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Being A Better Player

There are scads of blogs, forum posts, podcasts, and other things that are devoted to being a better GM for your game. This very site is no different and that’s okay because organizing and running a game can be difficult and people need all the help that they can get. However, you rarely see anything devoted to help players be better despite the fact that they’re equally important to having a good game. Even a single bad player can ruin things for an entire group, whether it be for a single session or an entire campaign. I find the lack of good player-oriented advice rather odd and want to address it in at least a small way.

Communicate

It seems so simple, in theory, but it often falls by the wayside if it’s ever addressed at all. As a player, talk to people. Not just the GM, but to your fellow players. Talk about what? Everything relevant to the game. Talk about what you want to get out of the game, things you’d like to see, what you don’t want to see. Talk about when you want the game to be, where you want it to be, and how long you want it to be. If any of these things change, tell people. If you’re going to be late to a session or have to miss it or even have to quit a game entirely, be sure to let people know ahead of time. It’s amazing how much bad communication can change a game for the worse, especially when it’s such a simple thing.

Pay Attention

It’s easy to be distracted while gaming. Smart phones, laptops, tablets, TV, music, side conversations, flipping through rulebooks, and other things can take your attention away from the tabletop or what the other people are saying. If you’re playing online, it can be even easier to get pulled away from the game. Some people can multitask, but a lot of people can’t. Know your limitations so that you’re not holding the game up because you’re doing something else or slowing things down because you have to have the situation explained to you over and over again. Nobody can be 100% attentive 100% of the time, but making an effort to do so can make your game go smoother and you can get more done in a session.

Be Prepared

Not just for Boy Scouts anymore. What I mean by this is to have everything you need to play when you go to the game. Dice, character sheet, pen/pencil, miniature, or whatever. Showing up to your game with no dice or no character sheet, barring unforeseen circumstances, just shows that you don’t care much about the game. It’s lazy and really kind of silly. What if nobody else has a copy of your character sheet, what are you going to do? And here’s one more that won’t go down well with a lot of people. If you’re playing in a game for more than a few sessions, at the very least buy the core rulebook. I personally think that you should buy any book that your character is built on, but if you can’t do that make sure you actually have the basic rules. It gets frustrating to have to pass around one or two books between five or six people. If you’re only trying a game out or just doing a handful of sessions, you might be able to skip out, but if you’ve been playing for three months (or whatever) and aren’t planning on stopping soon? Buy the book.

Don’t Be a Dick

Wheaton’s Law in action. You’re there to have fun, but so is everybody else. If you’re considering doing something that is going to make someone angry, upset, or frustrated, you might want to give it a second thought. If not a third or fourth. We’ve all heard stories of people who put their own fun above the fun of others. The person who goes around murdering NPCs to tick off the GM and run the story he or she is telling, the person who steals from their fellow players just because they can, the person who interrupts all the time because they can’t stand not having all the attention, and so on. Please, don’t be that person. Trying to justify bad behavior because “it’s what my character would do” or “it’s not against the rules” is not really much of an excuse to be a jerk.

There you go, a little something that might help you as a player be better. Not a bit of this advice is rocket science. Not by a long shot. This is all more or less common sense, but there are enough horror stories and anecdotes floating out there about bad players that I think it’s worth reiterating. It’s not just about GMs getting better, it’s about players too.

About

WolfSamurai (a.k.a. Aaron) has been a long time roleplaying geek, starting back with 2e Shadowrun almost 18 years ago. Through the years he’s played everything from D&D to Call of Cthulhu to Werewolf to Kult to Big Eyes, Small Mouth, and many other games. Recently he's branched into more indie fare with Technoir, Bulldogs!, Wu Xing, Dungeon World, and Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. Aaron hopes to eventually be writing his own game products as well as fiction.

7 Responses to “Being A Better Player”

  • Nice post. There’s but one DM per session (usually), and there’s at least more than one player in any session, so having the majority of the group care about improving their craft/hobby experience can’t be overstated. Those are four great little reminders that can go a long way to keeping new players coming back, and veteran players engaged. I’m always looking to learn from the more experienced players at my table, and I always try an dmodel what kind of behavior I expect to receive for my co-players.

  • Another obvious one: don’t cheat. Seems like a no-brainer, but some people do it anything. And nothing tempts the vengeful dm or turns the party against you easier then fudging dice rolls or ‘accidentally’ adding wrong. It ties into Wheaton’s Law, and it’s the number one rule of being a good player.
    A friend of mine once summed it up quite aptly, and I paraphrase: “Don’t you guys play to hang out with friends? Why do you have to cheat at hanging out with friends?

  • Happy to see this manifest. Clearly relevant, given the chat discussion today.

    I’m trying to think of something to add but this about covers all the really important stuff, I think.

    Oh, wait: PARTICIPATE. Sort of a sub-section on PAY ATTENTION, maybe. Or visa-versa. But, really, there’s more to the game than just listening. Get involved! Even just a little bit helps grease the wheels of the game. Do more than just follow along and roll the occasional die when asked to. :)

  • Hey, no fair…you just summarized like half the articles on my site. ;-)

  • @Phantasmavore Exactly. The GM may have the harder job and thus the majority of advice gets sent to them, but it can be very easy for a player to ruin things too and there can be anywhere between 2 to 7 of them at any given table or time.

    @hamletsandwich That’s another very good point. It also seems like a common sense rule so that’s why I forgot it, but you’re absolutely right. I’ve played with people who are cheaters (like a guy who deliberately made his dice hard to read so he could get away with calling higher numbers more often. 9 instead of 7, 18 instead of 13, etc) and it takes the fun away from everybody.

    @draco I’d agree. If players are just going to sit back and passively ingest what the GM or other players are dishing out, it kind of weighs things down for everybody. Especially for the GM, who can easily get frustrated if his players don’t seem engaged or interested, but the other players can feel that way too if it seems that someone just wants to show up and roll dice while the rest of the group wants to do more.

    @Jeff It’s a talent, what can I say. ;)

  • Awesome article. Thank you for writing great articles about gaming. I enjoy your site. Keep up the good work.

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