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.
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.
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.
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.