The photo above is by Diacritica, via Wikimedia Commons
Just a quick note to let you know that we can meet at Gen Con. Get your FREE tickets to the DSPN Q&A panel to meet Rudy Basso, Celeste Conowitch, Brittany Quintero, Vegas Lancaster, and more of your favorite podcast people. I’m only at Gen Con for one night, so this is the best way to meet my friends and me.
Many of you know me as a game master. It probably won’t surprise you to learn I’m also a player. In fact, two of the regular games I used to run saw me hand the reins over to friends and now I’m a player in those games. I picked up another regular game, so I’m lucky enough to play in THREE regular games. I also do some play-by-post and one shots here and there, so I actually play more than I run these days (or at least equal amounts of each).
I should mention I’m not just playing fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons (run by the amazing Andrew Kane) in these regular games. I’m also playing Star Wars: Edge of the Empire (run by the great Rudy Basso) and Lamentations of the Flame Princess (run by the princely Greg Blair). I am learning a ton from all of these games and their various masters, but that’s another blog post!
Here’s a few tips I’ve picked up as I become a player once again I wanted to share. Also, a quick shout-out to everyone who posted on the World Builder Blog Facebook page. Ya’ll had some great advice I’ve incorporated here.
I can’t stress this one enough. Above all, pay attention to the game. Not just when it’s your turn. Not just when the GM speaks. Pay attention like you’re watching Game of Thrones or Lost or whatever your TV jam is. This is courtesy not just to your GM, but to everyone at the table. It keeps the game moving faster by eliminating those, “Wait, what’s happening?” moments and paying attention also increases your own enjoyment of the game and absorbs you into the story. You’ll have a much better idea of what’s happening in your game and remember the story between sessions if you remain an active listener at all times and try to keep off your phone (or other webpages if you play online).
Listening is great. Being part of the story is even better. Certain storytelling techniques only work if the entire group of players has buy-in. For instance, if you’re playing a horror game, the scares only come if you let yourself be scared, instead of claiming everything the GM does is cliché or corny. You’re there to play a roleplaying game, so play a role and have a blast. Throw yourself into the character and the story. Be heroic when the story calls for it, and be silly, cowardly, sad, etc. when the story calls for it. Go beyond listening and feel for the other characters, NPCs, and monsters on their turns and you’ll be cheering victories harder and welcoming plot twists, even when they’re not great for your character. In other words, the more engaged you get in your game, the more fun you’ll get out of it.
When the GM presents you with a hook, take it! Odds are your session will be a lot more fun if you follow one of the prepared threads your GM has ready rather than rebelling against them to find adventure somewhere else. A hook may seem lame, but remember that what may seem like a simple escort mission almost always turns into something greater. Give your GM the opportunity to start the story and then drive it as a player.
When you fail or die, don’t let it get you down. Remember you’re telling a story. There has to be some dramatic tension to make it a good story and that means risk of death and failure. When that 1 is rolled twice in a row for a death save or when you trigger that trap instead of disabling it, embrace the failure with gusto. Take the chance to do something dramatic and narrate it as if you’d just scored a critical hit. Master this skill and no dice rolls are bad. They’re all just separate paths in a choose your own adventure story.
Do What’s Asked
If your GM asks you to send a character backstory, level up between sessions, or send a quick email about which plot thread you’d like to pursue in your next session, take a little time to honor those requests. If you can’t, give your GM notice that you don’t have the time. Your GM does a lot prep between sessions and doing the few things that are asked of you really help them prepare and keep the game moving.
Help Out Your GM
There are times when a GM might ask someone to take story notes, track initiative, or map a dungeon. Volunteer for this stuff! Your GM has enough to do, but it also benefits you. Tracking the story of your game in these ways keeps you attentive and engaged, which helps you get more out of the gaming experience.
Learn the Game
If you’re playing a new game, learn its basic rules. Learn what your character can do. This is another courtesy to everyone at the table that speeds up play, but again, it also helps you out. When you know what your character can do, you’re always prepared, adaptable, and optimized as a storyteller AND as a gamer.
Characters in an adventuring party sometimes disagree about a specific course of action to take. That’s ok! There will be times your ideas win out and their will be times everyone dies because Bob’s idea was terrible. Succeeding is fun, but the latter is a story you’ll tell forever. Stay flexible when working with a group and remember that tabletop RPGs are a team effort. Be a team player first, and a main character second.
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