Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Playing Well

Still thieving from my old board posts-- and one I thieved from before at that. I wrote out some ideas on playing well at the table some time ago and they're worth it for me to keep in mind when I play. I have to see if there's anything here that I've rethought.

Playing Well
(Related to the GM discussion in this forum, I thought I'd bring over part of the good rpg playing thread we had a while ago in the Old Village. Unfortunately, I forgot to archive that thread--maybe someone else did?-- so I brought the parts that I could find.)

Playing Advice
Kaiju asked me what advice I had for being a good player, so I sat down and wrote out a few ideas...both from the perspective of being a GM and being a player. I thought I'd post these and get other suggestions; Steve thought they were OK. I think this is an incomplete list, but it was what popped first into my head.

OK...general pieces of advice on how to play...or things that I do that make the games generally better for me as a player (or at least more fun). As always, your results may vary.


1. I imagine lots of stories about my character...other things he does...where he goes to buy boots, what kind of food he likes, little details. Those are in my head when I'm playing...sometimes I can throw them in as details about my characters. For example, in Derek's Werewolf game, my character had "wolfed out" once at a Fast Food never came up during the game and it certainly wasn't on my sheet, but I knew he would react badly if anyone ever suggested eating fast food...that got me to thinking about other things about what kind of place would he ate and what kind of trash would he have in his car. As another example, I had my character be really poor in Barry's game...not that I got points for it or that it mattered, but I would mention how I had to go by used underwear...that became a running detail and people knew something distinct about my character.

2. Come into the game having imagined one cool thing your character could do during the session or else one cool thing you'd like to have happen to him. Work to get those scene to come to fruition.

3. Say things as if they are so...give the GM an excuse to help you...(this is something you already do and is big points in your favor)...say "There is this around thing X around so I can do Y" not "Is there this thing X around...?"

4. Figure out a mannerism or gesture or tone of voice or something that marks your character. use that at the table to mark when you're in character...use it on other players to demonstrate to them that you're in character...and force them to go into character.

5. On a related note: challenge other players. If they're being off topic...go into character and pull them back in. Part of the fun is to play with and against other people at the table...the worst thing that can happen is that you get a cool interaction out of it and you both get some play time. Players generally rise to the occasion when challenged.

6. On a related, related willing to police other people at the table...the GM can only do so much...a good player is active and pulls other players along by example.

7. Know what your character thinks of the other characters in the group and act on that...bring that interaction and your feelings towards them to bear on your play. [That doesn’t mean be awful to them, but know how to play so that those feelings come out…you want to give the other players room to react…just being a dick to them accomplishes nothing…giving them room to respond makes for a back and forth. My second character in Barry’s CP game was Scott’s brother…we hated each other and that made for good play at the table. BUT I wouldn’t have done anything to really harm his character or limit what Scott could do].

8. In any conversation with an NPC...remember that they aren't walking clue boxes...they have something they want and you have something you a story, a conversation between characters helps to illuminate those agendas. (I think I've mentioned this one before).

9. Be aware of how other people are playing at the table and try to draw them in to the game. [Additional: share and play nice is what I mean by this. Don’t get irritated if people talk to NPC’s that you consider “yours”. Be willing to partner up with people. Players should watch stepping on each other’s toes…but at the same time people shouldn’t get defensive about plots or NPCs…and if you have a problem with someone…talk to them about it].

10. JUMP.

That means go forward, take action, jump into the fray and don't worry about right or wrong, make it right by being 100% behind is just as much fun to fail as it is to succeed if it looks good at the table. Don't be afraid to take risks...say what you're going to do and roll...let the GM figure out what your chance of success is. Always, though, describe your actions.

These are my general rules of playing for anyone and not specifically tuned to you...I think you do a number of these things really well. How's that?

I would say as an additional rule...this is off topic and certainly doesn't relate to you...if I'm going to cite general rules about playing...if you're not enjoying a game, don't play. If you find yourself not doing much in the game, talk to the GM, tell him what you want and if that doesn't work then bow out for someone else to have a shot. A good player participates, makes clear to the GM what he wants out of the game, and doesn't just show up as a warm body. I think there are players who don't realize how draining it is to have a non-responsive or distracting player.

Another couple of thoughts:

*Pay attention when other people are having their moments on stage. Loud cross talk makes it hard for the player and GM who are on deck to actually communicate. It also is rude to really blatantly ignore their scene and talk over them...the message sent by that is "you're not important and I don't care." Not that you can't talk when other people are interacting with the GM...but players need to be considerate. Plus if you don't listen, they can't blah and suddenly everyone gets lost or confused. By the same token, when plans are being discussed try to listen to everyone.

*Put your two cents worth in when planning. It's obnoxious to not participate in the planning and then second-guess later.

*Don't read outside junk or do other stuff at the table, it is rude to the GM and other players...hmm...wait...I guess I mean stuff that is way off topic like magazines or newspapers or playing a Game Boy or stuff like that. Looking at game stuff is ok generally.

*Help other players with the rules, but don't second-guess them.

*Love your character.


Those are all good suggestions. I have one to add:

* Give the GM opinions and feedback. Do you like/dislike the game? Do you wish the GM would pull in other elements, NPCs, plot points, historical threads, etc.? Should there be more scene description, fewer NPCs, bigger magic, or creepier monsters? Is the game just not disturbing enough? Player interaction is key, but if the GM doesn't have a clue what you want to get out of the game, they may read you wrong and steer the overall story or mood in a direction that's just not fun for you.


I forgot one because it is almost a cliche to say it:

Have Fun.

I believe you can be enthusiatic, involved and serious about a game and still have fun.

I believe you can share, interact and be considerate to other players and still have fun.


Here's the one that gives me the greatest pleasure:

Follow the storyline.

Really. If there's a GM busting their butt to put together a cohesive story (not just a episodic fight-of-the-week thing), take advantage of the situation and immerse yourself in at least some part of it. It's a pleasure to watch things start to click into place, to see some little incident reveal heaps of complexities you hadn't considered before, to recognize the chapter endings and the beginnings of new arcs.

As before, with these suggestions your actual millage may vary.

Terling said:

About the only caveat I can suggest to all of that is when thinking about the stories for your character, don't make all of them make you act like a loner in game. A few loner tendencies aren't bad, a lot of loner tendencies make you hard to deal with.

Having been on the receiving end of this as both a player and a GM, I can attest to this. I’ve seen less and less of this over the last several years, but I remember a time when people made characters that seemed made just to not be able to function in a group. I’ve never been sure about what the theory was behind this…was it cool? Tweaking the other players? Or just anti-social behavior? While I think GM’s should be creatively accommodating of character ideas, players should consider that they will be playing with others. Initial character creation is crucial, but I’ve seen people make up characters just to spite other players and/or the GM. [On a side note…I’ve seen this turned around on me magnificently. I’ve only played with Mr. Fenris once, but when I heard his character concept at the beginning…I thought “Oh, God…a loner character”…by the end of that first session he had managed to use that concept and turn it around against my expectations in such a way that, quite frankly, I bow down before his skill.

I also think a good player varies the characters he or she runs. In the end, most characters are going to have some traits between them that are shared (I believe you can’t help this…something of yourself always bleeds through), I think good players try to vary the kinds of characters, personalities and roles that they take on.

As well, a good player recognizes his character isn’t static. A good character grows and evolves during the game. He or she learns something and changes…or decides not to change and has some reasons for that that are self-reflective. A good player thinks about that and wants to build that change. He doesn’t make and angst-y character and then wallow in that for the whole game…eventually something will pull him out of that or he’ll gather hope or something. By the same token, a hopeful character might lose hope or become cynical or something. I really believe that the best players I have seen have managed to develop and grow their characters from their original conception to something greater, based on their experiences. By the same token, some of the worst characters I have seen started at X and remained X by god!

Good players listen to criticism/commentary and consider it in the tone it was given.

Love your failures just as much as your successes and make them as enjoyable for yourself and other players.


  1. 2. that is a hard one. But I'll try.

    3. This one is even more hard. It seems presumptuous to me. But if you say it's okay... I'll start practicing it. But it will take practice!

  2. "2. that is a hard one. But I'll try."

    The easy way to start thinking about it is to think about the campaign in general. When you think about it, what do you imagine your character doing? From there you can narrow down and think about it in each situation as it appears in game.

    "3. This one is even more hard. It seems presumptuous to me. But if you say it's okay... I'll start practicing it. But it will take practice!"

    The classic example is the set piece of a tavern brawl, Three Musketeers-style:

    GM: "A fight breaks out between the thugs and your companions on the other side of the room! What do you do?"

    Player: "I use the chandelier to swing across the room into the fray!"


    Player: "Is there a chandelier that I can swing on?"

    GM: "No, there isn't. It will take you four rounds to push your way through the crowd to the fight."

    Which is more fun?