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How to Be a Good Player in an RPG

Advice for new (or not so new) gamers.

Much of this information came from a discussion on rec.games.frp.misc.  Special thanks go to:

NedNumenor <nednumenor@aol.com>
Michael Cule <mikec@room3b.demon.co.uk>
Todd Roll <trollBLOCK@dwave.net>
Andy Staples <andy.staples@minarsas.demon.co.uk>
Christian Hanisch <christian.hanisch@tu-clausthal.de>
Will Hartung <vfr750@netcom.com>
Frank J. Perricone <hawthorn@sover.net>
RL Mizsei <u6c60@keele.ac.uk>
Joe Pettit <jpettit@ix.netcom.com>
Warren Dew <psychohist@aol.com>
If you have any other advice for new gamers let me know.  Send a message to <john.desmarais@ibm.net> and I'll add you suggestion to the lists below.

Playing the Character

  1. Have fun.
  2. Think about your character. Write a background which includes something of his or her history, ambitions, reasons for adventuring (or whatever you're doing). Your character isn't that collection of numbers on your character sheet: your character lives inside your head and in your play.
  3. Collaberate with the GM. If the adventure requires you to find the magic thingy, find a reason for your character to be interested in finding the magic thingy. Otherwise playing in character would mean going off to do something else.
  4. Get the GM to collaberate with you. A good GM will want to see your background so s/he can judge what kind of character you're playing, and look for adventure hooks. If your background mentions a long-lost brother, don't be surprised if your long-lost brother pops up where you least expect him. A good GM will also find situations for you to roleplay your character's strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Don't be frightened of playing in character. This is actually quite hard to begin with. Try to think of what your character would do, rather than what you would do.
  6. Speak in character - not "Fred asks the landlord for two beers," but "Landlord! Two beers!" or "Ah, um, could I have two beers, please?" or "Excuse me, my fine fellow, but my friend and I would each like to sample a pint of your finest ale. Be so good as to bring it to the table in the corner, would you?"
  7. Remember that what you say and do in character establishes that character in the other players', and the GM's, minds. Just as the way they play establishes images in your mind.
  8. Also remember that what is said and done in character is not what you (and your friends) are doing: you are putting on a cloak, and no matter what you have said and done to each other in character, out of chracter you are still the same friends. (In other words, don't get upset with someone if their character does something nasty to your character. That is, unless someone's bullying you or making it so you don't enjoy play.) You can have a lot of fun roleplaying your characters attitude to other players' characters (rivalry, admiration, contempt, love or whatever) so long as it doesn't spill into real life.
  9. Pure roleplaying as an end in itself is a fairly highbrow affair, so remember to keep your mind on the PARTY objectives as well as your own character; try to avoid creating a character who would be a spanner in the party's works. Being an occasional hindrance is far more preferable than being a constant liability - or a constant glory-hogger.
  10. If you are inexperienced in "playing a role" or acting, conider starting with easy to play, stereotypic characters (big, strong barbarian, for instance, hasn't much to think *Ugh*), try others after some time, change your gender, choose other races (when you know them better) and/or try to master a game (you don't have to, just try to imagine how much work it is to do). You may want to consider having a character that is much like yourself in personality.
  11. Try to have a strong character image in mind when creating the character. A classic line in the movie "True Romance" is when Elliot, a budding actor, is wearing a wire as a stooge to get his boss (a producer) arrested during a drug
    transaction. Up comes the group that he is introducing to his boss. Before they get close you see him talking to himself "Elliot, your motivation here is to stay out of jail.".

  12. Be clear on what motivates your character, and try to be true to that motivation. Early on, cinematic RPGs can be easier to play because you can emulate the "heroes" you see in the movies, and just put yourself in their position. As your characters get more depth, so does the challenge of playing them.

Playing the Game

  1. Have fun.
  2. Be polite.
  3. Pay attention. Don't converse with the other players about non-game related topics while the game master is actively working. Don't start too many side conversations, especially while the game is going on. Stay focused on the game.
  4. Be consistent. Don't cheat. Be clear who your character is, what he is doing and what he knows and doesn't know.
  5. Take notes. Some of the most valued player keep extensive notes, thus compensating for an imperfect memory.
  6. Be fun! Don't just sit there. Contribute!
  7. Be on time. Nothing gets players and GMs in a bad mood faster than having to sit around, sometimes for hours, waiting for a player to show up.
  8. Don't be afraid to take initiative. Many players will sit back and wait for the GM or other players to give the group direction. It's much more fun if you (when consistent with your character; it helps if one character at least in every group is the type to do this) set out to do something rather than waiting for someone to ask you to do it. This applies on the small scale (wandering through the village, decide to look into things instead of waiting for something to happen in front of you) and the large scale (give your character a motivation to be looking for something, find out where to go to find it, and talk to your GM about it so she can make that fit into the story, or make the story fit it, instead of just waiting around for someone to post a poster asking for adventures to apply for some job).
  9. Don't steal others thunder. Let other characters have their moment in the spot light. Let other characters handle the tasks that fall into their speciality. If uncertain, err on the side of giving the other players extra time until you have a good feel for the flow of the game. After all, if one is new and learning, one can learn more by listening than by talking.
  10. Don't argue rules at the gaming table. If the Game Master makes a mistake discuss it with him after the game - it may not have been a mistake.
  11. Try to learn at least enough of the rules to not interupt the flow of the game - at the very least, skill and combat resolution, as well as enough of the rules to have a fairly clear understanding of what your character could plausibly do. Most good systems are MUCH better, if you know the rules and if you use them right.
  12. Don't railroad the Gane Master.


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