Players, like gamemasters, come from all walks of life and backgrounds and we have all learned elements of our hobby from different sources and through different experiences. Players must do their part at the table to ensure they are having a good experience by sticking with some common sense best practices. By doing so, they will also help to ensure the gamemaster is not unduly burdened which, in theory, helps to create a better play experience for everyone.
Our experiences shape us into the players we are today, but can we be better? I think we should always in a constant state of learning and refining. To that end, these simple tips will help make you a better and well-rounded player. For those that employ these common sense basics, let this article serve as an occasional reminder, lest we forget. These best practices can be applied to groups that meet regularly or sporadic groups that form to play a one-shot game.
Being a player in a game group means that you are committing to being part of a team. When you commit yourself to being part of the team follow through with that commitment. Not everyone can make it to every session, but make an honest effort to try. In the event that you can no longer play, be open and honest with your gamemaster and the other players in the group by explaining why you can’t continue. If it is related to some type of conflict with another person at the table, talk to them! Try engaging in open and honest communication with that person. Chances are you might be able to resolve whatever the issue is!
Be on time! Players have the expectation that the gamemaster will be on time and ready go at the scheduled start time. Why should the gamemaster not expect the same from his or her players? Being on time and ready shows that you are committed and serious about your involvement in the game and in the shared experience of the group; remember you are part of a team. If you are running late, call or text your gamemaster. Seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often people are late without a care in the world about anyone else that has waited on them.
Be prepared! This goes hand-in-hand with being on time. When you sit down to play, have everything you need to play at your disposal. This can range from paper, dice, pencils, markers, chips, and beyond. whatever it is, have it ready and available! We’re all human and from time to time you might forget something. Make every effort to keep this to a minimum, everyone else at the table with appreciate you for it. I recommend that players create a “go bag” with all the necessary supplies they need to game. Grab your “go bag” and you’re ready for a game.
Invest in learning the rules to the system you are playing. This is more of a challenge in one-shot games, but listen and learn from the Gamemaster nonetheless. If you are joining a group that will be meeting regularly to play the same continuing game, consider investing in a rulebook (PDF or physical). Take time beforehand (if possible) to read and learn the rules. If you opt to wait until you know for sure it’s a game you want to continue with, that is fine as well and highly recommended. Once you are committed to the game, buy the book and read through it. This will also help to minimize downtime when it is your turn to act or be actively involved in the fiction. It will also help when a rules question arises, having several people at the table knowledgeable about the rules will help to resolve the question in a timely manner.
Respect everyone at the table! Have a firm grasp of decent polite social skills. Get to know the other players and gamemaster; try to get an understanding of the type of person they are. Not Freudian deep, but have a general understanding of what type of person they are and what they want out of the gaming experience. Make every effort to keep your language appropriate for the mix of players at the table and for the location in which your game is run. Do not delve into off-handed or disparaging comments ever! You never know what might upset the other people at the table or those around you. You should feel empowered to speak up if comments or the game itself delves into an area that makes you uncomfortable. Respect and inclusiveness are paramount to everyone’s enjoyment of the gaming experience. Remember, everyone it there to have fun so, don’t be the person that ruins the fun for someone else.
Listen and pay attention to what is happening at the table during the game. Sometimes it is hard for the gamemaster to heard because of noise surrounding the game table. Do your part to keep side chats to a minimum. It’s simply rude to be holding a conversation across the table when the gamemaster is trying to describe a scene or some other aspect of the game with one or more players. Again, the team needs to be committed to the shared experience of the entire group. I recommend that you silence all cell phones and tablets to keep those distractions out of the mix. Many gamemasters are fine with the occasional side chat or web surfing, but make an honest effort to keep it to a minimum. When playing online (VoIP) games there tends to be more digital distractions. Stay an active participant in the game and the experience you have will be more rewarding, wander the internet and your experience will greatly diminished.
Be creative! Allow your creative side to emerge at the table. Everyone will get more out of the shared experience if everyone is willing to be creative. Many times players feel intimidated by being fictionally creative; do not let that stop you! You’ll be a much better player once you step out of your shy little bubble and into the world of creativity. There is more to gaming than hack and slash, but that is so fun! Remember, the shared experience you help to create will be enjoyed more by everyone if everyone is invested in the creativity.
My previous article 6 Tips to Make You A Better Gamemaster was very well received as both a common sense approach to being a better gamemaster and as a list of best practices. Please take a moment to read it if you have not already.