, and spread the word).
- Be wary of family members. Family members can provide exciting opportunities (kidnappings, attacks), but conversely present a potential problem for the GM. If your family members are easy to identify and reach there is incentive for every villian to target them. Either every session is Save Bob's Family Again or the villians are stupid and ignore a clear avenue of attack. Ultimately families are complex, they can be great, they can be terrible. Run your family ideas against your GM.
- Avoid "Will not do" lists of things the party will likely do. A pacifist who refuses to let anyone fight is a fascinating character idea, but probably a bad character idea for most D&D games.
- Avoid "Will not work with" lists of things the party will likely include. Refusing to speak to wizards is a bad idea in a most D&D games. Refusing to work with vampires is a mistake in Vampire game.
- Loners, extreme introverts, isolationists, and general people haters are terrible PCs. They're the extreme of "Will not work with", they "Will not work with anyone." Such characters leave the other players with two options: 1) concoct a bogus in-game reason to include your character, or 2) leave your character behind while they go do stuff.
- Avoid heading off on your own. This is a specialization of avoiding being a loner. GM time is at a premium, heading off on your own demands personal GM time, an expensive commidity. When in doubt, stick with the party. Depending on your game, something as simple as "I pop back to our base camp three rooms back" might prove to be problematic if the GM previously decided a hideous monster is waiting at base camp. Suddenly your quick individual trip becomes a serious time sink.
- The article "There's no 'I' in 'Roleplay'" in Pyramid has some interesting points.