We can all agree that Gamemasters, Dungeon Masters, Referees (or whatever your game calls them) have a tough job. That doesn’t mean it’s a cake walk for Players either. It’s not easy knowing which skills to buff, rolling ‘1’s, having a well crafted plan fall apart, looting corpses, second guessing everything you do when your GM grins malevolently and remembering which tasty treats are best to bribe the GM for XP. Luckily, I’ll be giving you 7 tips that draw on my now *sigh* decades of experience GMing and DMing roleplaying games of many kinds.
Although I mean this kindly to be tips for players, it’s actually every GM’s wish list. In fact I apologize in advance if it reads like a rant list. For new players and veterans alike, I offer my top seven tips for successful RPG adventuring!
1. When in Doubt, Roleplay it Out
The name of the game is Roleplaying- quite literally. You may be shy, you may feel silly, but that’s okay. We are after all playing a glorified game of pretend. Might as well go full dive and roleplay your character wherever possible. There is no judgement- at least there shouldn’t be. Bad roleplaying is like pizza, it’s still good even when it’s bad.
For example, a Player Character (we’ll say PC) comes to a door guarded by a sentry. The PC wants to talk their way through. The Player has a few options:
“I intimidate the guard [rolls dice]”
“I tell the sentry that I’m going to mess up his face if he doesn’t let me in [rolls dice]”
“Okay, this is what I say: [in a different voice] Listen, I’d really like to go in. If not, I’m going to be very unhappy. And when I get unhappy, I start tearing up people’s faces. Now you wouldn’t want anything to happen to a pretty face like yours, would you?”
Good or bad, points for creativity! By points, I mean Experience Points!
Now, there’s a distinct advantage to roleplaying. Your character I’m afraid to say may have rolled or built some pretty lackluster stats. If you amuse the GM, they may not actually make you roll.
Anyway you look at it, your inner Robert DeNiro or Meryl Streep has a place at the game table.
2. There’s no “I” in Party
One of the biggest complaints I commonly see from Players and Gamemaster’s alike is about that one Player that wants to make the game all about him or her. Don’t be that guy.
You see, roleplaying games are sort of communal group story telling experience. It’s not your story, rather it’s the group’s story. In short, it’s not all about you and you don’t always get what you want.
If you’re the annoying player that has to always be in the limelight, you may find your fed up comrades abandoning you in the dark to face some unseemly brute while they make their escape with you as their meatshield. You guys are a team, so be a team player. Have their back, and they’ll have your back.
I can’t say it enough, it’s not all about you.
3. State Your Actions Clearly
The really, really cool thing about a roleplaying game is you pretty much get to do anything you can think of provided it makes sense in that situation. And as previously mentioned, you’re part of a team so there’s likely a lot of discussion back and forth between you and your fellow players about what to do next. So when it’s your turn to act, be sure you’re clear on what you’re actually doing, and what was actually just conjecture.
I’m only human and I do my best to sort out when players are just deliberating as opposed to finalizing their plan. Sometimes, I make mistakes and misunderstand what a Player actually wants their Character to do.
“No! I meant I want my Character to do A, not B!”
As best as you can, be absolutely when it’s your Character’s turn to act what you want them to do.
4. RTFM – Read the Fine Manual
This is pretty self explanatory. A lot of sins are cured if you read the Manual/Guide or whatever your particular game calls it.
5. Courtesy is the Theme of Every Game
Roleplaying Games are a great way to explore many themes such as corruption from power, the hero’s journey, nature versus nature or just about anything else. Or maybe it’s exploring your primal need to kill something. No matter what, common courtesy should reign supreme over every game.
Constant phone usage and checking InstaFace updates every five seconds sends a signal of disinterest. Likely the GM has put in a lot of effort to host the current game and it’s quite rude to show this kind of disassociation. If you’re legitimately uninterested, you’re better off excusing yourself and leaving.
Side conversations tend to add distraction when the GM and other players are talking through a game situation. These also tend to slow the game down as people have to repeat themselves when they can’t be heard or to update you on the current situation since you weren’t paying attention.
Some people are shyer and quieter than others. Be mindful that you don’t talk over another fellow Player as it can be frustrating for some if they feel like they’re not being heard.
Often times, Players bring their own dice and game figures. Always ask before touching another’s gaming accessories and bring your own wherever possible.
And again, it’s a lot of work for the GM to host and run a game. Thanking them at the end of the session is always appreciated.
6. The Pen is Mightier Than the Laser Gun
I’m on a sci-fi game kick right now, hence “Laser Gun” rather than “Sword”. Anyway…
I’m trying to put this in a way that doesn’t seem lame or like you’re back in school, but taking notes during a game session helps A LOT.
What did that seedy information broker say back at the spaceport? Did you write it down? Excellent, you did! Now you know that because of reasons your party has the upper hand over the space pirates.
Classic dungeon crawl style game sessions didn’t always have the layout on the table all at once. In those sessions, it was helpful if at least one Player was making a map.
At any rate, remembering some vital piece of information from earlier in the game might save everyone and garner you some appreciation from your fellow Players and a hefty award of Experience Points!
7. When All Else Fails, Bribe the GM
There’s no shame in it, but you can always attempt to bribe the GM. This can be a tasty snack, a delicious sandwich, an offer to do the dishes after the game session or cold hard cash.
More seriously though, GMs and fellow Players alike will be super appreciative if you bring snacks to the game session.
Did I miss anything? Do you have any awesome tips to share. Comment below or shoot me an email!
Written by Stuart Yee