The Role of the Player

On June 26, 2013, in JT Evans, RP Nerd, by JT Evans

rp_nerdAs I said in my last post, the Game Master is the most pivotal person at the table, but the collection of players looking to the GM for fun are more potent than the man (or woman) running the world. Even the best GM with the most preparation can have a game derailed by players (or even a single player) if the players try hard enough, or, perhaps, not hard enough.

I’ve already outlined what the GM is responsible for, and I’ve stated that each player is taking care of a single character. However, it goes further than that. It’s not just a focus on what one character is doing in the here and now. A good player at the table should do:

  • Pay attention at all times. You never know when an action of another may affect your character.
  • When the GM speaks, listen up. The GM is probably saying something important.
  • Be prepared with a plan of action when your turn comes around.
  • Know the rules as best you can. (Players new to a game system are understandably excused.)
  • Know the skills, powers, abilities, spells, special equipment, and other pertinent details of your character.
  • Know the larger story and how your character fits into that story.
  • Speak up. Even if new to a group or game system, your fellow players really want to know what you think.
  • Don’t be overbearing. Allow time and energy for others to speak their mind.
  • If you disagree with a GM’s adjudication, politely bring it up after the game is over. Don’t interrupt the game or destroy its flow by arguing at the table.
  • Likewise, if you disagree with another player, handle it maturely and don’t get into a screaming fit.
  • Allow the other players to run their own characters. Don’t tell them the best strategies or how to use their abilities.
    • The exception to this is if a new player is at the table learning the system. Feel free to guide and advise, but don’t give commands.
  • Stay in character as much as is possible. If you, the player, knows something your character doesn’t, don’t leverage that special information.
  • Be prepared to join the table. Level up your character before you arrive. Bring your own dice, pencil(s) and note paper.
  • Show up on time. Heck, try to be a little early to help setup, but not so early that you’re barging in on your host’s private time.
  • When the game is over for the night, help clean up, throw away trash, put away snacks/food. However, don’t linger too long and intrude on your host’s generosity.
  • Don’t expect the host to feed you. While this is common at home-based games, it should not be required.
  • If playing in a public location (such as at a game store), watch your language and attitude.
  • No slurs or jokes that might offend people at the table. Each group is different, though. Learn what’s acceptable at the table before you spout off.
  • Most importantly, have fun!

As you can see, there’s more to being a player than just knowing when to roll the dice and what numbers to look for. Most of it involves simply being a good human being.

If you have any further hints, tips or suggestions on how to be a good player at the game table, I’d love to see them in the comments!


5 Responses to The Role of the Player

  1. Congrats on the 150th episode!! (applause applause) But…. wha… um… the music medley? Great choices (mostly), but the first two I couldn’t name, and I want the second one… (and please, never ever ever ever forget the Tardis… 🙂 )

  2. Darren says:

    All good advice, though likely already covered, missing in this article is the part about helping the GM know your character as best as possible outside of the game. A recent game we played had a really neat system that even codified how backstory and character comes into play for the GM. Giving a good storyteller more information lets them weave your story with the rest of the groups in a way that is more immersive.

    And let’s face it. The moment the GM throws you a personal bone that lets your dual wielding warrior have a cool moment where it can result in obvious personal character’s growth makes it all worthwhile. And getting the visual of swinging those balanced long swords about hacking through hoardes is also fun.

    • JT Evans says:

      Great segue to my next post, Darren!

      Next month, I’ll be talking about character backgrounds and how they play into the game and character creation.

  3. Stay in character as much as is possible. If you, the player, knows something your character doesn’t, don’t leverage that special information.

    OOC is a big bugbear in games. There are games and tables where some players firewall themselves as much as possible, to avoid spoiling matters.

    • JT Evans says:

      Great advice, Paul! You’re absolutely right that staying in character is paramount, and the #1 thing to do is to separate player knowledge from character knowledge.

      I played in a short-lived Dresden Files RPG campaign once. It uses the FATE system, and is really fun. My character was a normal mortal with no supernatural powers/abilities. I also wanted him to be ignorant of the supernatural around him (with the chance to learn/grow as the campaign went on). I’ve read all of the Dresden Files novels from Jim Butcher and had absorbed both of the RPG books when they were released. Obviously, my player knowledge vastly outstripped my character knowledge. It was kind of fun to know what was going on, but react in a manner that someone ignorant of the supernatural would.

      Man…. I miss that campaign. It was a hoot!

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