Across the Screen #2: Solid Advice for Players

Synnergy within a gaming group is important.

Although the duty of a game master is to provide enjoyment for players, each side of the screen has responsibilities, whether or not they are explicitly expressed. Players aren’t responsible for much, but they should definitely minimize any problems for other players at the least, and problems for the game master in ideal.

I can talk about a general behavioral framework at a future date, but here is some game oriented advice that can improve  your time at the table.

For Players
#1. Try to save any serious rules discussions or disagreements for after the current session, and make sure you leave time for it before people leave the table. I can’t stress how hard it is to make on the fly decisions in the middle of the game when tensions are high. There is a time and a place to debate the rules; your character is on the edge of death, an important plot point hinges on a ruling, or some other pressing matter makes it important to find a solution.

However, you can let the small things go. Don’t remember what happens when you rise from prone? Let the GM make a snap decision, resolve to look up the rule later, and move on. Rules questions can create a byzantine experience that few will appreciate.

The communication in this case is better focused after the game, when the atmosphere is more relaxed, people aren’t concentrating on player turns, and a genuine discussion can be had about what seems fair or fun. I promise you that you will yield better results this way.

#2. Don’t let your character’s personality/coolness/concept be detrimental to the fun. This is a shared world, and your character’s amoral sensibilities might just make the game not fun. Guess what, you have a solid idea for an interesting personality that you want to express? Write about that! But unless you are being run solo by a very patient GM, you are in a group setting and have to be a team player. Honestly, if you have to justify something by saying “that’s what my character would do”, ask yourself if that will advance the story or not. The answer might surprise you.

Here, communication is important in that you should not only express your character concept, but hear out the GM and other players. Maybe you really want to play a magic hating barbarian, but picking fights with the group wizard might just end up with bad feelings. When you have acclimated to a group, you will know when your innovative character concept will be appropriate. Bonus points if you collaborate with another player on complementary character concepts (which, by the way, can still include good natured bickering).

#3. Make sure you make your voice heard. If you can save it for later (after the session, between sessions), that’s great, but if something in the game is heavily bugging you, it’s ok to bring it up. Everyone else is there to have fun, but if you are not having fun because of a touchy subject (suicide, killing captives, etc), then you should speak up.

Generally, you will be heard and understood. If speaking up causes tempers to flare, then you probably need to find a new group. That doesn’t reflect poorly on you, but it is a solid signal that you probably won’t mesh with that group. Believe me, you’ll be better off not subjecting yourself to the stress.

But more importantly, most groups won’t know that a thing is bugging you unless you bring it up. Maybe you felt like you didn’t get an equal share of the treasure, or that you didn’t get a chance to talk at the last social encounter. Be heard, and make sure that others know. A good GM will internalize these issues and make the game better for you. Trust me when I say that most accomplished GMs are dying to get feedback on what you want to see more or less of in a game.


That’s it for this week.  Next week we discuss game master advice. In the meanwhile, feel free to comment with any of your recent game table issues, and I’ll resolve to write a post with personalized advice on your specific matter. Just don’t expect me to pick a side.


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