There is a myriad of information on roleplaying websites on how to be the best gamemaster you can be. But there is only a small amount of information devoted on how to be a great player. I sometimes find this ironic due to the fact that there is typically only one gamemaster at the table, but many more players. As far as this advice goes, this isn’t your typical “… show up on time, remember your dice, have fun, blah, blah, blah…”
Here is the typical ‘how to be a better player information’ you’ll find:
• Show up on time
• Be prepared
• Know the rules
• Know the setting
• Forget winning
• Be flexible
• Pay attention
• Don’t cheat
• Have fun
Honestly, if you’re not already doing that stuff, you shouldn’t be playing, at least not in my game. This is in-your-face, no-holds barred, real advice. I fully expect a decent amount of people to read this, completely ignore it, and go back to their mediocre characters and the same old gaming habits. This advice is really for the few out there looking at raising the bar on their gaming.
BRING IT! – Don’t show up to the game with your character sheet, Cheetos, and Mountain Dew, simply ready for the gamemaster to pull you through an epic adventure like an anchor dragging along the bottom of the lake. F’ing BRING IT! Show up with a level of preparation and enthusiasm that tells the gamemaster and other players that you’ve been waiting for this moment ever since your last gaming session. Attitudes are contagious. If you are excited I guarantee the gamemaster will be excited and the other players will get more excited. Even if they don’t, I guarantee you will have more fun when you show up ready to rock.
Breaking The Habit – Habits… we all have them. Some are good, some are bad. Sometimes to reach the next level of something, you have to break those habits. If you’ve always been a player, it may be time for you to step into the gamemaster position for a few sessions. If you’ve always been the tank of the group, maybe now it’s time for you to become the social trickster that your friend always plays. If you always try to fight your way out of a bad situation, maybe now it’s time to think your way through it. Whatever you find yourself always doing, try switching it up. Flexing your gamer muscles may be painful in the beginning but they will help you grow in the end.
Develop Your Character – God forbid that you put some actual time into developing your character and its background. Your gamemaster put time into knowing the system, the rules, and designing an adventure and campaign. You should, at minimum, know everything there is to know about your character. Your gamemaster is responsible for every single non-player character in your gaming universe. You are responsible for one, yours. Know it inside and out. Use the internet and get a picture of your character. Get pictures of where your character is from or other characters that your character has interacted with. Know your character’s personality and what makes it tick. Is your character unique, or is it a carbon copy of ever character you play in every single game? Developing your character is a primary focal point for being a great player.
(Tip: Go to Google or Yahoo and search for images of your character. i.e.: fantasy elf thief, space marine art, wookie jedi, etc.)
Help Your Gamemaster – Help tie your character to the campaign. If appropriate, develop the relationship between your character and the characters of the other players. Build a background that has many open ends that your gamemaster can tie his campaign into. Maybe your character’s brother was killed, but you don’t know who killed him. You could leave that up to the gamemaster on who did and let him tie it in to his campaign. You still know how that will affect your character and what he is going to do about it. The more you develop your character, the more your gamemaster has to latch onto and move the game forward.
Challenge Yourself – Always strive to become a better gamer. You will get more out of the hobby, I swear it. Whether it is playing a character type you have never played before, trying to roleplay a character with an accent, or developing your character to a level you have never done before, challenge yourself! If you wrote three background pages for your last character, write ten pages for this one. Play a character that has a French accent. Play a character that can’t speak. Play a character with only one leg! Do something to challenge yourself outside of what you’ve done in the past.
Challenge The Other Players – Invest time in more than just yourself, help the other players at your table too. If another player is having trouble developing motivation for his character, help him with it. If another player can’t find a good way to tie his character to the setting, help him with it. If you see that they appear to be stuck in a rut, help him with it. Helping out the other players at the table is going to benefit them, you, the gamemaster, and everyone else sitting at the table. If you see someone slacking, it is your job to kick them in the butt and light a fire in their imagination. And they should do the same for you.
If You’re Not Into It, Get Out Of It – Let’s face it, everything gets boring eventually. Even our favorite hobby, our favorite TV show, our favorite video game, can get boring and become more of a chore than fun. When this happens, you start showing up late, missing game sessions, or you’re just not into it. Do yourself and everyone else a favor, take a break! Your lack of enthusiasm weasels its way over to other players and the gamemaster. The game will take a hit overall. The best thing to do if you’re experiencing burnout is to step away from the table until you get that hunger and fire back. Bottom line, it will help you in the long-run.
Ponder these suggestions. Mull them over in your head. I don’t expect most players to implement them. Most people aren’t very good at taking advice. I understand it. It’s a lot easier to continue the course you’re on than veer off in a different direction. It’s harder and you don’t always know what is around the corner. Most of these exercises will require you to put more time into your game. But that is exactly what will make you better. ‘Time on task’ and getting out of your comfort zone is key to growing as a gamer and having a better gaming experience. Become a better player, you owe it to yourself.