So, You Want to be Better Player?

So, you want to be a better tabletop roleplayer? A new better you? We know that is easier said than done, but there are various things that you can do in the short and long term to help get to where you want to be. Don’t be fooled; there is no magic formula, and while much of what we present may seem like common sense, it will take effort on your part.

Becoming a better roleplayer is not necessarily about becoming a voice actor or someone that can stay fully immersed in character during the game; both are good skills to have. Instead, it’s about being a better person, a better you! When everyone at the table is striving for the same end goals, everyone wins.

Note that it’s not uncommon for these tips to move from category to category over time as your circumstances and goals change. Similarly, some of the suggestions in the “implement immediately” category is rather basic but often overlooked.

Things You Can Implement Immediately:

  • Find and connect with other gamers both locally and online. It’s tough to become a better gamer if your opportunities to play games are limited. We recommend seeking out tabletop roleplayers through whatever social media platforms you’re comfortable using and connecting with your local game stores.
  • Gaming is a social event. With it comes a sometimes written or, more often, unwritten social contract. A part of that contract involves being a goodwill ambassador and helping everyone to have a good time.
    • Ask your Gamemaster if they use safety tools like the X-card, Line and Veils, Roses and Thorns, or other such tools meant to ensure all players have a safe environment in which to play. You can learn more about the different safety tools at the TTRPG Safety Toolkit.
  • Arrive on time or early and ready to play. Everyone’s time is valuable. It’s often difficult for some to fit gaming into their schedule. When games start late or a player is not ready to play, time is wasted.
  • 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. Whatever it is, have it ready and available! We recommend players create a “go bag” with all the necessary supplies.
  • Try not to use electronic devices at the table. We all live by our phones, but they distract us and those around us as well. Consult with your Gamemaster about using electronic devices at the table, particularly for in-game use or if you need to keep a phone handy for emergency reasons.
  • Listen and pay attention to what is happening at the table during the game, even if it isn’t your turn.

Short Term Objectives:

Short-term objectives are things you should strive for within a six to twelve-month time frame. Feel free to accelerate or slow down based on your schedule and your level of comfort.

  • Commit to trying five new (to you) games; ideally one-shots, you have never played before over the next twelve months. Try to ensure the games are in different genres and game systems. This experience will help you hone in on what you like and don’t like. Everyone’s personal situations and schedules are different. Feel free to dial this back to only two or three if necessary.
    • This objective is as a player, not as the Gamemaster. Ideally, there is little to no expense involved in trying something new.
  • Try keeping a journal of your gaming experiences, especially when you try a new game or play with new people. This is particularly helpful if you find you like to look back and reassess a particular game or player(s) you interacted with during a game. There are many ways to log or journal these experiences. RPG Geek’s website has an annual challenge (2021 RPGG Challenge: Play Five RPGs You Have Never Played Before (Each At Least Once)) wherein participants log every new (to them) game they have played each calendar year. Some participants also use it as means to capture additional details about each game.
  • If your Gamemaster asks you to read short bits of mechanical information, do it! It helps you learn the mechanical elements of the game and helps to lessen the number of times the Gamemaster needs to stop the game midstream to explain basic rules.
  • Found a roleplaying game you enjoy and want to commit to it? Purchase the rule book or player’s handbook – preferably from your local game store. If the book publisher and your local store are part of the Bits & Mortar program, you’ll get the PDF of the book for free as well.
    • In addition to learning the game’s core mechanics, you also need to know the things necessary to play your chosen character. It helps to speed up gameplay and reduces downtime for everyone else.

Long Term Objectives:

Long-term objectives are things that we typically recommend beginning at the twelve-month mark. Feel free to accelerate or slow down based on your schedule and your level of comfort.

  • Branch out from your regular gaming group! We need to push our boundaries to become better gamers, and there the best way to do that is by exposing ourselves to other gamers. Not only do we get to experience different group dynamics, but we also get exposure to a variety of online virtual tabletop platforms, new venues to play at, and other roleplaying techniques like voices, props, and other immersive elements. A few things to consider when branching out:
    • Know yourself, the type of people, and the type of group dynamic you think you want in your gaming groups. It’s okay to experiment. Find different groups that work for and with you.
    • If you feel a specific group is not for you, it is absolutely okay to leave the group and move to another. However, don’t ghost the group! Give them the courtesy of a heads up that you are leaving the group. You don’t owe them an explanation beyond, “this group just isn’t a good fit for me.”
  • Consider attending a local or online gaming convention if you have never done so before. Conventions are a fantastic way to try new games you may not otherwise ever get the chance to try, or perhaps you have not ever heard of yet.

The suggestions above are only the tip of the iceberg. There are many other great suggestions not mentioned here that you should also consider. I hope we have shown that becoming a better player is not as difficult or daunting as you might have once thought. We wish you the best of luck on this journey—it’s well worth the effort, I promise.

~ The Rolling Boxcars Team

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